Women and the Criminal Justice System: A Psychology of Men Perspective - Specific Populations of Justice-Involved Women and Girls

Gender, Psychology, and Justice: The Mental Health of Women and Girls in the Legal System - Linda Wolfe 2014

Women and the Criminal Justice System: A Psychology of Men Perspective
Specific Populations of Justice-Involved Women and Girls

Jonathan Schwartz and Jennifer Bahrman

Early in my career, I (Jonathan Schwartz) organized and ran men’s court-mandated domestic violence groups. This involved not only working with abusive men but also working with the court system as an advocate. During this time, I discovered the literature on the psychology of men. It was an important moment in my career as it assisted me in understanding not only some of the dynamics that led to abuse and the behavior I saw in group therapy but also the insidious patriarchal and misogynistic dynamics I was witnessing in the courts. It also was key in helping me to understand why the men struggled with vulnerable emotions and overall connection with others.

Men’s gender role socialization has negative consequences for both men and others: “Rigid, sexist, or restrictive gender roles, learned during socialization, result in personal retraction, devaluation, or violation of others or self” (O’Neil 1990, 25). Men with rigid and traditional gender roles suffer the intrapersonal and interpersonal consequences of conforming and thus limiting their behaviors—as well as the behaviors of others. When gender role expectations are so rigid that men cannot meet them, negative evaluation of self and others, psychological distress, and behavioral problems result.

The purpose of this chapter is to explicate the ways in which hegemonic male gender roles impact the experience of women in the justice system. The percentage of women involved in the criminal justice system has been growing at a higher rate than the percentage of men (Richie, Tsenin, and Widom 2000). The psychology of men and masculinity provides a framework with which to examine how the criminal justice system operates and how men contribute to the increasing rates of women’s arrest and incarceration. The psychology of men focuses not only on individuals’ experiences but also on the influence of social processes and gender norms in particular. For example, there is minimal yet increasing attention in the psychology of men literature to the ways in which hegemonic masculinity, sexism, and gender stereotypes support gender-based oppression (O’Neil 2015).

Hegemonic masculinity can be described as a pervasive ideology that men’s role is to be dominant in society and that subordination of women is required for men to maintain power (Mankoski and Maton 2010). Like feminism, the psychology of men has produced theories that can help us to understand criminal behaviors and justice practices as social rather than individual issues, and that highlight the link among masculinity, power, and male privilege.

In this chapter, we examine the criminal justice system through the lens of the psychology of men and discuss why it is important that this system take into account men’s power and role as relates to women’s involvement in prostitution and human trafficking in particular.

The Psychology of Men

The psychology of men is an academic field situated in the broader context of gender studies. It was born in the 1970s in the wake of the feminist movement (Goldberg 1977). As with feminism, one of the fundamental tenets of the psychology of men is that an understanding of sexism only comes from deconstructing masculine gender roles (Enns and Williams 2012; O’Neil and Renzulli 2013) and examining their impact on both men and women (Pleck 1995; O’Neil 1981). The psychology of men has produced theories about the socialization of boys and men that explain how individuals internalize culturally specific beliefs about gender roles (Levant 2011, 1996; Pleck 1995; Thompson and Pleck 1995).

Scientific understanding of gender ideology and gender role socialization has evolved over the last thirty years (O’Neil 2008; Smiler 2006). Today, gender roles are viewed as one aspect of identity that is subject to change (O’Neil 2010; Pleck 1995) and that interacts with other dimensions of individual experiences such as race, class, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation (O’Neil 2015). A key concept of gender role theory is hegemonic masculinity, or the idea that in patriarchal social contexts, men enact gender roles to promote male dominance through the subordination of women (Malamuth et al. 1991; Mankowski and Maton 2010).

