The Sexual Offenses
By Herbert A. Bloch and Gilbert Geis
Sexual offenses clearly point up many of the shortcomings of broad classifications of
illegal behavior. The general category of "sexual offenses" includes some forms of behavior
which are almost universally regarded as serious breaches of the social order, others which
are but mild deviations from sanctioned behavior, and still others which, while outlawed,
are engaged in by a large majority of the adult members of our society.
This is but one of the unique aspects of sexual offenses. Sexual behavior in our society
and many other societies represents one of the most emotion-laden areas of living.
Preconceptions and misconceptions concerning sex behavior abound. We are often simultaneously
attracted and repelled by different aspects of sexual behavior. Deep and sensitive feelings
about sexual behavior often serve to shunt aside dispassionate consideration of its dynamics.
The result has been that much misinformation surrounds sexual offenses, misinformation which
has led to distortions in dealing with sex offenders as public attitudes become translated
into public policy.
In addition to emotional biases which handicap scientific consideration of sex offenses is
the general difficulty of delineating clearly the bounds of these offenses and the specific
character of acts which fall within such bounds. The difficulty of characterizing with
precision those acts which are sexual offenses is not one confined only to criminologists.
Warden Clinton Duffy relates the story of a San Quentin inmate who claimed that he was a sex
offender. Duffy asked for details on the crime. "I gave a woman a black silk nightgown," the
inmate said. "But that's not a sex offense," Duffy replied. "Yes, it was," the prisoner insisted. "After I gave it to her she ran out on me and went with some other guy. When I asked, for the nightgown back, she wouldn't give it to me."
"But I still don't see -," the warden interposed.
"Well, Warden," he said, "that's when I bumped her off."
Some psychiatrists have insisted that all human behavior can be traced to a sexual base, and
by obvious extension, therefore, that all criminal behavior can be tied to sexual or libidinal
sources. Thus, an automobile driver is said to exceed the speed limits because such behavior
provides him with sexual satisfaction, and a murderer is claimed to dispatch his victim for
reasons directly concerned with unresolved sexual conflicts. The denominator of such a
position apparently is that all human action is meaningful in terms of some attempt to
achieve emotional satisfaction. If all emotional satisfaction is by definition regarded as
sexual in nature then it becomes reasonable to claim that all crimes are sexual crimes, but
this position hardly sheds any real light on the distinctive nature of overtly sexual
Nonetheless, an approach to sex crimes which confines itself only to acts that are generally
considered to fall into this category must admit that there are additional crimes which,
while not usually considered sex crimes, obviously have deep-lying sexual implications.
William Heirens, now confined to the Illinois State Penitentiary, never committed an act
which might formally be considered a sex crime. Yet in the course of his activities Heirens
took part in more than 300 burglaries and admitted receiving tremendous sexual satisfaction
merely from entering strange residences. In addition, when interrupted in the course of
burglary, he three times killed the females he encountered, and on each occasion spent
considerable time afterwards carefully washing the bodies of his victims. It was Heirens,
also, who left the strange message, written with lipstick in large letters on a living-room
wall where he had just murdered a woman:
CATCH ME BEFORE I KILL MORE, I CANNOT HELP MYSELF.
No one can
reasonably dispute the lightly-camouflaged sexual meanings in many of Heirens' acts.
Sexual offenses can be broken down into a number of types. One major category includes acts
in which there is violent behavior directed toward a sexual object, such as in rape. Another
category embraces offenses in which at least the victim of the act is a minor. Such offenses
are usually classified under the broad heading of pedophilia, and also include a type of
criminal behavior known as statutory rape, which involves sexual intercourse by a male with
a female who is under the legal age of consent, generally eighteen years in the United States.
A third group includes offenses which are regarded as repugnant to the moral feelings of the
community, acts such as several forms of sodomy, known more generally as "offenses against
nature," some types of incest, as well as exhibitionism, and voyeurism (the last also known
as "peeping-tom" behavior). Each of these categories admits of many variations in the
characteristics of the participants, the dynamics of the activity, and the particular forms
the behavior takes, and we shall consider each of them in more detail later in this chapter.
