A student is failing in class, or for whatever reason wants a better grade, but doesn't want to (or cannot) study and work harder for it. Sometimes it's the crooked teacher or professor who offers the better grades for sex, but it's usually the student proposing sex for grades, often with some version of the old stock phrase: "I'll do anything to get an A!" If they can come to an agreement and the student in question does the deed for the grade, the teacher or professor will help the student cheat on tests, bias all grades given for answers to subjective questions in the student's favor, or (most commonly since this requires the least effort) just alter the student's performance records.
There's some Truth in Television here, although as with many dramatic plots derived from Real Life, the frequency of sex-for-grades scandals in high schools and colleges is usually rather over-hyped. Schools (even poor ones that don't screen their employees properly) and the law tend to punish such abuses of one's Position of Trust very severely, since it's often a form of Sexual Extortion, particularly when the teacher or professor is the one making the "offer" to a failing student with no other way to pass (e.g. "I would really hate to see you fail this course..."). Even when the student is the one offering sex for grades, however, the instructor is supposed to know better and will shoulder the majority of the blame in the eyes of the law for giving in to temptation. Hence, any instructor crooked enough to exchange grades for sex tends not to last very long.
While overlap is possible, this trope almost never involves any Teacher/Student Romance, since few will contend that Sex Equals Love in such a blatantly mercenary and unethical exchange as this. While it may also be related to The Oldest Profession, this is also rare: few students plan on making a career out of this sort of thing, though if they get away with this in school, they may carry their old habits into the workplace, seeking easy raises and promotions from philandering bosses.
And yes, this can happen to both men and women.
- Subverted in the first episode of Magical Twilight in which Irene trades sex with the headmaster of the Witches' Academy for a passing grade on her finals. Unfortunately, she has sex with him instead of taking the test. As he points out, he can't exactly give her a passing grade on a test she didn't take.
- In a Gary Gulman bit, he talks about role-playing one of these scenarios with his girlfriend in the bedroom. He gets way too involved in his "firm but fair" professor character and starts chiding his girlfriend for her poor grades despite her repeated insinuations that she'll "do anything" to improve them. By the end, he's lost all interest in having sex, and is instead pressing her to study so she'll pass the class.
- The Batman Adventures: In the graphic novel for Mad Love, Batman's account of young Harleen Quinzel's academic career strongly implies that she was sleeping with her professors to get higher marks in her psychology classes.
- Subverted in the mainstream Harley Quinn comics, on the other hand: the loopy young Harleen Quinzel is indicated to have had considerable psychological talent already, and rather than sleeping with a crooked professor suspiciously similar to the one shown in Mad Love, is indicated to have blackmailed him for extra credit and eventually an internship at Arkham using a recording she made of a conversation with him in which she led him into saying some potentially incriminating things. (Of course, in both cases, it meant her diploma and grades weren't as legitimate as they seemed. The mainstream comics also revealed in a long-concealed video recovered from Arkham Asylum of her first "therapy" session with the Joker, she started flirting with him the moment they were alone with each other because she was planning to seduce him all along and only got the job in the first place in order to get into contact with him.)
- Subverted again in Harleen. Harley was sleeping with one of her professors because she was genuinely attracted to him, she got her grades legitimately but people assumed this when the affair was exposed. As one character points out this trope doesn't actually work. Between multiple professors, peer review and outside marking the only way Harley could have got her qualifications is if she earned them legitimately.
- Parodied in the Italian graphic novel Venerdì 12: the protagonist Aldo mentions that in high school there were rumours of the school's most beautiful girl passing her classes this way, but Aldo dismisses them because when he tried the teachers chased him out screaming.
- In the Horacio Altuna story Cat published in Heavy Metal, its Villain Protagonist, a nymphomaniac sociopath, at one point seduces one of her professors to bump up her grades. They're later caught, but she threatens the dean with making sure that her wealthy father's handsome donations to the school will dry up and gets off scot-free.
- In The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #13, Lucy Giles (who, like all of Indy's female student is Hot for Teacher) proposes this to Indy, who politely turns her down.