Gender role socialization and gender role strain are two core theories of the psychology of men. Gender-role socialization describes how children and adults learn socially defined notions of what constitutes gender-appropriate (i.e., masculine and feminine) attitudes and behaviors (O’Neil 1981, 2008; Prentice and Carranza 2002). Typical masculine qualities include, but are not limited to, the following: aggression, independence, individualism, decisiveness, self-sufficiency, leadership ability, ambition, forcefulness, and dominance (Prentice and Carranza 2002). The theory of gender role socialization posits that masculine or feminine stereotypes that are rigidly learned and internalized can result in gender role conflict, which refers to the negative outcomes associated with these stereotypes (O’Neil, 1981). The inability to express or understand emotions or the tendency to focus overly much on success, power, and competition are examples of such negative outcomes (O’Neil 1981).

Gender role strain (GRS) occurs as a result of the rigid and restrictive gender roles that develop from individuals’ internalization of sexism. The GRS theory attempts to explain the link between men’s mental health outcomes and their integration of masculine role norms into a sense of self (Pleck 1981, 1995), in particular the relation between rigid and restrictive gender roles and psychological distress, health problems, and interpersonal difficulties in men (Good and Mintz 1990; Magovecviv and Addis 2005; Sharpe and Heppner 1991; Schwartz et al. 2004). According to the GRS theory, conflict may occur when individuals who internalize and endorse rigid gender roles condemn and devalue those who do not conform to such traditional roles (O’Neil 1981). Underlying gender role conflict in men is a fear of anything feminine that would challenge their masculine identity. Thus, socialized masculinity leads to blatant and subtle sexism toward women (Glick and Fiske 1996) and directly influences how men who are in power respond to women, for example, in legal cases related to prostitution and human sex trafficking.

Gender Ideology and Men’s Attitudes and Behaviors toward Women

There has been substantial research supporting the relationship between gender ideology and negative attitudes and behaviors toward women (O’Neil 2015). The internalization of traditional masculine roles rooted in hegemonic sexism has been associated with hostility toward women (Robinson and Schwartz 2004) and heterosexual relationship problems in men (Moore and Stuart 2005). Adherence to traditional gender roles has been linked to anger, abuse, and desire for aggression against women (Eisler et al. 2000; Franchina, Eisler, and Moore 2001; Moore et al. 2010). This suggests that gender socialization directly contributes to men’s attitudes and behaviors toward women. Studies also found that male privilege mediated the effect of masculine gender roles on men’s negative attitudes and behaviors toward women (Hill and Fischer 2001; Schwartz and Tylka 2008).

Although sexism often is blatant and hostile, it can also be expressed in covert and seemingly positive ways (Glick and Fiske 1996). Hostile sexism corresponds to obvious forms of male dominance, such as aggressive behaviors intended to punish women who challenge male power. This includes hostile heterosexuality such as rape, degradation of female prostitutes, or victim blaming in the case of human sex trafficking. Benevolent sexism, on the other hand, refers to paternalistic attitudes towards women, in particular the belief that women need protection from men because they are frail. Ambivalent sexism refers to a form of sexism that integrates both hostile and benevolent attitudes towards women (Glick and Fiske 2002). It promotes the view that men are more capable, more able-bodied, and more suited for positions of power and status, and that women are men’s sexual partners, responsible for satisfying men’s sexual needs, and are best suited for domestic roles of low social value (e.g., caring for children, the elderly, and the infirm). Ambivalent sexism carries the message that men need women for the domestic and caregiving services they offer; however, it also suggests that women, and women only, should be in these roles (Glick and Fiske 1996). Recently, ambivalent sexism has been related to bias against female drivers, nonegalitarian beliefs about appropriate dating behaviors, and antichoice attitudes toward abortion (Begun and Walls 2015; McCarty and Kelly 2015; Skinner, Stevenson, and Camillus 2015).

