But isn't there at least one good reason for treating male-on-female statutory rape differently than female-on-male statutory rape? That is, a woman can't have sexual intercourse with a man unless he has an erection, which means at least at some level he is choosing to do it. Whereas a man can force himself on a woman who is definitely not aroused. To me, this is a difference that matters -- the experience will probably not be physically painful to a male victim, for example.

I'm not saying that I don't think statutory rape can be a problem when it's a male victim, or that there's not a serious imbalance of bargaining power, etc. It's probably fair to treat minors as though they don't have the capacity to make sensible choices about sex up to a certain age, for both young men and young women. But there seem to be physiological differences in the sexes that makes a male 'victim' different than a female victim if the crime is sexual intercourse with a minor. You can't physically force a man to have sex if he's not aroused; that's not true for a woman.

Am I wrong about this?


The problem is that arousal does not equal consent. People, especially males, can become aroused when frightened and not consenting, at the sight of a naked form, or from talk about sex. To say that the arousal of the victim makes the offender any less blameworthy is to say that the victim "really wanted it". And victim blaming isn't OK whether the victim is male or female.

On the other hand statutory rape isn't the same as other rape. While a 14 year old may not be able to legally consent, I have no doubt that there are many 14 year olds that can morally consent to sex. Was that the case here? Don't know.

The Happy Feminist

Terrific and thought-provoking question. It crossed my mind as I wrote this post that sex is one area where male and female experiences are extremely different physiologically, and therefore possibly psychologically. I don't mean to blithely imply that male and female victims have identical experiences. Nor do I mean to imply that it's such an easy thing to be even handed!

If a girl experienced pain during a statutory rape, it may be appropriate to consider that an aggravating factor during sentencing. The degree of coercion, if any, on the victim is relevant to sentencing as well, and it may mean a more serious charge.

BUT I don't think that a boy's physiological arousal necessarily means he was fully consenting. In fact, I think a boy's physiological arousal, while physically pleasurable, may be damaging emotionally. If the boy regrets having sex with the older woman, the fact that he enjoyed it on some level and was an active participant might make him feel worse. (Female victims have told me that their physical arousal during coerced or statutory rape has made them feel incredibly confused and guilty and angry.)

Even if the boy has no regrets about having sex with the older teacher, the fact remains that he is not considered old enough under the law to make a decision to risk contracting STDs or fathering a child. Therefore, the teacher is morally culpable for causing or allowing an underage person to take these risks.

I think the law is correct in providing identical maximum penalties for both male-on-female and female-on-male statutory rape. But I also think that prosecutors and judges should make individualized sentencing determinations based on the specifics of each case. (Of course, the problem with individualized sentencing determinations is that irrational biases may affect the result.)


Of course, the problem with mandated by law sentences is that the irrational biases of legislators, far removed from the specifics of any case, and closer in fact to the irrational whims of scared and bloodthirsty voters (e.g. three-strikes laws), may affect the result.

I'm sure you know this, THF. Just sayin'.


There have been a handful of cases over the past few years in the U.S. involving women teachers who have slept with adolescent male students who were below the age of consent.

More than a handful - check out the numbers in my post January - National Have Sex With Your Teacher Month.

Thus, we see how patriarchal attitudes can hurt men as well as women.

Actually, you haven't led us to see any such thing for all you've done is make some assertions but they in no way support the conclusion that you draw.

the statutory rape of a boy by a woman is considered just as reprehensible as any other form of statutory rape.

I disagree with your usage of "is considered" when I think it is more accurate to use "should be considered." I certainly don't get the sense that there is any sort of equivalency at work.

Fortunately, due to feminist attitudes, we are much farther on our way to an appropriate response to these cases than we were in the bad old days.

Here's the problem though - there are quite a few young teenage boys who would actually want to be in this teacher's bed. The problem is really an abuse of authority rather than the actual sexual encounter. So, I wouldn't be too quick to trumpet feminist attitudes or appropriate responses, for this isn't the optimal case to illustrate the point I think you want to make.

I don't know of any boys who were victimized by their teachers but I do know 2 men, who were initiated into sex by neighborhood women, back in the 1970s, when they were 14 and the women were in their late 20s. They report that their short lived affairs were the best things that happened to them in their teenage sex lives. They completely avoided the faux bravado of their peers but also felt that their confidence in dealing with girls improved as did their level of performance, which just made the teenage sex that the encountered in the years that followed much more rewarding. Notice though, that these women weren't in positions of authority over the boys and couldn't exert coercion in either inducing the act or in maintaining the affairs.

At the most recent court hearing, a psychologist testified that having to testify would be detrimental to the victim, particularly given the glare of the media spotlight in this case.

The way you've worded this indicates that the media attention would be an added source of anxiety for the teenager, when the article actually makes the point that it is only the media coverage that is the source of the anxiety - "A psychiatrist who examined the teenager told the judge previously that the boy suffered extreme anxiety from the media coverage of the case."

The Happy Feminist

Long time, no see Tango Man.

We see how patriarchal attitudes hurt men as well as women because the notion that a man or boy should always want sex will (I infer) damage a boy who felt coerced into having sex with an attractive woman when he didn't want it. (I don't know how the boy in this case felt about having sex with Lafave so this point may or may not apply to the Lafave case.)