Sex and the individual
Within the limits of their physical characteristics, human beings are capable of any type of
sexual activity. It remains to be shown with greater precision how cultural conditions blend
with genetic, physiological, and morphological traits to induce an individual to participate
in certain types of sexual activity and to provide him with adequate incentive to continue
in such behavior.
Much philosophical and legal debate concerning sexual activity centers about acceptable
definitions of the word normal. Our society outlaws many sexual activities on the ground that
they constitute abnormal behavior. Acceptance of one or another definition of normality leads
to diverse interpretations of the behavior being judged. Some persons maintain that sexual
acts that result in reproduction constitute the only type of normal sexual behavior. By this
criterion pre-marital petting and various post-marital sexual techniques are defined as
abnormal. Other persons insist that normal and abnormal can best be defined by reference to
theological writings and proscriptions. Considerable controversy, however, ensues concerning
the extent to which theological doctrines should be translated into criminal codes solely on
the basis of the theological doctrine, without additional social criteria to support the law.
It is sometimes maintained that the enactment of theological concepts into law unjustly forces
individuals who do not accept such concepts to refrain from activities which they might
regard as moral and which have not been shown to injure the society except as an affront to
particular religious groups. A contrary view maintains that, as a traditionally Christian
nation, we have a duty to insist on at least minimum standards of Christian morality from all
members of the society.
Our legal codes take no consistent stand on this problem. Some acts, such as homosexuality
and some forms of sodomy, are outlawed primarily because they are offensive to theological
precepts; in other cases, behavior which is condemned in the Judeo-Christian religions
(masturbation, for example) is ignored by our laws. Adultery, too, a heinous religious sin,
is not outlawed by a number of American states, and but a handful of jurisdictions have
statutes punishing fornication, or sexual relations between unmarried persons, though this
form of behavior has always been regarded as a serious breach of religious morality. This
morality is, in fact, almost uniquely a characteristic of societies such as ours for, as
Kluclchohn points out, not more than 5 per cent of the world's population condemns fornication
and, in this respect, "our sexual code is even more of an ethnological curiosity than is
cannibalism or the couvade."
A third position regarding the judgment of normality concentrates on comparisons between
behavior in humans and behavior in infra-human species. The assumption implicit in this
approach is that forms of sexual conduct found, for instance, among chimpanzees are "normal"
forms of behavior which have only come to be labeled as "perverted" through social
interpretations. Somewhat similar to this approach is that which examines behavior from a
cross-cultural perspective. Proponents of this view maintain that if societies can be found
in which all or most members engage in certain forms of sexual behavior then logic would be
stretched unreasonably by defining such behavior as "abnormal" for the human species.
All of the foregoing points of view compete for acceptance in determinations of the form of
sexual behavior which shall or shall not be legally tolerated. As noted, American society has
reacted with various compromise approaches, rather inconsistent in nature. We have
traditionally shown a tendency to reflect, though belatedly, variations in sexual mores by
alterations in laws and even more by a failure to enforce statutory prohibitions against
certain forms of sexual behavior once these forms are no longer offensive to the moral
feelings of the community.
Rape represents in our society the most serious of the sexual offenses and, in fact, judged
by penalties prescribed, the most serious of all criminal offenses with the exception of
murder. Conviction on a forcible rape charge carries the death penalty in three states —
Arkansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina — while fifteen other states punish rape with either
death or life imprisonment. Several persons are usually executed each year in the United
States for rape. It should be noted, however, that this penalty is almost always leveled
only in cases of miscegenous rape, that is, rape offenses by Negro males against Caucasian
females. Cross-cultural material shows that social sanctions against rape are virtually
universal. "Sexual outlet through violence is approved only in a few societies," Kluckhohn
notes, "and under exceptional circumstances." There are some societies in which rape is
virtually unknown. The Arapesh, for instance, according to Margaret Mead, know nothing of
rape "beyond the fact that it is the unpleasant custom of the Nugum people to the southeast
of them." Arapesh people, Mead reports, do not have any conception of male nature which would
make rape understandable to them.
