A good mentoring relationship can be what is sometimes called a “peak experience” for both mentor and student — a sharing of something unique that no one else may experience in quite the same way.
The student experiences an acceptance of ideas and contributions that may be unequalled in previous life experience.
What can we do, as individuals, as professions, and as institutions to help ensure that appropriate student-teacher boundaries are maintained?
This paper will explore these questions in light of recent concerns expressed about boundaries between professionals and clients,2-7 sexual harassment in the academic setting,8,9 and recent data suggesting a high frequency of sexual interaction between graduate students and teachers.10-12 In early Greek and Roman times, sexual relationships between youth and their mentors were often considered to be a normal extension of a close male bonding, both in the study of philosophy and in the training of warriors.
This article has been reproduced with permission from The Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 19, p. Copyright © 1993 Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy. Increasing concern about therapist-patient sex has led to a consideration of boundaries in all trust-based relationships, which always include elements of power and dependency.
D is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and the Assistant Dean for Student and Minority Affairs at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21201. Plaut is also the Editor of the Journal of Sex Education and Therapy (1996-2001) and is the Former Chair of the Maryland Task Force to Study Health Professional-Client Sexual Exploitation.
On one hand, some felt that any mutually consenting activity is acceptable.
Others felt that even consensual relationships are, at the least, unwise, as they confuse boundaries, threaten objectivity, and because there is no way to predict a “successful” relationship.
How should one handle social or sexual overtures made by a student? Teacher-student relationships differ from those between therapist and patient because of the collegiality considered important for the student’s development. Such relationships include those between teacher and student, especially those involving research or clinical supervision.That apprenticeship process may include travel, social activities, and glimpses into each other’s personal lives.And yet, despite this closeness and sharing, the teacher does remain a teacher and the student a student.