Strain Theory, Social Control and Ethical Practices
Deviance is a situation that is socially constructed. It does not have to be illegal. This means that the characteristics, actions and conditions that human beings term as a deviant change over time and place as do the social reactions facing the deviant behaviors. There are the agents of social control consisting of both formal and informal controls involved in defining, terming and authorizing deviant behavior. They base their reactions on the ethical dimensions present at the time.
Alexa Albert in the book “Brothel: Mustang Ranch and Its Women” brings out the deviance in the society in terms of a concept of the legal prostitution. She provides the steady, non-emotional and liberal behaviors of women as well as of clients involved in this behavior. This paper will particularly talk about the Anomie theory and the feminist theory in relation to the behaviors of the categories of people in this book. The paper will also look into how the social control is brought out in deviance theory of strain as portrayed by the book. It will also elaborate the ethical components involved in decision making of characters of the people involved.
According to Thio (2010 pp.148) in the book “Deviant Behavior”, the author describes the theories of deviance as well as their concepts, social control and their ethical components. The strain theory can be defined as the lack of social structures in the society. Thio (2010 pp.157) goes on to describe that this theory involves the gap between the society’s set goals for its members and the ways that the members achieve goals. If the society does not provide adequate regulations for an individual to achieve his or her needs, this may change a person’s perception and view for example prostitution as an un-delinquent behavior like was the case in Nevada. An individual tends to be focused on just achieving these needs without taking the means of achieving them into consideration. The dominant culture of achieving wealth in the society leads to delinquent behavior in strain theory. The author goes on to describe that the gap is what creates the pressures straining the low-class people leading them to be involved in deviant acts.
Alexa Albert’s exploration in a fascinating journey to Nevada’s Mustang Ranch has brought out this theory of deviance amicably. Girls sought to please men in the ranch to achieve their goals. It all began as a public health study by Alexa, a medical student from Harvard. The study was a project where Alexa had to conduct a study on the use of condoms for safe sex practices and also the efficiency of condom usage in the prevention of sexually transmitted infections. The project was approved by the leader of Nevada Brothel Association, George Flint. It took Alexa three years to gain an access to this ranch and so she was astonished to be invited to stay in the ranch during her period of study.
The working girls live on the ranch for their full shift which would last up to several months. The shifts lasted up to 12 hours per day in which the girls would serve from ten to fifteen customers in their working period. The girls did not mind if they were virtual prisoners of the ranch to achieve their goals of attaining financial success. This is an illustration of strain theory in the book. The concept of conformity in the strain theory is well depicted as the prostitutes were kept in the ranch behind the locked electric fences restricting them from the social life of the outside world. The girls were bureaucratic in the sense of being loyal workers as depicted in their ritualistic mode of work (Thio, 2010).
The American Dream was evidently revealed in that prostitution in this ranch had been legal. Alexa was practically hesitant on whether she had been in support of these brothels (Albert, 2001). This elaborates the concept of lacking the norms in the strain theory. The house rules showed the discrepancy in the strain theory associated with the manner in which the goal had been achieved and the means of achieving. This is in the sense of some of the activities forbidden in the house from what Alexa gathered in the stories given to her by the brothels. The internal rules in the ranch did not permit kissing in the mouth and also the anal sex.
Flint was very polished and safe to provide the girls with a feeling of retreatist subculture (Albert, 2001). This subculture provides the willingness to enjoy the use of the deviant behavior to achieve one’s goals, like in the case of prostitution (Thio, 2010). There is, for example, Baby, one of the longest working women in Mustang. She takes pride in her prostitution work as she views it as enjoyable. The Mustang ranch also showed the conflicting subculture in the strain theory. Up to a certain period of time, the blacks were not allowed to be served. When the blacks started to be served another house built in 1967 was separately created for them and the girls working on the ranch were permitted to deny these black men. The segregation later ceased but the black clients were received with a signal to alert the prostitutes so that they would opt not to line up for these clients (Albert, 2001).
The feminist theory states that deviance is caused by the stereotyping of women and as a result of the inequality presented by the society (Thio, 2010 pp.161). The sexual immorality in Mustang ranch is as a result of these girls being forced or urged to perform this type of work by their boyfriends or husbands. According to Albert (2001), her study had practically lasted from 1993 to 1999. Alexa had worked before with homeless prostitutes in the Times Square; she was therefore familiar with the ethical devastation that sex workers had faced. This contributed to the curiosity of evaluating Nevada’s model of work. No non-employee or outsider had ever been allowed access to Mustang ranch before.
