What is a Sexual Predator?

Dan Cavallari

The term "sexual predator" can refer to people who display several different types of behavior, all of which revolve around the search for or participation in sexual acts. In some cases, the term may refer to someone who aggressively seeks out sex or sexual acts, or someone who seeks out a sexual partner in a predatory way, such as stalking. In other cases, a sexual predator may be someone who seeks out sex, even if it is consensual sex, but does so either in an aggressive or an obvious manner. A sexual predator should not be confused with a sex offender, though in some cases the terms are interchangeable.

A sexual predator is typically aggressive when it comes to attracting potential partners.
A sexual predator is typically aggressive when it comes to attracting potential partners.

A sex offender is someone who has committed a sexual crime. Sex offenders must register with the state or locale in which they live so they can be identified as a sex offender publicly. A sexual predator, however, does not need to take these steps because he or she may or may not have committed any crime. Some states in the United States do use the term "sexual predator" interchangeably with "sex offender," and they are treated the same way. This can cause some confusion in the public, so most states or regions have chosen to delineate the two.

Sexual predators are often abusive to their partners.
Sexual predators are often abusive to their partners.

The behaviors that define a sexual predator will vary on a case by case basis. Someone may be deemed a sexual predator just by seeking out sex at a bar or club. Others may be seen as sexual predators for seeking out exploitative sexual contact — taking advantage of someone who is weaker, intoxicated, or otherwise not in control of his or her mental capacities, for example. People who videotape and distribute pornographic material without the consent or knowledge of the participants may also be considered predatory, and while such acts may be illegal in some locations, the predator is not necessarily a sex offender until he or she is charged with a crime.

Sexual predators may try to take advantage of someone who is intoxicated at a club or similar venue.
Sexual predators may try to take advantage of someone who is intoxicated at a club or similar venue.

The term has become loosely associated with the practice of child molestation or abuse as well. Adults who take advantage of minors sexually, or adults who seek to do so are generally considered sexual predators. If they are caught, they can be charged with crimes and thus become a sex offender. The term is often applied to people who seek out such relationships knowingly and with intention, though since the term is an unofficial one, it can be loosely applied to any situation.

Simply seeking out exploitative sexual contact may make one seem like a sexual predator.
Simply seeking out exploitative sexual contact may make one seem like a sexual predator.
Victims of sexual abuse may suffer from depression.
Victims of sexual abuse may suffer from depression.

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Discussion Comments


I have a friend -- or should I say an ex--friend... We are both in our 60s. I am a gay female and he is a straight male. He has asked me to engage in sex with him and his girlfriend. he has specifically told me what he wanted to do to me and then he asked me to sleep with his girlfriend. I think this man is a sexual predator. There are more stories. He also went after his best friend's wife --or should I say ex best friend? He has also gone after teenagers. I think most would agree this man is a predator.


A sexual predator is definitely not the neighbor boy who streaked at a football game, the 15 and 17 year old having consensual sex or a 12-year-old boy who urinated in a public park at 12 because he thought it was funny. These are not sexual predators, but they are put side by side in most states and many people never find out why they are on this list -- only that they are, so they must hunt children and hurt them daily.

It's such a sad state that one would look at the world through one pair of glasses. Open your eyes and take a look at the system. Right now, juveniles are having their constitutional rights violated every day. Another fact: even an allegation of a sex offense, according to law, makes you guilty before you are innocent. This is another right given to us by our forefathers. The point is, it's a failure by the system. The ones who will offend, yes we need to watch them, but just because they are on this list does not mean they will not harm anyone again. The ones who are harmed are the ones who do not belong on that list.


@umbra21 - It's a very difficult line to draw though. The problem is that our laws are always reactive, rather than being proactive and educating people not to rape.

And then you've got the problems with current laws where 18 year old kids are put on a list of predators because they had sex with their consenting 17 year old girlfriend.

I think in a lot of places they are starting to recognize that this kind of knee jerk reaction is ridiculous and there needs to be some kind of common sense to guide this kind of sentencing. There has to be something that can distinguish the difference between a 16 year old and an 18 year old having sex and a 40 year old and a 16 year old having sex. In one case I would say the older party was almost certainly a sexual predator, and in the other I'd say they weren't.


@KoiwiGal - I have to disagree with you there. Anyone who has that kind of fantasy is always going to be a danger, whether they have good intentions or not. They should be locked up, for their own good and for the good of the children they will inevitably come into contact with.

If anything I don't think our sexual predator laws are strong enough.

When you think about the high rates of rape and criminal child abuse that happen every day, it's a wonder people aren't afraid to step outside their homes, and that's just not right.


This is a very difficult term to work with and I would be very cautious in using it and in interpreting it when used by other people, because it is often meant to convey exactly the same thing as "sexual offender" even though they are different terms.

This has become such a hot button topic in a lot of places that I think the term "sexual predator" has also become confused with "pedophile". Often pedophiles are sexual predators and in that case they should be locked up, because they have essentially admitted an intent to harm.

But there are people who happen to have a sick attraction to children, who have no intent to harm them... and by that I mean, they actively attempt to stay away from children and maybe even try to chemically castrate themselves or take other measures.

In that case, I would say they were not sexual child predators. They could be called mentally ill, but they are people who should be helped, rather than people who should be locked up.

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