Double Standard When It Comes to Underage Sex?

Popular culture often glorifies sex between an older woman and a teenage boy.

ByABC News
March 12, 2008, 12:19 PM

March 13, 2008— -- Should boys and girls be treated differently when it comes to underage sex?

In 1997, 35-year-old Mary Kay LeTourneau was arrested for having sex with her then 13-year-old student. At her trial, she was pregnant with their child.

It was the first of many highly publicized cases of teachers who had sex with their much-younger male students.

Sandra Beth Giesel, 42, had sex with her 16-year-old student. And 24-year-old Debra LaFave had sex with a 14-year-old.

Pamela Rogers, 29, who was on probation for having sex with her 13-year-old student, went to jail for then sending him a cell phone video of herself dancing erotically.

Although each of these female teachers was criminally prosecuted, many people view the women's sex crimes very differently than they view similar crimes committed by men.

Both Rogers and LaFave have fan Web sites. Their admirers write things like, "I want to go back to high school!" and "That boy is a hero … got to be the luckiest kid on earth."

One LaFave site includes a tribute video set to the Van Halen song, "Hot for Teacher."

Movies and television often portray having sex with an older woman as an exciting conquest. The Comedy Central show "South Park" shows police officers impressed that an elementary school student slept with an attractive teacher. One cop jokes to the another, "The crime is she isn't doing it with me!"

When one of ABC's "Desperate Housewives" slept with a high school student, all season the student was shown as a lucky guy, never as someone who Eva Longoria's character Gabrielle was sexually exploiting.

There are differences between men and women, but is there something about that difference that makes it less serious when a woman sleeps with a younger boy? Studies do show that most teenage boys who had sex with older women say that the sex was voluntary and the experience positive.

Certainly parents treat their boys and girls differently. According to one survey, 61 percent say there is a double standard when it comes to sex.