Last week, the Houston Press posted a top 10 list of the hottest female sex offenders in Texas. After an internet uproar and a Change.org petition, the writer, Richard Connelly, claimed that the piece was not ill-conceived, lazy linkbait, but service journalism to help people understand that not all sex offenders look like stereotypical sex offenders.
What I didn’t tease out in my original critique of his list is that, in fact, his emphasis on the hotness of female sex offenders in no way challenges stereotypes about female sex offenders. Because a number of the women on Connelly’s list abused or assaulted male victims in the 13-16 year-old range, he actually reinforces widely held stereotypes that celebrate the hot-teacher, lucky-male-student storyline.
I bring this up because we have (unfortunately) an opportunity to see a prime example of how the public views these relationships playing out as we speak: just this week, a young, pretty high school teacher from suburban Fort Worth turned herself in for having sex with five high school boys.
What Connelly may not understand, as many of us who frequently write about sexual assault do, is that rape culture is rampant, that victim-blaming and -shaming is widespread, and that the general public has some really fucked up views about what it means to be person who has sex at all, let alone what it might mean to be a rapist or a rape victim. I think if Connelly spent any time at all reading otherwise reasonable people defend child rapist Roman Polanski or write at length about how slutty 11-year-old gang rape victims dress, he might realize that hot sex offender lists are not exactly going to be taken with nuance and understanding. They’re going to be put on Digg and laughed at.
I don’t want to give Connelly the benefit of the doubt, because I think he knowingly and purposefully wrote linkbait and back-pedaled after the fact. But whatever, for the sake of this blog post, let’s do it. Let’s give this dude the benefit of the doubt and assume he is wholly unfamiliar with a subject (rape culture and public perception of sexual assault) on which he feels qualified to write cheeky top-10 lists. Allow me to make it clear for you, Richard Connelly.
Brittni Nicole Colleps, a mother of three, has been charged with the felony crime of having improper relationships with five students. A video apparently exists of her having sex with five male students, all of whom were 18 or older during the course of their sexual relationships. It’s illegal for teachers to have sexual relationships with their students, even if they’re of consensual age, just as it’s illegal for members of the clergy to have a sexual relationship with one of his or her congregants. This woman graded these students, graded their peers, and was given the task of teaching them English. It creates a situation in which the student victims could potentially feel obligated to continue a sexual relationship to maintain their grades, enrollment, spot on the football team, whatever. It’s not harmless, it’s coercive. So let’s be clear about that. As you’ll see, we will have to be.
A good number of the comments on the story–I’m taking it from the Dallas Morning News–demonstrate just how folks are unlikely to see something like the hot female sex offenders list and take anything meaningful from it. In fact, the emphasis remains on the perceived attractiveness of the perpetrator and either the stupidity or the luck of the victims, few of whom are even seen as victims because they’re (1) male and (2) seniors in high school, because obviously 18-year-old students can’t be taken advantage of by older teachers in a position of power.
Rape culture, ahoy!
Here’s “Gold River” –
“After seeing her picture it can only be concluded that a hormonally insane kid would go into that swamp!”
Because you’d have to be crazy to be pressured into sex by someone as ugly as this woman, amiright guys? High-five, victims of hot people! Except that, I think we can agree, Colleps is not actually ugly by American cultural standards. In fact, I’d venture to say she could have had a spot on the Houston Press list. So, when people talk about how ugly she is (and there are a lot of them in the comments), I take that as more of a defensive tactic than anything else. For some reason, people need to believe that if Colleps is ugly, the victims are crazy, hormonally-driven or otherwise mentally impaired. Classic victim-blaming.
From “oclairegh” –
“…I think of all the education that I missed, but then my homework was never quite like this!!!”
There’s not much that needs to be said about the fact that somebody felt a “Hot For Teacher” quote was in order.
From “elsnee” –
“Those males students better be thankful they weren’t arrested for having sex with a k-9.”
GET IT SHE’S REALLY UGLY YOU GUYS WHAT WERE THESE DUDES THINKING? Too bad they didn’t look at the hot sex offender list so they could have sex with a hot creepy lady instead.
From “raw_toe” –
“I knew of a few teachers at my high school that had relations with students. Funny how the guys involved never seemed to upset about it.”
Couldn’t be that the “guys” felt pressured to portray themselves as macho and virile sex machines so they could adhere to cultural narratives about horny boys and slutty teachers and avoid the shame and ridicule (seen above) of being perceived as the victim of a sex crime. Nah.
From “Hashi” –
“I bet Van Halen’s Hot for Teacher was the school song.”
Oh, golly, it just gets funnier and more appropriate every time someone references it.
From “Diligent” –
“This is 2011, not 1950’s back off and leave it alone, I for one say nice job teach and how was that boys, pretty good right, go for it.”
From “Carpetbagger_214” –
“These guys aren’t vulnerable bruised kiddies being asked to point out on a doll where Ms. Predateacher touched them. Right now, they’re probably strutting down the street like peacocks.”
She’s a predator but also the guys loved screwing her. So how bad could it be, really?
And hey, how about another “Hot For Teacher” reference just for good measure? Take it away, “wc86” –
“And yes not much has changed for high school boys since Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” got released, however the laws sure have!”
Bottom line, people have trouble viewing teenage boys and men as being victims of sex crimes or of having inappropriate sexual relationships with older women. Whether it’s “Hot For Teacher” or betting these guys are strutting around like peacocks, what we’re seeing here are some great examples of how Richard Connelly’s hot sex offenders list reinforces, rather than challenges, stereotypes about female sexual offenders.