A couple of weeks ago, on Law & Order, Michael Cutter made an excellent point. He said, “Women should never have affairs with their bosses or professors, because everything they accomplish after that will always come into question.” It was a fair approach to the topic and one that left me with a lot to think about, because in some respects certain “ships” (or romantic pairings) are between what my mother would call “unequal partners,” meaning one is in authority over the other in whatever business field they are involved in — or yes, in some cases a professorship.
Early seasons of L&O hinted that Jack and Claire were a secret couple and the truth came out more boldly in later episodes after her departure from the franchise. I liked Jack and Claire. I liked the romantic spark and the nagging suspicion that their conclusions involved a certain amount of “pillow talk.” I also liked that both faced the repercussions — more than once, Claire had to defend her position as being more than McCoy’s lover, and ever since it has been thrown repetedly in McCoy’s face, once in the middle of a courtroom trial in which he got so furious that he was jailed for contempt.(Ahh, those were the golden days of the show… it’s still fabulous but not quite as brilliant as in the 90’s.)
So what makes women fall for their superior? I think it is their position of power.
Women like men in authority, because they admire the determination, resolve, and level of success that it took for the man to get there. Men in authority positions are attractive because it shows a certain aspect of their character in achieving respect in the workplace. A man who is successful is much more attractive than one who isn’t, and also usually women tend to get involved with their superiors when they are young — meaning that they reject the fellow male students around them for the professor. Why? All of the above reasons and the excitement of being with a man of experience. We might argue independence, but each woman instinctively is going to choose a spouse or significant other who is capable of providing for her — and for many girls, that seems more likely with an established member of society rather than their peers.
It’s natural to be attracted to older men for a variety of reasons and often, the men are flattered or drawn to someone who appreciates their talent, respects them in their field, and strokes their ego by being younger than them (sort of a status symbol, being desirable enough that a twenty-something wants to be with you). The problem is when the attraction transforms into a relationship. That’s when it has the potential to blow up in your face — for people to question your grades, your work experience, and your integrity. The repercussions are always unfortunate and unfortunately, also always fall on the female — men usually emerge from these romantic entanglements unscathed, which isn’t fair and is sexist, but is the sad truth. It’s bad enough when there are just two people involved, but if Mr. Handsome happens to have a wife and kids, then it’s even worse and you become the proverbial homewrecker… or Anne Boleyn.
It also says something about the people involved… what kind of a man becomes involved with an employee or subordinate? Could not that be construed as abusing a position of authority? I use men in the authority position rather than women because it seems to more often be secretaries and female students who become involved with their superiors, but on occasion the reverse of the sexes is true and that’s even more scandalous. I say none of this lightly, because I happen to like Jack McCoy and various other individuals who could arguably be accused of taking advantage of a situation. It is even threaded throughout literature — Jane Eyre, after all, was working for Edward Rochester, and none of us seem to mind. The same could be said of Elisabeth and Charles in Firelight. But we love their individual romances because there is a “forbidden” element that is exciting to our nature. (Often, it’s the excitement of keeping a secret, or it being forbidden that causes people to enter into these affairs.)
Other shows tease us with it. I only know a handful of people who didn’t want Major Samantha Carter and General Jack O’Neill to wind up together in SG-1… (and that’s usually because they were Sam/Cameron fans! Same philosophy, different participants.) We got excited whenever there was a meaningful glance or even (be still my heart!) an actual kiss. Possessed by an alien, about to lose their mind, or in a life and death situation, it didn’t matter: that liplock kept us giddy for weeks. We appreciated that they didn’t bend the rules (or if they were, we never found out) but everyone secretly hoped that when Jack moved on to a different program, Sam would wind up his Mrs. Why? Because we’re desperate for love connections. We don’t want anyone to eternally be alone and it gives us a sense of security and contentment knowing someone else is there for them.
Last night, I sat down with the new Star Trek movie. I have seen an episode of the old series and its spin offs here and there and even watched the last film in the franchise a few years ago, but for the most part I came in without bias, prepared to form my own opinion. I loved it. But one of the things I loved most about it is … Spock and Uhara.That’s a giant no-no. Not only is he her commanding officer, he also was her teacher at cadet school. BAD!!! But… I love them together. She brings out his emotions and he clearly cares about her very much. I suspect Spock loves easily and so for him it’s not a relationship that doesn’t nag at his conscience. He isn’t accustomed to being involved with his cadets and will use restraint.
It’s a relationship that shouldn’t be happening, but the romantic side of me thinks it is a good thing that for once, the “geek” gets the girl. Ahhh, what a good example of how often emotion overrules common sense….