I can’t remember if I blogged about Silvia Johnson — the 41 year old woman whose desire to be the “cool mom” lead her to host sex parties with teenage boys — though I did write a post about protecting kids from adult sexual predators. Well, today I read that Ms. Johnson — who was never “part of the crowd” in high school, but I guess finally got to feel like one of the “cool kids” — got 30 years for her antics.
A woman who authorities said had sex with high school boys during alcohol- and drug-fueled parties has been sentenced to 30 years in prison, officials said.
Silvia Johnson, 41, described herself to investigators as a “cool mom” who “was never popular with classmates in high school” and who was beginning to feel like one of the group.
She pleaded guilty in July to two misdemeanor counts of sexual assault and nine felony counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Sounds about right to me. I guess that’s because my first reaction to this story is as a parent. And were I the parent of one of the boys at her party, I’d be pretty livid. I remember when I was growing up, my sister and I were only allowed to go to a friend’s house if there was going to be an adult (preferably a parent) there. And it wasn’t enough to tell them there would be an adult there. They had to speak to the other adult and verify it.
I’m sure there were times when I found that rule rather onerous (in particular when a classmate I’d had a crush on for years in high school invited me to his house one summer afternoon when his folks were out and he was feeling randy — I didn’t get to go), but I have to admit I probably understand the reason for it now. Today I guess that rule would be qualified a bit more: a responsible adult needs to be present. That pretty much rules out an adult who gives alcohol and drugs to teenagers, and also has sex with some of them.
Interestingly enough, there’s another angle to the story that’s been playing out in my inbox today.
I’m on a listserve for GLBT people of color, and today someone sent around a link to CNN story about Silvia Johnson’s sentence. It sparked an interesting discussion on intergenerational sex, and teenage sexuality, which revealed to me that there some subjects to which my liberalism doesn’t exactly extend.
I don’t have a problem with teenagers having sex with other teenagers. I expect that’s going to happen, and when it comes to my kid my feel areings — once he reaches that age — are that I’d rather he wait until he’s old enough to handle the potential consequences and responsibilities that can come come being sexually active, but if he chooses to be sexually active I want him to
- have the information he needs to protect himself and his partner,
- use it, and
- understand and respect his partners’ wishes when it comes to consent. (i.e. No means no. Period.)
But when it comes to intergenerational sex, I think in our society/culture there’s always an imbalance of power between a child and an adult. Legally, culturally, socially, one is pretty much always considered an authority over the other. That’s evident in the fact that no matter how willing the kid is, the adult is considered legally culpable and responsible for saying “no.” And no matter how mature or willing the kid is or appears to be, I don’t think that imbalance can honestly be discounted. I think that makes it hard to rule out the possibility of even indirect coercion in an intergenerational sexual relationship.
All admit, I’m probably coming at this from a couple of different angles. One is that I’m the parent of a young child, who will someday be a teenage boy; along with all that comes with that territory, I’m sure. Second, while it wasn’t my own experience, I understand that some gay men had their first sexual experiences as teenagers with older/adult men. So, someone with that experience might take a different view than I do.
I also know some guys whose first sexual experiences were intergenerational, and it’s basically the same situation. Some of the encounters may have been consensual, but some of them also had an element of manipulation, coercion, etc., precisely because of the inherent adult/child power imbalance I mentioned earlier. And it always seems that the guys who had the latter type of sexual experience with adults as teenagers come away from it with some degree of emotional/psychological damage.
Children area naturally curious about sex — particularly as teenagers — but they don’t often possess the maturity to use good judgement where sex is concerned. And in a situation where partners are mismatched in terms of power, authority, maturity, etc., it’s too easy for an adult to use that imbalance in his/her favor.
I’m as liberal as the next person, but I guess adult/child sex is where I draw the line. Two teenagers? Fine. An eighteen year old, who’s of the age to give consent legally, and a 36 year old? I would probably definitely not like it if the 18 year old was my kid, but I’d still say the law should leave them alone. (Though that doesn’t mean *I* will.) But an adult and a child below the legal age of consent? Uh-uh. There’s no way I’m ever gonna be OK with that.