It’s extremely common for boys who have been molested to be drawn exclusively to much older women from then on. “There is something about early experience with sexuality that tends to stay with you,” Barbach says. “A lot of it is by chance. If you are a child who stumbled upon a magazine with women who have very large breasts, you may eroticize women who look like that in adulthood. It’s funny, I don’t know why it is, but as a child you are just more susceptible.” Anything sexual that happens in childhood has a better chance of making a kind of imprint on your erotic consciousness.
Even if we take as a given that it’s always wrong for a grown woman to have sex with her teenage students, or her son’s friend, or whatever other 15-year-old she gets her hands on, a question still remains: Why would she want to in the first place?
Teenage boys are not, as a rule, the world’s most expert lovers. They are not known for their emotional sophistication or sensitivity. And they do not excel at the tests of masculine status women are supposed to be fixated upon. “If Debra had had an affair with a man who was richer than me, or more successful, that I could have understood,” as Debra Lafave’s estranged husband, Owen, put it. “But this was a boy. What could he offer her that I couldn’t?
Power, for one thing. Compared with a teenage boy, a woman will almost always make more money. She will always know more about sex. She will generally be more competent and experienced and more able to assert her will on him than vice versa.
If you spend a little time going over stories of grown women who pursue boys, they start to blur together. Often, the woman was a victim of sexual abuse in her own childhood. So in some cases adults’ having sex with children is familiar, reiterative. Psychologists say one reason women engage in this is to create a new narrative: If they as adults can have sex with a child in the context of a loving romance (imaginary or real) rather than as an obvious enactment of exploitation, they can then more easily conceive of their own abuse as a love story. To them, the experience of being a gentle perpetrator can be redemptive.
“Sometimes, the woman is not much older psychologically than the boy is in her developmental stage,” says clinical psychologist Judy Kuriansky. “She has arrested development. So she’s having sex with a 14-year-old, and in her head, she’s 14, too. She’s getting the attention she never got.” She’s Blanche DuBois. And, Kuriansky says, “there’s nothing more erotic that being adored, for women.”
Consider the poster couple for pedophilia or true love, depending on your point of view: Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau. A review: Letourneau was Fualaau’s second-grade teacher, then she taught him again—and had sex with him—when he was a 12-year-old in her sixth-grade class. She gave birth to their first child shortly before she went to jail. She became pregnant with their second child when she was out on parole. She went back to jail for seven years. After her release, they got back together. Letourneau and Fualaau were married in a televised ceremony last May and registered for china at Macy’s. They have been together ten years.
You could clearly hear Letourneau imbuing her student with power; trying to convince the public as she’d convinced herself that Fualaau—her lover, her hero—was on more than equal footing with her: “He dominated me in the most masculine way that any man, any leader, could do.”
He was 12. She was 34.
When Diane Demartini-Scully first started going for walks with her daughter’s 15-year-old boyfriend on the North Fork of Long Island, it made him feel special. “She would just talk to me about life situations and shit,” he says now, a year and a half later. “It was pretty cool.” This is something DeMartini-Scully, a 45-year-old blonde who vaguely resembles Erica Jong, would have been good at. She was, until recently, a school psychologist at East Hampton Middle School. She knew how to draw a kid out.
And the boy, let’s call him Jason, had some things on his mind. “I was making a lot of money in New York,” he says, and when I ask him how, he gives a nervous laugh. “I was doing a lot of things.” I ask if the things he was doing and the company he was keeping (mostly in Jamaica, Queens, he says) were part of the reason his family left Mattituck, Long Island, where they lived just down the road from DeMartini-Scully, for Jacksonville, North Carolina, where they currently reside. He says yes, but the reason his mother has given the press for the move was to escape the escalating cost of living on the North Fork. Detective Steven L. Harned of the local Southold Police Department says, “We were already aware of [Jason]. He has had some court cases here on other matters.”