Reviewing The Relationships Between Each Gender Criminology Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

The relationship between gender and crime contains many different concepts. It is assumed that everyone knows what defines gender. The gender of an individual is categorized either male or female. Over time gender roles have changed significantly, i.e. women working in dominant positions becoming the bread-winners while the men are becoming stay at home dads or possibly sharing the duty of supporting the household.

It is also understood that there are good things and bad things in society, i.e. laws and crime. With that being said, it is implied that people do both good and bad things. Crimes are being committed by both genders; male and female. In this review, the relationship between gender and crime will be observed, with the primary focus being on female offenders. While both genders may commit crimes, there is an obvious disparity between males and females with regard to apprehension, conviction and incarceration.

First concept to be discussed will be the different treatment each gender deals with when presenting their case in court. The chivalry theory will be explained in this review, to help understand the disparity that exists for each gender that commits a crime. Every person has their own opinion on each gender, having biases or favoring one gender over the other. This review will discuss reasons why people or society form injustice for one gender and maybe not the other.

The second concept will be sex offenders. There are many different categories of sex offenders. The common question that may be asked is how one would be considered a sex offender. One would assume that it would have something to do with a sexual act being committed illegally, i.e. rape, child molestation, or possession of child pornography. These crimes definitely have a relationship with gender. This concept will be discussed to help understand the relationship between gender and crime.

The third concept to be discussed will be domestic violence. Domestic violence simply put is violent behavior or fighting in the home. Not only will domestic violence between a man and woman be discussed but the reasons for who and why. Women are not only victims, but perpetrators as well. This review will discuss why women are underestimated and why society will take a woman's word over a man's word.

The fourth concept that will be reviewed is serial homicides. Simply put, an ongoing act of a person killing other people, continuous murders. This section will discuss how the two genders differ in motive and style. Basically, why they did it and how they did it.

The fifth and final concept to be discussed is crimes of passion. This section will not only discuss crimes committed by males with female victims or crimes committed by females with male victims, it will also discuss crimes committed by males with male victims and crimes committed by females with female victims. This review will discuss whether fair treatment is given all around to both genders regardless of their sexual orientation when presenting their case in court.

In the end, the information presented should help to answer many questions that may have been asked here. The information brought forth will give a better understanding of gender and crime. The five concepts discussed will aid in the understanding of gender and crime, whether it be similarities or differences between the genders or the crimes. The chivalry theory gives understanding to each genders benefits or lack there of. Transitioning to sex offenders and the relationship each gender has with the crime at hand. Followed by domestic violence; a crime that each gender can commit. The review will conclude with a discussions on serial homicides and crimes of passion, giving final explanations to some gender and crime disparities.

Chivalry Theory

Although women are a group that is viewed as socially weak, studies in the past have demonstrated that males receive harsher punishments than their female counterparts (Herzog & Oreg, 2008). This is the foundation for "chivalry theory." While the numbers show that the conviction and incarceration rates of women have significantly increased, it is empirically shown that they still receive less severe punishments than men in almost all stages of the judicial process (Herzog & Oreg, 2008). Some of the reasons for this are that women are viewed as weaker, passive, submissive, dependent and easily manipulated (Nagel & Johnson, 1994). For these reasons, they are viewed as not suited for incarceration, not responsible for their offenses, and more likely to be receptive to rehabilitation efforts (Nagel & Johnson, 1994)

Other explanations for the disparity between men and women provided by chivalry theory are: men are more capable of committing acts of criminal nature; judicial personnel of male gender tend to associate the female offenders with the significant woman in their life and end up taking a more protective stance; and, because women tend to be the family care giver, it is not seen as practical to incarcerate women leaving the family to care for themselves (Herzog). Studies have demonstrated that when discretionary decisions can be made, "women are less likely than men to be detected, arrested, charged, convicted, and sentenced" (Herzog & Oreg, 2008). Some believe they need protection rather than punishment (Herzog & Oreg, 2008).

