There's been a lot of coverage of high school teacher-student sex scandals. The cases of Mary Kay Letourneau and Debra LeFave are the most prominent, but they've been reported everywhere, and with greater frequency over the last few years. There's a general pattern to them: When the student is female, she is always presented as a victim. When the student is male (AND the teacher is female) he's almost never presented as a victim, and reaction is usually that he's lucky, getting to live out any adolescent boy's dream. I have to admit to buying into that pattern myself. I've wondered about the girls' side--is there a nature/nurture issue at hand? Are they traumatized because of something in the nature of a girl's development? Or does it have more to do with the gender roles that society still enforces? For the boys, I harbored no questions. "If that happened to me, yeah, I'd hit that." I wrote off emotional considerations--after all, it's often said that teenage boys only put out emotionally as an avenue to satisfy their physical desire for sex. In my own teenage years, it would have been nice to get both, but if not, I would've been happy with just the sex.
Then I read this week's Rolling Stone. Sabrina Rubin Erdely's article, "Sex, Lies, and Phys Ed" tells the story of Jason Eickmeyer and his affair with phys ed teacher Traci Tapp while he was a student at Hammonton HS in New Jersey. The short summary is this: though a popular and talented athlete, Eickmeyer was emotionally quite vulnerable. The affair and its surrounding particulars completely turned his world on its head. Unable to cope, his academic and athletic progress collapsed into epic failure. When his self-destructive behavior finally boiled over senior year, his mother had found out, the police were called in, and Eickmeyer became a pariah amongst both his peers and teachers. Six years later, he's still suffering, still alienated, and too broke to afford therapy. The affair wasn't even an open secret, it was just common knowledge. The staff didn't want to believe the rumors, or didn't care. The students thought it was great, or didn't want to be outcast for rocking the boat.
Based on what's written, I see nothing exceptional about Jason Eickmeyer. Not even his father's illness and the deterioration of his parents' marriage--both of those are far too common. There is nothing presented that suggests he should be particularly vulnerable compared to other high school students. He's surely not the only case, just one of the few widely-documented ones. Just because teenage boys often do not get emotionally attached to their sexual partners doesn't mean that they can't and they won't. Any boy is likely at risk of suffering the same emotional trauma. I've long considered Vili Fualaau's continuing attachment to Letourneau, and their eventual marriage, to be wildly out of whack. Looking at what happened to Jason Eickmeyer, I'm probably wrong about that.
(There is an associated story where Erdely talks about how difficult the story was to investigate.)