The American criminal justice system regarding sex is not just logically incoherent, it is also often morally bankrupt because it remains unexamined and poorly understood. This Article contends that there are actually common roots underlying the seemingly oppositional forces of social panic and denial, which explain why the United States has an endemic sexual violence problem. Both panic and denial reinforce the implicit, and sometimes explicit, desire to avoid substantive engagement with socially contentious issues related to sex. The use of residency restrictions and civil commitment fit the modern social goal of putting sex offenders out-of-sight and out-of-mind. Yet, those same desires also explain America’s unwillingness to believe victims of sexual violence and police failure to properly investigate criminal complaints. In this way, sex panic dovetails with sex denial—in both instances, American culture only permits a limited discussion and understanding of sex and sexual violence. The result is that our nation fails to take sex crime complaints seriously while overreacting to the few convictions that emerge from the hostile criminal justice system.

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