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Dirty Old Women
May 13, 2010 6:22 PM   Subscribe

Dirty Old Women is an attempt to figure out why older female teachers sleep with younger boys.

The stories of Debra LaFave, Mary Kay LeTourneau, and Angela Comer were national scandals that are examples of this phenomenon.
posted by reenum (102 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
"The most famous older woman is, of course, Mrs. Robinson: sinister as well as smoldering, coolly and mercilessly manipulating Benjamin to get what she wants and keep what he wants out of reach."

Timeless!
posted by mecran01 at 6:26 PM on May 13, 2010


Dirty Old Women is an attempt to figure out why older female teachers sleep with younger boys.

Has this become a problem?
posted by nola at 6:30 PM on May 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


The stories of Debra LaFave, Mary Kay LeTourneau, and Angela Comer were national scandals that are examples of this phenomenon.

They are also rare enough that they merit special attention.... the reverse "merely" merits the attention of the police and parents.



"merely" merit
"merely" merit
"merely" merit
"merely" merit
"merely" merit
"merely" merit

(that's a phase that sounds odd to say)
posted by edgeways at 6:30 PM on May 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I came in all ready to hate on this (that's a truly appalling title), but it's not bad, if a bit lightweight. The contrast between how we treat statutory rape between older men and older women is certainly striking. I do find it interesting how the article alludes that this contrast is because the outcome on the minor is demonstrably different - and less for boys. I wonder if it's so clear cut. I have no doubt there is *tonnes* of statutory rape of older men on younger women that simply isn't reported, thus perhaps the cases that make it to court are the more traumatic ones.*

*Not at all defending statutory rape. It's not cool for boys _or_ girls, in my opinion.
posted by smoke at 6:36 PM on May 13, 2010


Is it just me or does this seem like a relatively recent hysteria? It seems like, in the past, if an older adult woman slept with a younger boy, it wouldn't be seen as a horrible crime.
Jason says he would not have given a statement to the Long Island police incriminating DeMartini-Scully if he hadn’t been under pressure. “They said if I didn’t they were gonna press charges on me because I was with Diane’s daughter,” who is only 14, and now Jason is 17, thus making him guilty of “sexual misconduct” himself. As of his last birthday, Jason’s relationships switched status in the eyes of the law: Sex with the then-44-year-old school psychologist who had been after him since he was 16 became okay; sex with her teenage daughter became a crime.

(“It is a strange law,” says Harned. “I didn’t write them, I just enforce them.” Harned says that it is still likely that the Southold Police Department will press charges against Jason for his relationship with the daughter and that Jason was not pushed into giving a statement about the mother.)
That's fucked up.
posted by delmoi at 6:38 PM on May 13, 2010 [13 favorites]


I don't know the numbers, but I figured this was a "man bites dog" issue. Nobody really considers it news if a male teacher goes after a student of either gender - "he's sleazy like most dudes are, he just had a lapse of judgment". The female teacher / male student dynamic has a tension because the age disparity is opposite of the gender disparity in terms of our expectations of who would be taking advantage of who. It happens less, but is much more interesting to gossip about.
posted by idiopath at 6:39 PM on May 13, 2010


edgeways: write merely merit 100 times on the chalkboard or else I will spank you. And since it was my post, I should mention the first link is a double.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:40 PM on May 13, 2010


"Has this become a problem?"

please see Fark
posted by 1-2punch at 6:41 PM on May 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Despite our post-evolutionary attempts to legislate its desirability away in order to quench the raging fire of guilt over our own prurient interest, youth remains a strongly attractive force.
posted by umberto at 6:43 PM on May 13, 2010 [10 favorites]


I teach and few years back when this really started hitting the news I'd ask the females teachers what they thought and almost without fail the response would be, "Eww that's just gross, but you know Jason in my fifth is so cute." if there were a group of female teachers and I asked it, it would devolve into teachers comparing which boys were cute. Blew...my...mind. A mAle teacher that looks sideways at a girl gets buried under the school.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 6:45 PM on May 13, 2010 [11 favorites]


I blame Van Halen. And I'm only half-joking.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:45 PM on May 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


Btw, no I teach physics not English so do not fear for your children's grammar. :)
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 6:46 PM on May 13, 2010


Nobody really considers it news if a male teacher goes after a student of either gender'

Wait what? Dude, this is exactly the opposite of the case. See, e.g.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:48 PM on May 13, 2010


Young boys are really mellow
You don't believe me then just try this fellow
(I know what to say when they call me on the phone)
You call me back when your momma ain't home

Young boys are my weakness
I just like their sweetness

Hey boys let's mess around
I wanna party with you on the town
some boys really make me swing
There ain't nothin' like a pretty young thing


That was a moderate hit in Australia from a famous Christian singer [but I'm always a bit suss when an entertainer professes their love of Jeebus]. Jehovah’s Witness, IIRC.

And who could forget this crazy old banshee defending her book during her "chat show interview tour" publicising it. Everyone knows what she'd being saying had the situations been reversed 30 years ago. /strawman
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:51 PM on May 13, 2010


As far as HS teachers doing this, I think some of it probably has to do with the fact that a lot of these teachers go straight from high school to a few years of college and right back into high school, and maybe some of them never really started thinking of themselves as being different from their students. Probably a lot of them were unpopular the first time around and get off on being in charge.
posted by empath at 6:54 PM on May 13, 2010 [7 favorites]


[American Pie] Dude, that chick's a MILF! [/American Pie]
posted by bwg at 6:55 PM on May 13, 2010


As a former young boy, I would like to say that there were not nearly enough Dirty Old Women in my life, and I sincerely hope that we, as a society, can work together to ensure future generations do not suffer the same deprivations.

