When Pedophiles Aren’t Male: The Scandalous Double Standard Concerning Female Predators
It all seems so terribly familiar now doesn’t it. A trusted, even respected or beloved member of a community is accused of having a sexual relationship with some adolescent. What used to shock us, but is now commonplace, is that the perpetrator is a woman.
Their names usually become tabloid headlines: Mary K. Letourneau, Debra Lafave, Pamela Diehl-Moore etc., yet now there’s another case, this one local.
Carrie Hall, 41, of Dry Fork, Kentucky, was arrested Friday morning, 30th of October, along with Lenville “Lenny” Bates, 46, of Thornton, who was also indicted on charges of complicity, along with Hall, to bribe or intimidate a witness, tamper with a witness, and tamper with physical evidence. In addition to the same complicity charges Bates is charged with, Hall is also charged with multiple counts of first-degree sexual abuse, third-degree rape, use of an electronic device to induce a minor to engage in sexual or prohibited activities, viewing/possession of matter portraying a minor in a sexual performance, use of a minor under 18 years old in a sexual performance and tampering with a witness. She is also charged with one count of sodomy. (These charges are related to crimes that allegedly began in mid-September, soon after the boy turned 16).
When this story first came out, and accounts were beginning to be published online, many of the comments were in immediate defense of....(the perpetrator?) Some comments even went so far as to congratulate the victim and exclaiming they only wish they had known one of these women when they were growing up. (Let me explain something to the chuds: When learning about an underage kid having sex with an adult, the proper response isn’t a “high five.")
When men commit sex crimes, they inevitably spark horror and outrage, if little surprise. Yet, far too many people are unwilling to believe that women are capable of such things. (20% of all sexual abuse is committed by women). In fact, the thought of a woman molesting a child is so abhorrent that for years researchers avoided the subject, making scientific studies rare and limiting our understanding of female pedophilia altogether. (The few psychologists who have studied the issue believe female pedophiles are most likely to be women who have had failed adult relationships, who have suffered a great loss, or who have been victims of abuse themselves). The questionable, yet overriding assumption, is that women predators are somehow different from men. And the way gender affects the coverage of these stories is both obvious and disgusting.
Nevertheless, this decades long wave of sexual offenses, committed by women — has exposed deep cultural double standards, namely: That the public is more willing to accept the female abuser’s claim that she had a “relationship” with the victim. And in cases in which the male is a teenager, the sexual abuse is more likely to be dismissed as a rite of passage. The most disheartening aspect is the pernicious idea that any kind of sexual interaction that a male has, must, by definition, be a good thing. (Unless, of course, it's a gay experience, then people have a problem with it). Any time a boy has a sexual interaction with a woman it cannot be talked about as though it was a negative thing without the man sacrificing his masculinity, especially amongst his peer group. The very idea that a high school to college-aged male would ever say that he endured unwanted sex is something that's mocked in our culture.
“In our society men are demonized, women are diagnosed. Men are beasts, but women are troubled or mentally ill,” writes media scholar Matthew Felling. “In fact, accounts of women sexual offenders are often more titillating than harsh.” Felling has also referred to the news coverage of older, attractive females involved with underage boys as, “part crime drama, part Penthouse letter.” (Although, it’s a bit of a stretch that someone would describe Hall as attractive).
A boy might see sex with an older woman as "a sort of a prize," And depending on the maturity level, that could be something they think they would want. (It would be really hard to judge whether he felt raped or not). If he's gone through puberty and is having sexual feelings, it could be working out for both of them. It's still absolutely inappropriate, but the victim might not be aware of that.
For an underage child, however, there is no such thing as informed consent. And experts agree that these cultural messages only serve to confuse male victims and subtly encourage them not to report their abuse. Because boys tend to be easily sexually aroused, adults can manipulate them into thinking they were equal and willing participants in these sexual acts. And because society sometimes perceives that the incidents aren't abuse but a case of the boy "getting lucky," male victims might not admit or even realize they've been abused until much later in life. (There’s a reason survivors have higher incidents of drug and alcohol abuse).
Yet, after working on this article, it has become very clear to me why it was mandatory that I attend a course on “Protecting Our Children" administered through CPS, before I began work at Two Rivers Head Start this past summer. We learned how to avoid the possibility or even appearance of any misconduct and how to recognize possible offenders working alongside us. At the time, I thought the danger was a little exaggerated. (Obviously, it wasn't). Understand: Female pedophiles are just as dangerous as their male counterparts, perhaps more so because no one pays any attention to them and because young boys are taught that having sex is some kind of victory. (But Carrie Hall’s family and friends know what she is. And now so do we).