"I had a dream recently that I was back in high school and having sex with my geography teacher in the middle of the basketball court. It was during a girls’ basketball game against the school up the street.
Every time one of us moaned the crowd cheered, and when I came the buzzer sounded. We were then carried off the court like we'd just won a big and important game, but my teacher was carried up to a stage to give a rousing speech. I was thrown in a bin in the parking lot."
When Van Halen’s Hot For Teacher was released in 1984, it brought to popular culture a fantasy that had lurked in the unconscious minds of students since the beginning of time. The glam rock anthem is an ode to inappropriately lusting after a teacher, and has an iconic, humorous music video, featuring members of the band and their younger selves at high school, with bikini clad teachers putting on a show for the class. It is a tongue-in-cheek exploration of one of the most ancient taboos – the sexual union between a teacher and student.
To dream of being back in high school, for most of us, is to go back in time. It may be easy to jump to the conclusion that the dreamer is Hot for Teacher à la Van Halen, but in the dream realm, when we revisit this intermediary, hazy space between childhood and adulthood, we are often revisiting unresolved psychic wounds that were birthed in that environment.
Whether you spent your time at school being a little Dazed and Confused, or thriving as a Mean Girl, a Rebel Without a Cause or a Teenage Dirtbag, we can agree that high schools are delicate and complex ecosystems marked by assessment criteria and hierarchies, both academic and social, which foster deep insecurities about perception, performance and the ways we relate. Failing to adhere to prescribed versions of being result in public humiliation, embarrassment and social ostracisation. Schools set the paradigm for our shared understandings around who gets to be loved, and how.
And so, by design, schools instil within us that our value is dependent on external factors, such as standardised assessment rubrics, acceptance by peers or approval by teachers and parents. All these factors ultimately, are the foundations of how we come into being, as we come of age and enter the big wide world armed with an incessant, pathological longing to belong.
Sex with a teacher is considered taboo and criminal in most societies around the world. Penalties for teachers who engage in sexual acts with students consist of lengthy prison sentences, and even death, in some countries. In the dream realm, if the student is dreaming of having sex with a teacher, this act can be symbolic of desired integration with authority, pertaining to the childhood wound in which the dreamer seeks the validation of an elder. It can also reveal to us the fallacy in our structures of authority, governance and laws – the humanness behind the veneer of power and duty of care. In this dream, for sex to be made public at a basketball game, and to receive validation from the crowd in the form of cheering, further reinforces the desire to be publicly accepted and loved, to be celebrated for one’s ‘achievements’, to be deemed worthy by the status quo.
I would go further to ascribe student-teacher relations in dreams as also being symbolic for the desire to integrate with God. Both the student and the teacher are archetypes instrumental to the human experience, with each of us moving through these roles as a rites of passage. Spiritual alignment with a higher being or source of wisdom is innate to our psyche, and alongside the conditioning we receive at school, this longing for spiritual integration becomes corrupted in our systems of shame and reward.
Ultimately, the people we have sex with in dreams, have characteristics or traits that we are desire to acquire, internalise and integrate as our own. In the game-like design of this dream, the dreamer is the loser who is thrown in the bin while the teacher is celebrated, despite both having played an equal part in the act. Why does the teacher have the opportunity to give a triumphant speech while the dreamer is voiceless in the trash? What is it about the teacher that the dreamer is seeking? Perhaps they embody a wellspring of knowledge, power and stature in the community.
The subject the teacher is associated with is also important here. In Van Halen’s Hot for Teacher music video, the hot teachers were of Chemistry and Physical Education disciplines, naturally. Our educator in question teaches geography, the study of places and the relationships between people and their environments. Physical geography looks at Earth's seasons, atmosphere, waterways and land formations; and human geography looks at the distribution of people and cultures on the surface of the planet. Further aligning yourself with the physical properties of Earth – the soil, minerals, plant matter and salts – will be a grounding journey. Integrate yourself with higher knowledge, by pursuing a path of learning through practice, experimentation, analysis and study. Become the knowledge holder.
This dream also asks the dreamer to consider, in what ways does participation in traditional systems empower or disempower you? Perhaps, despite your efforts to participate in existing paradigms of living, you still don’t quite fit in. The transgressive act of having sex with a teacher, then experiencing humiliation by being thrown in the bin afterwards, sheds light on how the dreamer might be in some way, crossing their own boundaries to satisfy others. Ask yourself, in what ways are you transgressing against yourself to please the status quo?
The dream is inviting the dreamer to re-order their value. Create a system of being in which the inner world is not dependent on the outer world for love and validation. The fabric of reality is thin, and the rules that have been set out for us, are not necessarily in our best interests.
With the exception of Eddie Van Halen who ends up in a psychiatric ward, Alex Van Halen, Michael Anthony and David Lee Roth graduate with careers in gynaecology, sumo wrestling and game show hosting at the end of the Hot For Teacher music video. And our dreamer is met with a darker fate, reinforcing the differences between fantasy and dream. The dream is functional, in that it helps us undo the dichotomy of shame and reward we are so wired to. Institutionalised environments like schools, prisons and temples are manufactured ecosystems in which individual development, expression and self-worth are moulded to be dependent on society. When the dreamer aligns themselves with wisdom, there will no be no question of their value from within.