Thank you.
posted by clarknova at 6:57 PM on May 13, 2010 [11 favorites]


Several links from 2005 and 2006 and the most recent from 2008. Best of the Web (hamburger) years later.
posted by mlis at 7:00 PM on May 13, 2010


Mrs Hexatron relates this cautionary? tale her mom (a teacher) told her:

In the 1930's, an eighth-grade teacher (in her 30's) at her school got involved with one of her several-times-left-back pupils, who was therefore about 16 or so. The teacher and pupil were married soon after he matriculated (8th grade was his most advanced degree) and remained as happily married as any of us are likely to be, until one of them passed away.

It was a funny local story, with no hint of crime or scandal.
posted by hexatron at 7:05 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Dirty Old Women" is an attempt to figure out why older female teachers sleep with younger boys.


No it's not. It's an attempt to sell more copies of a glossy magazine by appealing to its readers' prurient natures while attempting to maintain a facade of serious reportage.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 7:06 PM on May 13, 2010 [23 favorites]


It's not just a school thing. At the group home I counseled at a long while back, one of the previous staff (a woman) had a "relationship" with one of the residents (a boy).

This was viewed as a "scandal" rather than, you know, a SCANDAL.
(which, really, it should have been. The boy was in fricking care for godsakes)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:10 PM on May 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I always felt bad for the kid in the Letourneau case. I know they got married (and still are last I heard), but that seemed to make it worse, imo. It seemed like a whole lot of emotional pressure on him, as a teenager, to have this (crazy?) woman who is willing to have his kids and even go to prison for "their love". After all that, is he really going to be able to say "gee...let's just be friends"?
posted by stifford at 7:13 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Levy's misleadingly histrionic title is somehow less annoying than her repeated sentence fragments.
posted by zoomorphic at 7:17 PM on May 13, 2010


In related news:

Cougars are an endangered species on Google.

I mean the ones wearing fur. Faux fur, usually, and Chanel and Gucci. The common two-legged cougar.

“This is an insult to women everywhere,” fumes Toronto cougar queen Claudia Opdenkelder, 39. “I’m shocked.”

Ms Opdenkelder’s knickers are in a knot because Google has suddenly banned advertising by sites that link older women (cougars) to younger men (cubs).

Among the victims — dare I say whipping boys — is her cougarlife.com.

posted by KokuRyu at 7:22 PM on May 13, 2010


Angela Comer was arrested Coitus interruptus?
posted by kneecapped at 7:28 PM on May 13, 2010


Inspector.Gadget: "Wait what? Dude, this is exactly the opposite of the case."

Oh of course everyone thinks they deserve to be locked up. But a male teacher hooking up with a student of either gender is 1) much more common and 2) hardly ever makes national news. Female teachers having sex with students gets talked about much more and happens much less often.
posted by idiopath at 7:29 PM on May 13, 2010


Cougar jokes don't match this situation.

There's a substantial difference between older woman and younger man, and adult woman and male child. The power difference between a teacher and pupil, or the poor kid who was molested by his girlfriend's mom, pretty much erases consent.

What are these kids supposed to do? Sleep on the street? Fail the grade? Seduction is molestation, and threats don't have to be explicit in order to have power.
posted by jrochest at 7:30 PM on May 13, 2010 [7 favorites]


Ok last post in here. While agree some arestraight out of college and not ready to separate themselves from the students. There are many in their 40s and onward veteran teachers that do this. I think the common link is power in this the relationship the male student is a sex crazed teen boyand this older woman is offering him what he wants and I think she pretty much absolutely is going to call all the shots. There is probably alot of satisfaction in that and it feeds a need in a certain type of person, of course that could all be bullshit cause we're not having a discussion about why maleteachers do this we know absolutely why they do and msybethe explanation is just as simple for the females
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 7:31 PM on May 13, 2010


Idiopath -- I don't know where you live but where I live, any teacher 'hooking up' with an elementary school student is going to make the national news.
posted by jrochest at 7:31 PM on May 13, 2010


Surviving Cougar Attacks, part 1: Costco.

"Is this juice any good?"

"My wife likes it, but I don't."

Cougar sulks and heads over to the lawn furniture aisle.
posted by fatbird at 7:32 PM on May 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


delmoi: "It seems like, in the past, if an older adult woman slept with a younger boy, it wouldn't be seen as a horrible crime. "

I recommend those interested to Stephen Vizinczey's In Praise of Older Women.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:33 PM on May 13, 2010


She was emotionally immature but so was I. She was teaching a hundred miles away from her husband, while I was running from my tumultuous sexual identity. One of us should have known better. She was twice my age.

The only woman I've ever had sex with screwed with my head long after she was done screwing my body.

I should have known better.

Do you have any idea how overwhelming it can be when nobody wants anything to do with you, nobody takes you seriously as an individual . .
. until someone does. An adult. of all people. treats you like a real person.

fuck it. nevermind. farkfilter to your hearts content
posted by yesster at 8:01 PM on May 13, 2010 [22 favorites]


What about older male teachers and female students, are they worth investigation?
posted by kenko at 8:04 PM on May 13, 2010


stifford:I always felt bad for the kid in the Letourneau case

Not only did he get to sleep with his hot teacher, but he even got a fat settlement from the school district. The only sympathy he gets from me is that he only has one more wish before the genie goes back in the lamp.
posted by dr_dank at 8:05 PM on May 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hmm. This is a common theme in most fetish communities: "Why aren't any women into X?" With X being the fetish in question. Well, the answer is, they are, and in equal proportion to the guys... it's just immensely less acceptable for them to admit to such, even behind the anonymity of an online persona. Yet, in private, approaching the men on the sly through online messaging, or email, or facebook, the freaky girls will make themselves known, if you're an interesting enough guy.

If you ask the question, "Why are so many adult men into sleeping with teens and pre-teens?" the answers will be different, as there are different cultural norms - but the answer is still really the same as if you ask the question, "Why are so many female teachers sleeping with boys?"

Because they're pedophiles.

