August 20, 2010

Blast from the past: "Sex offender myths"

Amidst all the hysteria over sex offending these days, stumbling across this list from 1955 gave me an eerie sense of deja vu. The author, a prominent sociologist, wrote his list of 11 "popular myths about the sex offender" during the zenith of the last sex panic, the Sexual Psychopath Era of the 1930s-1950s. Here are his myths*:

  1. That tens of thousands of homosexual sex offenders stalk the land.
  2. That the victims of sex attack are 'ruined for life.'
  3. That sex offenders are usually recidivists.
  4. That the minor sex offenders, if unchecked, progress to more serious types of crime.
  5. That it is possible to predict the danger of serious crimes by sexual deviance.
  6. That 'sex psychopathy' or sex deviation is a clinical entity.
  7. That these individuals are lustful and oversexed.
  8. That reasonably effective treatment methods to cure deviant sex offenders are known and employed.
  9. That the sex control laws passed recently are getting at the brutal and vicious sex criminal and should be adopted generally to wipe out sex crime.
  10. That civil adjudication of the sexual deviant in indeterminate commitment to a mental hospital is similar to our handling of the insane and therefore human liberties and due process are not involved.
  11. That the sex problem can be solved merely by passing a new law on it.
As a wise poet and philosopher wrote way back when, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Kind of depressing that many in the sex offender civil commitment industry seem oblivious to 20th century history, in which an almost identical approach was vigorously pursued, only to be abandoned as an abysmal failure.

*Paul W. Tappan was a prominent sociology professor at New York University, an attorney, and a consultant to the New Jersey Commission on the Habitual Sex Offender. He published widely on criminology and corrections topics during the 1940s-1960s. "Some myths about the sex offender" was published in the June 1955 issue of Federal Probation. Robert Sadoff, a Temple University psychiatrist, republished them in a 1966 article, "Psychiatric views of the Sexual Psychopath statutes."


Anonymous said...

How discouraging to confront so literally the proof that we have learned nothing from our past. Not satisfied to just repeat the exact same mistakes, we are bent on making them bigger and more horrific. Thank you, Dr. Franklin, for being one voice of reason in a world once again gone mad.
Shelomith Stow

jedson said...

This is an excellent and accurate list. What is missing,unless I didn't see the whole article, is data that show that these are myths. Such data does exist. Here is a page that is similar (though maybe not as complete) that does cite some supporting data they anyone can access: < >

FpsY said...

From two large scale Australian studies on adolescent sexual offences, indicated that it was common for adolescentsto be chargedwith further non sexual offences and rare for further sexual offences.

Suggesting that the majority of cases of sexual assault involving adolescents are more likely to stem from broader social deviance, rather than psychosexual disorders.

The term "child sex offender" and paedophile are not synonymous, a point which is lost on the mainstream media and policy makers.

Anonymous said...

I am sure we all know the true and real sex myths (At least I hope we all know the real and true sex myths by now.)
1. That the major majority of all sex offenders knew their victim very well. Infact almost 98 percent were a family member. NOT! some stranger jumping out of the bushes.
2. That the major majority of all sex crimes being committed are NOT! being committed by registered sex offenders.
3. That the number of sex crimes being committed per year are going down NOT!up.
4.That sex therapy and sexual rehab. IS! working.
5. That the most dangerous sex offenders termed Sexual Violent Predator (SVP)and serial pedophiles are only 5 percent of all sexual offenders.
6. That the major majority of all sex offenses being committed is... a one time with one conviction of a person well known to the victim,in the home of the victim,with the victim being touched,groped,felt,or fondelled, with the victim being of a person under 14 but over the age of 10 without the intent to use any force, fear, violence, injury, or threats, without the offender being sent to a state prison but with the offender being charged with a felony conviction.
7.That the number of victims per offender is a great deal less than that reported by our government and the media.
8.That a sex crime being committed by a stranger and ending with a death or severe injury are very rare as only being 1 percent of all sex crimes being committed.
9.That the number of registered sex offenders repeating another sex crime is much less than being reported by our govermment and the media and the major majority was before the first three(3) years of parole or probation (around 13 percent.)
10.That the number of registered offenders reoffending with another type of crime other than a sex crime within their lifetime (Drunk in public,DUI,theft etc.)is 25 to 47 percent and this is not to be thought as a repeat crime as being reported by our government and the media.
11. That with new science(static 99 etc.) we are now able to predect to a great majority of thoes persons who committed a sex crime who are a true and present danger to the genertal public as well as thoes persons who are NOT! a danger to the general public.