As stated by Heidensohn, gender differences are perhaps ‘the most significant feature of recorded crime’. Generally, men tend to have higher offending rates than those of females – four out of five convicted offenders in England and Wales are male. Whilst there are gender differences in rate of offending, there are also differences in the types of crimes committed by men and women. A higher proportion of female offenders are convicted of property offences such as theft and shoplifting, while men are more likely to be convicted of crimes such as violence and sexual offences.
One of the argued reasons as to why men have higher levels of offending than women is due to their greater opportunities to commit crime and women having fewer opportunities to do so. These opportunities are often enforced through the traditional patriarchal nuclear family whereby the men take the instrumental, breadwinner role, performed largely outside of the house and women perform the expressive role in the home where they take main responsibility for the children and the home. Heidensohn argues that this patriarchal society imposes more control over women and thus reduces their opportunities of committing crime. This patriarchal control often results in the women staying at home to fulfil their domestic role of looking after the children and the home. This imposes restrictions over their time and often confines them to the house for long periods of time, reducing their opportunities to commit crime thus also reducing their offending rates. Often when women reject this domestic role it is enforced through domestic violence. Dobash and Dobash show that many violent attacks from men are often the result of their dissatisfaction with their wives’ performance of their domestic duties. Also, through this patriarchal nuclear family, the opportunities of men to commit crime are also increased. When adopting the breadwinner role, the men go out to work where they have greater opportunities to commit white-collar crime such as fraud, thus increasing their level of offending.
Sociologists have also identified the concept of masculinity as a way of explaining offending among men. Messerschmidt argues that masculinity is a social construct and men have to constantly work at constructing and presenting it to others. Whilst Messerschmidt argues that there are different types of masculinity that co-exist within society, hegemonic masculinity is the dominant, prestigious form that most men wish to accomplish. Messerschmidt states that crime and deviance is one of the main ways in which men can achieve this masculinity. For example, people of different social classes and different ethnicities commit different forms of rule breaking as a way of demonstrating masculinity. White working-class youths construct their rule breaking around sexist attitudes, being tough and opposing teachers, in comparison to black lower working-class youths who may use gang membership and violence to demonstrate their masculinity. However, Messerschmidt’s theory of masculinity has been criticised. It is argues that he is too over-deterministic of the concept of masculinity to explain virtually all crimes, from theft to fraud. Messerschmidt’s theory also fails to explain why men who have subordinated masculinities commit crime. This includes gay men who have no desire to accomplish hegemonic masculinity, as well as some ethnic minority men, who lack the resources to