Barbara Walters’ interview with Mary Kay Letourneau raised a few eyebrows, some noting that an adult who has sex with a 12 year old is a monster if he’s a man but deserves sympathy if she’s a woman.
The most common comment about women having sex with boys comes from traditionalist men – “lucky boy”. But in a previous post I noted that there can be consequences the boy hadn’t thought of. For example, a woman can claim she’s the real victim and that the boy is a rapist. If the woman becomes pregnant, the boy can be ordered to pay 18 years of child support to his statutory rapist.
In the Barbara Walters interview, Letourneau also tries to play the victim, complaining about her husband’s infidelity while she was in prison and still having to register as a sex offender, which bars her from teaching.
Letourneau’s case is unusual because she subsequently married Vili Fualaau (once he came of age). But this doesn’t change the fact that if the gender roles were reversed it would be would be rape apology to say the sex was consensual even when he was only 12.
Letourneau’s case is also unusual because she spent 7 years in prison. Lengthy sentences are usually reserved for men.
The social norm which says men are fully responsible adults while women are delicate flowers in need of protection, and thus not equally responsible for equal actions, belongs to the pre-feminist past.
In the 1970s feminists challenged the habit of putting women on pedestals, but that quickly became lip service as the pedestal was rebranded for feminist purposes as women’s special needs. A member of Britain’s House of Lords wants to pass a measure ensuring women will never go to prison, regardless of the crime. An American feminist advocates the same things in the States.
I didn’t label traditional gender norms as patriarchy because no king declared what gender norms would be. Instead, gender norms and roles developed informally with both women and men contributing rather than men deciding and imposing it on women.
And women on a pedestal, women and children first, women as less responsible for the same actions as men, etc. are gender norms that women are very invested in.
Putting women on a pedestal, however, often means treating boys like adults, though grown women sometimes are not:
- A 13 year old girl and 14 year old boy from Kentucky had sex but only the boy was charged with a crime (because the girl is underage…but isn’t the boy too?).
- A man and a woman had sex in public, but only the man was charged with a crime.
- A dean at Duke University asserted that if both a man and a woman are equally drunk, “it is the responsibility in the case of the male to gain consent before proceeding with sex”.
- Though 90% of staff who sexually assault boys in juvenile detention are women, little is being done about it and the boys are often portrayed as the aggressors.