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A frying pan for a cradle-snatcher

Did you feel uneasy when you saw 33-year old Tracey Whalin in chains, awaiting a possible sentence of 20 years for having sex with her son's 14-year-old friend, Sean Kinsella? I think a woman like that ought to be told that she's foolish for not being discreet and have her knuckles rapped for being so extremely naughty. But criminalised? No.

It's long been a tradition for young boys to get their first sexual experiences from an older woman. Sean cannot and is not the first boy to get his first sexual experience from the mother of a schoolfriend. Until recently, some fathers of boys who were sexually mature would say: "Now's the time to make you a man, my boy," and haul him off to some middle-aged prostitute to discover the facts of life. Indeed even John Major got off with a mature lady from across the road when he was a young man. But no one ever condemned her.

In the film The Graduate, a voice was never raised about the propriety of Dustin Hoffman getting laid by Mrs Robinson. Fourteen-year-old boys often have sex with their contemporaries and, though it's disapproved of, such cases rarely get to court, despite the fact that both parties are minors. Latest statistics show that over a quarter of men have their first sexual experience before the age of 16.

Mrs Whalin's greatest sin was in taking the boy away from his family - a move which he initiated, according to her. But, although it may be right for a man of 50 to be charged with having sex with a girl of nine, should the same laws be applied to an older woman taking advantage of a 14-year-old boy. Girls are more vulnerable; they can get pregnant, and their pregnancy may well ruin their lives. But whether a boy's exploits - which are by their nature active rather than passive - with an older woman would ruin his life is another thing. Not so long ago we would have tittered at such an escapade. Good for him to have sex so young, he must be a bit of a stud; good for her to have got her hands on a lusty kid, lucky woman.

In his song "Maggie May", Rod Stewart sang of just such a situation. "Wake up Maggie ... It's late September and I really should be back at school/I know I keep you amused/But I feel I'm being used." But it doesn't sound, from his reaction, that Sean felt like that at all. He just hated the fuss it all caused.

Had my 14-year-old son been captivated by an older woman, I would have hoped it was just a phase, which it would have been. If it had gone on for longer than a year, I might have gone around to her house and sorted it all out with a few yells, threats and a frying pan. Only as a last resort would I have involved the police, and I don't think it would have come to that.

The whole affair has been blown out of proportion, and the result is that most of us feel sympathy with poor Mrs Whalin, when what she really deserves is a very loud "Tsk! Tsk!"