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To Catch a Predator

Amy M. Adler

New York University School of Law

October 1, 2010

Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, Forthcoming
NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 10-60

In the last two decades, a new term - “sexual predator” - has arisen to describe criminals who commit sexual offenses against children. We used to refer to such offenders as “pedophiles” or perhaps “child molesters.” First emerging in the 1990s, the word “predator” has become a term of art in legal regulation and a mainstay in media reports and in the popular imagination. Yet since the term “predator” first emerged in legal discourse, its meaning has expanded and mutated to include a broadening array of sex criminals.

In this interdisciplinary paper, I explore the wildly popular – and controversial - television series called “To Catch A Predator” that played a dramatic role in shaping the category of “predator” in the popular imagination, in public policy and in law. My argument is that the show’s invocation of the category of “predator” both constituted and destabilized that category in surprising ways that have shaped the legal discourse on child predation.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 21

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Date posted: October 3, 2010 ; Last revised: November 9, 2010

Suggested Citation

Adler, Amy M., To Catch a Predator (October 1, 2010). Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, Forthcoming; NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 10-60. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1685867 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1685867

Contact Information

Amy M. Adler (Contact Author)
New York University School of Law ( email )
40 Washington Square South
Room 314
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States
212-998-6645 (Phone)
212-995-4341 (Fax)
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