They use their power and influence as an adult to have sex with socially vulnerable adolescents, no matter if it's a creepy scoutmaster or a cheery, chubby school nurse... or worse, an attractive 20-something. Being hot, blond and bue-eyed doesn't mean you're any less of a pedophile abusing your power over the powerless.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:13 PM on May 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


Don't know what the statute of limitations are for your case, yesster, but it may not be too late to press charges.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 8:15 PM on May 13, 2010


umberto: "Despite our post-evolutionary attempts to legislate its desirability away in order to quench the raging fire of guilt over our own prurient interest, youth remains a strongly attractive force."

Harold Brodkey had a nice line in one of his stories: "They have their youth to offer, and they will offer it."
posted by Joe Beese at 8:16 PM on May 13, 2010


jrochest: "idiopath -- I don't know where you live but where I live, any teacher 'hooking up' with an elementary school student is going to make the national news."

None of the cases we have talked about here involved someone in elementary school.

Anyway, I live in the US

some stats

of particular note:

Approximately 14% of those surveyed said they had engaged in sexual intercourse with a teacher.

This is happening much more than the media is talking about it. And it is disproportionately talked about if it is female adult and male child.
posted by idiopath at 8:16 PM on May 13, 2010


sorry. my first instinct was to make a joke. didn't realize this would be a 'trigger,' since its been 25 years. No worries, all ok.
posted by yesster at 8:17 PM on May 13, 2010


I'd ask the females teachers what they thought and almost without fail the response would be, "Eww that's just gross, but you know Jason in my fifth is so cute."

Wait, fifth as in fifth grade, 10-11 years old? Or fifth as in fifth period (high school)? Not that either one is great, but if it's the former, wow...
posted by naju at 8:20 PM on May 13, 2010


The only woman I've ever had sex with screwed with my head long after she was done screwing my body.

I should have known better.


Oh, shit, no. That's no joke. You did nothing wrong. Then or now. There is, was, and will never be because of that, anything wrong with you. It was out of your control, and please, please, understand that... talk with someone who can help if you can't, because it's gospel truth.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:25 PM on May 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Last Picture Show
posted by nola at 8:26 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


If I can take this opportunity to save an AskMe question: Has there been any YA fiction on this subject?
posted by Joe Beese at 8:27 PM on May 13, 2010


Uh, kind of disappointing that half the comments in this thread are all BOYS ALWAYS WANT SEX SO IF THATS RAPE SIGN ME UP LOL AMIRITE
posted by threeants at 8:29 PM on May 13, 2010 [19 favorites]


Since he teaches physics, I'm going to guess high school :)
posted by june made him a gemini at 8:31 PM on May 13, 2010


People who sleep with post-adolescent-but-not-legally-of-age humans are screwed up and scuzzy but they aren't pedophiles.
posted by maxwelton at 8:35 PM on May 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


This blog post is quite interesting on the subject of female-on-male sexual assault: “But women don’t rape!”: sexual pressure, rejection and the male sex drive discourse. She makes an astute point that the male sex drive discourse make this kind of sexual assault extremely difficult to address, because men are supposed to always want it (and if they had an erection, how could they not?), and women can't be aggressors because they are passive, compassionate people who'd never do such things.

There are a number of comments by men reporting some harrowing experiences of sexual assault, including a man with a history of childhood sex abuse who was repeatedly pressured into having sex by his girlfriend who told him that refusing to have sex with her was emotionally abusive and controlling, and that he "couldn't deal with the idea of women having sexual agency, being able to initiate sex on their own and having their own desires."
posted by AlsoMike at 8:37 PM on May 13, 2010 [8 favorites]


Teachers, doctors, priests, day-care, politicians, police.. are in positions of public trust and therefore under a different set of unspoken rules. The press makes a big deal about it, authorities come down harder for political reasons. If it was an unemployed housewife and the neighbor paperboy it would be just as legally and morally wrong but the press probably wouldn't get involved because whose to know, who needs to know, other than possibly a domestic case at the county courthouse. So you have to weigh in the factor of "violation of public trust" in all these cases no matter what the genders.
posted by stbalbach at 8:38 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I always felt bad for the kid in the Letourneau case. I know they got married (and still are last I heard), but that seemed to make it worse, imo.

They got married at the same place as I did. Vili is now trying to make a name for himself as a DJ; he and Mary Kay appear at local clubs hosting "Hot for Teacher" events.

Really.
posted by KathrynT at 8:51 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


d. The power difference between a teacher and pupil, or the poor kid who was molested by his girlfriend's mom, pretty much erases consent.

This. The kid was staying with her; he as much as said "well, she was letting me stay, I thought I'd better go along." And what can happen in any relationship of this type is, the pedophile leads, the kid follows, not really understanding what's happening; by the time they do, the adult can say, "well, you already did all this nasty stuff, how do you think your parents will feel if you tell?" or even "I'll lose my job, my husband will leave me, don't you care about me?"

There are more ways to coerce someone sexually, especially a naive kid, than to hold a gun to their head. We look askance at men who seek out much younger women for a reason--because it smacks of someone who's looking for unsophisticated, easy-to-control partners. Because age is also a power dynamic.

I would be interested to read more about the study mentioned at the beginning of the article. I can't help but wonder about the fact that girls in these situations are treated as damaged, fragile, and possibly contagious while boys in these situations are patted on the back and told "congratulations, stud!" might affect how they see their own experience.
posted by emjaybee at 8:55 PM on May 13, 2010 [6 favorites]



They [Mary Kay and Vili] got married at the same place as I did. Vili is now trying to make a name for himself as a DJ; he and Mary Kay appear at local clubs hosting "Hot for Teacher" events.

Really.


I miss the Pacific Northwest!
posted by Neofelis at 9:08 PM on May 13, 2010


In the 1930's, an eighth-grade teacher (in her 30's) at her school got involved with one of her several-times-left-back pupils, who was therefore about 16 or so. The teacher and pupil were married soon after he matriculated (8th grade was his most advanced degree) and remained as happily married as any of us are likely to be, until one of them passed away.

