On “Sex Offenders”

No one likes a sex offender- and there are a whole collection of state and federal laws that indicate as much, ranging from stiff sentences to restrictions on where such registered offenders can live. Fine. That doesn’t bother me. I can understand society’s interest in protecting, in particular, children, from certain types of  sex offenders who show a depressing rate of recidivism. As a result of this deep and legitimate concern, however, our collection of sex offender laws have become draconian and self-defeating. They’ve become Draconian because they have been extended to cover “crimes”  that either should not be crimes in the first place or, even if they merit prohibition, the perps are by no means “sex offenders” (in any way outside of the ridiculously broad statutory definition). When you find out that someone is a “sex offender”, what is your immediate reaction? Mine, at least until recently, was a minor level of revulsion followed by a general desire not to associate with them. Be careful, though, because you might be a sex offender if….

  • You might be a sex offender if… you ever paid for a prostitute in New York

  • You might be a sex offender if… you use a stolen credit card to hire a stripper in New York

  • You might be a sex offender if… You had sex with a teenager while you were a teen yourself

  • You might be a sex offender if… you ever got drunk at a party and videotaped yourself having
    sex with your teenage girlfriend

  • You might be a sex offender if… you have ever given your kids too much information when giving
    “the birds and the bees” speech

And the list goes on. See what I mean about self-defeating? If we truly want the designation to have any shaming power, we must restrict its use to those offenses that are actually offensive. In a fury to be “tougher on sex crimes” than everyone else, politicians surely are easy targets for those with an unhealthy concern about mutual oral sex between teenagers and as a result we have people permanently branded with a scarlet letter that forbids them from living in certain areas, certainly damages their employment prospects and embarrasses them in front of a public that still has in their mind a conception of a sex offender as a morally repulsive person. It’s a damned shame.


One response to “On “Sex Offenders”

  1. You’re a sex offender if you’ve ever payed for a prostitute? Uh oh.

    I thought it was like a fine or something.

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