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Dangerous sex? Sexuality, risk and the criminal justice system

Dangerous sex? Sexuality, risk and the criminal justice system

Banwell, Stacy ORCID: 0000-0001-7395-2617 and Clift, Suzie (2013) Dangerous sex? Sexuality, risk and the criminal justice system. In: EUROCRIM: 13th Annual Conference of European Society of Criminology, 4-7 Sep 2013, Budapest, Hungary. (Unpublished)

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Dangerousness and risk have become firmly embedded within Criminal Justice discourse and practice. Within this 'Risk Society' (Beck, 2007) certain behaviours and traits have become associated with dangerous behaviour from which society needs protecting, predominantly through indeterminate sentencing, risk management and coercion. However, when these concepts are applied to cases involving violent women, the risk and dangerousness that they represent is evaluated through a lens of sexuality. As such, rather than being deemed dangerous based on the acquisition of certain identified criminogenic risk factors, these women, through the use of narratives such as 'whore', are assessed as posing a threat based on their subversion of traditional femininity. This is actively used to demonstrate both guilt and culpability, increasing the seriousness of their actions and the risks that are attached to them.

Paradoxically, accounts of women's violence at once deny women’s capacity to commit violent crimes, whilst simultaneously demonizing them for their violent actions (Sjoberg, 2007). With regards to the 'whore' narrative - which reduces women’s violence to their sexuality – this involves the dual process of removing/denying women’s agency for their violent actions whilst simultaneously condemning their femininity, or lack thereof.

In a review of the literature on gender, violence and sentencing, it has been argued that although, overall, female offenders may receive more lenient punishment than males, this does not rule out the possibility that individual women may receive extraordinarily harsh treatment by the Criminal Justice System (Carlen, 2002). Drawing upon recent case studies, this paper will demonstrate how risk and dangerousness are applied to individual violent women through narratives of sexualization and demonization. In this process we see the removal of any real agency these women may have possessed. As succinctly put by Sjoberg and Gentry (2007,45): 'Women’s integration into spheres of power and violence threatens patriarchy, until those women are dehumanized through sexualization'.

Item Type: Conference or Conference Paper (Paper)
Additional Information: [1] Presented as part of Panel session - Risk and dangerousness: conceptual and legal treatment issues, also chaired by Stacy Banwell.
Uncontrolled Keywords: dangerousness, risk, violent women, sexuality, criminal justice system
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
K Law > K Law (General)
Pre-2014 Departments: School of Humanities & Social Sciences
School of Humanities & Social Sciences > Law & Criminology Research Group
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2016 09:25

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