In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Sex Crimes

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Data Sources
  • Recidivism and Specialization
  • Paraphilias
  • Pornography and Sexual Offending
  • Juvenile Sex Offenders
  • Treatment

Related Articles Expand or collapse the "related articles" sectionabout

Forthcoming Articles Expand or collapse the "forthcoming articles" section


Criminology Sex Crimes
Karen Terry
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 July 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0018


Sex offenders constitute a heterogeneous group of individuals. The term “sex offender” is applied to individuals who have committed offenses as diverse as rape, child sexual abuse, possession or transmission of child pornography, and indecent exposure. Offenders can be adults or juveniles, male or female, and of any age. Most perpetrators know their victims and are either related to them, in a relationship with them, in a position of authority over the minor, or otherwise acquainted. Acts defined as sexual offenses vary across religions, cultures, nations, and states, and definitions of sexual offenses change over time based on prevailing social norms. For most sexual offenses, there must be a lack of consent on the part of the victim and some level of intent on the part of the offender. Many laws have been enacted since the mid-1980s to increase supervision and management of sex offenders in the community. Examples of such policies include registration and community notification, residency restrictions, sexually violent predator legislation, GPS monitoring, and mandatory chemical castration for paroled sex offenders. This bibliography reviews some of the key resources that analyze the prevalence and types of sex crimes, theoretical explanations for deviant sexual behavior, and responses to sexual offenders.

General Overviews

There are numerous resources that provide a general overview of material related to sexual offending and victimization. It would be useful to use these books as a base and supplement them with further readings from journals or chapters on specific issues. Holmes and Holmes 2008 provides an overview of sexual offending, with a focus on offenders (particularly on “nuisance” sex behaviors) rather than on policies related to sexual offending. Though somewhat dated, Marshall, et al. 1990 provides an excellent overview of theories of sexual offending and treatment for offenders, with chapters that are still heavily cited today. Sample 2009 provides a succinct chapter on what is known about sexual offending and offenders, the legislation that has been enacted to better supervise and monitor them, and the flawed assumptions upon which these laws were based. Terry 2006 provides information about types and theories of sexual offending, as well as treatment and legislative responses to it. Thomas 2000 focuses primarily on the responses to sexual offending and the laws that are applied to sex offenders in the community.

  • Holmes, Stephen T., and Ronald M. Holmes. 2008. Sex crimes: Patterns and behavior. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Provides an overview of the issues related to the history of deviant sexual behavior, types of sexual offenders, and nuisance sex behaviors. Should be used in conjunction with empirically based articles discussing these issues.

  • Marshall, William L., D. R. Laws, and Howard E. Barbaree, eds. 1990. Handbook of sexual assault: Issues, theories, and treatment of the offender. New York: Plenum.

    A classic text on sexual offending and the responses to offenders by top researchers in the field. The chapters are still relevant to the field today.

  • Sample, Lisa L. 2009. Sexual violence. In The Oxford handbook of crime and public policy. Edited by Michael Tonry, 51–70. Oxford and New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    An overview of sexual offending, divided into six sections: assumptions about sex offenders and offending, trends in sex offending and victimization, sex offender recidivism and the propensity to kill, causes of sex offenders’ behavior, effectiveness of sex offender laws, and conclusions and future directions.

  • Terry, Karen J. 2006. Sexual offenses and offenders: Theory, practice, and policy. Belmont, CA: Thomson Learning/Wadsworth.

    Covers the development of our understanding of deviant sexual behavior, types of sex offenders, theories of sexual offending, treatment for sex offenders, and management and supervision policies for sex offenders. This is a survey text that can serve as a basis for understanding the research in the field.

  • Thomas, Thomas. 2000. Sex crime: Sex offending and society. Cullompton, UK, and Portland, OR: Willan.

    Provides a thorough overview of sex crimes and the social response to them. The focus is on sex crimes in the United Kingdom, but the work is applicable to understanding sex crimes in the United States or the United Kingdom.

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