Sex Crimes

Sex crimes are sexual acts that are prohibited by law in a jurisdiction. Some sex crimes involve violence, while others run counter of social taboos. People convicted of sex crimes are usually considered "sex offenders," and in some countries they may have their names added to state and federal sex offender registries which will be subject to checks by employers when they apply for jobs.

The age of consent, which varies by country, is the minimum age at which a person is considered to be legally competent to consent to sexual acts. In the United States, the age of consent is defined as "the arbitrary age, assigned by legislators, that defines the legal time at which a person may consent voluntarily to sexual activity with another person."The European Union calls the age of consent the "legal age for sexual activities." Most countries have set 16 as the age of consent, although it can be as young as 12 (Angola) or 13 (Spain), while in many Islamic states, all sex outside marriage is illegal.

The most common sex crimes include:

Rape is the unlawful sexual activity, usually a sexual intercourse, carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will, or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent. A lack of consent can include the victim being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Rape can occur when the offender and victim have a pre-existing relationship, which is sometimes called "date rape," or within marriage.

Statutory Rape refers to sexual relations involving someone below the age of consent. People below the age of consent cannot legally consent to having sex, making any sexual intercourse with them is punishable by law. In many countries statutory rape is punishable under laws covering sexual assault, rape, unlawful sexual intercourse or carnal knowledge of a child.

Child Sexual Abuse includes a wide range of actions between a child and an adult or older child. In addition to body contact, child sexual abuse can also involve exposing one's genitals to children or pressuring them for sex. Using a child for pornography is also sexual abuse. The long-term emotional and psychological damage of sexual abuse can be devastating to the child, which is why such crimes are often zealously prosecuted. Children subjected to repeated sexual stimulation usually develop low self-esteem, a feeling of worthlessness and can become suicidal.

Obscenity consists of an act or item tending to corrupt the public morals by its indecency. In addition to pornography, obscenity may also include nude dancing and sexually oriented commercial telephone messages. Obscenity law deals with complicated legal questions because determining what is to be defined as "obscene," is often difficult.

Frotteurism refers to the intentional rubbing up against or touching of another, usually unsuspecting, person for the purpose of sexual arousal. It is classified as one of the "courtship disorders." Most frotteurists are male and in most cases the victims are females. The incidents usually occur in crowded settings.

Incest is the crime of sexual relations or marriage taking place between a male and female who are so closely related by blood or affinity that such activity is prohibited by law. The prohibition of intermarriage is based on genetic considerations and aims at preventing genetic defects and disease. The incest taboo is universal in human culture.

Sexual harassment represents unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. The harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature and can include offensive remarks about a person's sex.

Prostitution laws make it a crime to offer, agree to, or engage in a sexual act for compensation. Under the legislation in many countries, charges can be brought against the provider of services, the customer paying for the services, and any middleman or madam for "pandering," or "pimping," or for running a disorderly house, or brothel.

Exhibitionism, also called indecent exposure, represents the purposeful display of one's genitals in public, causing others to be alarmed or offended. Indecent exposure may be viewed as a sexual assault if any physical contact is made.

Sexual assault originally referred to crimes that fell short of rape but nonetheless involved nonconsensual sexual contact. Now, sexual assault includes nonconsensual sexual contact between people of all ages and all genders, and includes assaults within a marriage.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Sex Fiends, Perverts, and Pedophiles: Understanding Sex Crime Policy in America
Chrysanthi S. Leon.
New York University Press, 2011
The Psychology of Sexual Victimization: A Handbook
Michele Antoinette Paludi.
Greenwood Press, 1999
Sexual Murder: Catathymic and Compulsive Homicides
Louis B. Schlesinger.
CRC Press, 2004
Sexual Consent
David Archard.
Westview Press, 1998
Rape and Society: Readings on the Problem of Sexual Assault
Patricia Searles; Ronald J. Berger.
Westview Press, 1995
An End to Shame: Shaping Our Next Sexual Revolution
Ira L. Reiss; Harriet M. Reiss.
Prometheus Books, 1990
Long-Range Effects of Child and Adolescent Sexual Experiences: Myths, Mores, and Menaces
Allie C. Kilpatrick.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1992
The Other Americans: Sexual Variance in the National Past
Charles O. Jackson.
Praeger Publishers, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Includes "A Feminist Redefinition of Rape and Sexual Assault: Historical Foundations and Change"
Lifestyle Factors Associated with the Sexual Assault of Men: A Routine Activity Theory Analysis
Tewksbury, Richard; Mustaine, Elizabeth Ehrhardt.
The Journal of Men's Studies, Vol. 9, No. 2, Winter 2001
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