While male offenders are viewed as culpable for their own actions, female offenders are viewed as victims to a faulty environment that neglected to guide and supervise her the way she deserves (Herzog & Oreg, 2008). Chivalry theory suggests that these reasons explain the soft approach taken with women; an approach that some consider to be reverse discrimination (Nagel & Johnson, 1994). Although, "stereotyping associated with paternalism negatively impacts women and should not be assumed to be benign simply because it results in leniency in a specific context" (Nagel & Johnson, 1994).

It is believed that some female offenders receive special treatment if they commit offenses that are deemed to be "'typically female,' such as petty theft and shoplifting" (Herzog & Oreg, 2008). Selective chivalry argues that only women who meet the standard of traditional gender roles are afforded protection in the form of leniency that society grants (Herzog & Oreg, 2008). Traditional female gender roles believes women should: be subordinate to male companions; perform family duties; be married with children; live with spouse; be a housewife; and, only work a few hours a day (Herzog & Oreg, 2008). Adversely, if a female does not conform to society's standard of traditional roles "by being single, careerist, or feminist," she loses the benefits usually given, and in many cases are subject to more extreme treatment than men (Herzog & Oreg, 2008). Nontraditional women are therefore accused for the crime they committed, and then punished for not conforming to appropriate gender behavior (Herzog & Oreg, 2008). This leads one to conclude that the enforcement of gender role expectations are what shape attitudes with regard to female offenders, not chivalry (Herzog & Oreg, 2008).

Although some female offenders may spend less time behind bars do to paternalism, there are also some negative consequences (Nagel & Johnson, 1994). The consequences are that women are stereotyped as weak, and women are not viewed as "responsible moral agents" (Nagel & Johnson, 1994). While today, there is ample evidence that there have been major shifts in gender based attitudes within recent decades (Herzog & Oreg, 2008). Also, men and women tend to view society in a heterogeneous way now, and are less likely to use gender as the basis for their views (Herzog & Oreg, 2008).

Sex Offenders

While changing gender roles in the early 20th century are linked to female sex offending, the criminality of women is attributed to female assertiveness; which has not peaked yet and is coming close to the levels of male violence (Kruttschnitt, Gartner, & Hussemann, 2008). In Texas, females ages 18 and over accounted for "1.6% of the 29,376 registered sexual offenders in Texas as of April 27, 2001" (Vandiver & Kercher, 2004). In 2002, women were incarcerated for "6.7% of sex offenses" according to the U.S. Department of Justice (Vandiver, 2006).

It is not uncommon for a female sex offender to not be detected, and bypassed in literature; this is due to the fact that female sex offenses are usually deemed as not serious (Vandiver & Kercher, 2004). Statistical data with regard to female sex offenders are rare due to the fact that most men do not report sexual offenses against them by a female (Pozzulo, Dempsey, Maeder, & Allen, 2010). This may be explained by the sometimes negative treatment male victims receive (Pozzulo et al., 2010).

Female sex offenders fall into five categories: (1) the "teacher/lover," who views herself as taking part in a consenting love affair, and refuses to believe that she is taking part in any type of abusive behavior; (2) the "predisposed molester," she has been abused and displays addictive traits; (3) the "male-coerced molester," she usually abuses her own children, is passive and is with an abusive man; (4) the "experimenter/exploiter," is generally young, maybe adolescent, who takes advantage of a younger male; possibly someone she is babysitting; and finally, (Kruttschnitt et al., 2008) the "psychologically disturbed," displays characteristics of a psychotic person (Vandiver & Kercher, 2004). These women are typically white, in their 20's or 30's (Vandiver, 2006).

In many instances females are not acting alone (Vandiver & Kercher, 2004). They typically perpetrate with male accomplices, and their crimes tend to go unreported (Vandiver & Kercher, 2004). It is hypothesized that co-offenders usually have more than one victim per incident of abuse, the victims are usually female, and the victims are usually related to the co-offender (Vandiver, 2006). Many women claim to have been coerced into sex offences (Vandiver, 2006). Research shows that in many cases the females were the co-offenders (Vandiver, 2006). Females only account for less than 5% of sex offenders who are adults (Pozzulo et al., 2010). Many believe that women are unable to assault someone sexually (Vandiver, 2006). Society It is often perceived that females simply cannot sexually assault another person; society assumes that to be a sex offender one must be male (Vandiver, 2006).