In the same vein, my grandmother was my grandfather's 7th grade teacher (in 1923 or thereabouts). He always talked about how he fell in love with her then. She continued teaching school; he graduated and went through a railroad apprenticeship; they finally got married in 1938, when he was late 20's and she was late 30's. Ever since I was old enough to understand all this, it's seriously creeped me out.
posted by worldswalker at 9:12 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


emjaybee: "would be interested to read more about the study mentioned at the beginning of the article. I can't help but wonder about the fact that girls in these situations are treated as damaged, fragile, and possibly contagious while boys in these situations are patted on the back and told "congratulations, stud!" might affect how they see their own experience."

I don't have the citation ready but I have heard tell that some survivors of abuse do not experience certain negative effects of the abuse until they are told that what happened is abuse and something shameful. Of course a relationship with that kind of power difference has many opportunities for the adult to take advantage of the child, but if some of the worst affects are attached to the social judgment of the events, it would figure that boys would not be as strongly affected, since they are not judged so harshly (yes, expecting someone else to be damaged, scarred for life, a victim, etc. is a harsh judgment, even if presented with a concerned or compassionate tone).
posted by idiopath at 9:17 PM on May 13, 2010


idiopath: None of the cases we have talked about here involved someone in elementary school.

The kid in the Letourneau case was a 12 year old in Grade 6.

Also, what emjaybee said.
posted by jrochest at 9:17 PM on May 13, 2010


Uh, kind of disappointing that half the comments in this thread are all BOYS ALWAYS WANT SEX SO IF THATS RAPE SIGN ME UP LOL AMIRITE

It's almost impossible to find support in dealing with issues like these if you are the boy involved. For a young man in a sexual relationship with an older woman, people either say "no way" or "you lucky dog." The nymag article is mostly fluff, but it does sum up the cultural zeitgeist pretty well: the notable story is the abuser, not the abused. Look at yesster's comment, it's difficult to start a dialog about what happened when cultural norms are going against your experience.
posted by peeedro at 9:27 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Regarding the demographic frequency abuse in a school context by men vs women, results vary widely by study, with a range of 57% to 96% of abuse reported to be done by men. (see page 33 of this pdf from the US Department of Education)
posted by idiopath at 9:37 PM on May 13, 2010


The article makes little attempt to address the obvious: sexual attractiveness does not magically start when you have your twenty-first birthday and it isn't as if everyone's levels auto-adjust over time because not everyone feels their age. What they do about that attraction is a different matter entirely, but the article simply goes for parading out our most notable cases and then acts as if this is all some mystery.

I had a teacher in elementary school I might describe as overly solicitous. It never occurred to me at the time that it was particularly unusual. Some teachers are friendly, some aren't. That's your basic teacher landscape to many children. Years later, when I was out of high school, I ran into her at random. About one minute after we were out of the sight of everyone else, I realized what she was about, long before she slid her hand across the small of my back and asked, "You're sweating, dear. Do I make you nervous?" Well, yeah, lady, you've got me backed up against the wall and have been doing the sparkly eyes thing at me since you figured out who I was.

Things went downhill from there. I was an adult at the time, but I had to wonder precisely where all of this came from. It wasn't as if I had suddenly become attractive when I belatedly stumbled into puberty, and the speed at which she made her pass led me to conclude that something might have been going on back then that I just didn't pick up on. Five minutes from recognition to asking me out for a drink. Did this happen often? Was I the only one? I didn't think too hard about it as I spent most of my CPU time on marveling at the weirdness of the situation, plus enjoying a little sexual validation because holy crap my teacher thinks I'm attractive enough to make a pass at me about as subtle as the bombing of Dresden.

I know power dynamics are the big thing to talk about, but they're so completely pervasive, all of the lines drawn begin to seem arbitrary. Nobody bats an eye if someone who is vastly wealthy dates someone who is not. What about a fifty point IQ (or pick whatever metric with which you are comfortable) difference? That's one hell of an imbalance. Given racial relations in the United States (and in many other countries), wouldn't interracial dating constitute an imbalance, as well? Could I ever date my teacher from a decade back, given our history, with any level of parity?

I bring these up because someone aged twenty-five dating a seventeen year old is a little out of the statistical norm, but here we have someone who gets sexual assault charges because of it, despite the fact that seventeen is the age of consent in many states. Obviously not in that state, but I wonder if part of the conviction rested on the assumed coercive nature of the teacher-student relationship.

I'd rather the focus shift away from conviction and the occasional "look at the strange but outwardly content couple" pseudo-happy ending and onto the presumption of male sexual availability. That's what isolates these boys and young men — the cold fact that, if you are capable of sustaining an erection, you ought to be up for it, for whatever value of "it," and if you balk, there's something wrong with you and "Why didn't you take your shot?" Fix that and a number of things will follow.
posted by adipocere at 10:19 PM on May 13, 2010 [10 favorites]


sites that link older women (cougars) to younger men (cubs).

It's the bestiality and incest that creeps me out the most.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:24 PM on May 13, 2010


The hurf durf in this thread is very disappointing. And more than a little skeezy.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:25 PM on May 13, 2010


Also, what was with calling Germaine Greer a "crazy old banshee"?

Worst fucking thread in ages. Pun intended, so that some dumbshit doesn't try to explain the joke again.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:31 PM on May 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have a female friend who is a dominant in the BDSM scene, who has always had a thing for much younger guys.

She once mentioned to me that she was molested when she was around ten by a boy who was about 15, and had very mixed feelings about it.

I suspect a big part of her attraction to younger guys is related to not only the attraction/fixation itself, but also because she could kind of relive something she's gone through, but have control over it for a change.
posted by markkraft at 11:04 PM on May 13, 2010


Male teachers who have sex with students or (at least as often) kids they coach make the newspaper all the time, at least here in Oregon. Not big features in glossy mags, but certainly along with all the other crime including murders and bank robberies in the Metro section.
posted by msalt at 11:16 PM on May 13, 2010


msalt: yeah - my perception, right or wrong, is that men get caught more often but women are more likely to hit the national news media (with more staying power to the story) if they get caught.
posted by idiopath at 11:19 PM on May 13, 2010


I'm disappointed Mefi.

