Media Portrayal of Sex Crimes and Cyber Pedophilia
Has the media created a national moral panic on sex crimes and cyber pedophilia? In this brief podcast episode, I read from the report, “Sex Crimes in the Media” (Tanya Serisier, School of Sociology) and the media representations of child sexual abuse.
“The dominant media image of the rapist is a marginal male driven by sexual desire; a dangerous stranger lurking in the bushes (Jewkes, 2015). Entertainment media especially reproduce the psychotic stranger stereotype, with high numbers of violent or homicidal serial rapists featured in genres such as television crime shows (Horeck,2004). This imagery is in stark contrast to the statistical reality that rape is most commonly committed by “normal” men from the same social sphere as, and usually known to, their victims.” – Sex Crimes in the Media (2017)
It’s The Outspoken Offender Podcast.
My hope is to encourage registered citizens, former inmates, and anyone facing stereotypes and social ostracism to move beyond society’s labels.
Welcome to the show.
Welcome to the podcast. I’m The Outspoken Offender. I hope you’re doing well today. This episode of the podcast is about how the media portrays people forced to register. And unfortunately I know this area all too well. When I was arrested in 2006, my story was all over the news. It actually hit national news and it was hard to deal with.
I was portrayed at least in Utah, with the local stations there, KUTV, and Fox 13, and KSL as dangerous and someone creating these websites and all this stuff. And it’s just, some of the things were just twisted and it was inaccurate. And so I wanted to discuss this in more depth, because I know a lot of people, possibly you, had to deal with some type of media coverage and it might not just be during the time of the crime or the trial. It could be after, it could be because you’re on the sex offender registry. So it seems to never end sometimes for some people. I’m going to be reading a report from Tanya Serisier, School of Sociology, Social Policy, and Social Work at Queens University in Belfast.
This was published online January, 2017. I’m going to leave a link in the podcast episode description so you can read this entire study. You can go to my website and find that I’ll be reading the sub section titled “Media Constructions of Pedophiles.”
By the mid 1990s media representations of child sexual abuse became increasingly dominated by the figure of the pedophile, understood as an individual with an incurable and uncontrollable desire for sexual contact with children. While the recovered memory controversy had at least in part focused on incest and abuse in the family, from this point on the danger of child, sexual abuse became firmly located outside of the family and perverted and pathological strangers who were imagined to lurk in parks, near schools, and anywhere else that children congregate.
The combination of extensive media coverage, misrepresentation and extreme moral outrage surrounding pedophilia has led several researchers to describe it as the most significant moral panic of the contemporary era. Released pedophiles have also become a feature of tabloid media reporting at times, connected to protests or vigilante actions in specific communities with many released sex offenders facing difficulties in finding long-term accommodation and employment.
The moral panic that exists around perpetrators of child sexual abuse, misrepresents the realities of child sexual abuse, deflecting fears away from the real sources of the danger within the family and on to pathological strangers in the public sphere. Some commentators argue that this represents a denial and deflection of feminist critiques of the family while others see feminism as complicit in constructing and perpetrating this panic. What is disputed is that the fear of deviant strangers has also had profound effects on many professions that deal with children, such as teachers and medical professionals, and also on the social organization of childhood, particularly in middle-class families. Because of the fear of dangerous strangers, contemporary children are more closely supervised, spend less time outdoors and have a more restricted engagement with the public sphere than at any point previously in history.
These shifts, accompanied by the growth in computer-based leisure technologies, have led to significant Internet usage among children and young people, with it being the only unsupervised leisure time that many children have. This relative lack of supervision has seen public concern and media reporting shift to focus on the dangers of cyber-pedophilia and online grooming. Researchers differ widely in how serious they believe the threat of online sexual abuse and child pornography to be, but there is a relative consensus that it is represented by media as a significant social threat. Representations of cyber-pedophilia continue the pattern of misrepresenting child sexual abuse as predominantly a problem of “stranger danger.”
The fear of cyber-pedophilia has generated calls for harsher policing and greater Internet surveillance, as well as new markets for child protection software. The cultural fascination and revulsion with child sexual abuse has also intersected with popular punitiveness to produce demands for public exposure and shaming. Perhaps the most extreme example of this was the highly controversial and now-defunct U.S. reality television program To Catch a Predator, which screened on NBC from 2004–2007. The show was a financial and investigative alliance between the network, local law enforcement, and the online volunteer organization “Perverted Justice,” whose members engage in “sting” operations, posing as children and seeking to identify and entrap online child sex offenders. The show would set up a camera-equipped house that potential perpetrators would be invited to before being confronted by the show’s host and dramatically arrested by local law enforcement. Described as “public humiliation” for entertainment, the show was eventually canceled after being linked to one suicide.
As I read that section of the report, one thing really sticks out in my mind and perhaps yours. The media does shift the focus perhaps on where the danger does lie. That’s outside the home…for the most part. In addition, the moral panic. There are a lot of researchers and doctors and psychologists and sociologists believe that we are in the middle of this moral panic about sex offenders and pedophiles. And it’s been going on for a while. That’s another thing that I, at least I have pulled out from that section of the report.
So again, I’m going to leave that link to the full report. It’s much longer. It’s called “Sex Crimes in The Media.” Thank you very much for listening to this episode of The Outspoken Offender podcast. And don’t forget, I do have a YouTube channel. If you’d like to visit me there and subscribe to the channel, just search for The Outspoken Offender on YouTube.
Have a great day.
It’s The Outspoken Offender Podcast. My hope is to encourage registered citizens, former inmates, and anyone facing stereotypes and social ostracism to move beyond society’s labels, Thanks for listening to the podcast. I’m The Outspoken Offender. You can find me on YouTube and Twitter. Remember, you are not your label.