The Mary Kay Epilogue
I love Susie Bright. I first discovered her essays when I was in college, and I give her a lot of credit for my college epiphany that being a feminist and being a slut were not, after all mutually exclusive: That not only could I be an empowered woman and a masochist cock-craver, but that I could only become an empowered woman if I let go of the shame for my honest sexual desires. Thank you Susie Bright. I still follow her blog eagerly, although most of the time now it makes me feel like her proverbial preacher's choir.
Then, a couple weeks ago, Susie Bright covered the current whereabouts of Mary Kay Fualaau, better known to people who had access to television in the 1990's as Mary Kay Letourneau. For those who don't remember, Mary Kay Letourneau was imprisoned in 1997 for having sex with and becoming impregnated by her thirteen-year-old student, Vili Fualaau. She was released in January 1998, but by February she went back to jail for planning to run away with boy, and that October she gave birth to their second child. In 2001, Vili Fualaau's mother sued the school and police for failing to keep her son safe, but she lost: Police attorney Anne Bremner successfully convinced a jury, "Fualaau and Letourneau still 'see themselves as Romeo and Juliet' and want to get married... adding that there was nothing anyone could have done to keep the two apart." Letourneau finished her second jail sentence in 2004, at which point Fualaau, then 21, successfully petitioned the court to let him see her again. They married in 2005, in a ceremony covered by Entertainment Tonight. And now they have celebrated their fourth marriage anniversary, and host an event in a Seattle bar called "Hot for Teacher."
....And I have been struggling to figure out how I feel about this. Once again, I think Susie Bright sums it up about as well as anyone can:
"It's unfair to strike a moral posture on The Letourneau Affair, because their story defies all predictions."
On the one hand, the basis of any ethical sexuality is informed consent, and in 1997 Vili Fualaau was not sufficiently mature to give informed consent to a thirtysomething authority figure. ...On the other hand, Vili Fualaau is a consenting adult now. If their relationship was (rightfully!) criminal in 1997, but they're two consenting adults in 2009, then when did the ethics change?
On the one hand, one could argue that Vili's ongoing attachment to the woman who statutorily raped him is a further sign of his psychological damage. ....On the other hand, what outsider has the right to tell him, now almost 26, that he still doesn't have the right to choose his wife-of-four-years?
On the one hand, the eighteenth birthday is a completely arbitrary cut-off by which to judge sexual maturity. Any cut-off would be arbitrary, because "growing up" is a gradual process, and because people psychologically "grow up" at different ages. ...On the other hand, there's a cut-off somewhere, and it's definitely after the seventh grade.
On the one hand, realistically, most thirteen-year-olds daydream about sex and masturbate all the time; heaven knows I did. ...On the other hand, those daydreams and masturbation are all about figuring out how one's own body works sexually, before one shares that with another person.
On the one hand, our culture's hysteria about the perceived omnipresent threat of pedophiles has gotten a little, well, hysterical - with parents getting arrested for taking naked-baby pictures that are sexual only in the eyes of the prosecutors, and teenagers being arrested for taking sexy pictures of themselves. ...On the other hand, other people's paranoia of pornography aside, Mary Kay bore two of Vili's children.
The whole story is built-for-TV sensationalism, but I keep picking at it in my brain. And one part on which I feel comfortable making a definitive moral proclamation: Why weren't they using birth control?! I support jail sentences for thirtysomethings who have sex with their seventh grade students, but then to not use birth control - twice - is a whole extra layer of stupid. Is that how far safe-sex awareness has fallen?