Are Heavily Tattooed People Prone To Defiance Criminology Essay


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I have chosen to critically analyze the photo on the title page of the essay, a picture of an extreme tattooed and pierced person, whose picture was at the centre of an article on the web entitled "Heavily-Tattooed People Are More Prone to Deviant Behavior". I believe that this image is a good example of how the media depicts deviance. It portrays extreme body art as a form of moral crusade against the subculture which is formed because of status conflict and competition between groups to control deviant definitions, neglecting the consequences of the labels they attach to individuals.

The targeted audiences are people who are internet users, most likely the younger generation. The intention is to influence the opinion of the reader to be similar to that of the writer, perhaps to influence future policies and practices. Furthermore, young people are easier influenced than the older generation whose ideas are already formed. What's more the writer incorporates a picture of a person with extreme body art to bring across his point and the approach taken that more body art leads to more deviant behavior.

I believe that this subjected matter was selected because of its observed prevalence among young persons with a relationship to deviance. Hence, in this essay my analysis of deviance with reference to excessive body art will show how the media uses this mechanism to influence and control definitions of deviance by labeling the individuals. I shall also focus on what happens after this phenomenon occurs, how the individual learns and gains their particular identity and how deviance is measured.

Deviance has been illustrated in correlation with our capitalist society and its influences both positive and negative. Therefore, understanding deviance requires examining people and the institutions that define and react to deviance, since rule making and rule enforcement are often important causes of deviance. Given that deviance is defined as behavior beyond the accepted norms of a group and society and viewed as nonconformity. One grasps the realization that when nonconformity is subject to social control, only then does it become deviant. In this case I believe that the Medias negative portrayal of nonconformity display this act especially when pertaining to extreme tattooing and piercings as a subculture that is more than an odd group in society and hence not accepted. Therefore, this perspective on deviance enables one to record the social reality of attaching and labeling a deviant identity to the individual in society.

The labeling perspective focuses on the social reaction to crime and deviance which is also an important source for the explanation of deviant behavior. The phenomenon focuses our attention to what occurs and how the individual is influenced after being labeled. This occurrence shows how ones actions when met with disapproval result in persons taking on a primary identity that could evolve into seeing themselves as deviant, and giving rise to a response favorable to the label and engaging in deviance. It is essential to pay attention to rule making and rule enforcement since it is often an important cause of deviance, given that the aftermath of being labeled deviant often produces consequences. Once a deviant identity is established and reinforced by agents of social control and contributing members of society there are overall social and institutional changes. Furthermore, the relationship between labeling and reinforcing a deviant identify also illustrates how such association affects a domino effect in institutions contributing to prejudicial changes in others. I believe that this is the exact intention of the media through this picture. By having the news article on the internet the younger generation is influenced in making a judgment and hence influencing the future of overall social and institutional changes.

Since we know that deviance is defined as behavior beyond the accepted norm of society - we must ask ourselves why does deviant behavior occur, or why and what do individuals get out of extreme body art and body piercing - when this decision makes them the 'unacceptable' members of society? I believe that the answer to these questions begin with the two main types of explanations for deviance. The first explanation is through Motivational Theories which include Strain Theory and the Learning Theory. Because Motivational Theories give explanations highlighting factors that compel individuals towards deviant behavior. Secondly, through explanation of Control and Opportunity Theories, which stress those factors that prevent our inclinations from acting on deviant impulses and becoming deviant ourselves.

The question is what makes the individual turn to such an extreme art of expression in the first place. Is being labeled the main result of deviance or is it the after effect of an anomic society and capitalism. I believe that because of anomie, the disconnectedness from social norms and ones physical and mental state individuals incur such identities. Hence, Merton's revision of anomie sheds light on this aspect of deviance, since he argues that "anomie is a psychological state of confusion and disorientation due to insufficient regulation in society; it is also seen as characteristic of society, particularly under capitalism" (Downes, Rock & McCormick, 2009: 104). Therefore, due to Merton's perspective on anomie, we realize the significance of state of mind in context to deviance as a response of the individual to structural conditions within society and the relation of strain associated with it, as I believe is illustrated in the above photo.

