Although female sex offenders have received increased scholarly attention in recent years, and have also gained widespread media attention, minimal research has focused specifically on public perceptions of their behavior. This study explores the nature of public perceptions of a group of offenders on which the media often focus—female teachers who assault adolescent male students—by examining reader comments posted on five Huffington Post articles published from November 2010 to November 2013. Using a thematic coding methodology to analyze over 900 online comments, we found that most comments recognize a current double standard in the sentencing process for female teacher sex offenders compared to their male counterparts. Comments also rely on traditional sexual scripts and/or gender role expectations to either acknowledge or deny a victim’s presence. Contrary to existing research that examined public perceptions and found that more punitive attitudes were expressed toward male sex offenders, these results suggest that the public believes in equality in sentencing for all sex offenders, regardless of gender. These results also confirm prior studies that find that the public perceives adolescent male victims of rape by older women “lucky.”
Despite mainstream criminology's burgeoning interest in issues of race, class, and gender, very little scholarship has examined whiteness and its attendant privileges in understanding public discourse on criminal offenders. This paper examines the role of penal spectatorship as a discursive mechanism by which white, female offenders are protected in public spaces by virtue of their racial and gender identity. Using a content analysis of comments posted on the mug shot images of white women on a popular 'mug shot website,' we find that these women are viewed as victims of circumstance deserving of empathy and redemption rather than as criminals. We offer 'white protectionism' as a means by which whites extend privilege and protection to other whites who transverse the boundaries of whiteness through criminality to guard against 'deviant' or 'criminal' designations. These findings add to our understandings of penal spectatorship as yet another tool of white supremacy operating in the Post-Civil Rights era of mass incarceration. scholarship demonstrates that white women offenders are depicted as less culpable and more capable of reform as compared to women of color (). Yet, little is understood of how this privileging is accomplished beyond media coverage. We take up these questions in looking at broader public discourse in the form of online comments in order to understand how white women's offending is perceived, discussed, and reconciled.
scite is a Brooklyn-based startup that helps researchers better discover and understand research articles through Smart Citations–citations that display the context of the citation and describe whether the article provides supporting or contrasting evidence. scite is used by students researchers from around the world and is funded in part by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health.