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26 May 2006

The Mary Kay Letourneau Case Tells Us - What?

I just saw Mary Kay and Villi on the Today Show, the happy couple with their kids, grinning ear-to-ear, celibrating their first anniversary. The Letourneau case was kind of the granddaddy of the female-teacher-seductress cases and still the most fascinating, in that even society's best efforts - complete and total disgrace plus seven (7!) years in jail - couldn't seem to knock any sense into the poor girl. Now these seductions happen with regularity despite the national disgrace and harsh* legal consequences.

So why do we prosecute these women? The extra-legal sanctions seem more than severe enough to deter any rational woman so tempted. They lose their jobs, pretty much forever. And they lose any hope of a good marriage - or at least marriage to a good prospect - who'd have them? And sometimes - as with Mary Kay - they lose their marriages and their children. They are no doubt total social outcasts - at least as total as our society is capable of, these days.

Is it overzealous law enforcement? Prosecutors just love to prosecute sensational cases. It seems there's no amount of real crime in a community that can dissuade a prosecutor from taking on a case that will put his office in the headlines.

Is it just a sypmtom of our penchant for criminalizing behavior? We put teens in handcuffs for drinking alcohol, outlaw driving with low alcohol level, in Texas they arrested people for being drunk in a bar.

Feminist-driven forced symmetry? Men having sex with underage girls has always been viewed as a crime, while an adult-female/teenage-boy coupling has always been viewed as a major triumph for the boy - so we are now forced to blindly treat the opposite case as criminal for purely legalistic reasons.

Psychobabble about harmful effects on boys? This seems stupid on its face - any emotional hurt the boy might feel when the relationship doesn't work out is surely outweighed by the enormous boost to his self-esteem it brings in the first place.

Society's outrage at perversion? This is perversion in the strictest sense - an overturning of the normal and proper. Young women are supposed to be interested in finding a "good man" - a man with good prospects, who's responsible, trustworthy (looks can serve as a tie-breaker). While much of this may be outmoded (for good or ill), a woman who throws away her future for a teenager is still committing an unpardonable sin in society's eyes. This is where we draw the line - this is where we still tell women who is and is not acceptable for them to pursue.

Any thoughts?

* Everything is relative - for a young, attractive white schoolteacher, even an appearance in court on criminal charges is harsh, never mind conviction and incarceration.

21 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Symmetry cannot be dismissed so easily. If older males seducing younger females are to be prosecuted - and no sane person would say they shouldn't be - doing likewise when the gender roles are reversed is necessary to preserve whatever sense of fairness our criminal justice system still has. And tied into this, I would not be so dismissive of the possible harmful effects of these "relationships" on the boys. They may brag about what they've done, but that doesn't mean there are other, less visible effects. As for the extra-legal sanctions, they're just as bad if not worse for adult men involved with young girls, and we don't hestiate to prosecute the men.

As for Letourneau specifically, I've long thought that she's seriously unhinged. She probably should have been committed rather than imprisoned.

Peter
Iron Rails & Iron Weights

May 26, 2006 10:10 AM  
Blogger Intellectual Pariah said...

I think feminist-forced symmetry is the largest factor. Another factor is perhaps the desire of social conservatives to enforce at least some sexual restraints. Having lost the sexual revolution to the extent that any battle for mores can be lost, conservatives tend to favour zero tolerance on those few fragments of traditional morality that are still standing.

The overlap of feminist and social conservative agendas ensures this tendency will be driven to an extreme.

May 26, 2006 10:20 AM  
Blogger Glaivester said...

A few things:

(1) Villia was thirteen. There's a big difference between a teacher having an affair with a sixteen- or seventeen-year-old and having an affair with a thirteen-year-old.

(2) LeTourneau got pregnant.

While you can argue that "an adult-female/teenage-boy coupling has always been viewed as a major triumph for the boy," I doubt that most teenaged boys would be overjoyed to hear "I'm pregnant. It's yours!"

(3) It's not necessarily that having sex with an adult would be traumatic for the boy, but that such a relationship allows the adult to manipulate him in unhealthy ways. I would assume that most women who go after underage boys probably are looking for someone who whom they can control - and that is likely not healthy and possibly even damaging to the boy regardless of the effetcs of the sex itself.