Furthermore, by focusing on Strain Theory and its' unpredictableness we realize that strain may lead to any type of deviance since it is difficult to predict its' affects and determine how individuals may respond. Individual respond to stressors in different ways hence Merton and Cohen argument that motivations for deviant behavior and criminal activity arise as a result illustrating the disconnectedness of the individual to relate to culturally prescribed goals and access the means to achieve those goals. Since individual disconnectedness plays a major role in deviance, we understand that "to pursue a goal which is by definition unobtainable is to condemn oneself to a state of perpetual unhappiness" and deviant self-expression (Downes, Rock & McCormick, 2009: 109). In addition, due to Merton and Cohen one captures the greater appreciation for the individual in the photo, because we come to recognize that the lack of social connection and the unavailability of social resources may be the cause of such perceived deviance. However, sometimes it is also evident that a person's learning history and environment also contributes to greater pro-deviant behavior, as well influences of pro-conformity.

Regardless of the fact that strain contributes to deviance, consideration leads us to ask why many individual who face strain do not succumb to deviance. Perhaps the opposing Learning Theory can shed some light on this question. According to what we learned in our course, Learning Theories suggests that what and how we learn contribute to how people react to the strain of society which influences our behavior. Consequently, as ideas are passed on from one generation to another, conduct norms connect the old and the new preserving traditions of delinquency, which in turn facilitates a basis for social education through contact. As a result, deviance is then acquired and observed as no longer being a private circumstance but transformed into a public behavior associated to expression and symbolism. For example, "people learn to be mad, and others learn to see people as mad, confirming the validity and utility of the original stereotypes" (Downes, Rock & McCormick, 2009: 184).

For example, regardless that there may be a correlation between body art and criminal activity in some subcultures, one recognizes that not all body art subcultures portray these attributes and consequently we see two sides of deviance the non criminal and criminal entity because "many deviants or deviant behavior are distinguished by their visibility" and rely on public gatherings to enable a sense of fulfillment or belonging (Downes, Rock & McCormick, 2009: 29). One entity may relate to deviance as social exclusion, confusion and disorientation. Whereas, the other, include both disconnectedness, and the connection to criminal bodies as a source of monetary gain. Although deviant behavior may be hidden and criminal from one point of view, from another it is in the open and made to seem criminal by social forces. Hence, due to this understanding the realization is that deviance may be liberating for some but may invite alienation and disapproval for others, which lead to social control being put in place. Control Theory explains crime and deviance by focusing on the absence of controls and assumes that no matter what deviance will occur and mainly focuses on how to control deviance. Hence, this approach takes into consideration factors that enable inhibition in opposition to deviance and crime. From this point of view the loosening of control portrayed in the photo, illustrates that individuals exhibiting extreme body art as lacking both inner and external control hence the need for prevention and conformity.

Similarly, as Travish and Hirschi argues "the common property of control theories is their assumption that delinquent acts result when an individual's bond to society is weak or broken" and identifies four main components of that social relationship attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief (Downes, Rock & McCormick, 2009: 228). Given that the conformist is bonded to others and the deviant not, we come to see how the photo portrays the embodiment of the non-conformist somewhat free from social control and exposed to greater risk of deviation. The broken window hypothesis reinforces, Travish Hirschi argument because, I believe that the broken window hypothesis argued by Jane Jacobs and later on by James Wilson and George Kelling in 1982 exemplified the mindset of the extreme body art sub culture. Just as " Broken window, graffiti, and malicious damage were held to be visible and obvious signs of a neighborhood that was in decay and was open to depredation and about which no one effectively cared", so too does the mindset of the extreme body artist illustrate the same values in a subculture considered deviant (Downes, Rock & McCormick, 2009: 240). Moreover, even though theories offer social patterns of society, given rational accounts of deviance, we must not base findings on theories alone since science is considered logico-empirical consisting of both logic and observation.

Social scientific research relates to and encompasses theory, data collection, and data analysis, illustrating factors in favor of sociology of deviance which, "is to replace wild or informed guesses about conduct with more reliable charts of the social world" such as the individual in the photo (Downes, Rock & McCormick, 2009: 253). In addition, measuring deviance becomes an important element as it reinforces the social scientific enterprise because, "theory deals with the logical aspect of science, whereas data collection deals with the observational aspect. Data analysis looks for patterns in observations and, where appropriate, compares what is logically expected with what is actually observed" (Barbie & Benaquisto, 2009: 13).

In conclusion I believe that the photo I have chosen with the negative caption making a connection between heavily tattooed peopled and deviant behavior is an excellent example of the negative. It also shows how the media influences young and future generations in forming policies, rules, and regulations of our society through the largest medium in the world the internet.

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