Institutional Sexism in the Underworld: A View From the Inside

Darrell J. Steffensmeier, Robert M. Terry

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63 Scopus citations


In this report we examine the views of male thieves toward women as potential accomplices or partners in crime. Our interviews revealed, in general, that females are perceived as lacking the qualities for being good thieves (e.g., heart, trust), exhibit specific deficiencies which limit their actual or perceived ability to perpetrate crimes, and tend to be relegated to subservient roles if and when they are involved in mixed‐sex crime activities unless special opportunities or circumstances exist in which a female partner is distinctly an advantage to the male for pulling off the crime. This institutionalized sexism in the underworld narrowly restricts the illegitimate opportunities available to females and helps explain why females are seldom involved in lucrative criminal enterprise. We conclude by suggesting: that the study of female criminality has been retarded by an inaccurate conception of crime as an isolated act committed by a person, without regard to that person's relationships with other people, groups, and organizations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)304-323
Number of pages20
JournalSociological Inquiry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1986

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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