As stated earlier, many female sex offenders were at one time victims of sexual abuse (Vandiver & Kercher, 2004). Research done in the past identified that some of the motivations for sexual offending by females are: "reenactment of sexual abuse, emotional women acting out their feelings, narcissistic women busing their own daughters, extension of battered woman syndrome, socialization to follow their male accomplices" (Vandiver & Kercher, 2004). Also, some women reported a history of substance abuse (Vandiver & Kercher, 2004).

Domestic Violence

In more recent years there has been a substantial increase in the amount of women being arrested for domestic violence (Henning, Jones, & Holdford, 2005). Although, in many domestic violence instances were a woman was the perpetrator, it was concluded that she was acting in self defense, and was merely defending herself (Henning et al., 2005; Worthen & Varnado-Sullivan, 2005).

Due to many women's small frame, domestic violence on her part is sometimes accepted (Ragatz & Russell, 2010). The idea behind this is the belief that a woman cannot harm a man physically (Ragatz & Russell, 2010). Also, research shows that injury is less likely with violence perpetrated by females, unlike violence perpetrated by males (Ragatz & Russell, 2010). Many police believe that violence can only be perpetrated by men, therefore overlooking many instances where a female was the perpetrator of the violence (Ragatz & Russell, 2010).

Reasons some abusive men give for their aggression were: the way their partner behaved; stress; substance use/abuse; and/or financial problems (Henning et al., 2005). Many men claim self defense, but they are rarely taken seriously and deemed to be self serving (Henning et al., 2005). It is plausible that women too are utilizing the claim of self defense for self serving purposes rather than an actual account of the incident (Henning et al., 2005). For men, anger control problems and relationship commitment issues were common (Henning et al., 2005). As with men, women claimed that they had trouble controlling their anger, and also had problems with issues of jealousy (Henning et al., 2005).

Serial Homicide

The definition of serial killing is 3 murders in a minimum of 30 days (Frei, Vollm, Graf, & Volker, 2006). Serial killing is not common (Frei et al., 2006). The perpetrators are generally white, intellectual men with vicious tendencies (Frei et al., 2006). These men usually commit these acts alone, and have no relationship to their victim (Frei et al., 2006)

While men tend to be the likely perpetrator, women are just as capable of this type of violence. While women are perceived as a care-giver and extremely vulnerable, they are capable of high levels of violence with the right provocation (Frei et al., 2006). Some even believe that the number of women involved in homicides have gone up (Kruttschnitt et al., 2008). Although, studies show that about half of the women doing time in California in the 90's claimed they acted alone (Kruttschnitt et al., 2008). In the 80's women who acted alone accounted for about 80% of homicides throughout the U.S. (Kruttschnitt et al., 2008) This suggests that the number of female homicides have gone down significantly within that ten year span.

In most instances where an individual murders their spouse, the wife is generally the one doing the killing (Frei et al., 2006). A common reasoning women gave for this was that their partner had abused them for a long time, and they had enough (Frei et al., 2006). There are also female serial killers who actively killed for more than 10 years; generally, they marry, murder their spouse, collect the inheritance, and then start that pattern all over again. These "women are classified as 'black widows' (Frei et al., 2006). The data states that male serial killers tended to not stay active for that amount of time (Frei et al., 2006). The statistics show that the gender ratio for serial homicide between men and women are six to one (Frei et al., 2006). Still showing that it is more likely for a man to be a serial killer than a woman.

Along with spousal murders, the most common victims of female homicide are "children, and the elderly" (Frei et al., 2006). Poisoning tended to be the killing method of choice for female serial killers that killed someone they knew, although, this method led to quicker apprehension as opposed to other methods used for killing (Frei et al., 2006).