Sexist attitudes are explicit and implicit, that is, conscious and out of awareness (Greenwald and Banaji 1995; Nosek, Greenwald, and Banaji 2007). Attitudes develop from past experiences as well as social and familial beliefs and values that individuals internalize beginning at an early age. Attitudes are implicit when individuals do not recognize they are the basis for individual actions (Nosek et al. 2007). For example, a person may unconsciously believe in the superiority of men and thus may treat women differently; yet, when questioned about their beliefs, they are more likely to deny differential treatment as this is not socially and personally acceptable.

Hostile, benevolent, explicit, and implicit sexism have implications for our understanding of prostitution and human sex trafficking as well as criminal justice responses to men who solicit prostitutes. It explains why women, rather than men, have been the target of criminal prosecution based on the perception that they are violating gender-related social standards and are therefore blameworthy, deserving of punishment, or needing protection, while men who seek prostitutes are seen as abiding by gender role expectations.

Multiculturalism and the Psychology of Men

There is not one but several masculine ideologies that influence men’s interactions with others in ways that help them preserve their dominant positions and privileges in society (O’Neil 2015). These masculine ideologies are distinct and context dependent: They emerge from the intersection of gender, race, social class, age, and sexual orientation in diverse cultural settings, and have a unique impact on the mental health of diverse men (Levant, Richmond, et al. 2003; Levant and Majors 1997; Levant, Majors, and Kelly 1998; Levant and Richmond 2007; Levant and Wong 2013; Pleck, Sonenstein, and Ku 1994; Wu, Levant, and Sellers 2001). For example, in some Mexican and Mexican American communities, Arciniega and colleagues (2008) found that traditional machismo, with its emphasis on individual power and hypermasculinity, was associated with aggression, antisocial behaviors, and restricted emotional awareness. An understanding of multiple and context-specific masculinities is needed to evaluate the intrapersonal and interpersonal impact of these beliefs. For example, we need to investigate how context-specific masculinities determine policy and behavior toward women in the legal system. Levant and Wong (2013) studied the moderating influence of race on the relation between alexithymia, a clinically significant inability to identify and describe emotions, and beliefs about masculinity; the results of their investigation suggested that White men who endorsed traditional masculine norms were more likely than racial-minority men who endorsed traditional masculinity to experience and express a limited range of affect. Research has also produced evidence that internalized racism moderated the relationship between gender role conflict and psychological stress for Latino, Asian American, and same-sex populations (Liang et al. 2009; Liang, Salcedo, and Miller 2011; Sánchez et al. 2010; Shek and McEwen 2012; Wester et al. 2006). While limited, the scientific evidence points to the role of race and culture in individuals’ endorsement and enactment of their beliefs about how men should be, feel, think, and act.

To increase our understanding of women in the justice system, the psychology of men should further examine the cultural specificity of masculinity as relates to men’s attitudes and behaviors and their impact on disadvantaged groups (O’Neil and Renzulli 2013). It should also investigate how oppressed and marginalized groups experience gender role devaluations (O’Neil and Renzulli 2013) and examine how diverse men use the social privileges bestowed upon them by virtue of their race, gender, and class (see Hill and Fischer 2001; McIntosh 2003) in ways that perpetuate the marginalization of disadvantaged others. There is a need to shed light on the multidimensional and interdependent social processes that participate in the reproduction of social disadvantages, and thus provide information that is essential to the development of gender- and culturally responsive interventions designed to change men’s behaviors and to reduce their harmful effects on diverse women.

Masculinity, Gender Roles, and the Criminal Justice System

The psychology of men examines the rigid and restrictive masculine gender role norms that lead to gender role conflict and the devaluation, restriction, and violation of women (O’Neil 1981, 2013). The psychology of men also focuses on the patriarchal processes that operate to establish male domination within systems of social relations; these processes include marginalization, domestication, discrimination, subjugation, disproportionate representation, and violence (Barzilai 2004). These are persistent characteristics of the criminal justice system (Barzilai 2004), and according to MacKinnon (1983, 207), “[T]he law sees and treats women the way men see and treat women.” In other words, the implementation of the law follows patriarchal principles in ways that perpetuate male domination and produce further harm.

