Notes on a Scandal book author Zoe Heller (her work is actually titled “What Was She Thinking?” — the movie title is a subhead) recently said during a Hollywood q & a that the plot of the book — about a teacher in her mid ’30s who has an affair with a 15 year-old student — was inspired by the Mary Kay Letourneau scandal of the mid to late ’90s.
My feelings on this issue are roughly those of former Labor secretary Robert Reich (i.e., the brilliant, bearded short guy with the Clinton Adminstration), who reportedly said, “Where were teachers like [Letourneau] when I was in school?”
Older males who take sexual advantage of underage females are venal and deserve every punishment society can throw at them, but there’s definitely a different standard when it comes to older women and teenage guys. When I was in my mid teens my mother used to warn me about predatory women who might take advantage of me; I remember saying to myself once as she shared this warning, “Please, please God…where are they?”
If a hotsy-totsy Mary Ann Letourneau figure had deigned to have a sexual affair with me at age 15 or thereabouts, I would have gotten down on my knees with a Bible in my hands every night and praised God for his merciful bounty.
A glum-faced journalist at the Notes on a Scandal junket earlier this week told me that the fantasy hadn’t panned out for a guy he knew who’d had an affair with an older woman when he was at a tender age. Apparently the guy was emotionally thrown by it. Poor baby. I hear stories all the time from my two boys — age 18 and 17 — about what a jarring, in some cases heartbreaking time they’ve had with high-school girls who run hot and cold and drop guys they’ve been intimate with whenever the mood strikes without blinking an eye. It’s quite brutal out there. My younger son feels that high-school girls are “amost evil” in this sense.
By contrast a 32 year-old girlfriend would have to at least be a bit more stable, no? And most likely gentler, kinder, more considerate, etc.? (Unless she’s a druggie or a psycho.) And yet society seriously punishes women who transgress in this fashion. Society is wrong. Society doesn’t get it.