At the end of last month, The New York Times ran an article entitled “Punishment That Doesn’t Fit the Crime” discussing juvenile sex crimes. The article goes on to say that 24,000 youth make up 800,000 of registered sex offenders, with more than one-third of that youth aged 12 to 14, arguably too young to know better, or as one now-successful youth who was sexually abused pointed out, “I acted out what was done to me”. Further, 1%-7% of these 24,000 end up committing a sex crime again (compared to 13% of adult offenders), but continue to be on the states’ registered sex offenders list, sometimes for up to fifteen years, impacting their personal lives for quite a long time.
There was another related article that I read some time ago, entitled, “Foucault, Feminism, and Sex Crimes“. The article examines a controversial opinion of popular philosopher and social theorist Michel Foucault’s: that cases of rape should be regarded solely as crimes of violence rather than sex crimes, and that consensual sex between adults and minors should be legal. I think most of the theories and theorists the author uses to examine this opinion, both by using Foucault’s works as well as Foucauldian feminists, as well as feminists critical to Foucault, are particularly fruitful; even if the reader “picks a side”, I still think the reader will get a fuller understanding of sexuality, identity, and history than if they had totally ignored this article in the first place, and an understanding through experiences of the marginalized that are conducive to social change in the “right” direction, particularly due to both “sides” conceptualizing sexuality and identity as socially constructed. The concluding sentence is posted below (though I don’t think it’s a “spoiler”, I think this summarizes better than the abstract):
The Foucauldian-feminist approach to sex crimes that I am advocating takes seriously Foucault’s analyses of the disciplinary functions of the prison and of the human sciences as these are applied to and construct criminality and sexuality today. It also takes seriously the needs and experiences of victims, without assuming that these are ahistorical. Consequently, this approach would strategize ways of responding to sex crimes that avoid the pitfalls of the prison and its expert discourses, as these have been imposed on both offenders and victims, without dismissing the gravity of either victimization or crime. The result would be an approach to sex crimes as contingent phenomena structured by and arising from a social context that can be changed.
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