A thirty-four-year-old English teacher in Utah, Brianne Altice, has been accused of having sex with an underage male student. The victim tipped the police, proving his allegations by describing tattoos on Altice’s body and the layout of her home. Police arrested her this week and it remains to be seen how this story will play out.
Yet it raises a larger issue about female sex offenders.
The image of a sex offender is almost exclusively male, and some criminologists and sexologists have stated that the female sexual desire is not strong enough to fuel a predatory drive. They’re not correct.
The number of these incidents has risen over the past decade, especially with the popularity of social website fraternization and cell phone texting that occurs between teachers and students. A study of female offenders reveals that they're generally self-centered, insecure, and aggressively needy. They prioritize their own goals.
As the situation progresses, it becomes easier for them to revise reality to serve their own needs. These women often initiate the activity with a flirtatious overture or feigned concern over the boy’s problems, taking advantage of a boy’s developing hormones to provoke sexual attraction. Some have only one victim, but many have several.
After getting caught, many offenders describe how good it felt to be so admired by a boy. They fail to recognize a child’s inherent vulnerability, immaturity, and inability to make adult decisions about sex. They also fail to grasp the unfair power differential, except to exploit it, which can have negative repercussions later in life for the victim.
However, the child is not the sole victim. Most of these teachers are married, thus harming their families. They also damage the relationship between a school system and a trusting community.
From teachers like this who seduce underage students to incestuous mothers to abusive nuns, females can be erotically conditioned into violating others. Yet few studies have focused on them and no database has been systematically developed.
One researcher states that females represent 10% of sex offenders, while another places it at 4-5%. It seems that contradictions, poorly designed studies, small or unrepresentative samples, and the lack of clarity (or seriousness) about victim statements have collectively thwarted the attempt to acquire accurate and useful statistics on this population.
However, there is no reason why a female cannot be conditioned toward sexual predation. This is a developmental process involving self-stimulation to gain sexual satisfaction. If satisfaction does occur, the person is likely to repeat whatever it took to achieve it. If it involves an image or a paraphilia, the individual’s sexual evolution incorporates the image or deviant desire into a masturbatory stimulus. Eventually, the person (male or female) depends heavily on it for arousal.
If the person lacks social bonding, the resulting isolation could inspire a greater dependence on a fantasy. The images can then incorporate more coercive behaviors, more fetish items, and more rituals that could become sexual compulsions. When sexual addiction outweighs social restraints, the person may victimize someone.
Many interpretations of female offending are framed by social projections about what women are supposed to be like, rather than on what they really are like. Women can certainly have sexual fantasies, and those fantasies can involve assault and seduction, even murder. While females might not be as hormonally driven as males, the sense of power and excitement can be just as compelling.
Psychologist A. J. Cooper points out that the reasons why women become sex offenders is incompletely understood, but he believes it might result from a combination of hyper-sexuality and early sexual experiences — usually abuse perpetrated on them. Most are immature, dependent, and sensitive to rejection, so they tend to gravitate toward those they believe they can control. Students are easy prey for some.
The debate on the issue of whether boys can really be victims of female offenders often divides communities, influenced by a deeply entrenched double standard. Only research that will convincingly prove that boys can be harmed will change future policies. However, there is no debate that teachers, male or female, who exploit their position of authority to seduce their students should pay a price. For those who are interested, I have written more about this issue here.