Double Standards

In the comments to the Debra LaFave post below, Lisa Casanova asks,

Ok, I really want to know. You’re a parent, and you find out that a)your 14 year old daughter is having a sexual relationship with her male teacher, or b) your 14 year old son is having a sexual relationship with his female teacher. Would you have the same reaction to either of these revelations? Why or why not?

I want to know, too. In addition, I want to know if the reaction changes if the parent is a mother versus a father.

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My reaction would be the

My reaction would be the same - it's none of my fucking business. A 14 year old is old enough to have sex with anyone he or she wants. If I was immoral enough to be a parent, I wouldn't compound the evil by trying to control my older child's life.

Actually my major concern

Actually my major concern would be "why the hell is my 14 year old in an institution???" My second concern would be about the violation of the teacher-student relationship. Romance in that sort of relationship is inappropriate regardless of the ages involved. If they want to have sex the teacher should transfer or quit his or her job or the student should transfer.

In seriousness, Sean, might

In seriousness, Sean, might there be a problem with your solution? The idea of taboos for teacher-student, doctor-patient, and other inappropriate sexual relationships stems from the possibility that the one with the upper hand in the relationship may use that power to establish the sexual part. You can't use the professional relationship to start the sexual one and then quit the former. It still is judged inappropriate. Doctors are ethically bound not to sleep with their patients, even after they stop being their patients. The same would apply here.

This, of course, assumes the appropriateness of the ethical taboo, of which I will not comment.

If you look at the sex as

If you look at the sex as being inappropriate simply because of teacher-student relationship, they still don't deserve a punishment anything like what we impose for statutory rape. That sort of abuse of authority is clearly grounds for firing the teacher and removing his or her teaching license, but I don't think incarceration would be justified.

My feelings on the subject don't change with the sex of the parties involved, but I don't think it's unreasonable to be more concerned about sex with female students. It's a legitimate problem when the risk of pregnancy falls on the younger and more naive person.

"If I was immoral enough to

"If I was immoral enough to be a parent. . ."

Gee, someone's got serious issues.

If I'm being honest, I would probably be more viscerally angry if it was a male teacher than a female one. I have no justification for that, however, so my considered opinion is pretty much the same as Sean's: it's the teacher-student relationship that's the biggest problem here. Although since most 14-year-olds are not particularly mature I'd very likely be displeased about my kid having sex that soon in any case, regardless of their gender.

I must be the designated

I must be the designated "Old Fart" who checks this blog every day...

I have three children, and my wife is pregnant with #4. My oldest is going to turn 7 on April 9th. Looking ahead to when she's 14, if a teacher of hers has sex with her, I can say WITHOUT EXAGERATION that he'll be VERY lucky if I don't kill him.

I don't mean that I'll be mad and really give him a piece of my mind style kill him. I mean that my GUT, my INSTANT EMOTIONAL REACTION would be to take my hunting shotgun, go find him, and send him to meet his maker.

I'm also not saying that I would actually do it - I'm saying that its what I would WANT to do, and only TREMENDOUS self control on my part would save the deserving wretch's life.

From a parent's perspective, it is ABSOLUTELY different between boys and girls - and I'm not sure I can exactly put my finger on why. But for me, and I'm sure sure for other parents, too, it is just different.

Marc et al- I agree with

Marc et al-

I agree with Marc; Not to get all left-libertarian on y'all, but while you can quibble on whether the male inserts/penetrates or is engulfed, the simple fact is that the possibility of disease and/or gene transfer is much higher going one direction (M->F) than the other. Asymmetric risks, Asymmetric responses. Men and women (or in this case, males and females) are simply *different* and fundamentally unequal in this regard. To treat the situation as interchangeable is ignorance and folly.

And this doesn't even touch on whether there are relevant-yet-generalized psychological asymmetries that would further confound equal treatment.

On second thought, I'll take

On second thought, I'll take a stab at the reason for the gut instinct that it's worse for girls to be taken advantage of by men than for boys to be taken advantage of by women: asymmetric reprodictive costs for the sexes. A girl getting impregnated would impose a much higher cost on her (and her family) than for a boy to get a woman pregnant.