There are five types of female serial killers (Frei et al., 2006). These types are based on the various motives and patterns female serial killers may have (Frei et al., 2006). They are: "Visionary serial killers," "comfort serial killers," "hedonistic serial killers," "power seeker serial killers" and "disciple serial killers" (Frei et al., 2006). In an article, the authors described each type as follows:

"Visionary - severe break with reality, e.g. delusions and hallucinations / motivation extrinsic to the personality, i.e. response to auditory hallucinations or delusional beliefs / attacks tend to be spontaneous / victim selection driven by psychopathological symptoms / random and non-specific, usually strangers; Comfort - motivation extrinsic, e.g. material gain / acts tend to be well planned and organized / victims previously acquainted with the offender and specifically selected according to the expected gain; Hedonistic - motivation intrinsic, e.g. sexual gratification, sadism / acts tend to be planned and organized / victims are strangers, often with specific characteristics; Power seeker - motivation intrinsic, i.e. domination of another person / acts tend to be planned and organized / offender might use offence to boost self-esteem / stranger victims with specific characteristics, e.g. helplessness; Disciple - killing occurs under the influence of a charismatic leader / motivation intrinsic, i.e. personal acceptance by her 'idol' / acts tend to be planned and organized / victim selected by leader (usually male), often strangers" (Frei et al., 2006).

Comfort killing was common in "black widow's" killing multiple husbands (Frei et al., 2006). Women were rarely "hedonistic" killers (Frei et al., 2006). They tended to be "power seeker" killers, in professions where they are providing care for an individual (Frei et al., 2006).

A question that arises is why do individuals kill more than one time, when generally speaking, murder "is not a recidivist crime" (Frei et al., 2006). Some of the explanations that have been brought to the forefront with regard to serial killings are "biological/genetic, and psychological and social factors;" all of which are similar to that of a single homicide as well as other forms of violence (Frei et al., 2006). There are also speculations that "positive reinforcement" may also play a role in multiple murders (Frei et al., 2006). Meaning the killer may take pleasure in all the coverage their murder received, and attempt to come up with a way to outdo their previous killing; potentially receiving even more attention.

Male and female serial killers share one thing in common, and that is that no one theory exists that can account for serial killing occurrences (Frei et al., 2006). Although, much of the psychopathic traits displayed by serial killers of both genders can be attributed to extreme abuses experienced during childhood (Frei et al., 2006).

Crimes of Passion

Cultural norms strongly influence the behaviors of humans (Ragatz & Russell, 2010). Although, cultural norms vary among men and women, and are dependent on whether or not the individual is inside or outside the family realm (Ragatz & Russell, 2010). For instance, women are viewed as not feminine by societal standards if the display violence outside of the family setting (Ragatz & Russell, 2010). Yet society grants them acceptance and even encourages them in some circumstances to be violent in the family or in private relationships (Ragatz & Russell, 2010). "Straus's theory details how American society accepts violence perpetrated by heterosexual females" (Ragatz & Russell, 2010). There are implications that gender, sexual orientation, and sexism play a role in crimes of passion verdicts.

Gender plays a role in criminal justice outcomes (Ragatz & Russell, 2010). As noted earlier, females are more likely to be treated more leniently than males with regard to most crimes (Ragatz & Russell, 2010). "The blameworthiness attribution hypothesis suggests offenders are seen as more blameworthy when women are the victims" (Ragatz & Russell, 2010). Those who commit violent crimes towards women are seen by the criminal justice system as having a higher level of guilt; a higher level of responsibility; and tends to receive a lengthier sentence (Ragatz & Russell, 2010).

Ones sexual orientation also plays a role in the treatment of offenders (Ragatz & Russell, 2010). Some research shows that defendants who are homosexual are treated unfairly by the criminal justice system (Ragatz & Russell, 2010).

When crimes are committed by or against homosexuals, the crimes are viewed as not as serious, not as violent, and "in less need of intervention;" whereas crimes against heterosexuals are viewed as more serious, more violent, and more in need of intervention (Ragatz & Russell, 2010).

While negative or resentful sexism does exist, benevolent sexism is the focus of this portion of the discussion. Similar to chivalry theory, "benevolent sexism toward women has been found to influence jury decision-making" (Herzog & Oreg, 2008; Ragatz & Russell, 2010). Benevolent sexism is an extremely positive

and friendly approach towards women (Ragatz & Russell, 2010). Benevolent sexists seem to behave positively toward women because they seem to be helpful towards women; yet it seems to encourage male superiority (Ragatz & Russell, 2010).

