Thirty-one-year-old Patricia Dye pretended to be a fourteen-year-old boy and dated two underage girls. She's getting six months in jail — but would the punishment be worse if she were a man?
According to CBS, Dye posed as "Matt Abrams" to have sex with a sixteen-year-old girl, and the Daily Mail says she dated at least one other teen. Her ruse was discovered when the sixteen-year-old ran away from home to stay in a hotel with her. She's now been charged with sexual imposition, attempted sexual imposition and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and will serve six months in jail. She will also have to register as a sex offender.
Commenters at the Daily Mail seem to find the punishment surprisingly light, and it's true that pretending to be a teenager in order to have sex with minors is a pretty shocking act. But the age of consent in Ohio, where the crimes took place, is 16, so it appears Dye didn't commit statutory rape. Ohio law defines "sexual imposition" in a variety of ways, but the one that seems to apply here is "sexual contact" wherein "the offender knows that the other person's, or one of the other person's, ability to appraise the nature of or control the offender's or touching person's conduct is substantially impaired." In this case, the teen's ability to appraise the nature of sex was pretty obviously impaired by Dye's subterfuge — but sexual imposition is a misdemeanor, not a felony, hence the relatively short sentence.
Still, it's worth asking if a man in Dye's position would have received harsher treatment. Last year, a 31-year-old Arizona man faced criminal charges for posing as a twelve-year-old boy. He got over seventy years in prison — but his crimes also included possessing child porn and a count of assault for grabbing a girl's buttocks "with the intent to injure, insult or provoke." While his case clearly isn't a direct comparison, it does seem that we sometimes take sex crimes by women less seriously than those committed by men. But they can clearly be very serious indeed, and anyone still in doubt about this should listen to Dye's victim's statement: "I'm even scared to walk my dog. I used to trust people. Now I don't."