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Op-Ed Last Updated: Oct 18th, 2006 - 15:21:42


Double Standards of Sex and Sexuality
By Lee Myers
Oct 18, 2006, 15:20

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Mark Foley has gotten a lot of press lately after it was revealed the Florida Republican sent sexually explicit instant messages to a teenage boy. We as a society seem to have very different opinions about men and women who seduce teenagers, especially if the man is gay. Society tends to think of men as perverts who violate innocent youths, while women are sexualized and their male victims congratulated. Would anyone congratulate a fourteen year-old girl for screwing her thirty-something year-old math teacher?
Foley has been a media target for years because he is unmarried and has consistently refused to answer any questions about his sexuality. This refusal fueled online rumors as far back as 1996 amongst alternative media that Foley was gay. In 2003, Foley was considered a Republican frontrunner to replace Bob Graham’s Senate seat. Citing his father’s fight with cancer, he later withdrew his candidacy when mainstream media picked up the story that Foley was either gay or bisexual and involved in a long-term relationship with a man.
In 2005, a sixteen year-old former page complained to his congressional sponsor, Congressman Rodney Alexander, that Foley had requested a photo of him and asked what he wanted for his birthday. Alexander spoke with Congressman John Boehner, who discussed the complaint with Congressman Tom Reynolds. Reynolds later spoke with House Speaker Dennis Hastert and they all agreed the emails were “overly friendly” but not necessarily inappropriate. The boy thought otherwise and called Foley’s request “sick.”
Would he consider it “sick” if a female in Congress made the same request?
When the initial email controversy was reported by ABC News, Foley shrugged it off as a mere political attack by his opponent. Foley claimed a photo request is made of any page seeking a recommendation from his office so that staff will recognize them. He said the other comments were just friendly. ABC kept digging, and found the now infamous instant messages containing Foley’s cybersex chat with another sixteen year-old boy.
The fact that this was cybersex and not harassment is one of many facts that seem to have been overlooked. According to the instant messages available at http://www.citizensforethics.org/ the boy describes how, how often, and where he likes to masturbate, a fetish he has for casts (as in the kind you get when you break an arm), and the size of his penis. If this exchange were with a grown woman then most of us would see this as just another horny teenager doing what horny teenagers do.
I am not attempting to alleviate Mr. Foley of his responsibilities. He was wrong and will have to face the consequences for his actions. But those consequences shouldn’t depend on gender.
In recent years, Pamela Diehl-Moore, Mary Kay Letourneau and Debra Lafave—all teachers in positions of authority—have had affairs with students that went much further than cybersex.
Protesters would march on the courthouse if a man only got three years for having sex with a thirteen year-old, but that’s all Diehl-Moore received. Letourneau only went to prison after being caught a second time with the boy she would later marry. Lafave was the 25 year-old teacher and former model from Florida who was given probation for having sex with a fourteen year-old student.
It doesn’t matter whether a man attempts to seduce a young boy or girl—the kid gets sympathy. But if the offender is a woman, the kid gets a high five.
Enticing a minor is always wrong and we need one standard for everyone regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Foley is known only to have had cybersex with a 16-year-old—whereas Lafave had sex with a 14-year-old. If what Foley did was wrong then what Lafave did was even worse.
Foley hasn’t yet faced any legal consequences for his actions, but he has been vilified in a way a woman never would be. A way reserved only for men, especially gay men, and most importantly—gay Republicans.

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