Virgin or Vamp: How the Press Covers Sex Crimes

Paperback | April 1, 1993

byHelen Benedict

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In the last few years, the national press has lavished coverage on several major sex-related scandals: the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings, the William Kennedy Smith rape trial, and the Mike Tyson case. With each event came lurid stories pitting either a loose or virginal woman against anunwilling or monstrous man. Such extreme coverage, argues Helen Benedict, perpetuates myths that are harmful to victims of these crimes (and sometimes to the accused). In Virgin or Vamp Benedict examines the press's treatment of four notorious sex crimes from the past decade--the Rideout marital rape trial in Oregon, the Big Dan's pool table gang rape in Massachusetts, the "Preppy Murder" in New York City, and the Central Park jogger case--and shows howvictims are labelled either as virgins or vamps, a practice she condemns as misleading and harmful. Benedict also looks at other factors that perpetuate the misunderstanding of rape. For instance, she shows how the New York press presented the Central Park jogger rape case as motivated by racismbecause of its unwillingness to consider rape an issue of gender. She also addresses our inherent language bias, the press's tendency to use sexually suggestive language to describe crime victims, and its preference for crimes against whites. In conclusion, Benedict offers a number of solutionsthat will help reporters cover these increasingly common crimes without further harming the victims, the defendants, or public understanding.

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In the last few years, the national press has lavished coverage on several major sex-related scandals: the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings, the William Kennedy Smith rape trial, and the Mike Tyson case. With each event came lurid stories pitting either a loose or virginal woman against anunwilling or monstrous man. Such extreme c...

From the Jacket

The national press has recently lavished coverage on several major sex-related scandals: the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings, the William Kennedy Smith rape trial, and the Mike Tyson case. With each event came lurid stories pitting either a loose or a virginal woman against an unwilling or monstrous man. Such extreme coverage, argu...

Helen Benedict is a professor at the Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University. She is also the author of Recovery: How to Survive Sexual Assault, Portraits in Print, and A World Like This.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 7.91 × 5.31 × 0.71 inPublished:April 1, 1993Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195086651

ISBN - 13:9780195086652

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"Since Helen Benedict is both an authority on rape and a distinguished journalist, she is uniquely qualified to examine how journalists usually cover sex crimes. Her analysis of the biases and blunders of the press is thorough, lucid, and utterly persuasive....Virgin or Vamp is an exceedinglyimportant book--necessary reading for conscientious reporters and editors, and for everyone concerned about the quality and fairness of what the press sees fit to print."--Ann Jones, author of Women Who Kill