Wednesday, December 7, 2022

KEEP THIS BETWEEN US (2022): High School Student-Teacher Sexual Affair(s)

The fascinating thing about age-gap memoirs and documentaries is that they’re typically filled with (revealing) contractions. Keep This Between Us (2022), a Freeform/Hulu documentary, is no different. And IMDb’s synopsis is leading. “Follow's one woman's journey [i.e., Cheryl Nichols] as she reexamines her past relationship with a trusted teacher [i.e., Jason Meyers].” [Emphasis added]

Very interestingly, in the first episode of the four part series, Cheryl admitted that she was at fault, but not “totally”, for having an age-gap affair with her married high school teacher.

“I have something to get over that wasn’t totally my fault. Remembering that I was just this person for years that was just constantly focusing all of their energy on this, you know, one person and trying to give all their love and all of their support to this one person. I don’t really know what the difference is between having that with a guy who was your teacher in high school and who is much older than you, and having that with, you know, boyfriends your own age, because I didn’t really have that.” 

But minutes later, in the, seemingly, first contradiction, Cheryl said that she did not have a share in the responsibility for the illicit affair, because, when the affair began, she was a 16-year-old “child”.

“For so many years, I did not even have the language to speak about this. I didn’t have the words. I started to recognize that I wasn’t responsible for this, that I was a child. I didn’t think that being a 16-year-old person was a child [...]”

However, Cheryl admitted that at 16, she was old enough to be obsessed and in love - with her married teacher. So much so that the affair continued after she went to college at University of Utah. 

“Like, I fell in love with my teacher when I was 16. And then I went to college and I was still with this guy.”

However, Cheryl didn’t live on campus. Shockingly, she lived off campus with her teacher and his wife! We learned in episode 3 that she told her parents, “I don’t need to live in the dorms, I can live, you know, in the basement of the theater teacher [i.e., her teacher’s wife].” 

Why did Cheryl move in with her (former) high school teacher? Cheryl said, “[...] I felt like I owed it to him to at least show up and give the relationship a try and that kind of meant without conditions.” Consequently, Cheryl lost her virginity to her married roommate - in the basement. And subsequently, she wrote in her journal: “[...] I know in my heart that he loves me.” 

Cheryl posited that she was trapped and groomed into the student-teacher affair and elaborated on how her teacher did it, which was that he “implanted” things in her head:

  • Cheryl’s teacher implanted in her head that she was intelligent
  • Cheryl’s teacher implanted in her head that she possessed a “special thing”
  • Cheryl’s teacher constantly reminded her of that “special thing” (e.g., You're so full of energy. You’re so alive.)
  • Cheryl’s teacher “turned his light on” her (e.g., through poetry) and consequently validated her

“I never had anybody care that I was intelligent before. He was really great at finding the special thing about a person and constantly reminding them that that made them special. When he turned his light on me, I felt like I was suddenly, not just seen, but I was validated by this person who everybody believed was great. I just didn’t know that it was gonna be a trap.”

Rhetorical questions: 

Could any teacher use these techniques to initiate an illicit affair with a schoolgirl? In other words, by using these implanting techniques, could even your most charmless and (subjectively) unattractive teacher miraculously become charming and attractive by, say, telling a schoolgirl that she’s intelligent.  

Or does the teacher have to be attractive? In other words, does implanting only work if the schoolgirl is already attracted to the teacher? Wait, but feminists and teen boys would argue that it’s utterly impossible for a schoolgirl to be organically attracted to any teacher. 

In addition, we learned in episode 1 that, feeling validated and excited, Cheryl would visit her teacher’s classroom after school - a lot. And there would be flirting.

“I would get excited about going into his class after school.” 

“I spent a lot of time in his classroom going to poetry and we started getting really close. Like there would be these flirtatious moments [...]”

Interestingly, out of all the implanting techniques Cheryl’s teacher used, it was his use of poetry that made Cheryl “push everything to the side” and make her affair with her teacher her “priority”.

“It was over for me after that poem [“Frustration”], like, I was done. It doesn’t matter what this costs me, I will be part of this relationship.” 

But later Cheryl said that the affair was not consensual: “It was not a consensual relationship - it was like I was being completely taken advantage of.” #confused

Anyway, after being touched by the poem, 16-year-old Cheryl went to her teacher’s house with some friends. While watching a movie, Cheryl’s friends left, one-by-one, but she stayed, and after her teacher’s wife left the room, Cheryl and her teacher kissed - for the first time. 

It turns out that Cheryl's burgeoning affair with her teacher was no secret. For example, Josh Pierson, Cheryl’s male friend from school, shared that he knew that Cheryl and their teacher were “hanging out and in a relationship”. Katie Hall, another former classmate, shared that she knew at the time that the relationship was “inappropriate in the sense that they were too close - that it made everybody uncomfortable.”

Interestingly, towards the beginning of episode 2, Cheryl admitted that she knew that (some of) her classmates were aware of her student-teacher affair, but, interestingly, she placed (some of) the blame on them for the illicit affair. And she wanted them to take accountability? “A lot of people who looked the other way then still refuse to take accountability for their actions now.” Wait, what? 

But Kat Salerno said that after she confronted Cherly about the affair, “She denied it. Straight away, denied it.” Cheryl retorted, “People are blowing it out of proportion.” Even Though, Kat confronted Cheryl about the affair, Cheryl claimed in episode 3, “I didn’t have any friends who were able to say, ‘This is weird, Cheryl. This is weird. This is not normal.” 

Cheryl said that, “For years I had convinced myself that I was making this choice to be with him, that I was the one that needed to accept the consequences. But now, there’s no doubt in my mind that he was in control of this.” And remember when Cheryl said that, “It was not a consensual relationship - it was like I was being completely taken advantage of.” 

