Dear Prudence: My boyfriend had sex with an older woman when he was 12.

Advice on manners and morals.
Aug. 8 2011 3:47 PM

Sexy Cougar or Dangerous Predator?

Dear Prudence offers advice about a May-December encounter that the victim deems harmless—during a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.

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Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of this week's chat is below. ( Sign up here to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie's Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at prudence@slate.com.)

Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon—I hope everyone is having a good economic meltdown!

Q. Yikes, My Boyfriend and His Lost Virginity: My boyfriend of two years recently told me that he lost his virginity at the age of 12 to a family friend that was 30 at the time. He swears that he is the one that seduced her and that it is a very happy memory for him; I have no reason to doubt him and he is "older" than his years and has always dated older women. But I'm very grossed out by the woman in question. I'm picturing myself allowing a 12-year-old to seduce me (I'm 30) and the thought is disgusting to me. I really don't think she is a predator and my boyfriend really does seem to have quite an effect on older ladies—they all just want to take their pants off for him. My question is mainly that I don't know how I'm going to face this woman—we see her about three times a year at family events and one is coming up next month. I am not great at keeping my facial features neutral so I'm worried she's going to figure out that I know. I don't want to "out" her. I'm definitely not going to touch a drop of booze that day because I don't want to get tipsy and say something I'll regret. I really just don't know what to say to this woman or how to act in front of her! Help.

A: I agree with your disgust, but I disagree that she's not a predator. There are no circumstances under which a 30-year-old should be having sex with a 12-year-old, and I don't care what the genders are of those involved. However, instead of seeing this as a violation, for your boyfriend it's a lovely memory, so let it be. If you have trouble with your facial features, start practicing in the mirror. There surely are times at work when you're saying, "That's a great idea, boss, I'll get right on it," and you're thinking, "Another idiotic request!" but you don't want your face to give you away. You know how to be cordial to an old family friend, so make some brief polite conversation to Humberta Humberta, then walk away.

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Q. Secret Video Camera: I work as a nanny for a nice family. I love children, and the little girl (nearly 2 years old) I care for is a sweetheart. I noticed a few months ago that she started smacking herself in the head. I mentioned this to her parents, who also said they've noticed this and thought it strange. She eventually stopped doing this, so I assumed it was some weird toddler behavior. Then last week I was looking for a blank CD at their place (with permission) to transfer some photos I took of the little girl on my personal camera. I stumbled across a surveillance footage taken of me in their home! I suspect that the parents suspected me of hitting their daughter and recorded me—or maybe they've been recording me this whole time, I don't know. I've always done my best in my job and I feel totally betrayed they would do this. I feel hurt, embarrassed, everything. Should I bring this up with the parents or just find another job?

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A: Of course it's a shock to find out you were monitored, but think of it from your employers' perspective. They are leaving the most precious person in the world to them in your care, and all they have as a guarantee that you're the same responsible person when they're not around is the feeling they get from you, and the behavior of their daughter. Just think if it turned out that their nanny was abusing or neglecting their daughter somehow and they looked back and said: "She was banging herself in the head. How could we have ignored that and been so stupid?" That doesn't mean that finding the nanny-cam doesn't feel like a betrayal. But there are many jobs at which employees computers have some degree of monitoring, or supervisors listen in on phone calls ("This call may be monitored"), or superiors come in and observe.

The great news is that the parents found that you are the wonderful nanny they'd thought you were. Presumably, seeing that they have nothing to worry about, they will not spend all of their free time reviewing what you did during their daughter's free time. Were you to leave, consider that your next employer might have a camera stuck in the tummy of that teddy bear on the top shelf. And you could hardly say to potential employers: "I quit my last job because I found I was being monitored. You would never surreptitiously record me, would you?" I think you should put the discs back, and tell yourself you work for responsible people who've confirmed they've hired a great caretaker for their child.

Q. No, No, No: That is a horrible answer to the woman whose boyfriend had sex with a 30-year-old when he was 12. She sodomized one of her juvenile male relatives. I don't think someone does something this creepy and disgusting only once. Who else is she seducing? Not saying anything just to get along is what allows these creeps to continue to get away with their crimes and seek new victims.

A: I agree this woman is despicable. But unfortunately some situations have no easy resolution. The girlfriend is not going to make anything better by notifying the authorities about the older woman; she will only be ending her relationship. If the girlfriend becomes more serious with the boyfriend, discussing how he was taken advantage of should be a continuing conversation between them. But since in the boyfriend's telling, he pursued the older woman, I don't see how the girlfriend can take any action against the woman now.

Q. In-Laws Hate My Parents: At my wedding three years ago, my father made an awkward, spur-of-the-moment toast. Essentially, he said that it took him a long time to warm up to my husband, and that he wasn't completely sold until a few months before we got married. I understand what he was trying to say—I'm his only daughter, and I'd dated a lot of clunkers before meeting my spouse—but my in-laws were very offended. Actually, I've learned that, years later, they're still offended. My husband revealed that the reason he's turned down all of my "Let's have both families over for Thanksgiving" suggestions is because his family doesn't want to spend any time with mine. He then begged me not to tell my parents the reason. I feel terrible that any possible inter-family relationships have been cut off because my dad is a lousy public speaker. Is this worth addressing? If so, how? Our families live several hundred miles apart, so it's not like we would have to hang out with both of them.

A: It's ridiculous that a few ill-considered remarks are going to earn your parents eternal holiday purgatory. Even if your father was ham-handed, it's an old tradition for the father-of-the bride to view her suitors skeptically. You say as he wended his way through the toast he got to the part about how "Biff" finally won him over. And it's clear that your father spoke up to express his happiness at your union. Your in-laws sound like prigs, and three years is enough punishment. You should prevail on your husband to say that it's time for them to give your father another chance. Eventually there might be grandchildren, and it would be silly to have to require that the two sets of grandparents are never in the room together. I hope your husband is able to take a strong stand and say that this year you two want to try having all the families together for Thanksgiving. If his parents refuse, he should say: "I'm sorry you won't consider coming. We'll miss you this year."

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