Sexy Sex Offender List Causes Outrage

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A piece published in The Houston Press titled “The 10 Hottest Women on the Texas Sex Offenders List” has caused a stir. It included photos and descriptions of ten attractive (and not-so-attractive) female sex offenders in the Lone Star State, along with their crimes.

Many readers were outraged, and Change.org, a prominent social activism website, immediately circulated a petition demanding that the newspaper apologize for “the trivialization of the sexual assault of children and the misguided emphasis on the women's physical appearance.”

While the majority of sex offenders are male, women rape and sexually assault children far more often than people realize. Some cases are famous, like that of Mary Kay Letourneau; other times women rape and kill their child victims, as happened with eight-year-old Sandra Cantu, who was sexually assaulted and dumped in a pond by a neighbor, Melissa Huckaby, in March 2009.

Part of the reason that sexual abuse — especially child sexual abuse — is so hard to combat is that the general public has been misinformed by sensationalized “stranger danger” predator panics. Parents spend their time worrying about strangers with candy and people on sex offender registries instead of focusing on the far greater dangers lurking in their own homes, schools and churches.

Female child molesters and sex offenders are often treated as a joke, especially if the victim is male. Girls are considered violated victims whose innocence has been taken, while boys who have been abused are sometimes considered lucky for the sexual attention.

Journalists and the news media often subtly reinforce the perception that sexual assault by women is less serious than assault by men through biased language, for example referring to a 40-year-old woman who “slept with” and “had an affair with” two 14-year-old boys, while describing a 40-year-old man who “raped” a 14-year-old girl.

The Top 10 list includes a parade of female offenders. Among them: A 36-year-old woman who molested a 13-year-old boy; another woman who sexually abused a toddler; and a 30-year-old woman who sexually assaulted a 12-year-old girl. None of them look like pedophiles or child rapists; they look like your sister, co-worker or bank teller.

And that is exactly the point.

In a follow-up piece titled “The ‘Hot Sex Offenders’ List: An Explanation and Apology,” the author, Richard Connelly, stated: “Last week I spoke to two veteran child-porn prosecutors (who) talked of how child predators don't fit any category — the people they prosecuted included successful lawyers and doctors, as well as unemployed losers. It triggered an idea about how people have a preconceived notion of what dangerous predators ‘always’ look like — slovenly fat guys in T-shirts asking kids if they wanted a ride — and how best to shake that notion up. An item on ‘10 sex offenders who don't look like sex offenders’ might have done the trick, but seemed boring.”

Thus the infamous Top Ten Hottest Female Sex Offender list was born. Connelly wanted to make the point that "normal-looking people, people you could pass any day on the street — or who you might think are ‘hot’ — are capable of monstrous things.”

Readers may not like how that point was made, but it is valid nonetheless.

The Change.org petitioners missed the point of Connelly’s piece, which neither trivialized child sexual abuse nor womens’ appearance, but instead attempted to help parents better protect their children from sexual predators by showing their real faces instead of caricatured stereotypes of ugly, trenchcoated perverts of either gender.

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