“It must be great being a female pedophile!”

Abstract: 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.”

Citation: Zack, Emma, John T. Lang, and Danielle Dirks. 2016. ““It must be great being a female pedophile!”: The nature of public perceptions about female teacher sex offenders” Crime, Media, Culture.

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