May 26, 2006 4:24 PM  
Blogger ziel said...

Hmmmm - you make some good points Glaivester - I guess I might be understating the harm. Still, Mary Kay spent Seven years in jail, and they got married as soon as she got out. I just don't think criminal prosecution is the way to go.

May 26, 2006 6:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live about one hour from Pamela Rodgers, the HOT teacher who had sex with a 13 year-old boy. It struck me as more than incidental that Rodgers looks alot like the even hotter Debra Lafavre of Florida, who also was having sex with some underage boys.

Both are beautiful and have that unique long, silk-like blonde hair that men are just fascinated by. Huge blue eyes and delicate snow-white skin. Its proboably for this reason that male jurors instincitely do not want to exclude this beauty from the gene pool and these teachers recieve "slaps on the wrists" because of their appearnance. In fact, I'd bet if they had committed murders, they'd only wind up in the slammer for about 15 years. Judges go fantastically easy on beauty.

What is a fact is that a 28 year old West Virginia female teacher got 20+ years in the slammer for doing the exact same crime as LaFavre, but she was fat and ugly.


We may not realize it, but male teachers caught putting their hands in the cookie jar legally may be very right in citing the sentences being handed out to the hotties as reasons that they should only get "probation" and some "counseling". See what a mess we have created now?

We all need to admit something to ourselves also. A friend of mine who is my age (30's) told me that one his old pals from high school teaches at that same high school now. He talked to him recently. His friend told him that going to work is like going to a candy store. There are Britney/Jessica/Mandy Moore look- alikes who wear thong underwear under low-rider tight jeans underneath unclothed flat, hard stomachs directly below big, fake tits. They sleep around alot, talk about it, and he has to look at this all day long. He said many of the girls are from this mold. Its nothing like when "we" were kids. Sexual discussions are frank and open. This is the generation that watches porno downloaded to their cell phones and sends particularily interesting stuff to their friends. Genetically and hormonally shot up fast food also sees the girls get "curvy" several years before the girls you grew up with did. The 16 year olds have 23 year old bodies now. The boys, love it. At my old high school and junior high, there were two incidents that led to dismissals while I was there in the 1980's. One bodybuildingfreak math teacher got fired for screwing the school slut after school, and another openly gay (we all knew it) math teacher got canned for (guess what!) molesting a 13 year old boy in middle school. The same teacher was famous for sending kissing students that he caught to the principle's office strangely enough. His name was "Dr" Love, which is even more ironic.

Letorurneau is even more symptiomatic of a larger, sicker, culture. If she would have been sentenced like a man would have been sentenced (35 years or so), I'd bet there would be less follow up cases of teachers screwing their students. Now look what we have started. With the students getting more sexual as described above coupled with the lenient sentences being handed down, is anybody shocked that young teachers in their 20's are dipping their hands in the ink well? If we would have never had surrendered our standards culturually and jurisprudentially, this wouldnt have happened.

May 26, 2006 7:18 PM  
Blogger agnostic said...

Most of the stuff about thongs & low-riders is correct, but it's not a change. Back when you were in HS, girls were dolphin shorts, tube tops, sweatshirts w/ the shoulder cut off to reveal the bra strap, and so on. Back in the '60s, girls were mini-skirts. And before that, knee-length skirts.

Frank discussion of sex goes back far enough as well, as does actual physical intimacy -- hence the crotchety old man in the '50s movies hollerin' at the damn kids to take their make-out party elsewhere. And then there was the drive-in...

One of the strongest cognitive biases is to remember the past as more pure than the present (somewhat like the bias of "rosy retrospection"). You see this also w/ talk about the failing schools -- kids aren't any smarter or stupider than before.

As for the fulfillers of teenage boys' dreams, I agree w/ ziel that legal sanctions probably won't provide any further deterrence than social shaming. True, you want to send the message that you should stick to your marriage, but this miniscule group probably would divorce anyway. This would also compel you to enact draconian measures against the common instances of adultery.

