Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Female Sex Offenders


Movie Poster: Notes on a Scandal
Movie Poster: Notes on a Scandal

The film, Notes on a Scandal, depicts two types of female perversions: a stalker and a teacher who gets sexually involved with her underage student. Based on the 2003 novel by Zoë Heller and set at a London-based school, it is told by a sixtyish history teacher, Barbara Covett, who records the details of the two-year situation. The teacher in question is Bathsheba Hart — 'Sheba' — and she arrives at the school to teach art classes.

Covett's obsession with Hart, a woman in her forties, is clear from her meticulous notes about this pretty new teacher, and it turns out that she's an obsessive, controlling type of person without enduring relationships. She has stalked or dominated others in the past, and like many stalkers, she also becomes a punisher, even as she feigns friendship.

Sheba is married, with two kids, which doesn't prevent her from falling for one of her students, 15-year-old Steven Connolly. She knows better, but she gets involved with him, anyway, and they begin having sex practically everywhere. She learns that Covett has had a glimpse of that and says that they have only kissed, but Covett discovers much more, uses it to get Sheba under her control, and eventually lets the secret out. (In the film, Covett sees them together and demands that Sheba quit, which she agrees to do, but then continues.)

The affair eventually reaches the ears of the school's headmaster and Sheba is not only suspended but charged with a crime. This damages her marriage and prevents her from seeing her children. Thanks to the affair, Sheba's life falls apart, while Covett moves on to another vulnerable young woman. However, she too loses her job for being complicit.

Movie Poster: To Die For
Movie Poster: To Die For

In the course of the movie, several themes arise that are true of many of the teachers erotically entangled with their students: the allure of a secret, the feeling of entitlement, the false belief that the student is "mature for his age," and the naïve notion that no one is being damaged by it.

In real life in many jurisdictions, Sheba would be considered a sex offender; her offense is no different in the eyes of the law than that of a man who has sex with an underage child. Despite the claim by most of these teachers that they have followed the course of "true love," many prove to be repeat predators on vulnerable children. For males we use the term, "chicken-hawk," but no one has yet coined a recognizable name for females, although some use "cougar."

Speaking of movies, To Die For, starring Nicole Kidman, a novel and film about a weathergirl who manipulates a teenager with sex to kill her husband, was inspired by another famous case, also arising from an encounter at school.

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