Thursday, July 19, 2007

To Catch a Predator?

(Thursday Thirteen visitors, scroll down!)
Last night my parents were watching To Catch A Predator, . On this show, somebody goes into a chatroom, using a fake profile that shows them as being either a boy or girl between the ages of 12 and 14. The object is to see whether adults will strike up conversations with the "child", in order to solicit sex. The "child" never suggests that she is looking for a boyfriend or that she's willing to have sex with an adult, but if approached, she acts like she's ready and willing. The "child" then lets the adult set up a time in which he will come to her "home," to either take her out on a date or just meet for sex. But guess what? The adult comes to the "home" he's been invited to, and speaks with someone who he thinks is the child he spoke to online... although its really an adult decoy, usually a young woman who is over eighteen but looks young enough to be 12 or 14. And then, the adult is greeted by Chris Hanson, of Dateline! Hanson confronts the adult and asks them about why they were hoping to meet a child for sex. Hanson then tells the adult that they are on the TV show... at which point the adult usually gets up and heads for the door... and upon leaving, is accosted by the police, who arrest him!
I've watched this show before. I have very mixed feelings about it.
On one hand, the show definitely makes it obvious that there are a lot of dangers waiting out there in Internet land. Some people say that the show is entrappment, and that its causing people to be found guilty until proven innocent. I disagree with that. Putting a fake child into a chat room to see what will happen is not entrapment because, the chances are, if all of these guys are jumping at the opportunity to meet what they think is a young kid, then they are probably jumping at the opportunity to meet every young kid they come across... most of whom actually are young kids! If you put a fake worm on the end of your pole and cast it out into a lake, chances are you'll catch a fish... but the only reason you're able to catch the fish is because the fish was out looking for worms, which it does on a regular basis. As you reel the fish up, I can guarantee it is not thinking, "Jeez, imagine this! The first time in my life I ever decide to bite a worm, and it turns out to be attached to a hook! How unfair is this?"
Plus, since its a pretty well-known show, its existence is a way of warning would-be perpetrators away from trying to pick up kids online. If their consciences are unable to tell them, "Molesting young kids is bad," then maybe the prospect of something bad happening to them... like the prospect of being lured in by a decoy and sent to jail... will be enough to make them think twice about talking to kids.
On the other hand, I sort of feel like this show takes a very serious matter and turns it into entertainment. People sit and eat dinner as they watch adult men try to seduce what they think is a 13-year-old kid. Then they watch the guy get his surprise visit from Chris Hanson, and finally, they watch the guy get arrested and dragged off to jail, and... break for commercial! The host of the show takes every opportunity to toot his own horn. "We're catching these bad guys! They're the scum of the earth and we're catching them! Look what a great thing we're doing! Tune in, everyone, and watch us catch the bad guys!"
I cringe every time I hear the voice-over say the words, "Sex with a child." "You came here to have sex with a child, didn't you? Were you or were you not going to have sex with a child? You were meeting this thirteen-year-old for sex!" The message seems to be, "Thirteen-year-olds can have sex, and if their parents aren't careful, they might have sex with this guy!"
My point? Yes, 13-year-olds are physically capable of having sex. But when that sex is with an adult, it is not sex. It is abuse. Say it like it is. You came here to abuse a kid. Calliong it sex, to me, somehow validates it.
Plus, I think the show sometimes even goes beyond the point of good taste when they talk about what these would-be perpetrators' intentions are. When the show first started, the decoy only spoke in person to the perpetrator for a few seconds... sometimes only their voice was heard calling from another room... before Chris Hanson pounced. But lately, they've been having the decoy stick around and speak to the perpetrator, still posing as a kid. The decoy wears a microphone in her ear, so she can recieve directions about what to say. While she speaks to the perpetrator, she is instructed to try to get the man to talk about what exactly he is hoping to do with her. All of us out in TV Land hear someone whisper in the decoy's ear, "Ask him if he would like you to touch him, too." Ugh. Its too much. Its unnecessary.
The idea, obviously, seems to be to shock the audience. At the end of every show, we are promised that if we tune in next week, we'll witness something even more disturbing!
I'd be interested in hearing readers' opinions of this show. What do you think of To Catch a Predator? Helpful, harmful, or both?


melody is slurping life said...

I've watched the show and I've always been disturbed by the sensationalism of the subject matter. You're right call it what it is...child abuse.

I have not forgotten about posting a book review. With moving, settling in and the current love project on my blog, my head is spinning. I promise the review is coming. :)

Hey, I'm going to email you.

Anonymous said...


This show disturbs me to the point that I can. not. be in the room if someone's watching. It's creepy and disturbing on so many levels, for many of the reasons you mentioned.