Book cover

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Back cover

"This book will become a kind of marker for historical and social constructionist research on sex abuse. It si original written, and engrossing."

Erich Goode,
State University of New York at Stony Brook

Inside cover

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. Yes as recently as twenty years ago many experts viewed the problem as a far less serious one, declaring that molestation was very rare 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 sex offenses, 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 the sexual abuse of children, the book thus places reactions to the problem in a broad political and cultural context.

Philip Jenkins is Distinguished Professor of History and Religious Studies at Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of many books, including Using Murder: The Social Construction of Serial Homicide, Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Social Crisis, and Hoods and Shirts: The Extreme Right in Pennsylvania.

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