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Gender, Genes and Crime: An Evolving Feminist Agenda (From Gender and Justice: New Concepts and Approaches, P 211-221, 2006, Frances Heidensohn, ed. -- See NCJ-219137)

NCJ Number
Nicole Rafter
Date Published
11 pages
This chapter explores the implications for feminist criminology of biological theories of crime in general and the explanations of evolutionary psychology in particular.
Few feminist criminologists have a background in evolutionary psychology or genetics; however, feminist criminologists can and should argue, from empirical as well as theoretical grounds, against the claim that there is a biological imperative underlying rape and sexual harassment. In addition, feminist criminologists should counter the claims of evolutionary psychology regarding women's weaker sex drive compared to men and their relative sexual passivity. More positively, feminists might profit from examining evolutionary psychology for possibilities in theorizing about the origins of violent behaviors and gender differences in overall crime rates. The author recommends two models that can be useful in a feminist criminology that takes into account the research of evolutionary psychology. One model is based in the work of animal behaviorist Patrick Bateson. Based on his research with animals, Bateson envisions a complex, dynamic interplay of organism characteristics and environmental characteristics in which genes and their environments interplay to produce a multitude of possibilities (a "genetic jukebox"). A second more explicitly feminist model is shown in Anne Fausto-Sterling's new work (2005), "The Bare Bones of Sex." Although this research focuses on how "culture shapes bones," which pertains to how social categories act on bone production, it allows for multicausality and body-society interrelatedness, not only in bones but also in sex, gender, and, presumably, in criminality. These two models offer ways to think about feminist theories based on the influence of culture on women's and men's behaviors and interactions, along with biological theories that pertain to the influence of genetics in the options posed by the interplay of organisms with their environment. 26 references


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