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Sally C. Pipes - Contributor
[Courtesty of Pacific Research Institute]

Sally C. Pipes is President and CEO, Pacific Research Institute [go to Pipes index]

Sex, Lies, and Sociology
PC double standards…

[Sally C. Pipes] 4/6/05

From California’s capital city comes the latest chapter in the gender chronicles, a real stunner.

On February 19, Sacramento police arrested Margaret De Barraicua, a 30-year-old intern teacher at McClatchy High School, for having sex with a 16-year-old student in her car. The teacher’s two-year-old son was strapped into a safety seat in the back at the time. On top of all that, the vehicle was parked outside of an elementary school at the time of the arrest. It was not the first sexual encounter between the two.

The case drew international attention, as have others involving older female teachers and younger male students. De Barraicua, who said she and the student were in love, and that all activities were consensual, is free on bail. The school district did not fire the woman but placed her on paid administrative leave. And now from the social science benches comes the cry that Margaret De Barraicua is the victim of gender bias and stereotypes.

Laura Grindstaff, professor of sociology at the nearby University of California at Davis, told a reporter for the Sacramento Bee that “I would hate for her to get a harsher penalty because we have a cultural bias against older women having sex with a younger man.”

Further, Grindstaff said, “There are cultural sanctions for women having too much sex. For men, sexual activity doesn’t work against them. He becomes the stud. She becomes the slut.”

What decade is this woman living in? There may well have been a cultural sanction for women having too much sex in, say, 1955. But not in the Age of Madonna, MTV, and “Desperate Housewives.” As Tom Wolfe has recently pointed out, the culture is drenched in sex, for women and men alike.

As for some cultural bias against older women partnering with young men, that exists mainly in the isolation wards of sociology departments. De Barraicua is not being prosecuted for breaking a cultural taboo. She is being prosecuted for breaking the law, which forbids adults from engaging in such activities with those under 18.

Her offence, statutory rape, could be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony. Prosecutors may seek a maximum sentence of three years, which prompted the sociological charges of gender bias. Her lawyer wants no more than 90 days of community service.

Paul Mattiuzi, a psychologist who evaluates sex offenders for the courts, told a reporter that what De Barraicua did would not even qualify as a crime in Massachusetts. The effect of De Barraicua’s act on her two-year old son, now in the custody of her husband, does not appear to interest sociologists or psychologists.

It might be recalled that Mary Kay Letourneau got six months for sex with a boy who was 12. She then served seven and a half years for violating a court order to stay away from him. A 34-year-old basketball coach in California got six months for sex with a 16-year-old female student. Six months in prison is a lot harsher than 90 days of community service. There are other realities to consider.

Suppose the police had discovered a 30-year-old male teacher having sex with a 16-year-old female student, in his car outside an elementary school, with the teacher’s two-year-old child a captive audience in the back seat. They would likely have called in a SWAT team. Courts would have set bail higher than the $20,000 for De Barraicua. The school district would be pressed to fire the offender, rather than offer the paid-leave arrangement that De Barraicua got.

For their part, the courts should focus on the law and the facts, not the flighty gender theories of sociologists. Yes, cultural stereotypes exist. Often they are wrong. Women can be CEOs, postal workers, soldiers, pilots, serial killers, and sexual predators, just like men.

As for double standards, they still exist as well. And Margaret De Barraicua will be the beneficiary of one if she gets the slap on the wrist her lawyer wants instead of jail time. tRO

copyright 2005 Pacific Research Institute




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