A focus on gender and masculinities is central to understanding victimization and crime, the reproduction of gendered inequalities, and the impact of criminal justice interventions on both men and women. Feminist criminology has paved the way towards greater gender sensitivity in efforts to understand women’s criminal behaviors (Chesney-Lind and Morash 2013; Hughes 2005; Richie 2012; Sprague 2005). Feminist legal scholars have described women’s pathways to crime and defined women’s criminal behaviors as different from men’s. In particular, they have highlighted that women often participate in illegal activities under pressure from male partners or out of necessity to provide for their needs and those of their children (Belknap 2007; Farrington 2007; Mallicoat 2007). However, feminist criminologists have not examined how men’s endorsement of traditional masculinity contributes to women’s involvement, victimization, and marginalization in the criminal justice system.

The tenets of the psychology of men have not been used to study criminal behaviors and legal practices; yet, they have the potential to expand our understanding of the criminal justice system, in particular the individual behaviors and processes that support the devaluation and violation of women involved in prostitution and sex trafficking. For example, there is no known research examining masculine ideologies and sexist attitudes among criminal justice professionals. For the most part, scholars have documented the differential treatment of women offenders, including the restriction of women’s autonomy and expectations of obedience based on the perception that they are weaker than men (Belknap 2001; Chesney-Lind and Shelden 2013; Glick and Fiske 1996; Kempf-Leonard and Johansson 2007; Myers and Sangster 2001; Snyder and Sickmund 2006). The psychology of men calls attention to the men who solicit prostitutes and to the fact that they are generally excused for behaviors perceived as congruent with their prescribed gender role. It shifts the focus from women to men, and renders men visible and accountable for their contribution to “female” crimes.

Men’s Invisibility in Prostitution and Human Sex Trafficking: Social and Justice Processes

To show how the psychology of men can increase gender sensitivity as relates to criminal justice, we use gender role theory to reveal the normative assumptions that underlie interventions for prostitution and human sex trafficking. Every year, seven hundred thousand people are trafficked across international borders for the purpose of sexual exploitation (Kandathil 2005), and 80 percent of those trafficked are women (United States Department of State 2008). Trafficking is a form of gender violence that is rooted in misogynistic views of women as frail and subservient to men, and in traditional gender role norms that support the objectification and sexualization of women (Mankoski and Maton 2010; Levant and Wong 2013). Together, these views and norms create a context that promotes men’s acceptance of sex trafficking and their participation in this illegal trade, and that justifies the classification of women who sell sexual services, willing or coerced, as offenders. This categorization of women prostitutes as offenders intensifies the social stigma they experience as a result of breaking gender-based norms about appropriate sexual behaviors (Almog 2010; Chesney-Lind 1986).

While there is general consensus among criminology scholars that women are treated differently than men in the criminal justice system, there is disagreement with regard to how women are treated. According to the chivalry hypothesis, criminal justice systems in male-dominated societies show more leniency towards female offenders because women are perceived as weak and irrational (Grabe et al. 2006; Belknap 2001; Embry and Lyons 2012). However, research findings suggest that selective chivalry is more commonly observed (Embry and Lyons 2012) and that the type of offense, rather than the severity of the offense, determines how women are treated in the criminal justice system (Grabe et al. 2006; Chesney-Lind 1986; Jeffries 2002; Embry and Lyons 2012). Specifically, women who commit offenses that are inconsistent with gender norms receive harsher punishment than women who do not. This differential treatment occurs not only within the criminal justice system but also in the media. News coverage of female offenders sends subtle messages that justify double standards (Weimann and Fishman 1988; Grabe et al. 2006). Female offenders who commit “unfeminine” crimes are viewed more negatively than women who commit “feminine” crimes, and more negatively than men who engage in the same criminal behaviors (Grabe et al. 2006). The assumption is that women who commit “unfeminine” crimes should be punished twice as much for violating the law and for breaking gender norms. Further, women are judged more harshly for sexual acts that are acceptable for men (Crawford and Popp 2003). This explains women’s harsher punishment in the case of prostitution. From a psychology of men perspective, the act of blaming women for prostitution is supported by the belief that men who seek sex by soliciting prostitutes are performing socially acceptable masculine behaviors (O’Neil 2015; Sakaluk and Milhausen 2012).