Legally, rape is defined as sexual intercourse by a male with a woman other than his wife,
by force and without consent. American law takes the often-reiterated viewpoint that "the
slightest penetration" constitutes sexual intercourse within the meaning of rape. Consent
cannot legally be given by women who are insane, mentally incompetent, or insensible at the
time of the act because of intoxication, narcotic stupor, or similar indispositions. Some
criticism has been leveled against these last restrictions because they fail to take account
of varying culpability as, for instance, in cases in which the female willingly produces the
state of intoxication through her own voluntary behavior. In common law, a male under the age
of fourteen was considered legally incapable of committing rape, and this provision still
applies in Britain, but many American jurisdictions no longer place a specific age
limitation on the offender.
There is much incorrect information surrounding the extent of rape offenses, some of it
apparently promulgated in attempts to frighten females into thinking of themselves as
potential victims. Such scare literature has sometimes led to unintelligent treatment of
individual sex offenders who are more disturbed than dangerous. While forcible rape, in its
true form, must be considered a violent, explosive act, containing potentialities for serious
individual and social harm, the number of such acts is generally widely overestimated.
Sutherland, tabulating national reports of female murders in the years 1930, 1935, and 1940,
found that there were 324 females killed in those years. Only 17 deaths were reported as
involving rape or suspicion of rape. Nearly 60 per cent of the murders of females were
committed by relatives or intimate associates, and in one of the three years surveyed, as
many women were murdered by policemen as by so-called "sex fiends." Interpreting these
findings, some persons have made the facetious observation that the American female is
actually safer on a dark street than in her own kitchen.
Few attempts have been made to delineate clearly the various types of forcible rape offenses
and the characteristics of the individuals involved in them. Rape may be the outgrowth, for
instance, of a relationship between individuals who are well known to each other, the offense
representing the culmination of an emotional entanglement rather than a totally unprovoked
attack on a female by a stranger. In an attempt to take into account the analytical variation
between this and other forms of rape, Guttmacher has divided rapists into three categories:
(a) those in whom the assault is an explosive expression of pent-up sexual impulse, a type
whom Guttmacher labels as the "true sex offender"; (b) sadistic rapists, those who want to
injure the victim (Guttmacher believes that the acts of persons in this group are basically
sexual in origin. Masculine sexual activity is aggressive and has within it socially modified
sadistic elements, he notes, and in sadistic rapists these elements become exaggerated until
they dominate the picture and culminate in a sexual attack); and (c) aggressive criminals.
Guttmacher does not consider this group true sex offenders, but, rather, criminals who are
out to "pillage and rob" and for whom rape is "apparently just . . . another act of
plunder." Guttmacher would probably grant that there is considerable blurring among the
three types. Certainly, it is evident that additional research is required to establish
the validity of his categories and to document further the etiological portraits of
individuals who might fit into each of them.
