Unit 3 Reading: Defining Deviancy Up
A rebuttal to Defining Deviancy Down
As part of the project of moral levelling, entirely new areas of deviancy,
such as date rape, and politically incorrect speech, have been discovered.
Also, old areas, such as child abuse, have been amplified by endless
reiteration in the public
Child abuse is both a crime and a tragedy, but is it nineteen times more
prevalent today than it was thirty years ago? That is what the statistics
It is hard to believe that the tendency toward improved treatment is so
drastically reversed in one generation
Answer: It hasn’t. Its over-reporting
2/3 of crimes aren’t reported, for child abuse, 2/3 crimes are never
People are trying to find cases, when they cannot be found, they are
“47 percent of women are victims of rape/attempted rape, 25 percent of
women are victims of complete rape” According to Catharine MacKinnon.
Rape has been expanded to include behaviours that should not qualify as
rape. Even the victims do not recognize it as rape.
Rape is so radically defined up (including offering a drink and being
verbally insistent) it is no surprise that it is an epidemic
This is just an empirical dressing for the theory that claims “because
relations between men and women are unequal, sex can never truly be
The project is now to identify prejudiced thinking, instincts and attitudes
Ordinary criminality we are learning to live with (defining deviancy down).
What we are learning we cannot live with is the heretofore unrecognized
violence against women that lurks beneath the façade of ordinary
seemingly benign heterosexual relations
The deviant is declared normal, and the normal is unmasked as deviant
The perfect vehicle for exposing the rottenness of the bourgeois life is
defining deviancy up. The law abiding middle class define their own virtue
in contrast to the deviant by means of ostracism and punishment
Defining deviancy up is a new way of satisfying an old ideological agenda.
It fills a psychological need. How do we cope with the explosion of real
deviancy? One way is denial, the other is distraction: defining deviancy up
creates brand new deviances that we can now go off and fight
These new crusades do nothing about real criminality or lunacy. But they
do make us feel that we are making inroads on deviancy.
Unit 3 Reading: Today’s Counter Enlightenment
Outside Europe, the “anything goes” attitude was never fully accepted
What a poor world it would be if anything that might offend any group
could no longer be said. A multicultural society that accepts every taboo of
its diverse groups would have little to talk about
The gains of enlightened discourse are too precious to be tuned into
negotiable values. Defending those gains is the task we face Why should sociologists study alcohol use?
The excessive consumption of alcohol makes it difficult for most people to
effectively perform their expected institutional roles, marital, familial,
economic and educational. Failing to perform roles as a result of
intoxication is a form of deviance
The effects of alcohol facilitate or are associated with the enactment of
many forms of deviance, including crime, violence, sexual misbehaviour,
and needless accidents
At certain times/in certain circumstances the mere consumption of
alcohol, regardless of its consequences, has been or is regarded as both
legally and informally non-normative
While very few sociologists define deviance by harm, harm and deviance
are not randomly related to one another, many of the most harmful
activities are condemned
There’s a concern that practically all adult members of the society harbour
when it comes to drinking: alcohol consumption among minors
There are at least two measures of alcohol consumption: drinking vs.
abstinence, and drinking vs. drinking to excess
Social class or socioeconomic status correlates strongly and consistently
with the consumption of alcohol. The higher the social class, the greater
the likelihood of drinking. Strong correlation between education and
drinking (college graduates drink way more often then those who have no
education) if this talking about binge drinking though, it is reversed
Gender correlates with drinking strongly, Men are consistently more likely
to drink than women
Age is also strongly correlated with drinking. Drinking is low in early
adolescence , shoots up in middle to late teens, declines slowly after
peaking at 19-20
Objectively: legal drug use is a far more serious social problem than illegal
drug use. Yet illegal drug use is socially constructed as a more serious
Subjectively: in the way that the public regards it and the government
deals with it, the consumption of illicit substances it more serious social
Alcohol’s objectively harmful effects are softened and rerouted by
The effects of alcohol are determined by the volume of alcohol consumed
Two people with the same measured level of intoxication may exhibit
Alcohol is a drug with measured effects as well as a social phenomenon, it
is a depressant, if dose is too high, the body’s organs will shut down and
cause death, but it is legally available to purchase
Women, people with lower body fat and those who haven’t eaten recently
are more sensitive to the effect of alcohol
Alcohol Abuse and Risky Behaviour
Binge Drinking: a form of alcohol abuse, it is the consumption of 5
drinks or more three times a month. Risky Behaviour: behaviours that society regards as non-normative,
harmful. Driving while drunk, engaging in criminal behaviour, putting
oneself into a position in which become a victim is likely.
Drinkers and people who are intoxicated are more likely to engage in
risky, deviant behaviour than non-drinkers.
Relationship between alcohol abuse and deviant behaviour is strongly
contingent on drinking locales/contexts.
o It isn’t heavy alcohol consumption that counts in this relationship,
it’s the social, cultural and local contexts where drinking happens.
Hypothesis: What causes higher levels of alcohol to co-vary with deviant behaviour?
Disinhibition Hypothesis: alcohol causes risky behaviour. Because
alcohol’s effect releases the inhibitions from committing dangerous acts.
Susceptibility Hypothesis: alcohol abuse and engaging in deviant
behaviour are related because they are the effects of a common cause