In male-dominated societies, the assumption is that only women prostitute themselves and exchange sexual labor for compensation. Women who engage in prostitution are disproportionately more likely than the men who pay for their sexual services to be arrested and to face jail time, fines, and/or probation (Jolin 1994). In fact, men’s moral standing is never questioned, even though they are buying the sexual services (Overall 1992). In theory, one may argue that the men who are the consumers of prostitution should face the same legal consequences as the women who sell sexual services. However, they are often allowed to take part in restorative justice diversion programs, known as “John Schools,” to avoid criminal prosecution (Monto 1999). This practice is supported by the belief that “men will be men” and that they have a need for sex (Dalrymple 2005). The implication is that men who participate in the sex trade are less accountable before the law than women who provide sexual services, because men’s sexual desire is socially appropriate while women’s sexual desire is not. This double standard has been well researched (Crawford and Popp 2003), and studies have found that for similar sexual behaviors, women are judged more harshly than men (Sakaluk and Milhausen 2012).

This double standard regarding women’s and men’s sexuality influences the way prostitution is defined, which in turn guides the development of justice and psychological interventions to tackle this social issue. It also determines our ability to understand and address the concerns of women in the sex trade. From a capitalist patriarchal perspective, prostitution constitutes a labor field similar to any other profession (Overall 1992). The framing of prostitution as a line of work suggests that sexual activities are consensual and discounts the possibility that women may experience coercion in their relationships with sex traffickers. These relationships are characterized by traditional gender-based dynamics where men exercise control and dominance over women and where women are psychologically dependent on men.

Prostitution has also been defined as a morality politic (Wagenaar and Altink 2012). Broadly speaking, the concept of morality politic refers to policies in which central, universal principles relating to aspects of personal life (e.g., birth, death, life, and the body) are at stake, and public opinion is heavily divided. A morality politic has six characteristics: “It is ruled by explicit ideology; experts have limited authority as everyone feels they ’own’ prostitution policy; it is highly emotionally charged; it is resistant to facts; the symbolism of policy formulation is seen as more important than policy implementation; and it is subject to abrupt changes” (Wagenaar and Altink 2012, 279). A morality politic is based on explicit ideology to the extent that it is used to advocate a moral cause larger than the immediate implications of the social issue in question. Since attitudes towards prostitution—and to an extent laws—are based on a moral reaction to the nature of the sexual acts involved, anyone may believe he or she has the right to offer an opinion on the issue of prostitution policy, as the issue concerns principles relating to aspects of personal life. The highly emotionally charged nature of a morality politic contributes to widespread disregard for precise, reliable facts that may or may not support arguments for and against differing prostitution policy. What matters is the creation of policies rather than their implementation; what the policies represent and support is more important than action and change. In other words, the formulation of policies serves to support the moral standards that guide the categorization of women’s sexual behaviors as illegal. When prostitution is viewed as a morality politic, it is not considered as serious as other crimes (e.g., violent or drug-related) (Wagenaar and Altink 2012), although it also involves severe forms of victimization (Overall 1992).

Men’s Roles in the Sex Trade: Indirect Impact on Sex Trafficking, Prostitution, and Women

Men occupy at least two positions in the sex trade, as consumers of sexual services and as traffickers who coerce women and girls into prostitution. As consumers, they contribute to the demand for sexual services; as traffickers, they participate in the supply of sex. At both ends, they support the persistence of prostitution as well as the commodification of women’s bodies, thus reproducing the gendered organization of social relations.

