Skip to Main Content
Strangers in Our Midst

Strangers in Our Midst: Sexual Deviancy in Postwar Ontario

Elise Chenier
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Strangers in Our Midst
    Book Description:

    Strangers in Our Midstoffers an original critical analysis of the rise of sexological thinking in Canada, and shows how what was conceived as a humane alternative to traditional punishment could be put into practice in inhumane ways.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8922-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Illustrations
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    As society’s most vulnerable members, children rely on adults for protection, and when we fail, we feel it keenly. When this happens, we are also more likely to feel obligated to swiftly take actions we think will provide children with greater protection. In this sense, the current popularity of sexual predator laws in the United States and the implementation of a national sex offender registry in Canada appear to reflect a basic human impulse to protect the weak and punish the wicked, an impulse that seems to stand outside of history. No matter in what historical period they occur, sexual...


    • chapter one Criminal Sexual Psychopathy: The Birth of a Legal Concept
      (pp. 17-42)

      In the spring of 1947, Mrs Geraldine M. had had enough. During a Saturday shopping excursion in downtown Toronto, a man had exposed himself just as she and her daughter boarded the bus home. Two days later, her daughter came home in ‘a hysterical condition. One of those indecently exposed male creatures had approached her.’ Mrs M. related these events in a letter to Russell Kelly, Ontario’s minister of health. She wrote the minister not only to express anger and fear, but to share some very specific ideas about what the Ontario government should do with sex perverts.¹ ‘We have...

    • chapter two Social Citizenship and Sexual Danger
      (pp. 43-78)

      On 25 February 1955, eight-year-old Judy Carter didn’t make it home from school. Somewhere along the short four blocks between her friend’s house, where she stopped to read comics, and her parents’ basement apartment in Cabbagetown, then one of Toronto’s rougher working- class neighbourhoods, she disappeared. The press, the public, and even the victim’s mother immediately speculated that Judy was the victim of a ‘sex fiend.’¹ Hundreds of volunteers, including firemen, boy scouts, and the local Rotary Club, joined the ‘Search for Judy’ campaign. Tragically, six weeks later her body was discovered along a riverbank in Markham Township, well outside...

    • chapter three Surveying Sex: The Royal Commission on the Criminal Law Relating to Criminal Sexual Psychopaths
      (pp. 79-114)

      From Mackenzie King’s early twentieth-century investigation into the relationship between labour and capital, to the 1960s report on bilingualism and biculturalism, royal commissions have played a key role in shaping twentieth-century Canadian political and cultural life. However, most often they are extremely costly ventures that result in no significant policy changes at all. When leading civil-rights advocate Chief Justice James Chalmers McRuer was appointed to lead the Royal Commission on the Criminal Law Relating to Criminal Sexual Psychopaths (hereafter referred to as the commission) in 1954, he was determined to produce a report that would contribute to the growing body...


    • chapter four The Mad and the Bad: Treating Sexual Deviation
      (pp. 117-136)

      ‘Experiment is ... superior to precedent,’ American sexologist Benjamin Karpman proclaimed in 1948. ‘Old methods are readily abandoned, to give way to newer methods.’¹ Indeed, at war’s end medical and psychiatric experts had all but renounced somatic solutions to sexological problems in favour of increasingly popular theories of personality and ego development. Drawing on the work of people like G. Stanley Hall in the United States, Sigmund Freud in Europe, and George Stevenson in Canada, postwar sexologists elaborated on the role of culture, society, and especially the family in shaping the sexual self. Not one of the experts knew how...

    • chapter five Sex Deviant Treatment in Ontario Prisons
      (pp. 137-164)

      In the 1950s, treatment experts agreed that the prison environment was the least likely place for any kind of psychotherapy to be successfully undertaken. In Ontario, the Department of Reform Institutions’ own research and treatment policy statement conceded that the conflict between the need to protect society from the criminal, and the desire to effect the reformation and rehabilitation of the prisoner, made it ‘impossible to achieve the maximum rehabilitation in the presence of maximum security.’¹ As Justin Ciale, the psychologist at Quebec’s federal penitentiary St Vincent de Paul, explained, it is impossible to help an inmate work toward normal...

    • chapter six Compulsory Heterosexuality and the Limits of Forensic Sexology
      (pp. 165-198)

      In the 1950s, most of the public anxiety about and news media coverage of sex crime concerned sexual assaults against female children, but because sex between men was a sex crime as well as a form of ‘sex deviation,’ discussions about pedophilia often segued into talk about sex between adult men. During government commission hearings and public inquiries, as well as in the news media, conversations easily glided from child molestation to homosexuality. As we saw in chapter 3, the ambiguity of the term ‘sexual deviation’ allowed for the increased policing and regulation of male homosexuality, even though the primary...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 199-210)

    In 2007 the popular magazineScientific American Mindpublished a fivepage review of current research on sex offender treatment. Readers learned that some experts view child sex offending as the product of a psychological disorder, while others hunt for biological explanations. In London, England, for example, researchers have found that men who were raised in violent homes, who were victims of parental neglect, and who were sexually assaulted as children are, as adults, most likely to sexually assault children. At the University of New Hampshire, sociologist David Finkelhor identified lack of education and self-esteem, as well as ‘deep-seated sexual anxiety’...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 211-266)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 267-288)
  11. Index
    (pp. 289-294)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 295-296)