Moral Panic / Edition 1

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Overview

It is commonly acknowledged that sexual abuse of children is a grave and pervasive problem and that child molesters are predators who compulsively repeat their crimes and have little hope of cure. Yet as recently as twenty years ago many experts viewed the problem far less seriously, declaring that molestation was a very rare offense and that molesters were merely confused individuals unlikely to repeat their offenses. Over the past century, opinion has fluctuated between these radically different perspectives. This timely book traces shifting social responses to adult sexual contacts with children, whether this involves molestation by strangers or incestuous acts by family members. The book explores how and why concern about the sexual offender has fluctuated in North America since the late nineteenth century.

Philip Jenkins argues that all concepts of sex offenders and offenses are subject to social, political, and ideological influences and that no particular view of offenders represents an unchanging objective reality. He examines the various groups (including mass media) who have been active in promoting particular constructions of the emerging problem, the impact of public attitudes on judicial and legislative responses to these crimes, and the ways in which demographic change, gender politics, and morality campaigns have shaped public opinion. While not minimizing sexual abuse of children, the book thus places reactions to the problem in a broad political and cultural context.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Alarm over threats of child sexual abuse has not always been as widespread as it is today. Periods of heightened concern have been followed by troughs of neglect, as in the 1920s and 1960s. Jenkins (history and religious studies, Pennsylvania State Univ.; Pedophiles and Priests, Oxford Univ., 1996) discusses the social, political, and ideological factors that have influenced public opinion about sexual crimes, both real and imagined. Denying that any particular view of sex offenders reflects a static, objective reality, he concludes that "Pedophiles represent a very minor component of the real sexual issues faced by children." Observing the panicked responses to specific cases, such as the murders of Polly Klaas and Megan Kanka and the McMartin Preschool prosecution, Jenkins posits the paradox that children statistically have more to fear from family and neighbors than from strangers. His well-researched study of a controversial subject is recommended for scholarly collections on child abuse and sex offenders.--Gregor A. Preston, formerly with Univ. of California Lib., Davis
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300109634
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 316
  • Sales rank: 1,039,106
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Note on Usage
1 Creating Facts 1
2 Constructing Sex Crime, 1890-1934 20
3 The Age of the Sex Psychopath, 1935-1957 49
4 The Sex Psychopath Statutes 75
5 The Liberal Era, 1958-1976 94
6 The Child Abuse Revolution, 1976-1986 118
7 Child Pornography and Pedophile Rings 145
8 The Road to Hell: Ritual Abuse and Recovered Memory 164
9 Full Circle: The Return of the Sexual Predator in the 1990s 189
10 A Cycle of Panic 215
List of Abbreviations 239
Notes 241
Index 293
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