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Moral Panic: Changing Concepts of the Child Molester in Modern America Hardcover – September 10, 1998


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (September 10, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300073879
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300073874
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,940,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Alarm over threats of child sexual abuse has not always been as widespread as it is today. Periods of heightened concern have been followed by troughs of neglect, as in the 1920s and 1960s. Jenkins (history and religious studies, Pennsylvania State Univ.; Pedophiles and Priests, Oxford Univ., 1996) discusses the social, political, and ideological factors that have influenced public opinion about sexual crimes, both real and imagined. Denying that any particular view of sex offenders reflects a static, objective reality, he concludes that "Pedophiles represent a very minor component of the real sexual issues faced by children." Observing the panicked responses to specific cases, such as the murders of Polly Klaas and Megan Kanka and the McMartin Preschool prosecution, Jenkins posits the paradox that children statistically have more to fear from family and neighbors than from strangers. His well-researched study of a controversial subject is recommended for scholarly collections on child abuse and sex offenders.?Gregor A. Preston, formerly with Univ. of California Lib., Davis
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 46 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 31, 1998
Format: Hardcover
The emergence of "the child molester" as Public Enemy Number One -- or, conversely, as an image for hip audiences to snicker over -- is the topic of this book, and it examines how American society has responded to pedophilia over the past century. The author sifts through an enormous volume of evidence, and his tone is as sober as a judge.
He suggests that concern with the sexual abuse of children has developed in waves over the past century or so. In each case, public awareness has gone through a kind of cycle -- from reluctant awareness of the problem, to increased public attention, then to a period of intense fascination and horror culminating in the demand that the government move in to act decisively.
Jenkins argues that we have, for some time now, been in the final stages of the cycle. The expression "moral panic," which gives the book its title, is a sociological term. Those who coined it define moral panic as a state in which public reaction to a problem "is out of all proportions to the actual threat offered, when 'experts' perceive the threat in all but identical terms ... [and] when the media representations universally stress 'sudden and dramatic' increases (in numbers involved or events) and 'novelty,' above and beyond that which a sober, realistic appraisal could sustain."
What makes Moral Panic absorbing is not so much Jenkins' diagnosis of the present situation as his careful reconstruction of how medical and legal institutions came to recognize and understand the existence of molestation.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 11, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Philip Jenkins did it again. His previous book, 'Intimate Enemies: Moral Panics in Contemporary Great Britain' talked about child-abuse hysteria that swept Britain some time ago. This new book is actually a history of the concept of child abuse and child abuser in USA in the twentieth century. The book talks in details how that concept looked like at the end of the last century and how it looks like now. I have never read before any book that is so accurate and detailed as this one. For anyone interested in the subject of how society viewed child abuse and child abusers and how is viewing it now, this book is must-have. And I am very happy that Jenkins decided to devote this book to the Joel Best who himself wrote similar book, "Threatened Children: Rhetoric and Concern about Child-Victims"
Contents:
1. Creating Facts, 2. Constructing Sex Crime, 1890-1934, 3. The Age of the Sex Psychopath, 1935-1957, 4. The Sex Psychopath Statutes, 5. The Liberal Era, 1958-1976, 6. The Child Abuse Revolution, 1976-1986, 7. Child Pornography and Pedophile Rings, 8. The Road to Hell: Ritual Abuse and Recovered Memory, 9. Full Circle: The Return of the Sexual Predator in the 1990s, 10. A Cycle of Panic.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Porcupine on March 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jenkins' book is a very well written and documented study of the various child sex abuse panics that have taken place during the past century. It demonstrates the role of the moral panic in the policy making process and shows how decisions have been made on popular opinion and misguided beliefs rather than solid facts. It is objectively written and is a very good resource for anyone interested in sex offender policy. The only down side of the book is its relatively limited information on moral panic theory as a general topic. For this, you will need to look at Goode and Ben Yehuda or Cohen.
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More About the Author

Philip Jenkins is the author of The Lost History of Christianity and has a joint appointment as the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of the Humanities in history and religious studies at Penn State University and as Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. He has published articles and op-ed pieces in The Wall Street Journal, The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe and has been a guest on top national radio shows across the country.