Gender and
QUESTION 1; why is it that
statistically, there are
more male criminals than
Before the emergence of the feminist
perspective, women were largely
invisible in sociological research.
When they were considered, the
analysis tended to see female crime
as a special case which resulted from
characteristics linked to biology.
Biological Theories
Lombrosso and Ferrero
(1895) stated that biology
tends to prevent women
from becoming criminals.
Although women do have
a deficient moral code,
this is neutralised by
natural feminine
These include piety,
maternity, sexual
coldness and an
Pollak (1950) & Moir & Jessel
Pollak argued that due to
female biology women were
good at hiding crimes
Women have learnt to lie to
men, hiding pain and
discomfort during periods and
fake interest and pleasure
during sex
Moir & Jessel’s more recent
research supports the
biological argument as they
found that a large percentage
of women get away with
charges of violent crime due to
Sex – Role theory
Talcott Parsons (1937) stated that
because child rearing is done by
mothers, girls have a clear role
They are likely to follow in their
mother’s footsteps and less likely
to turn to crime.
Heidensohn (1996) states that
informal social control discourages
women from straying from
“decent” behaviour.
Females are controlled by their
given role as mother and wife and
as they are bound to the home
environment they rarely have the
opportunity to leave the home and
commit crime
Chivalry Thesis
Graham (1992) & Bowling (1995)
This is the concept that women are let
off lightly by the criminal justice
Research based on self-report studies
revealed that gender differences in
criminal behaviour were not as great
as the differences in statistics
55% of males and 31% of females
admitted to committing offences.
Similar results were found within the
Youth Lifestyle Survey (1998-9)
11% of females admitted to offending
compared to 26% of males
These figures suggest that some
difference in the likelihood of being
convicted between the genders
Chivalry Thesis
Ann Campbell (1981) stated
that female suspects were
more likely than males to be
cautioned rather than
Hilary Allen (1989) stated that
men were much more likely to
be given prison sentences than
Even in very serious cases,
(manslaughter) women were
more able to avoid prison
sentences than men
Question 2
Does the criminal justice system treat
women unfairly?
Rape Trials
Carol Smart (1989) states that
rape trials “celebrate male
sexual need and female sexual
To illustrate this statement
Smart quotes British judges;
“It is well known that women
in particular.. are likely to be
untruthful and invent stories”
Judge Sutcliffe (1976)
Women who say no don’t
always mean no….if she
doesn’t want it she only has to
keep her legs shut” Judge Wild
Rape Trials
Sandra Walklate (2001)
“The female victim rather
than the male suspect
ends up on trial.
Rape trials continue to
see things from a male
point of view and accepts
without question that
men are unable to
restrain their desires once
women have given them
any indication they may
be available for sex.”
Double standards in the criminal
justice system
Heidensohn(1985) states that women are treated more
harshly when they deviate from social norms of female
Eg. Promiscuous girls are more likely to be put into care
than boys who involve themselves in similar behaviour
Courts are also reluctant to imprison mothers with young
Allen (1998-9) stated that men are more likely to be
fined and imprisoned partly because they are seen as
less central to the family
Pat Carlen (1997)
“The majority of British
women who go to prison
are less likely to be
sentenced due to the
seriousness of their
crimes and more
according to the courts
assessment of them as
wives, mothers and