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.
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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