Well crap, Brian beat me to

Well crap, Brian beat me to it. Too slow again.

This is the reason condoms

This is the reason condoms and other forms of birth control (and I daresay abortion and flexible adoption) are so important to women's rights. In my opinion the use of a condom gets rid of most of the reason for any double standard. I say "most" only because of any remaining additional risk the woman bears.

No, I don't think so. Even

No, I don't think so. Even if you get rid of the physical asymmetry, there's still significant mental asymmetry between men and women. Men are more likely to be the sexual aggressor, for one.

I don't see what likelihood

I don't see what likelihood has to do with anything. Isn't what matters who was the *actual* aggressor?

What matters is how you, the

What matters is how you, the parent, feel about it. Your reaction. So you probably don't know for sure who caused what between your hypothetical child and the hypothetical statuatory rapist. You know there's an assymmetry of power there, though.

The ultra-liberated feminist

The ultra-liberated feminist in me wants to say that I would be equally outraged over either hypothetical child being taken advantage of by someone in a power position. But then I read Marc's comments and thought about my two decidedly non-hypothetical daughters sleeping upstairs and applauded (once again) my decision to homeschool...

As I'm pretty sure that my reaction would be different were I to discover my 14 year old was having sex with another 14 year old, the question comes down to an abuse of power relationship for me. And the question of why my daughter felt she couldn't talk to me about the feelings for her teacher before I discovered that they were involved sexually.

I certainly didn't feel the same concern about the boy involved with Mary Kay Letourneau as I did about hearing the shop teacher was caught with a classmate... Of course, the shop teacher incident was closer to home, and I was out of school for years before the Letourneau thing, but still. Maybe it's the assumption that boys can take care of themselves, that they're the aggressors (as per Scott's comment). Or maybe I'm just not as evolved as I thought I was...

A girl getting impregnated

A girl getting impregnated would impose a much higher cost on her (and her family) than for a boy to get a woman pregnant.

Well...biologically, yes. But legally, not necessarily. If a man impregnates a girl, she can have an abortion or give the baby up for adoption. But if a boy impregnates a woman, then he could be ordered to pay child support. I'm not sure how frequently this happens in cases of statutory rape, but it wouldn't be the first time (scroll down for citations of several such cases). Because of the way family law works in the US, men put themselves at substantially greater risk by having sex than women do.

Perhaps this is one of those cases where our intuitions have ceased to function correctly due to environmental changes.

Brandon, yes, that's what I

Brandon, yes, that's what I had in mind. I was in ev-psych mode, not economics mode. The reversal of the situation for the past several decades can't exactly override many thousands of years' worth of previous adaptation.

Ok, I really want to know.

Ok, I really want to know. You’re a parent, and you find out that a)your 14 year old daughter is having a sexual relationship with her male teacher, or b) your 14 year old son is having a sexual relationship with his female teacher.

You left out the case of a female teacher with a female student or a male teacher with a male student. What are your reactions to those, Lisa?

Would you have the same reaction to either of these revelations? Why or why not?

I would be more disgusted at the male teacher's behavior with a female student because the consequences are more serious and because the level of exploitation is greater, since women are more vulnerable to sexual harassment than men. However, if the relationship were mostly voluntary, then I would tell the son/daughter to either terminate it or else move out of the house.

I’m also not saying that I

I’m also not saying that I would actually do it - I’m saying that its what I would WANT to do, and only TREMENDOUS self control on my part would save the deserving wretch’s life.

My, aren't we generous. Do you need that tremendous self-control to resist disembowling him as well? :smile:

I think the point to take

I think the point to take away from Marc's comments (which I agree with, to some degree), is not just that boys and girls are different and those differences matter. It's also that we are wired to see even more differences than there are. We are wired for an age without birth control, where the consequences to male & female sex are very different, and where girls need to be protected. Hence the violent reaction, which I would expect from most parents.

On the other hand, given modern birth control, I think we should realize those feelings are irrational and override them. We should still react differently, as Brian says - your daughter is more likely to be heartbroken than your son - but not as differently as our instincts.

