Living in a Culture of Denial

Do female sexual offenders exist?

Consider the following taken from a police report:

“The victim is a sixteen year old male who delivers groceries and a local convenience store. At 5:45 p.m. he makes a delivery for the second time that day to a motel room. On the second visit, the forty-one year old female suspect invites the victim in for a drink. The victim accepts and drinks two beers. During the conversation, the female suspect puts her hand between the victim’s legs and asks if he will tell the police that she did so. The victim says no, out of fear of her reaction. Despite the victim’s protest, the female suspect removes the victim’s clothing and touches his penis. At some point, the victim touches the suspect’s cat, which makes the suspect very angry. The suspect reacts by grabbing a nearby knife and threatens to castrate the victim. She puts the knife to his penis and yells” Do you want me to cut it off?” A short time later, the victim manages to take hold of the knife and throws it out of reach. The suspect gets very angry and grabs the victim by the neck and attempts to strangle him, causing bruises on his neck. Throughout the incident the victim wants to leave the premises, but fears the reaction of the suspect. The victim remained in the room for over two hours. Once the victim was allowed to leave the room he reported the incident to his employer who then called police” (Denov, 2001, pp. 321-2).

It is the account of a violent rape, or at the very least, an attempted rape, unless of course, you are a police detective later describing the incident.

“Sexual abuse by women will be more subtle and there won’t be any violence… a woman can’t be violent… like the recent case of that woman in the motel. Did you hear about it? [laughter} The woman called for a delivery at her motel and then asked the boy in and offered him a beer!… [loud laughter]” (Denov, 2001, p. 322).

After being reminded of the boy’s injuries, the detective continued:

“Well, those marks on his neck – those could easily have been hickeys! [laughter]” (Denov, 2001, p. 322).

In her 2001 study, Myriam Denov reports on the culture of denial that exists in the very agencies charged with investigating such crimes that prevents these agencies from even acknowledging the existence of female perpetrators of sex crimes. She observed that the detective’s comments effectively render harmless, a violent sex offender based on the assumption that a woman cannot commit such a crime. He also transforms the victim of this violent act into a willing participant.

In a separate study, Denov (2003) reports on the “myth of innocence” (p. 303) surrounding the sexuality of women that influences attitudes and beliefs, and even law concerning the perpetration of sex crimes against children and adults. In several US States, at the time of her report, the crime of rape was defined in such a way that a woman could not be charged with the crime, unless she acted to facilitate a rape in conjunction with a male rapist. This “myth of innocence’ is so ingrained in the culture that the prevailing attitude is that sexual abuse of male victims by female perpetrators are viewed as less serious and less damaging to the victim, than the same crime when committed by a male against a female (Broussard, 1991 in Denov, 2003).

With the existence of such a culture of denial, is it any wonder that we seldom hear about women who perpetrate sexual abuse? Or is it? Perhaps it’s not the culture, it’s the reality? Do these cases actually exist?

Fifty years ago, it was suggested that child sexual abuse was practically nonexistent. Denov (2003) cites two studies, Weinberg (1955) and Freedman, Kaplan, and Sadock (1975) that suggest incest was extremely rare or almost nonexistent. However, by 1992, over half a million cases of child sexual abuse were reported in the US. The public image of these cases is that of a male perpetrator and a female victim. Certainly if we examine case studies, female sex offenders are quite rare and comprise anywhere from 1.2% to as many as 8% of all cases (Denov, 2003). On the other hand, self report studies find prevalence rates approaching 60%.

In two studies of college students, Fromuth, Burkhart, & Webb Jones (1991) and Fromuth and Conn (1997) found that 3% of college men and 4% of college women, respectively, admitted in surveys to committing behaviors consistent with sexual abuse of children when they were adolescents. In a 1987 study, Fromuth and Burkhart found that in two samples of college men, those reporting they had been sexually abused as children, reported that the perpetrator was female 78% and 72%  of the time. These researchers also found qualitative differences in the experience of men vs. that of women who had suffered abuse. Men reported higher incidence of oral-genital contact and intercourse but less violence or threat of violence that women (Fromuth & Burkhart, 1987). Men also reported their experiences as positive or neutral 85% of the time as compared to 59% of women viewing their experience as negative.

