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It’s not ‘romance’ when a 13-year-old boy gets raped

Imagine, for a moment, that you hear about a 24-year-old teacher who has allegedly abused their authority to rape a minor student. Let’s say that student is 13 years old. A pregnancy occurs as the result of the abuse, which was prolonged: about six months. It’s not hard to imagine the reaction, which would almost certainly be disgust. What kind of sicko adult is sexually attracted to barely pubescent children? What kind of trauma would their victim — who is arguably not even emotionally mature enough to engage in consensual sex, according to the law and common sense, let alone raising a child that resulted from their rape — suffer as a result? Heads would surely roll, yes?

No. Not if the victim is a boy, which is precisely the case in our hypothetical scenario up there. When the victim is a girl, it is absolutely clear that the felony child abuse perpetrated against her makes her so. When the victim is a boy, he’s not treated as a victim at all. Just a really lucky kid. And that’s reprehensible.

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A Houston middle school teacher has allegedly admitted to grooming and raping a boy 11 years younger than her, “every day” for months, all with the blessing of that boy’s family. Later, she told police that she aborted the resulting pregnancy in an attempt to hide what she called a “relationship” with the eighth grader.

And people don’t really seem to care.

It could be that almost every media report about Alexandria Vera, who would be, by definition a pedophile, if convicted, replaces words like groom and rape with less icky sounding ones like flirt and romance. It could be that some of these reports refer to Vera as “the cool teacher” and use kissy-face selfies instead of mugshots to identify her. It could be that when a headline finally refers to the encounter for what it is — rape — it’s done with a wink and a nod.

The alleged crimes were introduced in one Hollywood Life blog with the phrase “Their flirtation,” while another breathlessly reports that “The couple didn’t keep their relationship a secret — even at school.” The Daily Wire report refers to the child and teacher as “boyfriend and girlfriend,” and even the likes of CBS couldn’t refrain from noting that other students suspected the teacher and boy were “romantically involved.”

It’s hard to believe that cases like Vera’s are being taken as seriously as they would be if her victim were not male. Why? because what they’re referring to isn’t a “flirtation” and it for damn sure is not a “relationship” or “romance.”

Stuff like that asks without really asking, “is it really rape if the teacher is ‘cool’? If she’s attractive? If the boy said he loved her?”

It is. Whether the victim is male or female. Whether or not they believe themselves to be consenting parties. Whether or not the abuser is conventionally attractive. There is no state in which it is permissible for an adult to have a sexual relationship with a child, because such a thing does not exist — that’s why it is called rape. When we refuse to name that for what it is then we continue to send a very dangerous message to our boys, which is that they are not capable of being raped. They are incapable of being victimized this way, full stop.

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We are absolute shit when it comes to talking about rape as a society anyway, because we live in a society where judges can decide that deceased 14-year-old female rape victims have control over their own rapes without a hint of irony. But at least that horrifies us.

Girls and women tend not to report their rapes because they’re afraid of being painted as liars. Boys who say they are raped aren’t painted as liars, they’re painted as being positively delusional. What teenage boy wouldn’t just love to get lucky early on? That’s not disgusting! It’s macho and studly! Which of course means that if you don’t love it, either during the abuse or later, as a survivor, you’re weak and effeminate.

If, by chance, you’re less than enthused about having to raise a child you weren’t able to consent to conceiving, would you come forward and say so? Would you want to be the boy who isn’t man enough to know a good thing when he sees it? Every single time we give a female abuser a lighter sentence than her male counterpart or give her male victim a bullshit civil award, we fail our boys. We ask them to shut up and enjoy their abuse.

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There is a reason that we make laws about the age of consent. Imagine yourself at 13. Imagine your daughter. Imagine your son. Were you ready for sex then? Were they, or will they be? We make exceptions in Romeo and Juliet laws because we acknowledge that a three year difference puts two people at a similar sexual and emotional age of maturity.

We do not make exceptions for 11-year age gaps when one person is a child, because that is not two consenting adults, or even two consenting juveniles. That is a child incapable of giving their consent and a predator taking advantage of it.

It is long past time to get pissed off when a young boy is abused by an older woman. The conversation about males and females being affected differently by rape is tired and inaccurate. The psychological effects of child sexual abuse, statutory rape and sexual assault are real, and they aren’t pretty. The more we treat Alexandria Vera’s alleged crimes and those of her victim’s family as soap opera fodder and comedy and not the actions of an unhinged pedophile and complete parental failure, the more complicit we are in the continued despicable treatment of male victims.

We’ve effectively made it virtually impossible for young men and boys to say “enough.” We owe it to them to say it for them, loudly and repeatedly, until as a society, we fix what we’ve wrecked.

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