Virgin or Vamp: How the Press Covers Sex Crimes

Helen Benedict, Author Oxford University Press, USA $30 (320p) ISBN 978-0-19-506680-7
How does the press cover sex crimes? In a biased way, according to Benedict ( Portraits in Print ), professor at Columbia University School of Journalism. She argues that because many reporters, copy editors and editors are middle-class white males, and since the feminist wave of the 1970s and '80s seems, in some views, to be subsiding, it has been exceedingly difficult for the female victim of a sex crime to avoid being depicted as either a ``virgin'' or a ``vamp.'' Here the author analyzes four rape cases: a Salem, Oregon, marital rape case (1978); the New Bedford, Mass., gang rape case (1983); New York's so-called Preppy Murder case (1986); and the Central Park jogger rape case (1989). In each, Benedict shows how the language of reporters and columnists reflected their biases (anti-woman in all except the jogger case) and lamentably stereotyped thinking. Her conclusions: sex crimes against women are primarily expressions of misogyny and can be understood only by examining how society reinforces anti-female prejudices. This outstanding book should be required reading for all media people. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 11/02/1992
Release date: 11/01/1992
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