Introduction: Villains and victims: Excavating the moral panics of sexuality

Breanne Fahs, Mary L. D'udy, Sarah Stage

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingForeword/postscript

1 Scopus citations


The now-infamous case of the “West Memphis Three”-three young men who faced life imprisonment after allegedly murdering three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas in 1993-reveals the potential danger, volatility, and impact of the moral panics of sexuality. Faced with the devastation of finding three boys tied up and drowned in a nearby drainage ditch, the townspeople, police officials, and legal counsel constructed an elaborate story with all the elements of a moral panic: Satanic witchcraft, sexual torture and mutilation, and violent teenage masculinity. In reality, of course, the men faced eighteen years of imprisonment for a crime they did not commit. The so-called Satanic rituals never happened, the “sexual torture” had been committed by a group of turtles living in the ditch, and the supposedly violent men had never even spoken to the boys. The likely perpetrator, a stepfather visible in plain sight the entire time, had gone free, aided by the whirlwind of decades-long sexual panic (West of Memphis 2012). The town had, as Gayle Rubin warned, become “dangerously crazy about sexuality."

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Moral Panics of Sexuality
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781137353177
ISBN (Print)9781137353160
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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