Jan. 13, 2009
It’s all about power. That’s what counselors and psychologists say is the central issue in sexual relationships between adults and adolescents. It doesn’t matter if the adult is a man or a woman, they say, the adult has the power. But it does matter when it comes to how others see it.
Girls are seen more as victims, Tom Faxon, a clinical social worker at Bayview Quincy at South Shore Mental Health said, while boys are seen as “lucky.”
Boys face the expectation that it’s “everybody’s fantasy” to have sex with their teacher, Faxon said.
That difference in perception is evident in the case of Abington elementary school teacher Christine McCallum, 29, who was charged Friday with seven counts of statutory rape, stemming from what prosecutors say was a nearly two-year relationship she had with a boy beginning when he was 13.
“This is an adult. An adult with power, and then someone as a teacher has a lot of power,” Faxon said.
Several comments on The Patriot Ledger’s Web site pertaining to the McCallum case have called the relationship “every kid’s dream.”
“Sorry folks but as a former 13 year old boy I can say having this happen to me would be like hitting the lottery. It is a double standard true but it is different for boys, 13 and up this is all we think of,” commenter InsideMan wrote.
Compare that to the case of Walpole football coach and athletic director Daniel Villa, 44. He is accused of having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old high school student that lasted from October to December. He faces three counts of rape.
But, no one is calling the alleged victim in the case, a 15-year-old girl, “lucky” to have allegedly had sex with an adult.
Mark Dunay, a clinical social worker at Harbor Counseling Associates in Plymouth, said while adult women would be “much more readily horrified” at the abuse of a teenager, there are many adult men who would call a boy who had sex with an adult woman lucky, or claim “no harm, no foul.”
“There is a double standard in society with this kind of thing,” Dunay said. “Men who have sex with women are seen as potent and powerful and strong.”
“Very, very few men would ever condone an adult male having sex with a female child, but they would not be as alarmed” with a boy having sex with an adult woman, he said.
A women abuser defies the social expectations of gender behavior, said Melissa Pearrow, a UMass-Boston psychology professor and former president of the Massachusetts School Psychologists Association.
“People react differently based on gender,” she said, “but people are being exploited by adults who are supposed to be taking care of them.”