America is in the grips of a pervert hysteria. Strict residency restrictions for sex offenders has led to a colony of them forced to live under a bridge in Miami. To Catch a Predator--a show in which reporters trick men into thinking they're chatting online with an underage girl only to expose them to police--is somehow a commercial success for MSNBC. Interestingly enough, despite high-profile cases of children abducted by strangers, sex crime against kids have declined. But all the national panic surrounding sexual predators has trickled down into our every day lives. These days, Lenore Skenazy writes in The Wall Street Journal, "almost any man who has anything to do with a child can find himself suspected of being a creep."
Skenazy recounts several tales of what she terms "Worst-First" thinking, when we "jump to the very worst, even least likely, conclusion first. Then we congratulate ourselves for being so vigilant." Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Tomothy Murray saved two kids from a burning van, only to be yelled at by a grandmother who thought Murray was kidnapping the boys. A daycare center now prohibits male workers from even being in the same room when a diaper is being changed. A woman berated a man for holding girls' underwear in a store, until only his ID would convince her that he was restocking inventory. Skenazy's friend recounts how he got lost one day, so he rolled down his window and asked some kids if they knew where a particular road was. "They ran off screaming," he says.
"We think we're protecting our kids by treating all men as potential predators," Skenazy writes. "But that's not a society that's safe. Just sick."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.