A thread about female teachers sleeping with young male students and not one reference of "niccccccccccccccccccccccce".
posted by Talez at 11:22 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


1) A teacher sleeping with a highschool student is not a pedophile. Pedophilia is attraction to pre-pubescent people. They may be violating the statutory rape laws, but they aren't necessarily cognitively abnormal--there be some pretty hot 16 and 17 year olds out there.

2) It's my contention that statutory rape laws based around the age of 18 (that is, legal majority) are based not on protecting the rights of children, but on perpetuating the notion that girl children are property whose virginity determines their value. Most stat rape laws were only recently revised to have any male/female parity; they were once defined solely in terms of people having sex with young women.

3) The idea that there is a developmental stage between childhood and adulthood is relatively recent. In most pre-industrialized cultures, people went from being children to being adults around the age of sexual maturity. To my thinking, a 15 year old (of either sex) is not a child. They're an adult who has not yet been granted their legal rights. [The argument that "they make stupid decisions, and so need parental protection" is specious, as plenty of legal adults make equally awful decisions.]

4) adipocere nails the power-imbalance issue when he discusses all the other imbalanced relationships that occur but that we think are mostly okay-if-weird.

5) The real issue is one of consent and coercion. Was the student made to feel that he or she had no other choice but to comply? Well, then that's rape, regardless of other circumstances.

6) Regardless of whether or not it's rape, there should be explicit policies (though perhaps not criminal laws) in place to prohibit sexual congress between teachers and their pupils. These exist at every university I've ever heard of, and they serve the dual purpose of diminishing both coercion and conflict of interest.
posted by Netzapper at 11:51 PM on May 13, 2010 [24 favorites]


Joe Beese, the YA fiction that immediately pops to mind is Lurlene McDaniels' glurge o' the month selection, "Prey." The student in that is a high school age boy, not younger. I didn't actually read it; just stared at it begrudgingly on the store shelves until it could be moved along in favor of something better. McDaniel has over 60 YA books under her belt (if Wikipedia is to be believed), so I can't imagine that it was any special insight into the theme.
posted by redsparkler at 11:59 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Because they're pedophiles.

Quite.

And...

Uh, kind of disappointing that half the comments in this thread are all BOYS ALWAYS WANT SEX SO IF THATS RAPE SIGN ME UP LOL AMIRITE
posted by rodgerd at 1:22 AM on May 14, 2010


It's very comforting to paint the world in black and white. "Children" are anyone under the age of majority, and adults are anyone that's reached that age. Makes things easy. The fact it's bullshit is dismissed in order to simplify. Outlying cases may be casually dismissed lest we violate comfort zones and cause headaches from thinking too much. Can't have that!

People who seek sex seek it only for their own gratification, selfishly. No other motivation is valid. No one seeks sex out of a desire to give another person pleasure. And if you're a virgin, you are surely a target for sexual assault by flying unicorns farting rainbows.
posted by Goofyy at 1:42 AM on May 14, 2010


Where were these teachers when I grew up?
posted by caddis at 4:06 AM on May 14, 2010


"Not only did he get to sleep with his hot teacher, but he even got a fat settlement from the school district. The only sympathy he gets from me is that he only has one more wish before the genie goes back in the lamp."

He was 12. That is massively fucking creepy. I had sexual feelings when I was 12. My 12-year-old fantasies included sex (yes, females have fantasies about sex before we turn 16), although it was pretty vague until I discovered internet porn around that same time.

Me fantasizing about it doesn't make it right. In fact, when I was 15-16 years old, a teacher I had a massive crush on from 13-14 including lots of sexy fantasies actually hit on me, for an entire school year. I couldn't stay in my AP math class, I ended up graduating early, mostly to escape the situation. Because it was really, really creepy and unfun and the power difference made me freeze up and even though it was somewhat nice to get the attention and kinda sexy, it was mostly frightening and oppressive and it made it hard for me to concentrate and learn which is, you know, the ENTIRE POINT OF SCHOOL.

And so what if they're married now. Currently I have sex with multiple people who were 18+ when I was 12. And it would have been incredibly creepy for me to have had sex with them back in the day, no matter how wonderfully compatible we are now. Because I WAS 12, FOR FUCK'S SAKE.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:38 AM on May 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


I have 2 reactions.

First, while it seems baffling to me that a teacher would find a Jr. High kid attractive, I remember when Stand By Me came out. I was definitely feeling a little something-- a tiny bat squeak of sexual attraction-- for River Phoenix. He was 15 when the movie was filmed, I was 29.

Second, I'm married to someone considerably younger then me. The other day I brought up the fact that when I got married the first time, my (second) husband was only 13. This kind of squicked me out, but my husband just laughed and said he would have been thrilled had he known that one day we would be together. He likes to fantasize about what would have happened if we had met when he was still a child and I was a young woman. Would there have been any sparks?

So while I don't see myself as a pedophile or even a cougar, I recognize that a difference in ages doesn't always preclude sexual attraction. Should it be acted on if both parties are agreeable? Not in the case of teachers, doctors, group leaders, bosses or any other power differential.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:55 AM on May 14, 2010


Older male teacher + young girl student = gross, throw the book at him

Older female teacher + young male student = niiiceee, "where were they when I was growin up?" comments.

Why?

My husband said he had sex with an older woman (30) when he was younger (under 16) and he said with a boy, it's different and if it happened to our son, he wouldn't think twice about it.

I find that disgusting, criminal, and encouraging pedophile behavior. Lord help the "cougar" going after my kid. And I do mean kid.
posted by stormpooper at 6:13 AM on May 14, 2010


The word many of you are looking for is ephebophile.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:17 AM on May 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


i think the big thing is differences in how gender is largely perceived in our USian world.

think of the difference between how we use the terms Mrs Robinson and Lolita.
(yes yes i know the term Lolita is not exactly true to the character in the book, i've never read it but have been told the way we use Lolita is not the way the girl is in the book.)

with Mrs. Robinson (and like that lady in The Last Picture Show) it's about an unhappy married woman and a young boy and the young boy eventually ditches her for someone younger and she's all "crazy" afterwards (loss of control etc.)

