South African Female Sex Offenders

One of the over 500+ studies/reports on our bibliography page is a report from 2010 titled:

Discourse and power in the self-perceptions of incarcerated South African female sexual offenders,

It is an interesting paper and looks at, among other things, how gender notions by society, professionals, and the offenders themselves play out in her sample.

She has a quote from Denov that bears repeating:

each time a female sex offender raises her “voice,” she is reopening the space within which new knowledge and discourse can be produced about women who sexually offend. However, research…has shown that each time a female sex offender “speaks,” there are explicit attempts by criminal justice and mental health professionals to mute her voice, actions, and responsibility and once again rely upon the “known truths” about women. The criminal justice responses to female offending which result in a lack of formal sanctions may, at times, be advantageous to women. However, there is a cost and it is a price that arguably all women pay. Women are relegated to limiting, narrow frames of reference. They lack agency and responsibility for their actions. If women’s voices are to be heard, it would be beneficial if they could be heard in all possible forms, whether in compassion, in protest, or in violence.

 

 

In the findings section of the paper she states:

These findings align with Denov’s (2003) findings that traditional gender roles function to uphold myths concerning female sexual perpetration…Significantly, all of the offenders constructed themselves as characteristically female- maternal, passive, victimised and innately virtuous

I think Denov is 100% correct when she said:

If women’s voices are to be heard, it would be beneficial if they could be heard in all possible forms, whether in compassion, in protest, or in violence.

All women’s voices (I would add all victims voices) need to be heard.  For me that means listening to the victims and the offenders without the preconceived notions of gender and crime.  Ignoring or minimizing the issue of female perpetrated sexual violence harms everyone.  Until we address sexual violence as a human rights issue we are only going to make partial progress and will continue to cause harm to the women and men who have suffered and continue to suffer.

You can (at the time of this writing) access the entire paper in a .pdf format at the link.

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  1. Here’s an extract from the study on “Discourse and power in the self-perceptions of incarcerated South African female sexual offenders” that goes someway to explain why some female sex offenders, particularly those who sexually offender against adolescent males, are often referred to as ‘Cougars’ or ‘MILF’s’.

    2.3. THE FEMALE FIGURE AS A SEXUAL OFFENDER

    Standards of acceptable behaviour have been created by a patriarchal society on the basis of masculine behaviour and thus it is difficult to categorise female offenders accordingly. As such, patriarchal discourses and structures inadvertently protect female sexual offenders by not allowing them to exist within academic, scientific and public space. More importantly, when they are allowed to exist, female sexual perpetrators are often represented in a pornographic light so that they become sexualised and in this way they are maintained as the object of the male‟s gaze and their perpetrations are thus made harmless (Bourke, 2007). As Higgs et al. (1992) maintain, society is more able to accept a woman who acts out her sexual aggression through promiscuity than one who does so through assault or abuse. This has obvious implications for the male victim who, like the female perpetrator, is made invisible despite the fact that the consequences of sexual assault transcend gendered roles.

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