As a parent of a 25 yr old

As a parent of a 25 yr old daughter and a 22 yr old son, I have to say that Marc is the *only* commenter thus far (as of 03/22/06 @10:48 PM CST) that has *nailed it*.

A decade ago, I *had* a shotgun, and almost certainly would have used it.

OTOH, nowadays I (*studiosly*) ignore my daughter's relationships, because she is an *adult*, and, regardless of *my* feelings on the subject, capable and *expected* to make her own decisions. Indeed, if I were to find out what she did from the age of 13 or so, as a Dad I would have to say TMI!!!!

I have to 'fess up and say that the *exact* same information WRT my son would be cause for "high fives" and a round for the house.

So...uhmmm...yes, I have (and uphold) a "double standard", even though I am in the "mainstream" (I think) WRT to a woman's "choice"... a woman *should* have the right to opt for an abortion without fear of incarceration (duh!), but ought not to wait until she's 8 months and 29 days into her pregnancy to "decide".

On another thread in this blog there is a mention of asymmetry of information being "bad". There is also a story in the recent news about a guy sueing his "girlfriend" (and mother of his child) in order to avoid paying child support for the next 18 (or so) years, based upon her "choice" not to have an abortion that he advocated. The fact that this case had to be brought indicates how much our society *endorses* double standards as being representative of the way things *should* be as opposed to the way they have been for centuries...the pendulum always swings too far.

A decade ago, I had a

A decade ago, I had a shotgun, and almost certainly would have used it.

Sounds like anarcho-capitalism is going to be a fun, fun ride for everyone... :sweat:

I would be more upset with

I would be more upset with regard to a daughter than a son, for two different reasons.

The first is that I think the physical risks are larger for the daughter--most obviously pregnancy, but also disease transmission. AIDS, in particular, is much more transmissable male to female than female to male.

The second is my guess about the emotional effects. There are fairly straightforward evolutionary reasons to expect men to have a greater taste for promiscuity than women, and casual observation supports the expectation. One implication is that such an affair is likely to be, on average, more emotionally risky for the female partner.

Moving ever further in an

Moving ever further in an unPC direction, one may add that females have a "freshness seal" so to speak, and potential male future mates can check on that. Big deal for some of us, though it's become difficult to say out loud these here days.

Penner- Not sure how much

Penner-

Not sure how much folk care about that now, but I get what you're saying.

your 14 year old son is

your 14 year old son is having a sexual relationship with his female teacher

Well, somebody had to say it...

Is she hot?

Let be honest. There is and

Let be honest. There is and will always be a double standard. A father's little girl will always be her father sweet innocent little girl no matter how old, but the boy better be a man and bag himself some as soon as he can. Before the Liberation, the bagging would neither involve a whore or an early marriage to a exceptable lady but now a day every girls is a whore so what the diff. The is definitely a sense of defilement when a male teacher take advange of a 14 year old girl then a female teacher taking advantage of a 14 year old boy, because you know that 14 yr old girls are innocent(like OJ), and little boy only have one dirty thought on their mind. Its a question of culcural basias, live with it or at least do with with enough 14 years old to make the jail terms worth while.

Oh my god - any adult who

Oh my god - any adult who engages in sex with a 14 year old should be SHOT. The end. :wall:

Hey, Dale. Thanks for the

Hey, Dale. Thanks for the backup.

The more that I think about it,the more I realize that this is one of those "age brings wisdom" circumstances that I used to HATE when my Dad brought them up...

I'm not THAT old (I turn 37 in June) - I'm young enough to remember what I was like as a 14 year old. If a 30 year old woman had approached me for sex at that time, I would have been THRILLED. I would have taken advantage of the situation in a heartbeat, but the emotional content for me would have been ZERO. It would have been a LOT of fun, and a HUGE status boost with my peers, but on an emotional level, no more "meaningful" than any other physical activity. From just talking about life with my wife, and from seeing the way my daughters develop, I can say that this would definately NOT be the case with a 14 year old girl.

I think the difference in the psychological and emotional impact on the individual 14 year old is what makes the biggest difference in how we view the situation.