Lucy Giles: I, um, also thought maybe I could come to your tent later? To discuss a little...extra credit?
Dr. Jones: Sorry Lucy. I've got plans for tonight.
- Defied by the shy and nerdy Covert Pervert Villain Protagonist Kevin Dornwinkle in the schlocky movie The Invisible Maniac: though he's indeed using his invisibility serum to spy on the buxom cheerleaders in the showers, and visibly aroused when one of his nubile young students gives him the "I'll do anything for an A" routine, he brushes her off and tells her to study more. It's the female Principal (who Really Gets Around) at that school who's into making these trades, blackmailing one of the handsome young boys into having sex with her by telling him he's failing badly, but that if he satisfies her "needs" she can see to it that he passes.
- Subverted in The Eiger Sanction when a pretty blonde student implies she'll sleep with Retired Badass art lecturer Dr Hemlock, who unfortunately for her, is played by Clint Eastwood.
Student: If there was anything I could do to get a better grade. I mean, I'd be willing to do anything. [Hemlock turns to look at her] Anything at all, really.
Hemlock: Are you...busy this evening?
Student: [smiles] No!
Hemlock: Do you live alone?
Student: Well my roommate's gone for the week...
Hemlock: Good. Then go on home, break out the books and study your little ass off. That's the best way to maintain a "B" average.
[the student walks off in a snit, giving the audience a Male Gaze look at her rear]
Hemlock: [smirks] Don't study it all off.
- Inverted in the Swedish film All Things Fair, in which Stig gets into a sordid affair with his (married) teacher Viola. When various circumstances bring the affair to a bitter end, she vengefully flunks him for his chronic absences (which he'd spent being "tutored" at her house) and covers her tracks by destroying all her records of his actual academic performance, which had actually been fairly decent.
- In Legally Blonde, Elle is disgusted when one of her professors puts his hand on her thigh while discussing how far she can go in her academic career (with the fun added implication that he recommended her to help with a trial because he thought she was a Dumb Blonde who was easy). Upset over the harassment, the thought that no one would ever take her seriously as a law student, and a friend thinking she really was sleeping her way to the top, Elle very nearly gives up on being a lawyer.
- Also mentioned is that one of Elle's friends gave her Spanish professor a lap dance for an A. She tries to say she passed because she wore her "lucky scrunchy".
- The Thinning. Students who fail a standardised test are killed, so a teacher promises a pass to a female student who sleeps with him. Then he fails her anyway so she'll be killed and so won't tell anyone what he did.
- Jason X: Janessa seduces and engages in kinky sex with her professor to make sure she passes her midterm. During a field trip on a space mission to Earth, by the way.
- Zeb tells a story early in The Number of the Beast about a female student who was somehow flunking a course specifically rigged to let Dumb Jocks pass. The student made one of these offers to her male professor, but he didn't understand the offer and simply told her where to find a tutor. This turns out to be a minor Plot Point when they learn the "Black Hats" are completely genderless and said professor was an undercover agent for them.
- In the Sidney Sheldon novel Nothing Lasts Forever, it is revealed that Honey Taft spent most of high school, college, and medical school seducing her various professors in order to get good grades. Sure enough, as it becomes painfully obvious that she's nowhere near as qualified for her residency position as her high grades would indicate and her supervisors look to removing her from the program, she turns her charms on them as well.
- In one of his books on jokes, Isaac Asimov tells a joke about this. Once a very beautiful female student comes to a male professor and offers him sex in exchange for an A in his discipline. The professor is momentarily tempted, but refuses and advises her to study. She doesn't and gets an F. Sometime later, the professor tells the story to his friend, another professor of the same college, and it turns out that the friend had exactly the same experience with the girl — with the same outcome. The friends' curiosity is piqued; they check the girl's marks and find out that she has F marks across the board — with one exception: an A in Ethics.
- In one of Ben Bova's novels, a grad student is wary of one of her professors, who has a reputation for hitting on students, but notes that if she'd wanted to, she "could get an A the same way Hester Prynne got hers."
