The "Hot Sex Offenders" List: An Explanation and Apology
Our item about the "10 hottest women" on Texas' sex offender list has understandably generated a lot of controversy.
Here was the genesis of the idea. Last week I spoke to two veteran child-porn prosecutors for a Q&A on how they do their jobs -- how they deal with looking at such horrific evidence -- and how parents can protect their children from being exploited.
They talked of how child predators don't fit any category -- the people they prosecuted included successful lawyers and doctors, as well as unemployed losers.
It triggered an idea about how people have a preconceived notion of what dangerous predators "always" look like -- slovenly fat guys in T-shirts asking kids if they wanted a ride -- and how best to shake that notion up.
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An item on "10 sex offenders who don't look like sex offenders" might have done the trick, but seemed boring.
In an attempt to catch attention (and yes, eyeballs and clicks), I thought of the ten hottest female sex offenders. "Hottest" because it's a Web-headline staple for such listicles.
I also wrote an over-the-top intro, trusting that the outrageous headline (Anything putting "hottest" near "sex offenders," I thought, would clearly show over-the-topness) would indicate this was fully intended to shock.
That's why I made the conscious decision to include the victims' ages: To show that "normal-looking" people, people you could pass any day on the street -- or who you might think are "hot" -- are capable of monstrous things.
Glamorizing or trivializing child rape? It did not cross my mind that I was doing that. It should have, it now seems clear.
That was never the intent. I hope that would be obvious, but it seems not.
No one ever likes apologies to "anyone who was offended" because they seem halfhearted. I can only say the intention was to shock (in what I hoped would be a positive way) and not to offend. To a lot of people, I failed miserably. I can understand that, and I apologize to them.
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