Published on The Daily Femme – Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010
Contributed by Annamarya
When I first heard the story of Melissa Petro, the tenured Bronx grade school arts & creative writing teacher who was reassigned to administrative duty after she wrote a piece for The Huffington Post criticizing Craigslist for removing its adult-services section while recounting her experiences as a former sex worker, I was incensed. Incensed because 1. As Petro recounts in her interview withMarie Claire’s Abigail Pesta for the magazine’s January issue, a reporter for The New York Post “broke the story” after putting the pieces together (in the HuffPo piece, she didn’t mention she was a teacher but had so in other written works), and wrote a sensationalized, dehumanizing article that leads in with “Meet Melissa Petro — the teacher who gives a new twist to ’sex ed.’”; and 2. Because she was reassigned on the basis of her past – a past that in no way endangered the children she taught- the children that, according to articles and Petro’s own account, love her.
I am a firm believer that in, eight out of 10 situations, the past should remain in the past, and, in Petro’s case, it falls within that eight. I fail to see how her work as a former stripper and sex worker – two professions she chose on her own accord – affects her ability to teach children properly and passionately. She’s not a registered sex offender nor was she accused of child sexual abuse. Her Craigslist clients, Petro says, were mainly “well-off” and “educated” – the 20- or 30-something year-old guys in suits. By reassigning her, we are only reaffirming the notion that no matter how competent you are in your current life, your past will still determine your future, even if it’s not entirely relevant – and that, while we live in a society that sexualizes young girls and thrives on sex and sexuality in entertainment, we’re absolutely afraid of it.