Paedophilia And Sex Crimes In Conext Of Labelling Theory And The Interactionist Approach

2866 words - 11 pages

Over the years, many different theories have emerged that attempt to explain the actions of those described as criminals or deviants. These have proved the source of great debate among sociologists and criminologists, but there is not necessarily one that is a definitive explanation.It is important to remember that crime and deviance are not one and the same, although they are intrinsically linked. Perhaps it is useful to first define what is meant by these two terms. Crime is defined as " offence which goes beyond the personal and into the public sphere, breaking...laws, to which legitimate punishments...are attached..." (Marshall, 1998, p 125). Deviance, on the other hand, is said by Marshall (1998) to have two strands: the first, anything that goes against societal norms but is not necessarily illegal (for example, homosexuals are seen as deviant but commit no crime). Secondly, deviance can be viewed as a stigma construct - more or less a label created by society (for instance, people wearing 'abnormal' clothes, such as Goths, seem to have been labelled this way, rather than deliberately trying being different).Sexual crimes are often seen as both deviant and criminal, though criminal acts are to be what is concentrated on here. Rape, for example, is a vulgar violation and therefore illegal - however, it is also deviant as it is not a necessary method for a man to employ in order to gain sexual intercourse. Child sex crimes are a particularly potent example of this also, and will be concentrated on for the purposes of this essay.Administrative criminology is a comparatively recent concept, so official records on numbers of children who have been sexually abused have not been readily available until relatively recently. That, however, is not to say that the figures we currently have accurately portray how widespread the problem may be. Sex crimes in general are underreported, but particularly so when children are involved - as well as the usual factors of shame or embarrassment, children may not necessarily know that what is being done to them is wrong. An almost clichéd, but still very relevant, depiction of this is that of the offender telling the child they are 'playing a special game' and that it is 'their secret.' Through fear or ignorance, children are therefore somewhat unlikely to report the abuse until much later, if ever.The great majority of society justifiably holds child sex offenders in contempt. However, the subject was previously a taboo area and neither the criminal justice system nor the general public were particularly preoccupied with it. Things are different nowadays - thanks to the sexual revolution of the 1960s, most issues pertaining to sex can be discussed more openly.The media have also played a role in increasing sexual awareness - especially in relation to paedophilia. As Thomas points out, child sex offences are "...a mainstay of the tabloid and broadsheet newspapers, where offenders become 'monsters',...

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