Amidst all the hysteria over sex offending these days, stumbling across this list from 1955 gave me an eerie sense of deja vu. The author, a prominent sociologist, wrote his list of 11 "popular myths about the sex offender" during the zenith of the last sex panic, the Sexual Psychopath Era of the 1930s-1950s. Here are his myths*:
- That tens of thousands of homosexual sex offenders stalk the land.
- That the victims of sex attack are 'ruined for life.'
- That sex offenders are usually recidivists.
- That the minor sex offenders, if unchecked, progress to more serious types of crime.
- That it is possible to predict the danger of serious crimes by sexual deviance.
- That 'sex psychopathy' or sex deviation is a clinical entity.
- That these individuals are lustful and oversexed.
- That reasonably effective treatment methods to cure deviant sex offenders are known and employed.
- That the sex control laws passed recently are getting at the brutal and vicious sex criminal and should be adopted generally to wipe out sex crime.
- That civil adjudication of the sexual deviant in indeterminate commitment to a mental hospital is similar to our handling of the insane and therefore human liberties and due process are not involved.
- That the sex problem can be solved merely by passing a new law on it.
*Paul W. Tappan was a prominent sociology professor at New York University, an attorney, and a consultant to the New Jersey Commission on the Habitual Sex Offender. He published widely on criminology and corrections topics during the 1940s-1960s. "Some myths about the sex offender" was published in the June 1955 issue of Federal Probation. Robert Sadoff, a Temple University psychiatrist, republished them in a 1966 article, "Psychiatric views of the Sexual Psychopath statutes."