While no research has examined the typologies of men who are either traffickers or consumers in the sex trade, it is likely that human sex traffickers, who treat women as objects, have extremely rigid and restrictive traditional views of gender roles. In general, violence toward women has been associated with men’s belief that they are superior to women and should have sexual access to them (Flood and Pease 2009; Koss and Cleveland 1997). Men traffickers treat women as a commodity and thus dehumanize them. This suggests that men traffickers are limited in their capacity to experience sympathy and empathy. It also raises questions about the relationships among masculine gender role ideology, psychopathology, and sociopathic deviance in particular.

There have been few studies of male consumers in the sex trade, possibly because scholars share the common perception that sex seeking is normal male behaviors (Ben-Israel et al. 2005; Perkins 1999). Existing research on men’s motivations has found higher levels of acceptance of rape myths among men who reported projected or actual participation in the sex trade. These men were also more likely to display sexually coercive and aggressive behaviors toward women (Farley at al. 2011; Kinnell 2008; Lowman and Atchison 2006; Pitts et al. 2004; Schmidt 2003; Xantidis and McCabe 2000). Studies of masculine ideology have established a link among masculine gender roles, restrictive emotionality, and men’s preferences for impersonal or nonrelational sexuality (Levant, Cuthbert, et al. 2003). In addition, men’s domineering and controlling tendencies in heterosexual relationships, acceptance of violence against women, and solicitation of prostitution have been associated with masculine ideology that supports hostility towards women (Farley et al. 2011; Malamuth and Thornhill 1994). Overall, it appears that masculine ideology that emphasizes male dominance and objectification and hostility towards women are key characteristics of men who solicit prostitutes.

Although research is limited as relates to men who solicit prostitutes, existing studies highlight the need to address masculine role socialization and its impact on men’s attitude and behaviors in their interactions with women. Consistent with the social justice principles of the psychology of men (Bartky 1990; Fredrickson and Roberts 1997), it is not enough to focus on men’s motivation for buying sex. Instead, there is a need for greater consideration, in the literature and research, of the social processes involved in the perpetuation of prostitution and human trafficking.

John Schools: How Men Can Help Reduce the Trafficking of Women

“John Schools” are court-diversion and educational programs for men charged with solicitation of prostitution. John Schools were developed out of a need to reduce demand for prostitution by addressing the men who solicit prostitutes. The John Schools constitute a problem-solving approach to the legal issue of illegal sex trade (Brewer et al. 2006; Shively et al. 2008). Their goal is to reduce recidivism by informing first-time offenders about the negative consequences of prostitution. They are one of the few justice interventions that seek to decrease the demand for illegal sex through prevention strategies focusing on male consumers.

John Schools currently exist in the United States, Canada, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. Within the United States, John Schools have been established in at least six major cities: Washington, D.C., New York, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, West Palm Beach, and Buffalo (Shively et al. 2012). One of the most well-known John Schools in operation, the First Offender Prostitution Program in San Francisco, offers a one-day class to sex-trafficking consumers in an attempt to inform them about the victimization of those who are trafficked as well as the legal and health outcomes associated with commercial sex (Shively et al. 2008). Fees are collected from the participants and used to fund social and therapeutic programs for female survivors of sex trafficking (Shively et al. 2012). The programs are typically run by hired facilitators and often include testimony from former prostitutes and presentations on sexually transmitted diseases and human trafficking laws.

John Schools are innovative justice strategies that address the social problem of prostitution and human trafficking by moving the focus from female prostitutes to the men who solicit them and by attempting to reduce demand rather than supply. There is some evidence that John Schools change attitudes and slightly reduce recidivism (Shively et al. 2008); however, these outcomes are short-term. Although education can be an impactful intervention, it has not been demonstrated to successfully alter gender role norms (O’Neil 2015), which serve to perpetuate the sex trade. The education the John Schools provide is not enough to change the broader social factors that support the objectification of women and men’s solicitation of prostitution.

