Deviance used to be focused on “Sluts, Nuts, and Perverts”, had a very narrow definition of
what was deviant. Now there is a very small focus on these “outsiders”, and instead the main
focus is on the processes through which acts of deviance are made and reproduced.
What is Deviance?
● any behaviour that goes against norms and social expectations.
● different than what’s illegal. Something could be illegal but not deviant (speeding,
underage drinking), and something could be legal but deviant (same sex marriage is
contested still, cheating on a partner, any form of subculture).
● Conformity is any behaviour that complies with a norm.
● Deviant does not mean bad, wrong, perverted, sick, or inferior in anyway.
● Note: Norms are not static, they change over time, across cultures, and from place to
place (ex. small town vs cities).
Social Constructionism: Deviance is created by society
Essentialism: Deviance is natural (outdated)
The Contested Nature of Deviance.
● Conflict Deviance: disagreement as to whether something is deviant or not
● Usually not total agreement within a culture about what is normal and what is deviant.
● Example: Fighting in Hockey.
○ Normal currently
○ In 10 years? Probably not. Too many head injuries. Lawsuits have cause NFL to
○ Culture is kind of moving away from fighting in general (antibullying, antihazing),
hockey must move with the culture of society.
○ Contested: MMA is fighting, lots of canadians; very ingrained in the sport; some
sports don’t change with society.
● Big thing: Values change over time
○ Ex. Should Marijuana be legal? (2012 poll: 66% said legal/decriminalized)
○ Up until 1910’s, no drugs were actually criminalized, first drug to be criminalized
was opium (idea that chinese men were “stealing” white women)
○ Cocaine “AfricanAmericans are stealing white women” → became illegal
○ Marijuana was kind of just thrown in
○ Now we’re more focused on health.
How it is studied: Two areas of research
● Why do people deviate?
○ Strain Theory + Subcultural Theory
● Why are some people categorized as normal and other as deviant?
○ Labelling Theory *Theories of deviance:
● Strain Theory
○ Developed by Robert Merton
○ “When those without these resources find themselves prevented from achieving
society’s culturally achieved goals, they turn, according to Merton, to criminal
● Subcultural Theory
○ Developed by Albert Cohen
○ response to Merton’s ideas
○ study of teenage gangs (building off Frederick Thrasher and E. Franklin Frazier)
→ idea of the delinquent subculture
■ made up of boys suffering from status frustration
● Labelling Theory
○ Developed by Howard Becker
○ explains how labels are internalized
○ “labels applied to individuals and groups….become internalized by both the
mainstream and the by the majority group”
○ Primary deviance: first act of deviance that someone does, results in them being
○ Secondary deviance: occurs when people internalize and identify with that label
■ becomes a mas