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University of Guelph
SOC 2070
Norman Dubeski

CHAPTER 6 Violence is a social and cultural construct Murder  Every society on earth has had a taboo against murder  We must distinguish between murder and killing Social Construction of Murder:  It is true that murder is universally condemned, by definition, murder is a deviant, criminal killing  Saying that murder universally is a crime is a definitional, not a descriptive or empirical, statement  The Bible actually read “thou shalt not murder” specifically refers to an unauthorized, illegitimate, and criminal form of killing. o The verb “to kill” is objective and descriptive o The term “to murder” is subjective  All societies accept, tolerate and authorize or even encourage certain sorts of killing o What is or is not murder is socially constructed o Whether abortion is or is not murder is socially constructed by the contestants in the abortion controversy. The Positivist Approach  FBI refers to criminal homicide as “murder and non-negligent manslaughter” and defines it as the wilful killing of one or more human beings by one or more others.  Although the category of criminal homicide is a social construct, once we’ve agreed on a definition and encompassed the actions included in that definition, we notice that these actions are socially patterned. The wilful taking of human like follows a set of sociological generalizations o The Public and Media image of murder is extremely distorted o Most murders take place in the heat of the moment o Most murders are justified by killers as a form of vindication, a way out of an intolerable situation o The more intimate the relationship, the greater the likelihood that one person will kill another. o Murderers and victims look remarkably alike o Murders tend to be overwhelmingly intra-racial. o African Americans are both more likely to kill and to be the victims of criminal homicide than whites o Murder is related to social class o Men are much more likely to kill than women o Rates of criminal homicide vary enormously from country to country, society to society o In the western world, rates of violence, and lethal violence, have dropped enormously since the middle ages.  Murder possesses enough internal consistency to reveal social patterning Forcible Rape  The FBI defines rape as “carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will”  Male to male rape is not defined by the FBI as rape, therefore legally it does not exist.  Rape is considered an assault  What defines an act as rape is that it is non-consensual, a sexual act forced or, or against, a women, against her will. In this sense, it is not different from aggravated assault  Rape is always, by definition, a violent act Social Construction of Rape  Arguments that emphasize the violent and aggressive character of rape often disclaim that sex plays any part in rape at all.  The fact that rape is violent does not mean that it cannot be other things as well.  The essence of sex is mutual consent, since rape lacks that essence, it may not be considered sex, although the same phenomenon can be regarded, defined and experienced differently in different ways  Rape can be sex in addition to violence o First, for some men, violence and sex are fused. o Second, for many men, rape is instrumental, to gain sexual access to otherwise unattainable women It is necessary to examine how rape is seen, defined and judged by audiences  General Public: can be divided according to spectrum or continuum. There are two extreme views: o Exclusive: narrow judgement of rape. Would see very few acts of sexual aggression by men as rape. Men have unlimited sexual access to women. Some rapists don’t believe that rape even exists. o Inclusive: very broad judgement of rape. Would see a great number of sexual acts as rape. Held by radical feminists separatists, they believe that all acts between men and women are always rape. All heterosexual sex is rape.  There are two moderate views: o Moderate Exclusive: held by sexual and gender-role traditionalists and conservatives. Believe women are responsible for provoking men’s sexually aggressive behaviour. “Nice girls don’t get raped” o Moderate Inclusive: Tend to be held by sexual and gender-role liberals. Feel women should not have to be protected by a man to live a life free of sexual assault.  Criminal Justice System: must understand a distinction between simple and aggravated rape. (also referred to as acquaintance and stranger rape) o Simple Rape: forced sexual intercourse in which there is little overt, clear cut violence. There is a single assailant, and he has a relationship of some sort with the victim. o Aggravated Rape: forced sexual intercourse in which there is overt violence (such as a weapon), there may be more than one assailant, and there is not previous relationship.  Victim: Crucial importance of the subjective definition of rape becomes clear when used by the victims themselves o Majority of women who are victims of forced intercourse do not see themselves as having been raped o Only 15% of women who said that they had been forced to have intercourse saw themselves as having been raped o There is a failure to perceive forced sex as rape Positivist Approach to Rape  Victimization surveys find that of all serious violent crimes, rape is least likely to be reported  59% do not report the offense to police. Rates of reporting are higher when the offender was a stranger to victim, is armed, and when the victim is physically injured. Rates are much lower when the offender is known, not armed, and victim is not physically injured Three Major Categories of Rape Theories  Individual: those that argue that some men have a higher tendency or proclivity to sexually assault women o The most extreme form is the psychopathology theory, which holds that rapists are mentally ill or “sick” o Moderate individual views argue that personalities and backgrounds of rapists are different from those who do not. o Gottfredson and Hirschi would argue that rapists are a particular type of individual, who is a product of poor socialization and who has low self-control  Sociocultural: those that argue that the content of certain cultures or subcultures influence men to be sexually aggressive towards women o Argue that the norms, values and beliefs held by the members of a given society, or social group, and conductive to men raping women o Some men learn that rape is okay o Sanday (1996) believes that difference campuses vary with respect to how rape free or rape prone they are, this explanation is socio-cultural.  In some collectivities, men learn to rape women, in others, they do not  Situational: argue that the key to rape is opportunity. o Routine Activities Theory would say that rape is the conjunction of a motivated offender, and target, and absence of a capable guardian. o Malamuth’s research, which supports the individualistic theories of rape, also suggest the importance of opportunity, since 35% of his male subjects said they would rape someone if they knew they would get away with it. o Men are deterred from rape as a result of the cost to them, and that cost includes both arrest and social stigma. o Tedeschi and Felson: argue that women who date many men, go out at night, are more likely to be rape victims.  Some argue that focusing on women’s behaviour is like blaming, but saying that women who do certain things have a higher statistical chance of
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