Obviously, the reality of the male experience of sexual abuse has had some influence over culture. However, culture appears to be perpetuated by myth as well. These studies indicate that female perpetrated sexual abuse is quite common and not rare at all, although the effects on the victims may be less severe. It is easy, then, to understand how a detective might come to see a violent sex crime perpetrated by a woman against a boy as a sexual initiation in which the victim was a willing participant. It also demonstrates the importance breaking down cultural myth that may represent barriers to labeling these crimes as crimes and treating them as such. As a society, if we are concerned about the welfare of all of our citizens, we must insist that our laws, public policies and practices, and government entities not be guided by cultural myth, but by a rational decision-making process not governed by ideology or political agenda.


Denov, M. S. (2001). A cultural denial: Exploring professional perspectives on female sex offending. Canadian Journal of Criminology , 43 (3), 303-329.

Denov, M. (2003). The myth of innocence: Sexual scripts and the recognition of child sexual abuse by female perpetrators. The Journal of Sex Research , 40 (3), 303-314.

Fromuth, M. E., & Burkhart, B. R. (1987). Childhood sexual victimization among college men: Definitional and methodological issues. Violence and Victims , 2 (4), 241-253.

Fromuth, M., & Conn, V. (1997). Hidden perpetrators: Sexual molestation in a nonclinical sample of college women. Journal of Interpersonal Violence , 12, 456-465.

Fromuth, M., Burkhart, B., & Webb Jones, C. (1991). Hidden child molestation: An investigation of adilescent perpetrators in a nonclinical sample. Journal of Interpersonal Violence , 6, 376-384.


  1. its hard to stomach the post at the moment so I didn’t read it all but it is a good reference that I will mark, thanks.

    A detective made those jokes after seeing bruises and hearing of threats of castration (puke).

    Remember that aside from rape women do something else. They steal men’s sperm which should be considered worse. If I’m not wrong it is illegal to lie about having an STD to a partner. By similar logic it should be illegal to lie about birth control.

    Where’s the social deminization or criminalization of this behavior?

  2. I don’t understand why the 16 year old boy couldn’t smash a beer bottle over her head or once he had hold of the knife thrust it into her breast or something. Also, as soon as the pedophile bitch started playing grabby hands with his penis he could have knocked her the fuck out with relentless punches to her head. Are 16 year old boys taught to be weak, passive, non-violent fucks who follow female direction?

    The reason no one in society punishes female predators is because in the public’s mind, any boy of 16 should be more than able to put a sexually aggressive bitch in her place using his physical strength superiority alone.

    This story just doesn’t make sense. The boy could have easily ended the situation early by inflicting physical pain and violence on the female predator.

    By the way, what pittance of a prison sentence did this violent female predator receive? A man committing the exact same crime against an underage girl OR boy would have received 50 years behind bars at the very least.

    • I agree that society expects a 16 year old boy would be able to defend himself. But not all 16 year old boys are big, strong guys. I was 5-10, 165 at the age of 16 and a football player. But I had more than one friend who weighed less than 100 lbs and a couple others who were rather nerdy and certainly not very physical. I would imagine that any one of them may have felt frightened in that situation. The report doesn’t give any indication of how large the woman was or the boy in question, either. The report is too vague to get all the details, but it does describe a crime and the detective’s reaction is quite inconsistent with what is stated in the report. The research study gives no indication as to the final disposition of the case.


  3. Yeah, why didn’t that 16 year old VIOLENTLY ASSAULT THE POOR HELPLESS WOMAN!

    I mean, what could she do about it but run to the cops and get him in jail for years?

    Many women in our culture enjoy beating men, cause the man can’t swing back. That makes the women quite “tough”.

    She hit him, cops laugh it off.

    He hits her, he goes to jail.

    I’m kinda wondering what kinda of liar you have to be to imagine… hallucinate really…. that the sixteen year old boy didn’t know that.

Comments are closed.