Lolita is all about a seductive young girl knowingly attracting an older man (the term i mean).

we do not have similar terms for a male Mr Robinson (because that's creepy ew gross old guys like young girls call the cops) or for a male Lolita (because that's manly go dude hot for teacher).

or something. i hve to go to a meeting now so i'm sure someone else can make my point better. like someone who's actually read Lolita.
posted by sio42 at 6:37 AM on May 14, 2010


Uh, kind of disappointing that half the comments in this thread are all BOYS ALWAYS WANT SEX SO IF THATS RAPE SIGN ME UP LOL AMIRITE

What the hell thread are you reading? There are 43 comments before yours and I count maybe four that might fit your description. Unless over 20 comments were deleted, I'm going to have to take issue with your figures.
posted by ODiV at 8:07 AM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have a very good friend whose 18 month old daughter was raped by the 14 year old son of her babysitter, coincidentally one of her students at middle school.

Her daughter was raped so badly that she almost bled to death in the ambulance.

The DA told her that they couldn't compel DNA from the dad, because they didn't suspect him, and they couldn't compel it from the 14 year old w/o parents permission (denied, of course), and w/o the DNA there was no case.

No charges, no pursuit of the claim.

Fast forward 3 years, and this (dumb) teacher exchanged inappropriate texts w/ a 15 year old student which resulted in, eventually, him grabbing her chest. I do not know the content of the texts. She was arrested when the boy's girlfriend told her parents.

She is now a RSO (as she probably should be), and is about to go in for her final sentencing. I don't want to share the plea because I don't want to accidentally give away her identity, but there is no sexual contact in the pleas. Her plea includes, I believe, 1-3 years of jail.

I can't wrap my head around any of it...nor of course can I justify or anything any of it. I'm fine with her never being a teacher again, I'm not sure if I can say I believe the boy is scarred for life.

(In case it wasn't clear---the two boys in this story are different boys...definitely not the same kid.)
posted by TomMelee at 8:48 AM on May 14, 2010


We'll never get anywhere in our attempts to deal with this behavior if our responses are either "Hot for Teacher" or "pedophile." Our culture bombards us with sexual imagery of 16-20 year olds constantly and sets up people of both sexes of that age as the sexual ideal. It's not abnormal for an adult to feel attraction for someone that age and it's not abnormal for a teen to be attracted to someone twice their age.

It is, however, a really, really bad idea to act on those feelings for lots of reasons. What we need when it happens is punishment appropriate to the crime, not all this "Oh God, what could have led someone to even consider doing this!!!" bullshit handwringing.
posted by threeturtles at 10:37 AM on May 14, 2010


I've always been surprised at how quickly tempers flare on this topic, and how few people are able to examine it rationally. I'm also surprised at how quickly people forget their own teenage years and experiences.

Human sexuality is profoundly complicated, and since the world can't be run on an individual basis, sweeping rules have to be made. But those rules are often nonsensical. Also, sometimes the real world reflects things we find distasteful in principle. For instance, older males don't just like younger females because of a deficiency in the power dynamic, that gives way too much cognitive credit to something that is largely a biological urge. Most of the time men just find younger women to be more attractive. That they find out when they are older, more mature, more sophisticated, and more financially secure that they are able to woo these younger women seems like a feature to me, not a bug.

That is distasteful to many people, for reasons I don't understand. But it seems to be undeniable to any reasonable person. I likewise think it is perfectly acceptable, and again almost undeniable, for an older woman to find younger men to be more attractive.

I was having oral sex at 15, and loving every minute of it, and I would have had it with almost anyone who would have been willing to participate, including females over the age of 18. My mother would have been appalled and probably would have called for criminal charges.

Before puberty, sexual contact of an adult with a child would be wrong in all cases, in all circumstances, because the child would not be able to fully appreciate what they were participating in, and therefore could not give informed consent.

After puberty, it becomes significantly less clear. Somewhere in the 14 to 16 year old realm (and that's part of the problem, the ambiguity and there being no clear line, as well as being different for each individual), the laws simply do not reflect reality.

This preoccupation with sexual chastity until age 18 is INCREDIBLY recent. Even 100 years ago the very notion that you were morally deficient for having sex with someone under 18 would have been preposterous. Surely 1/2 the first marriages occurred before 1 party was 18. For practically all the other 10,000 years of human development, sex started after the beginning of menses for the female. Full stop.

And unfortunately, it does appear that it is different for boys vs girls.

As a thought exercise, take the power dynamic out of it. I can't imagine a 16 year old boy being fearful or depressed about having sexual relations with a woman in her early 20's. The very conception is laughable. That a 16 year old male is somehow going to be damaged by having sex with a woman 6 years older is, as a male, incomprehensible.

Consider that Hayden Panettiere is 20 years old. If you can find me more than 5 straight teen-aged boys of normal cognitive development in the USA that would feel molested, abused, or sexually assaulted by having sex with her, I will give you a real live Pegasus. Do you think that her being famous and rich, and therefore more "powerful", would have any bearing on the situation? "You know, I'd love to have sex with her, but given our disparate financial situations, I'm not sure if I can freely and fully consent".

Those who feel most stridently that young males are damaged by sexual relations with older females, are themselves females. Males seldom see it that way.

The power dynamic does change things, but the power dynamic has much more gravity when it is a male exploiting a female, than the reverse. Perhaps because males so often are the benefactors of the power dynamic? If someone were properly motivated, they could perhaps even suggest a theory where an older woman with a younger boy actually puts the power dynamics on an equal footing.

With all of the above (whew) said, I think a great deal of what I say applies equally well to females. I'm not sure many 16 year old females are going to feel sexually assaulted by having sex with Orlando Bloom. But it does, as I've repeated, seem different with males.

