Sometimes the universe makes me want to crawl into a hole in the ground and cry. It happened yesterday when Glenn Beck spent three minutes of his show making barfing noises while talking about Meghan McCain naked. (She’s “fat,” you know!) And it happens again now with one of the most depraved blog posts I’ve ever seen online.
On Thursday morning, the Houston Press web site, which is owned by the Village Voice Media company, published a list of the “10 hottest female sex offenders.” I am purposefully not linking to the post so as not to give them traffic. It was quite basic: photographs of conventionally attractive women ran alongside their city, their crime and the age of their victim. Readers learned things like:
- Rebecca Vlasek sexually assaulted a 14-year-old female.
- Esther Walty was indecent with a four-year-old male.
- Sharon Faubian committed aggravated sexual assault on a two-year-old male.
And so on and so forth.
Does anyone feel kind of sick that readers are supposed to care — or something? — that these women are “hot”?
Sexual abuse — especially of children — is always distasteful. I am not f**king debating anyone on that. It is never funny. Period. And it’s never, ever appropriate to use sexual crimes committed against kids in a lighthearted way. To me, you don’t touch that. Period. I have a seven-year-old nephew and nieces who are six and four; there’s nothing remotely humorous to me about those kids being caused harm, even by a “hot female sex offender.” The post’s author Richard Connelly showed utter and complete poor judgment and lack of empathy when he realized thousands (millions) of people feel the same way I do. This was an extremely dumb and callous way to “make a point.” American culture is already mistrustful, insensitive and callous towards victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse; rape is the one crime where the victim is lying until proven victimized. The scourge of sex crimes in this nation deserve a hell of a lot more gravity than they’re given — in large part to dumbass blog posts like the Houston Press listicle — and one would hope journalists would honor their responsibility give it that gravity.
Today, the post’s author Richard Connelly wrote a half-assed apology which explained his reasons behind the “top 10 hottest sex offenders” list. He said that while working on a separate story about fighting child pornography, he interviewed two child porn prosectors who emphasized that sexual predators do not fit any sort of profile. “[That] triggered an idea about how people have a pre-conceived notion of what dangerous predators ‘always’ look like — slovenly fat guys in t-shirts asking kids if they wanted a ride — and how best to shake that notion up,” he wrote. This, of course, is important information for people to know. I can understand Richard’s journalistic impulses to share this info.
Oh, but the way he did it.
Richard came up with his “top 10 female sex offendors” listicle idea — and it’s a wonder that his editor didn’t talk him out of it. Like any blogger out there, they all knew that the words “top 10,” “hottest” and “sex offenders” would get people to click and comment, and email the post to friends, who would click some more. He said he wrote the introduction to the post in an intentionally over-the-top way to make it clear he wasn’t serious. This is what he wrote:
“You probably would not be too surprised to learn that the vast majority of people in the Texas Department of Public Safety’s sex offender list are male.
And most are not good-looking.
But there are females on there, too. Most of them are not good-looking, true, but who takes a good mugshot besides Tom DeLay?
We combed through 15 of the biggest counties in Texas and came up with the 10 hottest women in the database. Warning: In some cases, we picked out the best of a series of mugshots. Alternative choices were starkly different. So click on each link before you send any marriage proposals.”
Now, I’m going to say something that might surprise you (considering I just accused Richard Connelly of writing the most depraved blog post I’ve ever read). As a fellow blogger, I can completely understand what he thought he was doing (or claims to have thought he was doing, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt). All writers deal with sensitive subjects to others — whether it’s abortions, miscarriages, “medically necessary” plastic surgery — at some point or another and you always try to inject humor into it so as not to truly offend anyone. Unless you’re really a dick, you’re not trying to offend people. Taking an idea that may be a little distasteful and joking about it in the hopes it becomes less distasteful.
But bitch, please. That after-the-fact explanation does not absolve him, or his employers, of their responsibility.
I’d also like to note that Frisky contributer Andrea Grimes, a former employee of Village Voice Media, has also pointed out that VVM is currently under investigation for facilitating sex trafficking. The company operates Backpage.com, a site used for escort services and other sexual transactions. Since we know some women and all minor girls in sex work are victims of trafficking, a slideshow of the “top 10 hottest female sex offenders” is doubly distasteful. With the company’s overall heads-up-their-asses about the sex trafficking investigation thing (New York magazine, for example, has pulled their backpage ads for this very reason), I seriously call into question the “I had good intentions!” leg that Richard Connelly is trying to stand on. It sounds like the whole friggin’ company is trying to make excuses for their gross insensitivity. Writes Andrea, “I take this to mean that the Houston Press editors believe link-baiting lists about hot women is the best way to educate people about sex crimes.” Amen.
The website Change.org has created a petition about this Houston Press foolishness, which is here.