Female sex offenders protected by the criminal justice system

Sex-based sentencing sentencing discrepancies between male and female sex offenders

From Feminist Criminology

This study highlights that female sex offenders receive lighter sentences for the same crimes than males. The researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Corrections Reporting Program from the years 1994 to 2004. Sex offenses included rape, statutory rape, sexual assault, child sexual assault, and forcible sodomy. Looking at the sentences that male and female sex offenders received for specific sex offenses they found that even after the implementation of sentencing guidelines to ensure equality in sentencing, on average male sentences were between 6% and 31% longer than female sentences for the same or similar crimes. The disparity is explained in this paper by discussing the American idea that “women are weaker and, therefore, must be protected at all times regardless of their status as victims or offenders.”


The current research examines the utility of the evil woman hypothesis by examining sentencing discrepancies between male and female sex offenders. National Corrections Reporting Program data are used to identify sex offenders for the years 1994 to 2004 and the sentences they received for specific sex offenses. Statistical analyses reveal a significant difference in sentence length between men and women, but not in the expected direction. The evil woman hypothesis would assume women are sentenced more harshly, but data show men receive longer sentences for sex offenses than women. Support is provided for the chivalry hypothesis to explain immediate sentencing disparity.

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Article details
Embry, R., & Lyons, P. (2012). Sex-Based Sentencing: Sentencing Discrepancies Between Male and Female Sex Offenders Feminist Criminology, 7 (2), 146-162 DOI: 10.1177/1557085111430214

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