Home Philosophy Sex Crimes and Sex Offenders: Research and Realities
Exposure to Pornography
Exposure to pornography, especially at an early age, has been proposed as a possible explanation for juvenile sex offending (Zgourides, Monto, & Harris, 1997). In one study, for example, it was found that 90% of one sample had some exposure to pornography (Becker & Stein, 1991). In another study, it was found that 41% of juvenile sex offenders had looked at pornographic magazines, compared to only 16% of non-offenders (Zgourides et al., 1997). It was also found that, for some of the offenders, use of pornographic material occurred right before commission of the sex crime. The researchers speculate that the context of the viewing of the pornography may be an important factor. Juvenile sex offenders may be using pornography as a precursor to a sex crime, whereas a non-offender may be viewing it out of curiosity. Thus far, the finding is relatively consistent: juvenile sex offenders have a higher rate of exposure to pornographic material than non-offenders.
Another researcher has proposed a sex-abuse cycle specific to child abuse. First, the juvenile has a negative self-image, possibly related to upbringing and caused by physical abuse, sexual abuse, and/or other factors, such as a chaotic, violent household (Becker, 2007). Subsequently, the juvenile develops low self-esteem and becomes socially isolated. This leads to poor coping strategies—especially when negative situations occur. The juvenile begins to predict negative reactions from others. This leads to more social isolation and fantasies stemming from lack of power and control. When a triggering event occurs, such as boredom, or a traumatic event, these fantasies can lead to the commission of a sex crime. This reinforces a poor self-image and creates a sex-abuse cycle. Cognitive distortions often facilitate the offending.
An Extension of Antisocial Behavior
From a meta-analysis, researchers noted that adolescent sex crimes could not be explained simply as an extension of antisocial behaviors. It was noted that adolescent sex offenders, compared to adolescent non-sex offenders, have less extensive criminal histories, fewer antisocial peers, and fewer substance-abuse problems. They do appear to have more of an abuse history and more exposure to sexual violence. They also have more atypical sexual interests, anxiety, and low self-esteem when compared to adolescent non-sex offenders (Seto & Lalumiere, 2010).
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