Most attempts to measure the extent of rape in our society have involved projections from
figures reported by police forces throughout the nation to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In I960, the F.B.I. received reports of nearly 7000 rape cases, and estimated the actual
number to be near 20,000. It is not clear how many offenders included in the estimate of
20,000 were allowed to plead guilty to lesser offenses (a prevalent practice) and how many
actually represent unreported cases. Haines has maintained that only one out of twenty rape
cases is reported to the police, which would raise the number of offenses committed to about
140,000 yearly. However, we cannot rely too much either on the reported figures or on those
arrived at by extrapolation. Many rape offenses which are reported do not represent real
crimes but rather are charges leveled for purposes of blackmail or to save a reputation. In
addition, it is well-known that reports to the police of alleged rape offenses tend to
increase greatly after widespread newspaper publicity concerning any notorious sexual crime,
though subsequent checking proves that many of these reports are totally unfounded. Also, it
can never be determined accurately how many rape cases involve real resistance to the attack
and in how many instances the resistance was merely token, and the criminal charge a
second-thought. Sutherland has maintained that "forcible rape is practically impossible
unless the female is practically unconscious," a viewpoint which has received general support
both from anthropologists and medical authorities, though, on the other hand, acquiescence
through fear tends to be disregarded in such statements. Ploscowe has called for a tightening
of the laws on rape to demand more rigid proof of serious resistance, though he grants that
courts and juries often temper the elements of possible injustice that are found in the
Analysis of the prior criminal records of rape offenders reveals that rapists show no
significant history of previous, less violent sexual offenses — indecent exposure, for
example. Among the thirty-six most serious sex offenders he encountered as chief medical
officer for the Baltimore courts, Guttmacher found only one who had previously been involved
in serious sex difficulty. These findings lead to one of the most significant conclusions
concerning sex offenders in general: The sex offender does not progress from less serious to
more serious offenses. "Progress is exceptional," Tappan has noted, while a Michigan study on
sex offenders underlines the same point: "There is no evidence that sex offenders in general
progress in any significant numbers . . . from sex misdemeanors to sex felonies." The
explanation for lack of progression in offense lies in the fact that sex offenses are
undertaken to satisfy particular desires, and to the extent that the offenses do in fact
serve their purpose the actor will persist in the same pattern or a pattern closely related
to it in terms of its basic dynamics.
In addition to research conclusions which show that rapists have not graduated from less
serious offenses to this more serious one, other studies disclose that rapists are more
likely to have prior criminal records for nonsexual offenses — in particular, for robbery and
burglary — than for sex offenses. Also, among all sex offenders, rapists are the least likely
to have any prior criminal records. Of 250 sex offenders studied at the Diagnostic Center in
New Jersey, forcible rapists constituted 3.2 per cent of the offenders, but those with
previous records constituted only 1.3 per cent of the total number of inmates with previous
Youthful offenders are particularly prevalent among persons convicted of forcible rape.
Hirning found that 80 per cent of all offenders sentenced for forcible rape in New York City
during the 1930-1939 period were under the age of thirty-one, and none was past sixty. Only 6
per cent of the rapists studied by Guttmacher were past the age of thirty, and Frankel
reported that forcible rape seemed to be committed most frequently by persons under the age
of twenty-five years and to decrease gradually with advancing age. Frosch and Bromberg sum up
the available research reports with the generalization that "offenses necessitating force
involve younger offenders."
Partly because of their concentration among younger persons, the majority of rapists are
unmarried. This item obviously relates in some cases to a concomitant lack of available
sexual partners. Also entwined in this etiological context are the characteristics of the
offender which have kept him from being married; these, in turn, may aid in explaining his
rape offense. In his study of rapists in the Wisconsin prison population, for instance,
Gillin found that many of them had physical disabilities. Gillin believed these handicaps
constituted important factors in their failure to make morally and socially sanctioned sex
In all categories of sexual violations, including forcible rape, the number of Caucasian
offenders is disproportionately high. This phenomenon is generally interpreted as an outcome
of the more stringent social prohibitions placed on sexual behavior in general among
Caucasian groups, though there is some suspicion that the records may not accurately reflect
the extent of the behavior among racial groups. Gutt-macher states categorically that "the
Negro criminal is not primarily a sexual criminal" and also notes that "the native white
American male is predominant among sex offenders," particularly in contrast to foreign-born
males in the United States, who manifest a low rate of sexual offenses. Guttmacher has also
noted a higher proportion of Catholics among sex offenders than of persons from other
religious backgrounds, and he relates this finding tentatively to the "suppressive attitude
of the Catholic church toward sexual expression."
Other correlations have also been drawn between such social items as economic conditions and
the amount of rape. In one such singular attempt, Von Hentig advanced the theory that in
essence rape represents a crime against property. He claims that rape offenses — as well as
marriage rates — increase in periods of prosperity and he believes that the two phenomena are
related to a single root cause, "an upsurge in sexuality in such periods," an upsurge which
seeks satisfaction usually in a legal way, but sometimes in an unlawful manner.
