Pollak states that those within the Criminal Justice System “dislike” arresting, prosecuting, and finding women guilty. A typical example where women are less likely to be punished is shoplifting – often seen as a typically “female crime”. This sort of crime is less likely to be reported in the first place – and even when it is, the chivalry thesis argues that these women are less likely to be prosecuted regardless. Flood-Page et al. found using self-report methods that only one in every 11 female offenders were cautioned, compared to one in seven males, which provides support for this argument. Bowling and Graham also found that while official statistics suggest males are four times more likely to offend, self-report statistics suggest that they are in fact only twice as likely to offend, which lends credence to the chivalry thesis.
However this discrepancy in how males and females are treated by the Criminal Justice System may also be explained by females committing less “serious crimes” compared to males. Steven Box’s review of both British and American self-report studies and found that women who committed serious offences were treated the same as men who committed similar offences; in addition he notes that women offenders often showed more remorse for their actions, which could explain the higher rate of cautions for female offenders compared to males.
Feminists take this argument even further – some, such as Heidensohn, state that the Criminal Justice System is patriarchal and actually biased against women – but that this is only seen when the women in question deviate from standard gender norms. This is particularly evident in rape cases – where many judges have been noted stating sexist and often victim-blaming results – a problem often seen in wider society, as seen in the case of the 2012 Delhi gang rape on a public bus, where numerous politicians blamed the woman who was raped (a good example but best to use cases from the UK, perhaps the US, as the theories were formulated in relation to these justice systems). Walklate argues that in rape cases the victim is often the one on trial – and must prove her respectability before her evidence will be accepted by the Criminal Justice System. In the United States and Canada, this has led to Rape Shield Law – which prevents cross-examination of the victim about their sexual behaviour in the past, in order to treat victims more fairly. This real law and the arguments of feminists are strong arguments against the chivalry thesis – as, were the thesis valid, there would be no need for such laws in the first place. Excellent
Sociologists have made many different attempts to explain the causes of these sex differences in crime. This is important as, should we determine the causes of these differences, we might gain a better understanding of what the “true” sex differences in crime are – which could have real effects within the Criminal Justice System.
The Functionalist perspective adopts Sex Role Theory – which is largely based upon socialisation; Parsons states that males engage in “compensatory compulsory masculinity” which is achieved via excessive aggression and anti-social behaviour. This can result in these boys becoming inadequately socialised, and turning to all-male street gangs in response. The New Right links this to the concept of absent fathers – which they argue has the same result. However, this viewpoint is largely seen as outdated and over simplistic – socialisation alone cannot explain the sex differences seen in crime.
James Messerschmidt focuses upon masculinity to explain male crime – stating that it is a social concept that men have to consistently present to others and build upon. He argues that while there are numerous types of…