May 27, 2006 12:54 AM  
Blogger ziel said...

Agnostic - I generally agree with you on the "rosy retrospection" bias, but I wouldn't write-off all the 50's mythos - std and illegitimacy rates are sky high now compared to then, so there must be some real truth behind it.

May 27, 2006 12:28 PM  
Blogger FuturePundit said...

Peter,

It only seems fair to prosecute older women who seduce male boys if we pretend that boys and girls are highly similar in their sexuality.

In other words, the sense of fairness stems from the propagation of a lie about human nature. Now, should we support the propagation of a lie? I do not think so. The lie does big damage. We should oppose it.

I don't think Mary Kay's boy suffered any damage from the experience.

Do any of you guys think that your being seduced by a twenty or thirty something woman when you were 13 or 14 would have left any scars? I'm guessing it would have left a thrilling and fond memory.

May 27, 2006 1:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to strongly disagree with agnostic.

In the eighties all I saw in high school were a few tight sweaters and tight Jordache blue jeans. There was one summer that short skirts were seen for about three weeks, unitl the prinicpal put an end to it. Nobody was allowed to wear shorts.

Do a web search of Christina Aguilera and you'll get a taste of whats worn in school nowadays. When I went to school to get laid you had to date a girl a couple of months, and the two of you would have to be thinking you were in "love". Nobody I knew had sport sex. Even the burn-outs weren't reknown for that because the girls didn't want to be known as slutty, and the guys didn't want to be a daddy before they finished vocational school. There were two pregnancies that I remember. One was in junior high. They got married. Its NOTHING compared to whats going on now.

I recall a conversation I had with a woman who was three years older than me in the late 90's. We had went to the same high school, but didnt know each other. She had went to her reuinion. She seen a teacher that was there when she was, and they talked of what kids were like NOW (99' or so at the time of the conversation). She said the teacher claimed that they were SO different than what the class of 84' was. No izod shirts and penny-loafers, but pierced, exposed belly buttons, pierced noses,eyebrows, etc., tatoos everywhere. This included a trend of one or two tatoos and an earring in an odd place even on a few'jocks' and cheerleaders, not just 'freaks' or 'burnouts'. Pink and orange and purple hair, all-black wearers, low-rider jeans where you could see the thong in the crack of a girls butt. Boob jobs. There was NONE of that when I was in school. Padded bras were about all we seen (all the guys found out what the girls really had at a popular swimming pool in the summer, and since we werent eating the steroided-hormoned meat of today, it was usually what we called "c-cup" city).

Things proboably reached their amoral peak in the mid-late nineties however, at my old school. I understand that there is an extremely strict dress code enforced there now. Cant even wear clothes with large logos (above a polo shirt-sized logo), tucked in-shirts, skirts over the knee, no combat boots, etc. It really supposedly looks like "private school" dress now. I'd bet grades are up.


Question for any feminist on the board.............How is the right to dress/act like a slut supposedly emporwering to a young girl? That, in my opinion, is not freedom to choose, its freedom to devalue yourself and your reputation at an age when your feelings really are vunerable and negative feedback really can leave a lasting impression. My opinion.

May 28, 2006 6:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said:
Boob jobs

I have to disagree. Even with today's (allegedly) looser morals, you'll be highly unlikely to see a high-school-aged girl with a boob job. Very few if any plastic surgeons will perform that procedure on an adolescent.

Peter
Iron Rails & Iron Weights

May 28, 2006 9:28 PM  
Blogger agnostic said...

Ziel -- true, STDs and illegitimacy are up, but I'd credit that to the increasing devaluing of long-term relationships in favor of short-term (a bad thing). The shorter your focus, the greater the # of partners = the more likely to contract an STD = the greater the selection pressure for virulence of these STDs.

It would be hard to construe this shift in focus as greater sexual deviancy -- there are lots of places in the world where relationships are pretty short-term, illegitimacy is high, as are STDs, but we don't view them as Sodom and Gomorrah. Contrast w/ hot 20-somethings banging teenage boys -- we suddenly think the girl has more than a few screws loose.

