An article in the Houston Chronicle today illustrated why it’s so difficult to discuss matters of social equality in our country. There are a lot of thoughts and feelings on both sides of the issue. The Chronicle released a list of what they consider to be the “Ten Hottest Women on the Texas Sex Offenders list.” There are a lot of elements in this story that are disconcerting. The first and foremost is the fact that these are child predators. Not one of the people on that list was guilty of a sex crime with an adult and I think that points out an interesting social more that a lot of people (even in law enforcement) are reluctant to talk about. There are plenty of people that target kids, both male and female, but it seems like only one sex commits sex crimes with people over age 18 and according to sources like this, men are the only culprits.
Now, I’m sure there are a few exceptions as there are with any rule. But, to me at least, the part of this article that is objectionable is the fact that these people went after kids. This has a lot of serious ramifications. Not just for the newspaper, but for the victims. To start off, these were crimes that were committed within the last ten years and the oldest victim was sixteen, while the youngest was just two years old. If that part doesn’t make your stomach turn, I’m not sure what will. Of course, it’s easy to be the judge and jury on these kinds of cases without knowing all the facts and it should be pointed out that we don’t know all the facts. The Texas department of corrections on their website admits that even they don’t know all the facts, but obviously part of the allegations were true as each person on the list is a convicted sex offender.
The broader question, the question that bugs me at least is why do men commit sex crimes (and usually violent sex crimes) on other adults while it seems like women do not have that same tendency? Does sexual orientation play into it? Many of the women on this list were accused of assaulting young girls. Does the gender of the predator exclusively lead to the underlying crime? For instance (and to make this a broader question) would a transgendered woman or man commit the same crime that someone of their original gender would be more likely to commit? If so, why? If not, why not?
Hormones could play into the equation, in fact I’d be surprised if they didn’t. Testosterone plays a role as it certainly seems like the less testosterone one has the less likely they are to commit a violent crime. How about the nature vs. nurture side of the argument? Does the family background of an individual play into the likelihood of a person committing a violent sexual act? What about their role in society? Why do teachers prey on children at a higher rate than the rest of the adult population? Is it simply a matter of what we’re exposed to during the course of a day or is their a deeper, more philosophical question that should be asked?
I am, of course, ignoring the outrage behind the article, not because I don’t feel it’s warranted, but because I believe it detracts from the true purpose of the article. You can argue ad nauseum that this is a sexist article because there would be a huge uproar if a newspaper glorified male sex offenders and I agree with that perception, but I disagree as to why there should be an uproar. Whether or not sex offenders are attractive really doesn’t matter because what the piece does is shed light onto an issue that is rarely talked about in the media. When a man commits a sex crime against a woman it’s normal. When we see this kind of thing on the local news the only thing that’s confusing is why Chris Hansen isn’t there interviewing the men and offering them cookies. When women are committing the same crime we don’t ask ‘where’s the Christina Hansen of this news story?’ We ask, why would a woman commit a sex crime? Even more men would ask ‘why try to get something at a cost when you can go out and get it for free?’ It’s an interesting, but somewhat sexist question to ask.
The idea that women should just go out and sell their bodies to the thousands of men that would love to sleep with them is not only disengenuous, but naiive as well. Just because your experience with women suggests certain behaviorisms to be true does not mean that they are in fact, universal truths. Women have an almost identical longing for sexual intimacy as men, they just approach it differently. Men want the end, women want the means. That is to say that one side enjoys the chase while the other just wants their cake. I think that this article can be an important lesson for our society because it raises important questions about gender and conduct that we should have asked ourselves years ago. My only problem with the article in question is that it does not overtly ask these questions nor does it really hint at them. Instead of taking something that society could learn from and using it as a teaching lesson, the Houston Chronicle has taken a moderately interesting account of behavior and made it perverse and it doesn’t take a journalist to do that sort of thing. Just ask Larry Flynt or Hugh Hefner if you don’t believe me.