Karpman has observed that rapists manifest a high number of cases of post-encephalitis brain
damage. His implication is that encephalitis infections, infections which affect brain cells
and, particularly among younger persons, can sometimes lead to personality disturbances, are
directly related to subsequent rape offenses. This implied relationship between
post-encephalitis and criminal behavior constitutes one of the more controversial areas in
criminal theory, since it challenges the theoretical belief that all criminal behavior is the
outcome of learning and associational processes.
The case for post-encephalitis as a causative factor relies upon a considerable number of
histories of individuals who prior to the onset of the encephalitis syndrome were apparently
extremely well-adjusted and law-abiding and then subsequent to the attack erupted into a wide
range of uninhibited and criminal behaviors. Caryl Chessman, executed in California after a
notorious delay, claimed to have suffered as a child from encephalitis. Levy has reported on
one hundred delinquents, all post-encephalitis cases, whom he describes as "overactive,
restless, with short attention and concentration spans, unpredictable, acting before thinking,
destructive, and usually not showing any remorse and not learning by experience." Lewis,
discussing arson, maintains that "encephalitis assumes the foremost place as a precipitating
factor with the juvenile and post-adolescent incendiaries and their largest number are
dangerous pyro-maniacs," while Abrahamsen insists that in a small number of cases, including
among them persons who have acquired a disease such as encephalitis, the label "born
criminal" is of validity.
Sutherland, on the other hand, maintains that while the case for encephalitis as a causal
factor appears to be a strong one, the relationship between the disorder and crime is by no
means as direct as it might at first seem to be. He offers three possible explanations for
the association between encephalitis and juvenile crime, all of which involve social
learning. First, there is the direct physiological explanation that the lesions in the central
nervous system produce irritability and reduce efficiency and inhibitions, and consequently
the child acts impulsively. These effects may then persist beyond the acute stage of the
disease, Sutherland points out, because of habit formation. A second explanation is that the
inferiority resulting from the disorder lowers the child's status, and social criticism and
ostracism, such as that from teachers and parents, cause the child to do less well than
previously, which "drives the child desperate." A third possible explanation offered by
Sutherland is that the encephalitis patient who has subsequent behavior problems comes in
general from a family with other difficulties, such as extreme poverty and mental illness.
These explanations, standing as hypotheses, need considerable further investigation, as does
the entire area of scientific problems relating to brain injury and criminal behavior.
Sexual intercourse by a male with a female under a specified legal age constitutes the crime
of statutory or consensual rape. It is irrelevant whether or not the male is actually aware
of the girl's true age, and equally irrelevant that he might have been misled by the girl to
believe that she was above the age of consent. There have been cases of males who were
prosecuted for statutory rape for having engaged in sexual relations with a professional
prostitute when the girl was under the age of consent. The age specified by law for consent
varies throughout the United States, though it has now risen considerably above the ten- and
twelve-year-old limits formerly part of the English common law. In the United States, the
lowest age is fourteen, in Georgia, and the highest, twenty-one, in Tennessee. Most states
use the age of eighteen, and it is noteworthy that in many jurisdictions the legal age of
consent to sexual relations is well above the legal age at which a girl may be married. In
fact, it is possible in most states for a man to be prosecuted for statutory rape if he
engages in a sexual relationship with a consenting married female under the age of eighteen.
The maximum penalties for statutory rape are exceeded only by those for murder, and equaled
only by those for forcible rape and kidnaping. Unless the jury recommends mercy, the death
sentence is mandatory in six states, and a death sentence is possible in an additional ten
Many persons do not understand the precise legal components of statutory rape, and offenders
who are convicted of statutory rape often find that they are regarded with the same scorn
that society turns upon more serious sex offenders. Yet, as Sherwin has noted, "statutory
rape is not rape at all, there is no element of force or threat." Comparing the general
public, criminology students, and prison inmates as to how serious they felt various crimes
to be, Gilbert found wide discrepancies in their evaluations of statutory rape, discrepancies
which he interpreted as follows:
. . . statutory rape is ranked fairly high in severity by the general
public, sharing a rank order of 5.5 with armed robbery. The criminology students, however,
drop it down to about midpoint in the criminality scale along with larceny, while
equating actual rape with armed robbery. The wide difference . . . would be attributed by
this writer to the thoughtless emotionalism of the public toward the rapist symbol, contrasted
with the better-informed evaluation by the criminology students of an offense which
constitutes rape in name only. The intermediate ranking by the convict group evidently
reflects a tempering of their better-informed state by. the deprecatory attitude toward sex
crimes revealed in their written comments. In numerous cases the prisoners specifically
commented on the unfairness of punishing statutory rape so severely, when actual consent
arid even seduction by the "victim" are often involved.