The behaviors of clients were characterized by a man having favorites or varieties of working girls. The males could be in the possession of so many females. This is as much as they could be allowed. Some girls were even abused in the legalized institution by drunken customers. Albert (2001), while conducting the research through the interviews with girls, stated that at one moment that the girls were even required to gain male pimps. This had been for the females to work more. The book illustrates that the women were pressured to work in the ranch by their boyfriends, family members and husbands (Albert, 2001). The females line up when the clients come to the brothel so that the clients can pick a favorite. This shows females as sex objects within the Nevada male-dominated society. The clients could even pick an older and a younger girl which is practically unethical. The prostitutes are like slaves to their male clients. Albert (2001) goes on to give the story of Tanya expressing bitter expressions about the brothel in terms of exploitation like in the case where the girls had been paying for their own rooms instead of their male clients or the association.
They faced the enormous social controls as they still experienced the same social stigma provided by the society haunted upon all sex workers (Albert, 2001). There were also other informal agents of social control who apprehended the behaviors conducted in the Mustang Ranch. These were the non-prostitute employees who were sent to buy medicine and cosmetics for the working girls. Doctors were also among the people that had the access to the ranch to perform pelvic examinations on the working girls (Albert, 2001). The persuasion mechanism of the social control aspect of opprobrium had been practiced on these workers as they were isolated. The ranch also contained the major sports figures and entertainment industry personnel as clients (Albert, 2001). The media coverage of any ordeal was also largely controlled. As a social control in television programs, information given to the audience about prostitutes was limited like in programs such as Geraldo.
Due to the spread of the HIV/AIDS disease, formal social control agents had come in after 1985. Nevada law had stated that customers were required to wear latex condoms in the performance of any sexual act with prostitutes. For this reason, the girls had to conform to the house rules in not rejecting any client who was not rebellious to the rules even if the customer had paid less amounts. For the security purposes, the rooms had towers and security guards as well as panic buttons in the rooms.
The Mustang ranch is the subculture of both advantages and disadvantages, all geared to attain the American Dream of achieving the financial aspect. According to Albert (2001 pp.271), the government benefits from the brothel tax money through the social control aspect of economic sanctions (Thio, 2010). This is especially the case that made Mustang ranch close down after losing a fraud, conspiracy and racketeering issue in 1999. This also portrays the case of the formal social control in the strain theory.
Discuss the solutions that the theory would advocate to deal with the specific crime in the article and discuss the techniques of crime control advocated by the author of your article to deal with the crime
The theories advocates for socialization as a solution for dealing with the deviant behaviors and degradation of the female workers. It is upon the socializing agents to internalize the values of the society. In this concept, such agents include families who need to stop driving the girls into prostitution to achieve financial goals. Violating the norms make the people committing a deviant behavior feel guilty, ashamed or uncomfortable. In the degradation of females, some controls were already present like the banning of some activities like kissing on the mouth. The Mustang Ranch was closed as a solution to maintain the norms of the society and stop the deviant behaviors going on in the ranch.
The author of the article used the sociological approaches of crime control. The first technique Alexa used was to attempt to connect the issues of the deviant behaviors of the individuals and the social structures of their families for social construction. She also advocated for decriminalization of these girls after she learnt that prostitution was just like any other profession.
According to Albert (2001), the values and ethics presented by each woman varied in accordance with each woman’s story. There is a sense of family existing in this ranch, even though it is characterized by competition and fighting likened to any community. Alexa leads readers into a journey of evaluation of the lives of prostitutes by integrating herself into that life to even extents of watching the acts. This shows an ethical dimension of the emotional care by Alexa. The emotional care seeks to understand why the prostitutes were leading that life. She achieved this through truthfulness and disclosure. The decision to stay in the ranch and to be involved in the lives of these prostitutes was an ethical component showing care. It also entails not looking down at these prostitutes because of the kinds of lives they had been leading. Instead of this, Alexa developed ties with them. The other point of ceasing segregation of black workers showed the ethical behavior related with the equality of human beings. This is, at least, in the sense that all clients had deserved an equal treatment within the ranch.
There are the examples provided in the book “Brothel: Mustang Ranch and Its Women” that portray the basic moral principles as outlined in the sociology class. This is, for example, in the story of Baby. Alexa did not make any judgments on the personal value of this woman and did not discriminate her. In the end, Alexa viewed the prostitution as any other type of profession showing autonomy and freedom (Albert, 2001). Another form of portraying the moral principles in the story is the ability of the working girls to abide to the basic rules of the Mustang ranch. According to Albert (2001), the rules of the ranch were met by all girls so as they could achieve their financial basic goal. The girls are also protected by the guards showing a moral principle to protect the value of life of these girls so that they cannot be harmed by clients.
In conclusion, the strain and feminist theory and its concepts are largely depicted in this book. It ranges from the girls performing the prostitution to achieve financial benefits to the gender inequality portrayed by clients. Alexa’s contribution through her project in a stigmatized scenario largely depicts ethical and moral principles. Her views changed from being in the Mustang ranch for just a school project to being intimately involved in the lives of these workers. The book generally awakens the readers’ humanity.