Benevolent sexists tend to accept societies norms for traditional women (Ragatz & Russell, 2010). In some instances, if a woman does not comply with her traditional gender role, benevolent sexists may be accepting of the sexual violence against her (Ragatz & Russell, 2010). Benevolent sexists place the majority of the blame for sex offenses on the victim rather than the perpetrator (Ragatz & Russell, 2010). In instances where the perpetrator was an acquaintance of the victim, the perpetrator receives a short sentence, but in rape incidents involving strangers, the sentences are longer (Ragatz & Russell, 2010). Recent research suggests that "high benevolent sexist attitudes" ties-in to women receiving lighter punishments for certain crimes such as, murder and theft (Ragatz & Russell, 2010).

In cases involving homosexual females the theory of female violence may not be relevant to perceptions of violence in crimes-of-passion (Ragatz & Russell, 2010). Research proposes that the sexual orientation of the defendant or gender can be more dominant "than participant sex when evaluating guilt, sentencing, and legal elements in crime-of-passion homicide cases" (Ragatz & Russell, 2010). One researchers study embodies a narrative effort to recognize "the influence of benevolent sexism in a crime-of-passion case" (Ragatz & Russell, 2010). Research done in the past studied "the impact of benevolent sexism in various case types (e.g., sexual assault, homicide) but not a crime-of-passion case" (Ragatz & Russell, 2010).


In this review the relationship between gender and crime was identified. The review started with describing the chivalry theory. This theory points out the difference in which male and females are treated during court sentencing. Females will tend to get the minimum, while males will receive the maximum sentencing. But, there is also a catch for females, if the female did not live the life of a 'typical woman' (Herzog & Oreg, 2008) it is likely that she will have to say so long to that minimum sentence. The 'typical woman' (Herzog & Oreg, 2008) was one that was a housewife, a mother and feminine. Due to the stereotypes set on women in the past, decision makers felt they should not sentence women so harsh.

The next section discussed sex offenders. Gender based offenders are male and female that commit crimes against other males or females. This section also pointed out the different treatment men and women receive from decision makers or law enforcement officers. When males are the victims of female sex offenders, they are not taking seriously, due to some young men using older woman as sexual experiences. This may sometimes cause sex offense cases to go unreported. Once again society puts a stereotype on females not being able to commit such crimes. The idea that women are soft and caring and could never over power a man leads society to continuously blame the male victim. Hence, relating back to the first section about the chivalry theory. The male offenders that commit sex crimes are sentenced very severely, regardless of the gender of the victim.

The third section discussed domestic violence. Domestic violence can either have a male or female offender, along with their victim being either gender: male or female. When the victim is a female and the offender is a male or a female; police officers take the situation more serious. When the victim is a male and the offender is a female, like the section mentioned before, they are not taken seriously. The stereotype of women, allow them to blame the victim and claim self-defense. This leads back to the previous sections mentioning women to be a certain way, i.e. meek, mild, gentle, loving care-giver, and feminine.

The forth section discussed serial homicide. Serial homicide is described as a person killing more than one person in a month. Major difference that can be pointed out in the review is that males and females have different motives when committing serial homicide. The five types of female serial killers are explained: visionary, comfort, hedonistic, power seeker, and disciple. Unlike men, women tend to murder people they know, giving them some sort of emotional link. This also allows society to cast the stereotype they have on women. Women use poison as the most common substance or weapon of choice. This accounting for the stereotype that women are weak mentioned in the previous sections.

The fifth section discussed crimes-of-passion. A crime-of-passion is a crime some commits, either assault or murder, due to rage from heartbreak allowing the person to act on impulse and not a planned crime. This crime can have a female offender with either a male or female victim, or a male offender with a female or male victim. This is also mentioned in regards to sex offenders, domestic violence, and serial homicide. Like all the sections mention before, the heterosexual women or 'typical woman' (Herzog & Oreg, 2008) tends to get the minimum sentencing when charged with the crime.

As new research becomes available to aid in the quest to understand gender and crime, it is hopeful that this review could shed a brighter light on the toxic relationship gender and crime has with each other. Still with so many questions and statistics changing with time; will the relationship between gender and crime be understood? One can only use the information presented to them to answer that question