Statutory rape offenses dominate the category of rape acts coming to the attention of the
police, though a very large proportion of such offenses undoubtedly remain unreported. In New
York during 1930-1939, 82 per cent of the rape cases were of the statutory variety. Statutory
rape also dominates the statistics in regard to all sex offenses. The Mayor's Committee
investigating sex offenses in New York City in the 1940's found that 59 per cent of all such
offenses in the court of general sessions and in the county courts were statutory rape.
Dunham's study in Michigan in 1949 found a somewhat smaller percentage, with statutory rape
constituting 30 per cent of all sex offenses. That prosecutions represent but a minute
fraction of offenses can readily be seen by reference to the findings reported in the Kinsey
study of American females' sexual behavior. Somewhat more than 10 per cent of Kinsey's sample
reported having engaged in sexual intercourse at age seventeen or previously. If this finding
has wider validity than the sample interviewed it would indicate the commission of statutory
rape offenses involving at least four or five million American women, and probably as many
males. Prosecutions, of course, account for only a small fraction of this total.
Considerable research evidence points up that persons convicted of statutory rape represent
the least aberrant of all the sex offenders. Bowling reported no personality deviations
whatsoever in cases where there was little age discrepancy between the participants, a
finding corroborated by Ellis and Brancale, as well as by Bromberg.
The failure of criminal law to specify more clearly the social harm inherent in all of the
types of behavior which it labels "statutory rape" and to separate trivial acts from
meretricious behavior permeates consideration of this offense. Few persons would deny that
the law has an obligation to protect young girls from exploitation, particularly if they lack
the sophistication to be aware of the implications of their behavior. Laws which regulate
working conditions for women illustrate a type of such protective legislation. It seems valid
to maintain, however, that statutory rape laws as they now stand often work an injustice.
Such laws seem to discriminate in particular against segments of the society with social and
sexual mores that are not necessarily harmful but only different from those of the progenitors
of laws defining the offense of statutory rape.
Voyeurism, or scoptophilia, is the act of window-peeping, generally for the purpose of viewing
a female disrobing. Comparatively little systematic research has been conducted concerning
sociological correlates of this form of behavior, though we have a rather elaborate
psychiatric framework which attempts to interpret it. The psychiatric approach maintains that
window-peeping represents the acting out of thwarted impulses to view female nudity and
heterosexual activity, impulses strangled in the growing child and disallowed in the adult.
Empirical support for this position is derived from studies which characterize voyeurs as
products of restricted and inhibited home environments. This element alone, however, cannot
account for the behavior, for as Honde points out, children are severely punished for any
peeping activities in Japan, yet that country's police report hardly any adult voyeurist
Voyeuristic acts have a well-established history in both past and current folklore. There is
the well-known tale of Peeping Tom, the curious tailor, who dared view Lady Godiva riding
nude on a palfrey through Coventry, and was struck blind for his impunity. Contemporary
cartoons in the United States constantly poke good-natured fun at the ogling of pretty girls
by middle-aged men at bathing beaches, while the burlesque show with its strip tease
represents an institutionalized form of voyeurism.
