Essay Sample: How Sociological Theories Can Help Explain Rape

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University of California, Santa Barbara
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According to a newspaper article from The Daily Telegraph, three men were found guilty of gang raping a teenage girl and filming the act. The men committed the offense on the 16-year-old intellectually disabled girl while attending a house party in Western Sydney, Australia in May 2015. One of the men had invited her to the party via a social network a few days earlier. When she arrived, they offered her a spiked beer and proceeded to have sex with her in turns when she passed out. They recorded a 16-minute film of the act using a GoPro camera. A forensic psychologist testified that the victim suffered from a mild intellectual disability and was rather immature for her age. While the men claimed she actively participated in the group sex prosecutors argued she was too intoxicated to consent. This essay applies the three sociological theories of criminology to explain the crime.

The social structure theory is an aspect of criminology that offers an explanation to certain behaviors. It puts emphasis on lack of education, poverty, subcultural values, and lack of marketable skills as the main causes of crime. This theory is divided into three subtypes: the social disorganization theory, the strain theory, and the theory of cultural conflict. The social disorganization theory directly relates crime rates to location and neighborhood settings. It places a substantial amount of blame for criminal behavior on a persons residential area. For instance, if an individual grows up in a neighborhood where crime and delinquency is rampant, then he or she is more likely to take part in criminal activities (Nadel, 2013).

The strain theory argues that criminal acts are triggered by certain stressors or strains. When someone is placed under strain he or she can experience the emotions of anger and frustration that can cause pressure to accumulate. One way of dealing with such pressure is through crime. People may use commit criminal acts to get revenge on someone who is stressing them, or to relieve financial pressure. The cultural conflict theory is all about the disagreements over varying beliefs and values. It is based on the notion that various classes or cultures fail to agree on what is considered as acceptable behavior. For instance, while the middle and upper classes earn a living in legitimate ways, others may resort to illegal activities to make ends meet, such as stealing or selling narcotics.

The incidence in which three men gang raped a teenage girl can be attributed to the cultural conflict theory in that various cultures do not agree on matters to do with sex. While rape and sexual sex is considered a crime, there are disagreements on the definitions and understanding of those terms. For instance, the three men argued that the girl willingly agreed to engage in group sex with them. However, the video showed that she was unconscious during the ordeal, possibly after consuming a spiked alcoholic drink. Having sex with an unconscious and underage female may be considered as unacceptable behavior in some cultures. This may not be the case for the culture to which the three rapists belong to.

The social process theory depicts the tendency to commit criminal acts as a function of how people interact with various institutions, organizations, and processes within society. It is further divided into the social learning theory, labeling theory, social control theory, and differential association. While each of them have a specific explanation as to why people commit times, all are in agreement that socialization is what influences crime. According to Taylor, Walton & Young (2013), people from all cultures and with various personalities have the potential to commit criminal acts if they interact with those who also commit them. The social learning theory emphasizes that committing crimes is something that people learn. The social control theory looks into societys failure to check on criminal tendencies.

The three men who gang raped the teenage girl were influenced by the society to commit the act. They did not just wake up on that day and get the idea that they have sex with an intoxicated and unconscious minor. The men must have at one point learnt from someone that it is possible to drug a female and then proceed to have sexual intercourse without consent. Also, its possible that they influenced each other into committing the crime. One of them must have started it and the others followed suit.

The social conflict theory argues that crime is as a result of the conflict that is present in society. In any given society, crime results from class conflict since laws are drafted by individuals in power to protect their interests. According to Akers (2013), poor people commit criminal acts due to need, frustration and anger, while the rich engage in illegal activities to maintain their positions in society. It is likely that the three men committed the rape due to frustrations with the society in general. The incident took place in a house party organized to relieve stress from day-to-day life activities.



Akers, R. L. (2013). Criminological theories: Introduction and evaluation. Routledge.

Nadel, S. F. (2013). The theory of social structure. Routledge.

Taylor, I., Walton, P., & Young, J. (2013). The new criminology: For a social theory of deviance. Routledge.


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