Statistics indicate that men are more likely to commit crime than women. For example, in 2002 80% of known offenders (481,000+) were men. As there are a number of problems with the reliability and validity of statistics, an alternative to information are self-report studies. These are anonymous and some believe because they all but guarantee anonymity they encourage respondents to be more truthful than if they were involved in an interview. In the past, sociologists tended to pay attention to only males committing crimes and ignored gender differences. This began to change in the 1970’s when feminists such as Carol Smart looked into woman and crime and began to ask questions such as:
• Why do woman commit fewer crimes than men?
• Why are woman more likely to commit to social norms compared to men?
• Is there anything distinctive about a woman's experience as an offenders and as victims of crime?
• Are woman treated differently than men in the justice system?
There is now an agreement within sociology that when studying crime and deviance we must take into account gender. This means we must also ask questions about men.
• What is the relationship between crime and masculinity?
Sex role theory: this theory argues that boys and girls are socialized differently, therefore resulting in boys becoming more delinquent. There are different versions of this theory. Edwin Sutherland (1949) stated that there are clear gender differences when it comes to socialization. Firstly, girls are more supervised and more strictly controlled. Secondly, boys are encouraged to take risks and to be tough and aggressive. Therefore, boys have more of an opportunity and an inclination to commit crime. Talcott Parsons (1995) believes that there are clear and obvious gender roles within the nuclear family. The father performs roles which show him to be more of the leader and provider, whilst the mother performs the expressive role of giving emotional support and socializing children. These roles are rooted from the birth of their children as mothers have to give birth and nurse children.
Girls have a readily available female role model at home (their mother) whereas boys have less access to their male role model as traditionally the father was out at work for most of the time. Boys will be socialized largely by their mother and will tend to reject behavior that is seen as feminine as they compulsively pursue masculinity. Because of the emphasis on toughness and aggression this encourages anti-social behavior and delinquency. Albert Cohen (1955) believed that if boys don’t have that readily available role model, socialization can be a difficult process. Boys can experience anxiety about their identity as a young man and a solution for this is all male peer groups or street gangs. In these social contexts, aspects of masculinity can be expressed and rewarded. The idea of being tough and breaking rules can help to conform to the idea of masculinity.
The feminist perspectives on who is involved in crime starts from the view that society is patriarchal and woman can only be understood under male dominance. Pat Carlen (1990) stated that a woman's crimes can be known as ‘the crimes of the powerless’ as many woman who commit crimes are powerless in some way. For example, they live in poverty with little power to change the situation; as children they may have been badly treated and looked after, perhaps being abused by fathers. As adults they have often lived under the dominance of male partners who asserted control - perhaps in the form of violence.
After interviews with 39 woman aged 15 to 46 convicted of various offences, Carlen drew on the control theory – saying that woman turn to crime when the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. It appeared that the interviewed women turned to crime as a rational choice. Low paid work and unemployment had not led to the standard of...