The alternative title of my thesis could also be "Why Justin Bieber is about to be the luckiest son-of-a-bitch that ever lived".
posted by discountfortunecookie at 10:40 AM on May 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


discountfortunecookie: "As a thought exercise, take the power dynamic out of it. I can't imagine a 16 year old boy being fearful or depressed about having sexual relations with a woman in her early 20's. The very conception is laughable."

Your laughter makes me want to puke. Men are as capable of being ambivalent about sex (and the emotions relating to sex and the power dynamics that come with sex) as anyone else is.
posted by idiopath at 10:58 AM on May 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


i don't think discount fortune cookie was saying anything about ambivalence at all.

i think s/he was saying that it is just different for girls than boys for a large percentage. not ALL, just mostly.

thinking back upon my teenage years, i can say that there were girls who were sexually mature and enjoyed sex and sexual activites and weren't abused or molested and had much of a head on their shoulders about that stuff than i did even a few years ago.

but there were girls who were abused and molested, there were girls who thought that each boy they dated/kissed/had sex with was "the one" and that they were going to marry him.

i was friends with more boys than girls and their feelings about the whole "girl" thing was a bit different than mine. some of them were scared of girls, some of them were still very little boys. some were more like the more mature girls i knew.

the problem is that it's different for everyone. (of course, 12 does seem young.)

but there is a larger gray area that discountfortunecookie is trying to get us to look at...that there is a legitimate space between OMGPEDO and WELLNOWYOURE18.
posted by sio42 at 11:17 AM on May 14, 2010


My objection is to the presumption that a sexually mature man regardless of age is ready interested and willing by default. I could have said "ambivalence or complete disinterest" instead of ambivalence.

Can you not see the offensiveness in claiming that the idea a man that a man being abused, molested, or coerced sexually is by definition laughable?
posted by idiopath at 11:26 AM on May 14, 2010


i think his/her point was that not all post-puberty-yet-under-18 males who have sex with older woman are being abused, molested, coerced.

certainly some are. i think it's unfair to say that all girls who choose to do so are likewise being victimized.

hence the large murky gray area where it's different for everyone and for different reasons.

since there is no defineable sexual maturity test, it is "given" in some cultures based on age or onset of menses. in our cutlure we decide that you're not sexual until 18 and then wham! there you are.

abuse is never laughable, but what if it's not abuse?
posted by sio42 at 12:24 PM on May 14, 2010


and yes a lot of it does have to do with our cultural depictions/understandings of gender. maybe those boys DFC is talking about are saying "oh baby" because they think they should be.

but i also happen to think that many of those boys (and i'm remembering back to my not-too-distant hanging with the skater boy days) were very intrigued by older women and seemed to think they had something younger girls did not (mainly wanting to hold hands i in public or hang out with their friends).

it was just a very different dynamic and vibe i got from my guy friends than i did from girls i knew.

again grey area, anecdata, etc.
posted by sio42 at 12:27 PM on May 14, 2010


sio42: I think I agree with you. What I objected to was finding the possibility of a male being abused cast as something incredulous and comical.

I wanted to have sex with adults when I was a child. And I am glad I did not want to enough to actually do it, and I am glad that there are laws that prevented some adult from taking advantage of my inexperience and naivety.

No, not every adult who has sex with someone under 18 is going to damage them or take advantage of them. But clearly some line of protection should exist, and whichever one it is, there is reason to enforce it, regardless of whether the person is male or female or neither or both.
posted by idiopath at 12:33 PM on May 14, 2010


idiopath: Of course, you are right 100%, abuse is never laughable. I think that should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway.

sio42 is on the right track... what I am arguing against is that a male under the age of 18 is necessarily being abused by having sex with a woman over the age of 18.

Those are two very, very different things.
posted by discountfortunecookie at 1:11 PM on May 14, 2010


OK, discount, but you went a lot further than that, saying that boys SELDOM see sex with a much older woman as abuse. That's where it starts to cross the line into dismissal; unless I'm misreading you, you're saying that "normal" boys dig it. Which implies that anyone who doesn't is somehow weaker or "not a real man."
posted by msalt at 1:48 PM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


You are also ignoring the balance of power that is inherent in most (if not all) of these scenarios: not just interpersonal power, but power over the boy's education, and in some cases, over his shelter, his food.

In the situation I was in, a teacher hitting on me significantly disrupted my education. We are not talking about a hot 20-year-old meeting a 17-year-old in a bar. We're talking about someone who is putting a roof over a child's head. In charge of a signifigant portion of their education (or all of it!).

I mean, as fun as it was for me to ask for a letter of recommendation from someone who was pissed off that I wasn't screwing him--oh wait. It wasn't fun. It was hellish. He held it over me and was creepy and used it as another excuse to come on to me or "flirt" or whatever he thought he was doing.

I can't imagine it would be much easier if the genders were reversed.

And that's what you're ignoring about what we're talking about and what the article is talking about. Power. Real power over these boys' lives.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:56 PM on May 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


We're talking about someone who is putting a roof over a child's head.

This kinda got smooshed in there--I'm not talking about me, although this often happens with incest/sexual abuse--I'm talking about one of the boys in the article.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:57 PM on May 14, 2010


msalt: No, I'm not making a value judgement at all, just an observation. It has nothing to do with "real men" or anything of the sort. I'm just playing the numbers. It has to do with being a straight male, nothing more. There is biology at play here, and admitting that is not shameful or distasteful.

This all centers around consent. We are only talking about consensual relationships. Virtually no cases of teacher/student sex ever involve accounts of forcible rape... it is consensual sex, but illegal due to statutory laws.

The law (some states differ) says someone under 18 cannot consent. Further, in some states someone under 18 can consent, but only to having sex with someone else also under 18. But they can't consent to sex with someone over 18. How does that make any sense?

Implying I was not capable at 16 to consent to having sex with a 24 year old is, indeed, laughable.