- In an episode of Blossom featuring the class president elections, Blossom's opponent turns out to have one of these deals going with a teacher. When called out for this, the teacher claims not to be aware that he's one of her students, but when reminded that she gave him an A in her class, replies "He earned it."
- CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: In "Trends With Benefits" a media studies lecturer is indicated to be sleeping with several of his students. At least one of his students says that she is taking the class because wearing a short skirt and sitting in the front row is a guaranteed way to good marks.
- An episode of Dollhouse plays with this when Echo is hired by a college professor to play the role of a student who is failing his class and decides to visit him at home for some "private tutoring". It's an invoked variant, in that he's gone to the Dollhouse to get a "willing" ringer for this purpose. It doesn't work out well for him, though, as Echo changes personalities in mid-date and stabs him in the neck with a pencil.
- How I Met Your Mother:
- Barney sleeps with Marshall's law professor in hopes of raising the class's grades. He eventually dislocates a hip and winds up in the hospital, earning everyone in class... a B+.
- Subverted in the notorious "Let's Go to the Mall" scene from "Slap Bet" which starts off with Robin telling her professor that she'll do anything to get her grades up; but instead of sex, she offers to sing him a song.
- Kelly Bundy of Married... with Children, being the archetypal Dumb Blonde (who Really Gets Around) and desperate to graduate high school, has been known to do this on a few occasions among her other Sex for Services deals.
- One episode of Medium features a former teacher who lost his job over a sexual assault charge because he refused to sleep with a student for grades.
- In one episode of Person of Interest, Finch is working as a college professor and introducing himself to the students he's going to be teaching. A very attractive female student sits in the front row giving him sultry looks. When Finch explains that all grades will be final and warns students not to seek out any private conferences with him in hopes of getting any grade increases, however, this student immediately packs up her things and walks out in a huff.
- An episode of The Pretender had Jarod looking into the disappearance of a college professor. It turned out a female student tried this and he said no (the professor was married and had just become a father). She took offense and killed him, with help from two of her male classmates.
- One episode of Step by Step has Dana and Karen attend the same poetry class. The teacher seems oddly fond of Karens awful poetry until he threatens to fail her if she doesnt have sex with him. The girls devise a plan to catch him saying it on video and manage to pull it off despite several complications. When Dana tells him hes caught, he tells Karen her poetry is awful.
- Done in The Golden Girls, when Blanche is taking college courses to qualify for a promotion at work. When she's struggling with the class and asks her teacher for help, he suggests this. She's disgusted and angry and even more so when the dean can't do anything, as it's her word against his. She gets her revenge by studying like crazy to ensure that she passes with flying colors and tells him off.
- A subplot in an episode of Touched by an Angel, when a high school student accuses her teacher of this, spurred by his giving her a mediocre grade instead of the "A" he had promised. After denying it outright, the teacher finally confesses to a friend, but still has the effrontery to lay the blame on the student for having made advances on him and attempts to take the moral high ground by claiming that he simply couldn't bring himself to give her a good grade when she didn't deserve it.
- A One Life to Live storyline had a college professor being falsely accused of this by a student who'd been manipulated into believing that his genuine attempts at helping her were in fact sleazy advances.
- In Cheers, Sam takes a class and does this, except while he ends up sleeping with the teacher, he does not ask for better grades. She just gives them to him anyway. As he tells Diane when he confronts him, even he feels dirty about it.
- This is implied in "The Hook-Up Reverberation" episode of The Big Bang Theory, where Penny casually admits her high school PE coach turned out to have a close personal interest in her which amounted to an extremely inadvisable teacher-pupil crush. She took the young Penny to see a Melissa Etheridge gig and Penny played along with the idea to ensure she got A-grades. Penny does not disclose how far she had to go to get those A's but casually says "it all worked out just fine".
- On Strong Medicine, after a classmate of Dr. Lu Delgado's son tests positive for an STD, she tearfully "admits" that her teacher demanded sexual favors from her in exchange for good grades. She's revealed to be lying when the teacher reveals that he doesn't have the STD in question or any STD, for that matter. (Being an experienced swinger, he takes meticulous measures to stay healthy.)
