This chapter provides a framework for understanding the place sex offenders have in the current North American cultural imagination.
This chapter argues that sex offenders in the United States are subjected to social violence far in excess of the dangers they pose. This results from policies embodied in law that dehumanize and depersonalize sexual offenders. Sexual offenders are deemed unworthy of basic human rights, and since they are viewed as morally diseased, dangerous individuals, they must be quarantined from those who are "normal." This chapter briefly reviews the history of sexual offender policy, with attention to the most recent efforts to prevent sexual offending by drawing a sharp line between "us" and "them." This is followed by an analysis of the "monster" metaphor as applied to sexual offenders, with the aim of identifying the sources of the social hysteria over sexual offending and restoring humanity to the offender. Another section of the chapter portrays America's response to sexual offenders as a "moral panic," defined as a "wave of irrational public fear" that occurs when the official reaction to a person, group, or series of events is disproportionate to the actual threat. One of the chapter's sections explains the concept of "scapegoating" as it refers to American society's reaction to sexual offenders. Just as the biblical goat was exiled from the community as the bearer of the sins of the people, so sexual offenders face rejection and isolation from the communities into which they are released. Sex offender community notification policies and civil commitment may initially be a well-meaning effort to keep offenders from reoffending, but they do this through shaming and isolating sexual offenders from the rest of society. The result is an expulsion that is victimization that undermines rehabilitation. 45 references
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