The statutory rape of of a boy by a woman is considered just as reprehensible as any other form of statutory rape in that the law provides identical maximum penalties for both crimes. Whether it is considered just as reprehensible by people in general is another question.

I am sure a lot of teenaged boys dream about sleeping with Debra Lafave. For all I know, the victim in this case was glad to have sex with her and had no regrets afterwards. I also know female statutory rape victims who had were glad to have sex with older men and had no regrets afterwards. But even so, the victim was not legally old enough to make the decision to take the risks attendant with sex. The victim was also not old enough for us to assume that he knew his own mind. Thus, the defendant is legally culpable regardless of how willing the victim.

You are correct that the media attention may have been the only source of anxiety for the victim in this case. Your point is well taken but that doesn't change my argument that Lafave is culpable and that feminist attitudes paved the way for her to be held responsible.

The Happy Feminist

Right on pdf23ds. Sorry I keep missing your comments because I've been mine at the same time!

toy soldier

Actually, the prosecutors were willing to accept the plea offered by LaFave’s attorney right from the start. It was the judge in the second county that refused to accept the deal that caused the “bump in the road” for LaFave.

The views about how a boy should respond are certainly traditional views, but they are hardly the fault of only men. Likewise, such views have yet to be challenged by feminism in any real way. The notion that women are victims, are somehow less responsible for their actions, and more damaged by sexual encounters than males are actually core principles of feminism. The only element that is anti-feminist the notion that LaFave is responsible for her actions, despite being a woman, and should be held responsible for them, despite her victim being male.

The actions of sex offenders like LaFave are only being taken seriously because of the effects of the media attention, and more likely because of the attention the priest sex abuse scandal gave to male victims a few years ago. Male victims were finally given some sense of validation that their abuse is wrong. Prior to that, it was never mentioned despite the near constant discussion of sexual abuse of women by feminists. The rise of feminism had very little to do with LaFave being charged with a crime, and even now few feminists are willing to discuss the effects of this abuse on boys without first blaming the victim and other males for abuse vicariously by point the finger at the “patriarchy.”

Certainly being on house arrest is not easy, but it is a far cry from being incarcerated. There is really no guarantee she will not re-offend or that she will not attempt to contact the victim, both of which tend to be common in these cases, or even that a violation of her conditions would necessarily send her to prison. Likewise, fewer people see her as a sex offender than they do a sex symbol.

Female-male rape does need to be taken seriously, and gradually that is happening because people are seeing past feminist attitudes that more often than not ignore, diminish or blame it on the male victim. Feminists have never considered male victims as equal victims, and the attitudes towards them tend to be hostile and rather dismissive. For feminists to take credit for the change in perceptions of male victims over the past few years despite routinely blaming the boys for their abuse is insulting to the numerous men’s groups like Male Survivor who have worked incredibly hard to raise awareness and provide resources for male victims of sexual abuse, something that no feminist organization does. And in many instances, it is because of feminist attitudes that male victims are afraid to come forward.

To the poster who asked about erections, as a victim of both male and female sexual abuse, I can tell you that erections are not controllable. What a boy’s body is stimulated by and what he mentally wants are two separate things. That is perhaps the worst aspect of it because those sensations are now tied to those violations and experiences. Even if it was enjoyed, the boy now has to struggle with what that means. If he decides it was wrong even if it felt good, he now has to worry about being labeled a “woman-hater” or a “fag,” the latter of which could result in physical or even further sexual assault.


FYI, many female rape victims lubricate and experience physical arousal during rape.

This DOES NOT MEAN CONSENT. And it can be very damaging to a rape victim to be physically aroused without consenting.

One thing, though, Happy--I'm not familiar with this particular case, but I'm leery of statutory rape prosecutions in general. Particularly of older teens. And I don't think having sex with, say, a 14-year-old is on the level of molesting a child. There are degrees of consent, and a 14-year-old is IMO almost an adult. Treating teens like they're totally incapable of making their own decisions can often lead to the oppression rather than the protection of young people, particularly young women.

The Happy Feminist

Toy soldier, Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I don't mean to imply that traditionalist, or patriarchal, views of female-on-male rape are "the fault of men." By "patriarchal" I mean attitudes that tend to assume the inferiority of women, such as the view that women are less capable of making decisions about sex or that women are more emotionally vulnerable to sex. Women, as well as men, can hold patriarchal values. Sure, I have heard quite a few individual men laugh about the idea of a boy being damaged by sex with a hot teacher. The fact that individual men (as well as women) may perpeturate these notions does not mean that I "blame men" in general.

In fact, I blame DEBRA LAFAVE for what happened. I only blame patriarchal attitudes to the extent that what she did is not taken as seriously as perhaps it should be.

There are many different kinds of feminism but feminism's core values are ensuring women's freedom, dignity, and equality of opportunity. These values to me seem to lead directly to the conclusion that Lafave must be held responsible. While the emphasis among feminist organizations may be on issues related to women's well-being, being a feminist does not mean you can't be concerned about other kinds of issues. For example, on this blog I have promoted an organization dedicated to ending prisoner rape, which is an issue that primarily effects men.

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