By now, many people have heard of this story:
“TAMPA, Florida (AP) — A 23-year-old middle-school teacher [Debra Beasley Lafave] was charged with having sex with a 14-year-old student in a classroom, at her apartment and, once, in a vehicle while the teen’s 15-year-old cousin drove.”
You can read details of the encounter here, such as:
“The student told deputies his first sexual encounter with Lafave occurred at her Riverview home June 3. The report states that while Lafave performed oral sex on the boy in her upstairs bedroom, the boy’s cousin watched a video in the downstairs living room. Afterward, Lafave drove the boys to Ocala, deputies said. During the trip, she performed oral sex on the student in the back seat of her vehicle, the report states.”
This is a delicate issue. The reason why this case is interesting is the double standard. First is the media double standard. Had roles been reversed, i.e. the teacher male and the student female, I don’t think these sorts of details would be reported by major media outlets like ABC NEWS.
Second is the legal double standard. The website Age of Consent compiled age of consent laws for well over 200 countries. It even has USA laws for all 50 states. While some may use this information in an immoral manner, the data is interesting. For instance, in Brunei and Togo, the age of consent for males and females is 14. In Portugal, the age of consent is 14 for males and 16 for females. Like Portugal, ages in the US states fluctuate by gender. In Florida, where the alleged sexual activity occurred, age of consent is 16 for males and 18 for females. In Colorado, the split is 15 for males, 17 for females. Iowa, Missouri and South Carolina have the youngest age of consent for males at 14 (females at 16). In fact, 12 states have the double standard, with male ages invariably younger than female ages.
What purpose does the legal double standard serve? I think there are two reasons. First, although there is an adage that girls mature mentally sooner than boys, there is also a perception that girls below age 16 are not psychologically ready to make decisions regarding their sexual behavior. Second is the risk of pregnancy. For men, having consentual sex at puberty does not entail any long term cost, unless they acquire a disease. For women, obviously, they can get pregnant and acquire a disease. I would guess that for 28 states, where the age of consent for females is 16, the age of 16 is “safer” than any other age.
Which brings us to Florida. Had the intercourse been in South Carolina, for instance, Debra Beasley Lafave would not face 15 years in prison. I’m not sure what makes Iowa any safer for boys than Florida. I suppose people in Florida regard Iowa as deviant. More logically, I suspect boys in Iowa don’t confront the degree of sexual predation that occurs in Florida, necessitating protection of younger boys. These are speculations, of course.