Re: Anon -- most of the things you cited are only slightly different from the '80s. You may not have seen dolphin shorts at your HS, but they were pretty popular, as were tube tops, lycra biking shorts, form-fitting stirrup pants, and so on. More adolescents now sport tattoos and have had odd hair at some point. Me: two tattoos; in 8th / 9th grade I had purple, then rose red, then bleached w/ purple bangs, then a Taxi Driver mohawk. I'm smart and have good morals, and turned out fine. It's just a way to express yourself or identify w/ a clique -- sporting pink hair is like sporting a pink iPod or a pink TI calculator (I saw one of my students w/ such a thing!).

What these trends represent is the latest in the continuing trend toward increasing informality in American social life that began in the 1920s -- that's why no one wears ties or even Oxford shirts at top-tier universities anymore (usually not even the profs), why men haven't worn hats in years, why no one's named Winthrop anymore, and the greater tendency of adults to use youthful slang in a desire to not sound like stuffy old fuddy-duddies.

I work at a tutoring center for mostly middle & high school students, and only the super-popular ones talk about drinking beer and physical intimacy, while the losers complain about how their station sucks -- just like it was in the 1950s or anytime since.

May 28, 2006 10:15 PM  
Anonymous Φ said...

Great comments, all . . .

For what they're worth, a couple of points:

1. My recollection from the time was that the judge in the LeTourneau case tried to give the woman a break, but threw the book at her when she was returned to court for violating the judge's restraining order. It seems to me that the judge acted appropriately in both instances.

2. On the question of symmetry: consider that not all cases of older male / underaged female fit the conventional profile (powerful man seducing impressionable girl). As Theodore Dalyrymple has written, most of these cases wind up in court only because the man tries to end the affair and the girl "tells" out of spite. From what the other commenters have said, teenaged girls are quite capable of playing the seductress.

3. That said, it may be that subjecting such teachers to social sanctions without making them criminally liable is not an option. Consider how fast we went from the de-criminalization of sodomy to the threshold of gay marriage! I tend to think that the legal penalties for the women mentioned in these comments seem to be disproportionate to the actual harm they cause; however, if this is the only defensible position from which to tell teachers to keep their hands off the students, then so be it.

June 02, 2006 4:38 PM  
Blogger Samantha said...

I am so facinated and disgusted at the same time about the Mary Kay Letourneau case. She hails from a conservative republican background and she is obviously not wrapped too tight but the irony is that she got away with her crime because her "student" apparently did not learn anything in the classroom unless she was teaching sex ed. He appears to be very dim-witted (his mom, too, very stupid)and typical of the ignorant immigrant mindset of aliens in this country at present.

However, the real perversion is that Gay marriage and partners of same sex unions of legal age are being denied both the rights of legal union and having their own children whether it be by adoption or their own by the same country that condones Mary Kay Letourneau's actions with her underage dope.

Now, what the hell is that about?

July 02, 2006 1:20 AM  
Blogger Samantha said...

I am so facinated and disgusted at the same time about the Mary Kay Letourneau case. She hails from a conservative republican background and she is obviously not wrapped too tight but the irony is that she got away with her crime because her "student" apparently did not learn anything in the classroom unless she was teaching sex ed. He appears to be very dim-witted (his mom, too, very stupid)and typical of the ignorant immigrant mindset of aliens in this country at present.

However, the real perversion is that Gay marriage and partners of same sex unions of legal age are being denied both the rights of legal union and having their own children whether it be by adoption or their own by the same country that condones Mary Kay Letourneau's actions with her underage dope.

Now, what the hell is that about?

What should have happened is that Mary Kay Letourneau should have been committed instead of imprisoned, her first child should have been aborted, for obvious reasons. God knows what she and her "student husband" will eventually do to these kids especially with Vili's background - he could easy pedopile his own girls. The whole case is a travesty of justice and a mockery of the family unit as we know it. Also, their "union" will never survive now that Mary Kay Letourneau's children from her first marriage are coming to live with them. They are upwardly mobile and her "student husband" is striving to be a "tattoo artist"? C'mon - get real -- he's gonna be history soon and she's going to go back to the looney bin where she belongs.

July 02, 2006 1:24 AM  
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