Elements in our social structure which lead to voyeurism seem rather clear. Both nudity and
coital activities are regarded as highly private matters, though again, as testified to by
changes in female dress styles, at least some of these restrictions are diminishing. On the
other hand, a certain social attraction is inculcated in virtually all males toward
participation in and viewing of sexually keyed behavior. As Kinsey has noted:
There are probably very few heterosexual males who would not take advantage
of the opportunity to observe a nude female, or to observe heterosexual activity, particularly
if it were possible to do so surreptitiously so they would not suffer the social disgrace
that the discovery of their behavior might bring. To many males, the observation of a female
who is undressing may be erotically more stimulating than observing her when she is fully
nude, for the undressing suggests, in fantasy, what they may ultimately be able to observe.
Consequently, we have the peeper who gets into difficulty with the law, the peep show which
was formerly common in this country and which is still available in many other countries, and
the more surreptitious and unpublicized peeping in which most males engage, at some time in
their lives, from the windows of their homes, from hotel windows, and from wherever they find
the opportunity to observe. Our data are insufficient for determining what percentage of the
male population is ever involved, but Hamilton found some 65 per cent of the males in his
study admitting that they had done some peeping. The percentages for the population as a
whole are probably higher.
The element of surreptitiousness that is a characteristic feature of voyeurism cannot be
overlooked in interpreting this behavior. In Samoa, for instance, where there are numerous
opportunities to witness sexual behavior, youngsters nonetheless delight in embarrassing
lovers seeking privacy near the village, a pastime which has parallels in our society. Part
of the explanation of voyeurism, aside from its sexual implications, may lie in the curiosity
of individuals to observe behavior which is not oriented to them since such opportunity is
rarely afforded in our society. Party-line eavesdropping represents but one form of such
activity. Theater-going and reading, especially reading fiction and biography, are more
formal aspects of the same phenomenon.
Pedophilia — sexual behavior directed toward a child — often involves some form of sodomy,
though pedophilic acts are prosecuted under a wide range of legal rubrics, such as child
molesting, indecent assault, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, improper advances,
lewd and lascivious behavior, carnal knowledge, statutory rape, and incest. The bewildering
range of behavior subsumed under pedophilia has led to a confusing array of information about
it. Karpman found that the ages of the victims of pedophiliac attacks were from five to
seventeen. Forty-four of the cases he studied involved female victims, twelve involved boys,
and the remaining three both boys and girls.
Pedophilic criminals can be broadly classified into two groups: one in which the aggressor is
comparatively young, the other in which he is quite old, often senile. The first category of
offenders usually represents a serious social threat. In the second category are found both
dangerous individuals and others whose behavior represents at most a mild form of deviation.
Kinsey calls particular attention to the fact that behavior by the latter group of elderly
males — a group rapidly increasing with the expanded life expectancy in our country — is
often misinterpreted by younger children. He says that "such fondling as parents and
grandparents bestow upon small children" can be misunderstood by a child, particularly if
the child has been made crushingly aware of the alleged dangers of child molesters.
Most pedophiliacs are considerably older than the average sex offender. A tabulation by the
Los Angeles police found them to average forty-one years of age, a conclusion in close
agreement to that of other research studies. Most of the offenders, Deutsch notes, are known
to the children. Psychiatric writers believe that the sexual inadequacy of elderly men turns
them "toward less discriminating sexual objects." Pedophilia in this context is seen as a
return to infantilism, sometimes accompanied by an element of brain deterioration.
Reactions of children to pedophiliac approaches has been the subject of some penetrating
research, and the findings have tended to oppose what might seem to be the more likely
conclusions. Rasmussen studied fifty-four children who had sexual experiences with males
between their ninth and thirteenth birthdays, and reported that after a lapse of twenty
years forty-six of them were none the worse for the experience. Bender and Blau concluded,
after studying eleven girls and five boys who had been involved in sex behavior with adults,
that there was remarkably little evidence in the group of "fear, anxiety, guilt or psychic
trauma." The authors comment, in fact, that these children had unusually attractive and
charming personalities, and reiterate a conclusion often noted by other researchers — that
the children likely played an active or even initiating part in their delinquency. Bender and
Blau interpret the absence of negative effects on the children from a Freudian viewpoint,
suggesting that "the association in the act of a grown-up, who to the child must still
represent the omnipotent parent, probably condones the transgression."