- Murder, She Wrote: The Victim of the Week in "Alma Murder" is a graduate student who specializes in getting good grades by any means except studying. One suspect describes her as "giving tramps a bad name."
- Discussed in the Doctor Who-episode "The Pilot". Bill tells her foster mother Moira about how the Doctor offered to become her private tutor, leading Moira to ask if she should "break every bone in his body".
- The trope itself is strongly averted, as Bill is openly gay and the Doctor is only interested in tutoring her because he sees how smart and perceptive she is. While they do grow closer over the series, their relationship stays strictly platonic.
- Played with again in "Knock Knock", in which Bill pretends that the Doctor is her grandfather while he helps her move into her new lodgings, because if she introduced him as her tutor everybody would assume this.
- Subverted in You when Beck is going to lose her TA position after rejecting a pass from her advisor. At Joe's suggestion, she locates other victims and records an incriminating conversation with the professor. This helps cement her relationship with Joe who is an obsessive stalker who has targeted her and murdered her boyfriend. Oops.
- Two and a Half Men has a variation in which Jake's grades improve after Charlie starts dating his teacher. It doesn't last very long, though, since the teacher turns out to be a total nutcase.
- A limeric from an old issue of The New Yorker describes a case of unusual priorities for the student: here, sex and/or Teacher/Student Romance is the main purpose, while passing grade would be a pleasant bonus.
A susceptible senior at Vassar
Is knitting an antimacassar
To induce her professor
To love and caress her
And possibly even to pass her.
- In AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" the narrator offers to take care of a high school principal in order to preempt him from extorting a graduation-for-sex deal from one of the narrator's potential clients.
If you're having trouble with your high school head
He's giving you the blues
You want to graduate but not in his bed
Here's what you gotta do...
- In The Sims 2: University, one of the ways college students can improve their grades is by socializing with the professors of their major. Naturally, this includes romantic interactions and WooHoo. What's more, Drama major professors often flirt autonomously with students, although ironically they cannot be schmoozed for better grades like the others due to a bug (a fix exists for that, though).
- There is a series of erotic flash games where you use surrounding objects on sexy girls to get them aroused and then have sex with them. With a schoolgirl, you play the part of her teacher. Naturally, you start by taking a pen and "correcting" her grade.
- Life Is Strange: Not out of extra credit, but Victoria attempts to seduce Mr. Jefferson in order to guarantee a spot in a photography contest for a scholarship. His reaction is firm "no", and he chastises her for saying she could threaten him with the accusation. She does get picked for the competition, but it's out of genuine ability. This is also given a very disturbing twist when it turns out Jefferson is a depraved sadist who wants to go after the girls himself without any offering.
- Persona 5: Early in the game, evil volleyball coach Mr. Kamoshida tells both Shiho Suzui and her best friend Ann Takamaki to sleep with him, in order for Shiho to keep her spot on the volleyball team. Not quite grades, but close enough.
- In Better Days, exploited by one of the interns competing with Lucy for a radio newscaster position: she made one of these deals with one of her professors, and then exposed it to get him fired. This is among several dirty tricks the intern pulled of which Lucy tells her boss as evidence of her rival's treachery and duplicity.
- Subverted in Dumbing of Age when Sal attempts to invoke this with a teacher's assistant; she neglected to ask him for a better grade before sleeping with him (and she hit on him in an "I need to blow off some steam" way rather than an "I'll do anything" way), and he doesn't have the clout to give her one anyway.
- Not Always Right has a Rage Comic that averts this.
- Referenced, but averted in one Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: In one strip, a young woman in a low-cut dress goes to her professor and asks if there's anything she can do to improve her grade... only for her world-weary professor to explain that he's Seen It All in 50 years of practicing sexual deviancy in his marriage (involving waffle irons, among other things), so there's nothing she can possibly offer to do for him that would interest him.
- Averted at the very beginning of Errant Story, as Meji's attempt to pass her class under(!) the forbidding Professor Yukiri this way is rebuffed, leading to ten years worth of hijinks, and eventually, her becoming something like a god — and she still doesn't pass the class.