And that's the danger. The current culture has bastardized the P-word into banality. What used to be defined as "any organism that exists by preying upon other organisms" now means "any bastard that we can string up, especially if it keeps the children safe."
This week, cops in Florida busted 28 men for soliciting sex with minors. According to The New York Times:
Three of the 28 people who were arrested told authorities they worked for the Walt Disney Company, which owns and operates several theme parks in the Orlando area including Walt Disney World. Among the other arrested suspects were a volunteer for the Orlando Boys and Girls Club and a student at the University of Florida.
•The "kids" were undercover cops conducting a sting. They claimed to be girls, ages 13 or 14.
•The sting happened because it was "fairly simple" to set up -- not because police had noticed an uptick in sex cases involving children.
•The youngest of the suspects is 17. Another is 19. Two are 21.
There is also the media-whorishness of it all. The sheriff's office invited "reporters and photographers from several news agencies" to witness the sting, according to The Times. Grady Judd, the sheriff of Polk County, Fla., delivered his best fearmongering. "We will not allow these criminals’ behavior to escalate to kidnapping or murder," Grady said in a statement.
Easy arrests that make national news. How can Judd go wrong?
By continuing to hype an "epidemic" that needlessly frightens parents:
The sheriff’s office said that, according to national statistics, 1 in 7 children say that they have received an online solicitation; 1 in 11 has received an aggressive online sexual solicitation; and 1 in 3 has been exposed to unwanted sexual images on line.
A “sexual solicitation” is defined as a “request to engage in sexual activities or sexual talk or give personal sexual information that were unwanted or, whether wanted or not, made by an adult.” Using this definition, one teen asking another teen if her or she is a virgin—or got lucky with a recent date—could be considered “sexual solicitation.” Not a single one of the reported solicitations led to any actual sexual contact or assault. Furthermore, almost half of the “sexual solicitations” came not from “predators” or adults but from other teens—in many cases the equivalent of teen flirting. When the study examined the type of Internet “solicitation” parents are most concerned about (e.g., someone who asked to meet the teen somewhere, called the teen on the telephone, or sent gifts), the number drops from “one in five” to just 3 percent.
The problem of predator hype isn't confined to Florida. Like most states, Missouri keeps a list of what we'd all like to think of as evil sex predators. According to state statute, the bad guys include anyone who's been convicted of:
The acts of rape, forcible rape, statutory rape in the first degree, statutory rape in the second degree, sexual assault, sodomy, forcible sodomy, statutory sodomy in the first degree, statutory sodomy in the second degree, child molestation in the first degree, child molestation in the second degree, deviate sexual assault, sexual misconduct and sexual abuse, or attempts to commit any of the aforesaid.
Just so you'll know, "deviate sexual intercourse" in Missouri is defined as:
[A]ny act involving the genitals of one person and the hand, mouth, tongue, or anus of another person.
Is this your definition of a predator?