Well, Brandi Preas, another former classmate, shared that it appeared that Cheryl was not being taken advantage of, because it appeared that it was Cheryl who was influential over her teacher, that it was Cheryl, à la Kathryn Merteuil in Cruel Intentions 2, who was “calling the shots'' in the age-gap affair, and that Cheryl was “just so in love” with her teacher. And Daniel Penalloza said that some of their classmates opined that, “Cheryl was looking for attention.”

Brandi Preas, “I had issues with, you know, wanting to come forward because my anger towards you was awful. I hated you. I wanted nothing to do with you. I blamed you [...] I saw your attachment to each other. I could see how he was favoring you. We felt like you never got bad directions. You always got the part. Most people assumed you had the influence over him. And you were calling the shots in a lot of ways [...] I mean. If I were to act it out, I’d be like, ‘She’s just so in love with him. It’s gross.’ 

Kat Salerno, another former classmate, erroneously said that their classmates blamed Cheryl for the affair, “[...] because women get blamed for man’s actions all the time.” This is obviously not true - especially as it relates to student-teacher affairs as teachers are, almost always, (openly) blamed.

In yet another seeming contradiction, after Cheryl admitted that “But of course, all of the kids in school were talking about it [i.e., her student-teacher affair],” Cheryl shared an old journal entry where she wrote that the affair made her “happy” but that the “suspicious minds” on campus made her sad and weak, but they were trying to ruin the “fun” she was having with her teacher, that she was happy, and that the only way to be happy was through her age-gap affair. 

And it appears that Cheryl wasn’t the only student having an affair with a teacher, because Cheryl shared, “Like, people [i.e., her schoolmates] would joke about students having sex with their teachers like it was funny.”

Cheryl’s journal entry:

“It is hard to decipher my current feeling. I’m happy because of the events that have taken place - yet sad that some have too. Suspicious minds make me weak.They sit in their houses with picket fences and laugh at me. I just get so angry. Why do they always ruin our fun? I just want to be happy. I just want to keep the smile. The only way I can is through him.”

Surprisingly, Cheryl related that she considered her teacher her boyfriend and that she was convinced that he loved her because, for their love, he was willing to get fired.

“I just wanted to be with him. I wanted to feel, in those little concentrated periods of time, that I was with my boyfriend. Like, I saw him as my boyfriend. And in my mind, he was the one who had everything on the line. He was risking his entire life for me. It made me feel so special. It made me feel so important to know that if somebody found out about us, like, he could get fired. Why would he do that unless he loved me?”

Unsurprisingly, word of Cheryl’s affair with her teacher reached the principal and the counselor. After the principal asked Cheryl, “Are you involved in a sexual relationship with the teacher?” Cheryl replied, “No.” But then Cheryl blamed the school’s administration for sliding the affair “right under the rug”! However, it’s not surprising that Cheryl denied the affair, because she opined that the principal and the counselor were just two more “suspicious minds” 

Provocatively, Cheryl, not only avidly read “Nabokov and Henry Miller and Anais Nin” in high school, but she was “obsessed” with Lolita, and Cheryl used to compare herself to the famous nymphet. “Like Lolita. I was, like, obsessed with it [...] I guess I used to, like, compare myself to Lolita sometimes.”  

We knew that Cheryl’s affair with her teacher began when she was 16, but we learned in episode 3 that it lasted almost about six years! Thus, it’s no surprise that Cheryl admitted that the affair was consensual but she qualified it with a reminder that she was “implanted” (i.e., groomed) before she agreed to the affair. 

“We stayed together until I was 22. The grooming led to what some people would say, was like, a consensual relationship.”

Cheryl said that her desire to move to L.A. gave her the strength to leave the age-gap relationship, but that doesn’t appear to be true or, at least, the only reason. “I’m in Los Angeles now. My desire to get out of Little Elm, it’s the reason that I had the strength to pull myself out of that relationship.”

Just like Vanessa Springora in Le Consentement (Consent) and Maggie in Three Women, the “real turning point” in the affair began after Cheryl found out that there were other nymphets, because after her teacher’s wife found out about her husband’s affair with Cheryl, Cheryl learned that her older lover was fired from his high school teaching position due to, “[...] an inappropriate email relationship with a student”. 

And after Cheryl shared with Heaven Rubin, “I was in a relationship with him [i.e., Meyers] and it started when I was in high school. It started when I was 16.” Heaven replied, “Me too.” Cheryl cried, “Sorry.” 

In episode 4, we learned a bit more about Heaven’s teacher-student affair with Meyers of which Cheryl said, “I’m just tying myself into knots about this.” After Meyers kissed Heaven, in class, their student-teacher sex included, “[...] instances of fellatio, cunnilingus and sexual intercourse inside the classroom - behind the closed door [...]” 

And talk about a double plot twist! It was not until 17-year-old Heaven learned that she was not the only schoolgirl of Jason Meyers did she have a turning point in their affair. 

The question remains, Why did Cheryl make Keep This Between Us? Well, she confessed that she wanted Meyers to “admit it” or acknowledge their student-teacher affair, because she wanted to believe that “he’s good”. It really bothered Cheryl that Meyers wouldn’t acknowledge their age-gap relationship. Cheryl said, “When I started out doing this documentary, I had hoped that he would accept [some] responsibility for this or at least acknowledge what happened, but he didn’t.”

Connectedly, the documentary ended with lyrics from Daniel Farrant’s “Who’s Gonna Fix It”: Don’t you know that you gotta\Take some of the blame

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