Given the tendency to blame women and minimize men’s responsibility in the sex trade (Sidun and Rubin 2013), it is not surprising that John Schools, together with awareness campaigns and neighborhood watch programs, are some of the few prevention programs currently in existence in the nation. For the most part, legal strategies emphasize punishment and deterrence (Adelman 2004) in ways that further harm women who participate in the illegal act of providing sexual services (Spohn and Tellis 2012; see also Bryant-Davis, Adams, and Gray, chapter 3 in this book). It is imperative to develop justice interventions that take into consideration the processes of victimization that women experience in the context of prostitution (Spohn 2014), not only to assist women in finding alternatives to sex work and to address the abuse they have endured but also to promote change in men’s gender role ideology and to increase men’s knowledge of the health, legal, and social consequences associated with prostitution and sex trafficking.

Unfortunately, the field of psychology has been generally absent in the creation of interventions to combat human trafficking and prostitution. It is critical that psychologists and justice officials work together to develop comprehensive prevention and treatment programs designed to change the normative attitudes and gender roles that support the objectification and oppression of women. Psychologists, in particular those who understand the psychology of men, have the training and knowledge required to develop culturally and gender-sensitive interventions that go beyond education and that have the potential to produce positive behavioral and social change. For example, O’Neil, Egan, Owen, and Murry’s (1993) Gender Role Journey is a developmental model of gender role identity that can be used to design preventive programming for men in the criminal justice system. The Gender Role Journey describes how adult men and women move from acceptance of traditional gender roles to positions of gender role transcendence and feminist activism. Comprised of five phases, this model is one of the few that describes the processes involved in transitioning between gender roles. The five phases include Acceptance of Traditional Gender Roles, Ambivalence, Anger, Activism, and Celebration and Integration of Gender Roles. Interactions with gender-nonconforming peers and education about sexism and its impact on personal growth are events that facilitate individuals’ transitions from one phase to the next. The Gender Role Journey could be used in justice programming to guide men’s assessment of their personal beliefs about gender roles. It would also provide a map for treatment with specific phases of development. Identifying the barriers that prevent men’s progress through each stage of the journey would also be an important component of preventive justice programming for men.


This chapter has offered a psychology of men perspective on criminal justice responses to prostitution and human sex trafficking. Double standards that explain why men and women are treated differently in the case of prostitution and human trafficking have been described. The theory of gender role conflict and gender role strain were highlighted to describe men’s behaviors as consumers and traffickers in the sex trade.

Many factors account for women’s involvement in criminal activities: social, educational and employment problems, personality characteristics, antisocial beliefs and values, history of criminal engagement, criminally involved peers, mental disorders, history of victimization, and substance abuse (Kissin et al. 2014; Andrews, Bonta, and Wormith 2006; Hall et al. 2013). To better assist female offenders and to minimize the unfair treatment of women in the criminal justice system, individual risks must be addressed in conjunction with the gendered processes (i.e., gender socialization and gender role strain) that support men’s role in female offending and victimization. It is important that men be the target of preventive interventions that reduce gender role rigidity and increase social consciousness. Such interventions should aim to change justice practices as well as individual behaviors related to sex trafficking and the solicitation of prostitution.

It is critical that men who solicit prostitutes participate in assessment and diversion programs that address gender role ideology and hostile masculinity in particular (Malamuth and Thornhill 1994). Given that men are socialized in diverse social contexts, it can be a challenge to design programs that address culturally specific attitudes and behaviors and that can be applied to multiple contexts. Research is needed to inform the development of comprehensive preventative assessment and treatment programs that will reduce men’s gender role rigidity, foster their social and legal consciousness, and increase their appreciation of women’s social value. These are essential treatment outcomes for men that will have an indirect positive impact on the health—physical, psychological, and relational—of women involved in prostitution and sex trafficking. These types of interventions put the onus on men to address social structures that are abusive to women and have the potential to enhance legal responses to prostitution and other “female” crimes by increasing men’s knowledge of their role and responsibility in the criminalization of women.


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