Like I said, if you can find a sizable portion of the male teenage population who would consider having sex with a girl a few years older than them to automatically be abuse or assault, then I'll eat my hat. But we both know that doesn't represent reality. But from the law's viewpoint, it absolutely does.

Why is it different? I don't know. But it does seem like it is. I think the idea that Hayden Panettiere could go to prison for having sex with a 16 year old male fan would be ridiculous on its face to almost anyone. But, it does seem different somehow if a 20 something male teen idol was having sex with teenage girl fans. Is it different? I don't know, it shouldn't be. But it seems different. It feels different. Maybe it's that power differential again?

I stand by my assertion that convincing teenage males to have sex with someone they find attractive to not be terribly difficult. In most cases (see: most), it requires no coercion, threats, or leverage.

To paraphrase an old joke:

"Why did you have sex with your teacher Johnny?"
"Because she let me!"
posted by discountfortunecookie at 2:33 PM on May 14, 2010


You are really ignoring the teacher/student thing here which is really significant to the article at hand, to make a more general point about statutory rape laws.

There is a power differential that makes it unethical EVEN WHEN the student wants to fuck the teacher. That is primarily the situation here. Not a random theoretical 20 year old hottie.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:43 PM on May 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


There is a power differential that makes it unethical EVEN WHEN the student wants to fuck the teacher.

Bingo. If you look at some of these women, there is no question in my mind that a teenager would want to have sex with them. Not relevant at all. When I was a teenager, I would have had sex with virtually any woman who was interested, and I don't think that my experience is unique. The point isn't what the kid wants. The point is that the teacher is not a kid, and the teacher is supposed to know better -- that's kind of the whole deal when you're a teacher.

Teachers aren't just there to educate -- well, I mean, they are, technically, but there's an element of mentoring, too, and while I'm not saying that every teacher should be or is expected to be or even could be a Jaime Escalante, say, while they don't necessarily have a responsibility to be a positive force in a child's personal development, they should at least not be a destructive force in same. As with priests or cops or -- yes -- even politicians who behave in a socially unacceptable way, the crime is not just the act itself, which would be bad news if anyone did it, but a deeper betrayal of a sacred (secular or otherwise) trust placed in them. Like it or not -- and these people rarely seem to shrink away from the benefits -- you're held to a higher standard. People are trusting you with their kids. Look after them like they were your own.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:56 PM on May 14, 2010


"The most famous older woman is, of course, Mrs. Robinson: sinister as well as smoldering, coolly and mercilessly manipulating Benjamin to get what she want"

Hold on a sec. If I'm not mistaken, Benjamin is 21 or 22. Not a child, as were the victims of Letourneau et al. Just sayin.
posted by charris5005 at 6:15 PM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, what was with calling Germaine Greer a "crazy old banshee"?

Erm. Coz she is?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:08 PM on May 14, 2010


"Youth is beauty, and beauty is youth. That is all you know out here, and all you need to know."
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:28 PM on May 14, 2010


Funny how it's all suddenly about the subtle nuances of human sexuality when it's adult women having sex with twelve year old boys. It's not like it's really a problem, anyway.
posted by rodgerd at 6:25 PM on May 15, 2010


I don't think the potential psychological damage is the greatest problem. What happens if the boy's partner becomes pregnant? He will be both morally and legally obliged to support any resulting child, even though he wasn't legally capable of consenting to the relationship.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:05 AM on May 16, 2010


rodgerd's link documents that half of boys who report sexual abuse to the author's hotline in the UK were abused by women, and the vast majority of those (over 1,000) were abused by their mother.

Does that temper anyone's rah-rah enthusiasm for "yay boys love getting laid!!"?
posted by msalt at 9:27 AM on May 16, 2010


Does that temper anyone's rah-rah enthusiasm for "yay boys love getting laid!!"?
posted by msalt at 9:27 AM on May 16


Actually, it doesn't change anything since, as I said, almost all female teacher/male student relationships, at least as reported in the news, are "consensual" (scare quotes owing to the legal issues surrounding consent), the male just happens to be less than the age of majority.

Boys do love getting laid, when they WANT to get laid. Same goes for girls. Sex feels good. Who knew, right? The WANT is the whole crux of the matter. When can someone legally, and reasonably, WANT sex? 18? 16? 14? The whole of Europe seems to think 14-17 is the right range, with the exception of those backwards kinky Spaniards who can legally consent at 13.

Boys calling a sexual abuse hotline are quite likely not involved in consensual relationships. Since, you know, they're calling a sex abuse hotline, for purposes assumed to be other than bragging.
posted by discountfortunecookie at 6:59 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


"When can someone legally, and reasonably, WANT sex?"

This is different when there are other power dynamics involved.

Like, say, between a student and a teacher. Or an adolescent and the adult who is financially supporting them.

I had lots of happy consensual sex as a younger teenager (and some awful but funny sex, too). I have 0 problem with a horny 15 year old and a horny 18 year old gettin' it on.

It still was not okay for my teacher to try to have sex with me. He had enough power over my life to make it really unpleasant for me because I did not nominally consent.

That kind of power, combined with a large age difference, is what we're talking about here. We are not talking about a random 20 year old walking in off the street offering free blowjobs to 15 year olds.

That is why there are different statutory rape laws for people in positions of "trust", teachers, coaches, and the like.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:40 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


(And don't mistake my comment for me being 100% pro statutory rape laws as they're written. I acknowledge that they can be weird and misused. They're a bit of a red herring though if we're talking about whether it's okay adult women in positions of power to have sex with 15 year old boys).
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:42 AM on May 17, 2010


uncanny hengeman, Kate Ceberano (who declared 'young boys are my weakness') is a Scientologist, not a J-dub. Huuuuge difference.

As for tfa - arbitrary age of consent laws are sometimes ridiculous, but necessary to protect people when there's an imbalance of power. The gender of either party doesn't change this, no matter how 'niiiiice' other people's reaction.
posted by goo at 5:02 PM on May 27, 2010


Thanks, goo!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 3:53 AM on May 30, 2010


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