It's possible to have a school rule in a private school stating “No sexual activities are allowed whilst enrolled at this school”. To clarify what is meant by this and to give guidelines to both students and staff to help in dealing with issues of a sexual nature that arise from time to time around this rule, we may have to refer to observations and a wider reading on the subject of affinity.
'No sexual activities whilst enrolled at this school' is a rule which at first seems puritanical and unworkable when dealing with hormonal teenagers, but it is in fact the only way to police this area or relationships effectively. Any attempt to soften this rule even slightly will probably result in near-catastrophe. This is because of the nature of the area which we are dealing with, which is one containing the potential for heavy upsets and much confusion. The topic of sex and sexual relations can be so intense that if we try to lessen the sense of discipline around it, we inevitably end up with a slide towards more and more unethical behaviour.
It will help, though, to see this in context, and with that in mind, here are the four observable types of affinity that we will commonly encounter:
3. Erotic love
4. Pure or intellectual love (which used to be called Charity)
Affection is the affinity we most closely associate with children, pets, toys, and that kind of thing. It is a 'soft' love, very tactile on occasion, producing the 'warm, fuzzy feelings' that come with a closeness which is emotional and often physical. Between people this can be demonstrated as hugs, hand-holding, cuddles, kisses on the cheek or hands, and a general desire to want to be close to someone such as we see in small children or in relationships with animals.
This is in itself not a problem for us at all. It only becomes a problem when it becomes something other than this innocent kind of affinity.
Friendship is most often characterised as a common interest in something other than the other person. Friends generally become so through shared interests or experiences. Friendship is not necessarily physical at all (unless perhaps in sport or dance) and is more often to do with intellectual pursuits, games, books, movies, outings and so on.
This kind of affinity is not a problem for us either. Obviously, friends can and often do become affectionate and so hand-holding or hugging play their part, but the friendship doesn’t generally depend on physical closeness in order to flourish.
This is a quite distinct and separate kind of affinity which probably doesn’t need much description here. It is to do with the people involved attempting to arouse each other sexually and involves very specific forms of physical contact, usually attempted in private. Another distinguishing feature of this kind of expressed affinity is that it is frequently not subject to reason - so overwhelming are the sensations and desires associated with sex that the people involved can forget about or dismiss their surroundings and any consideration of safety, personal well-being or moral codes.
This is obviously a chief concern in a school environment. This kind of affinity between students is not acceptable while they are enrolled at a school because it is so potentially destructive to the main reason they are there: to be educated in a safe environment.
Also, in a group environment where there are often younger children, this kind of behaviour has the further unacceptable consequence of potentially upsetting them, which causes further problems and can make the environment somewhat 'electric'.
This is the unemotional, often unconditional and almost purely intellectual affinity which human beings can have for each other or for other species or things. It isn’t really a feeling, more of a decision. This is the kind of affinity which prompts students to send Christmas parcels to people they have never met, for example, or to start a magazine based on helping the planet, or to become involved with various other altruistic projects.
It’s really not a concern for school leaders, and in fact more of this kind of affinity in the environment would sweep away problems rather than create them.
You can probably see from this that the main issue schools have from time to time is determining what is going on between certain students at certain times. But the above makes it very clear: there is a distinct difference between the physicality of Affection and Erotic Love and it shouldn’t be hard for anyone to distinguish between the two at any given moment.
Tell-tale clues that we are dealing with Erotic Love rather than anything else are that
• there is often an attempt to indulge in it in secrecy (lights out, hidden places etc)
• there are signs that something had nearly been discovered (sudden critical comments, moodiness, withdrawal, lack of communication) all around it
• the behaviour does not correct after simple requests or briefings or chats
• it s often accompanied by indications of apathy or antagonism
• production and morale suffer in connection with it
What do we do about it?
Experience over a decade or so has been that ethical students respond very well to a briefing as above. They quickly recognise that there is a problem, see what is happening and step back from the brink. Ethical students who are in a relationship together make their own decisions about this and delay or put on hold any further intimate physical contact, immediately seeing the hazards and recognising the sense of the school’s rule on this. Ethics is rational, after all, and those with a high sense of ethics are able to overrule their hormones.
Unethical students, however, persist with this behaviour and, if challenged or restricted, go 'underground' and become more and more covert. Their ability to reason is less and is consequently overwhelmed.
Teachers, supervisors and other staff can use these guidelines with students, or refer them to the Head as needed.
It is important that students understand why the school has this rule and why it is important. It is important for staff to realise that students who engage in such activity are either a) uninformed as to the reasons for the rule (given above), or, if they do not respond to correction, are b) in need of correction which may touch upon other areas of their lives so that they can become more ethical and see the rationale for the rule.
A private school has the vital job of educating young people and preparing them for the future. This rule exists to enable that job to occur without distraction or interruption. It is a school rule and part of what makes a school what it is.