Arts What Do Lesbians Think?
The case of Khalila O’Rielly-Williams is the first time I’ve heard about a woman being arrested for sexual misconduct with a female minor. O’Rielly-Williams is the very-recently-resigned 23-year-old female basketball coach at Seattle Prep charged with having sex with a 16-year-old female student.
It’s unlike other statutory rape stories.
Sadly, “older men taking advantage of girlsā€¯ is a standard story. In fact, the exact same week the O’Rielly-Williams story broke, a sad, but unfortunately mundane story about a 46-year-old Lynnwood male H.S. science teacher, James Lowell Stone, showed up in the papers as well. Stone was arrested for sexual misconduct with a minor—a 17-year-old female student.
Of course, we already have a script for the Lynnwood story. This is what we expect of men. Men are lecherous predators. The court papers imply that he seduced her with marijuana. (Stone has pleaded not guilty.)
Another version of the sexual misconduct with a minor story—once uncommon, but one that seems to show up in the news all the time in recent years—is the Letourneau version: Female teacher having a sexual relationship with a male student. This story is still a bit hard for people to compute. Initially, there is the light-hearted reaction that the boy got lucky (what 16-year-old boy doesn’t dream about sex with his hot female teacher?). Initially, there’s also a weird feminist angle that, hey, it’s kind of cool for an older woman to turn the tables in a society where men date younger women, but women don’t “scoreā€¯ with young guys. You go girl.
There’s also the “male priest or male baseball coach molesting young boysā€¯ stories. Our homophobic society knows how to process these stories too. They play to hateful stereotypes about the depravity of gay men—that is, gay men as pedophiles.
Of course, all these stereotypes—light hearted and/or hateful—complicate our ability to deal with these basic and serious stories about sexual predators.
So, what to make of the Seattle Prep story? I don’t believe I’ve ever read about a case like this. It seems like it should be a big deal—kind of like the Letourneau story when it first hit. Yet, The Seattle Times coverage is flat line. Only by doing a double take on the feminine pronouns does it become clear that we’re even talking about lesbian sex.
I think the reaction to the story will be most similar to the reactions we have to the Letourneau version. That is: It’s harmless. Lesbians tend to be invisible and unimportant (AKA marginalized) in our culture, and so, this case probably doesn’t press many buttons for the larger world. (Similar to the 16-year-old boy getting “lucky,ā€¯ a lot of guys probably fantasize that this story is “hot.ā€¯)
We’re also talking about a 23-year-old and a 16-year-old. That’s not as shocking as the 30 or 40-something male coach and the teenage girl. In fact, in Washington, 16 is considered the age of consent in some circumstances. It’s the fact that O’Rielly-Williams worked at Seattle Prep that led to the charges, I think. It’s illegal for school employees to have sexual contact with students.
Obviously, I’m not saying (if the charges against O’Rielly-Williams are true) that this was a consensual lesbian relationship. The 16-year-old is definitely a victim in a situation like this. There is a serious problem with a supervisor, adult coach having sex with a student.
I guess I just want to hear from lesbians out there. How does this story hit you? Affect you? How does it land politically?