Thursday, August 05, 2004


All jesting aside, Professor Volokh is right to take Letourneau's actions seriously. I don't think of statutory rape laws as particularly good ones, but the situation here was clearly the sort that such laws are created to address: a teacher abusing her authority and using the affections of her 12 year old student for sexual gratification. The probability that a 12 year old male could rationally choose to engage in a sexual relationship with an adult is low, and the power dynamics of the teacher student relationship make it even more likely that this was the result of manipulation by a more experienced person of a younger one. Even if most 12 year olds might be hot for teacher, ideally your first sexual relationship should not be a secret adulterous affair with someone with whom you have nothing in common and who is an authority figure.

Volokh even soft-pedals the actual harm involved here; unlike many victims of sex crimes, Fualaau was not anonymous. At age 21, he has no job and no high school diploma. He had two children by age 16, although his mother apparently cares for them. Is it likely that he would be similarly unsuccessful had he not been a father of two before most kids get their driver's license, the center of a media circus for years, and engaged in an on again/off again relationship with a disturbed woman 22 years his senior who was in prison? At this point it's his right to engage in relationships with whomever he wishes, and it appears he will again reunite with Letourneau. But he should not have been the target of sexual advances from his sixth grade teacher, and no matter how much they may love each other now and how much joy he may take in being the father of two children (perhaps now that both parents can be together, some burden can lifted from their long-suffering grandmother), his potential for success and happiness was almost certainly squandered as a result of the choice of one grown woman. Even if that weren't illegal, it should still be wrong.
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