How the construction of women in discourse explains society’s challenge in accepting that females commit sexual offences against children

DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/JCP-07-2019-0024
Publication Date04 Nov 2019
Pages155-165
AuthorClaire de Motte,Gabriella Mutale
SubjectHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology,Criminal psychology,Sociology,Sociology of crime & law,Deviant behaviour,Public policy & environmental management,Policing,Criminal justice
How the construction of women in
discourse explains societys challenge
in accepting that females commit sexual
offences against children
Claire de Motte and Gabriella Mutale
Abstract
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to explore the way gender and gender roles are socially constructed
by those who have experience of females committing sexual offences against children.
Design/methodology/approach Using a discursive approach, supported by membership category
analysis, a secondary analysis of qualitative data illustrates how the social construction of gender and gender
roles impacts on societys perception of females who commit sexual offences against children.
Findings Discourse analysis found threepatterns employed within conversation that demonstrate how the
construction of women influence societys incomprehension of females who commit sexual offences against
children:women can be trusted,women do not manipulateand groom and, women arenot sexually aggressive.
Research limitations/implications A limitation of this study is the use of secondary data, which cannot
provide the richness or detail found in primary accounts from people with this lived experience. The difficulty in
accessing this sub-population highlights the hidden nature of the topic and the need for further research
in this area.
Originality/value This is the first study to explore how gender discourse is used in discussions of females
who commit sexual offences against children. The value of this exploration highlights the need of society to
adjust their perceptions of the offending capabilities of women and to ensure the experiences of people who
experience this form of sexual abuse receive support.
Keywords Discourse analysis, Discursive psychology, Female offenders, Female sexual offenders,
Females who commit sexual offences against children, Membership categorization analysis
Paper type Research paper
Introduction
The results of a recent meta-analysis showed that the proportion of females who commit sexual
offences is higher than first thought and evidences a need for a greater understanding of female
sexual offending (Cortoni et al., 2017). Figures estimate that the ratio of female to male sexual
offenders is 1:20 (Cortoni and Hanson, 2005; Cortoni et al., 2010) and an average of 50100
women are convicted of sexual offences against children in England and Wales each year
(Kemshall, 2004).
In comparison to male sexual offenders, little is known about females who commit sexual
offences against children (Cortoni et al., 2010; Denov, 2004a) and caution should be paid in
applying male gendered literature to females who engage in this behaviour (Williams et al., 2019).
Literature available on female sexual offences against children suggests the offence is either
non-existent or extremely rare and therefore less value is placed on unpacking this crime
(Krista, 1994; Wahl, 1960). More contemporary literature repeats similar attitudes that indicate
females are incapable of such abuse due to their physical and reproductive attributes
Received 3 July 2019
Revised 23 October 2019
Accepted 24 October 2019
Claire de Motte and Gabriella
Mutale are both based at the
Department of Social Work,
Care and Community,
Nottingham Trent University,
Nottingham, UK.
DOI 10.1108/JCP-07-2019-0024 VOL. 9 NO. 4 2019, pp. 155-165, © Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 2009-3829
j
JOURNAL OF CRIMINAL PSYCHOLOGY
j
PAG E 15 5

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