Just Sociology

The Masculinity-Crime Link: Why Men Are More Likely to Commit Crimes

The issue of crime and gender differences has been the subject of numerous studies, with a focus on why men are more likely to commit crimes compared to women. Theories on this issue suggest that it is due to traditional notions of masculinity, which pressure men to attain financial success and prove their control through violent means.

Additionally, in the case of white-collar crime, a desire for status, competition, and normative masculinity may motivate men to engage in illegal activities. In this article, we will examine these theories, exploring the underlying motivations and behaviors behind men’s higher criminal activity rates.

Financial Success and Traditional Masculinity

One theory on why men commit more crime than women is that traditional masculinity values financial success, and when men are unable to achieve it through legitimate means, they are more likely to turn to criminal behavior. Strain theory posits that when individuals face significant obstacles to achieving their goals, they may turn to utilitarian crimes, such as theft, to overcome financial difficulties.

A study conducted by O’Brien and Farrington (2016) found evidence supporting this theory, observing that men who experienced financial strain were more likely to commit crimes. Additionally, men who view themselves as unsuccessful in achieving traditional masculine norms, such as financial success and independence, may engage in criminal behavior to compensate for their perceived lack of status.

Proving Control and Masculinity through Violence

Another theory posits that men commit more violent crimes due to a desire to prove control and assert their masculinity. The male gaze, which denotes men’s objectification of women, is linked to the harassment and sexual violence women face, as it reinforces male dominance.

Men’s engagement in violent behavior is further evidenced by male-on-male rape and situational homosexuality, where men engage in homosexual behavior to assert their dominance over other men. Domestic violence is also often perpetrated by men attempting to assert their control over their partners.

This behavior signals normative masculinity and domination over women, reinforcing the link between masculinity and criminal behavior.

Status and Competition

White-collar crime, specifically elite crime, may be motivated by a desire for status and competition. The social status that comes with success in white-collar work is a significant incentive, and the competition to gain this status can drive criminal behavior.

People with high status positions may commit white-collar crimes to maintain or increase their standing, as they are expected to maintain a certain level of wealth and power. High-status individuals may also use illegal means to eliminate competition in the workplace.

The drive for status, power, and control is similar to that found in other types of crime, emphasizing how criminality can be rooted in a need for status and competition.

Acting Out Masculinity with Criminal Means

In breadwinning families, men are seen as the primary earners and providers, and the ability to fulfill this role is integral to normative masculinity. White-collar crimes, such as fraud, provide an opportunity for men to display success and control through illegal means.

White-collar criminals justify their illicit behavior with rationales such as supporting their family, seeking more significant profits, or achieving an elevated status within their professional field. Such rationalizations reinforce the notion that success is essential for engaged masculinity, and criminals can only attain it through illegal activities.


In conclusion, the theories discussed above regarding the higher engagement of men in criminal behavior suggest that normative masculinity plays a fundamental role. Traditional notions of masculinity that prioritize financial success, power, and control may drive men’s engagement in criminal activities.

Acts of violence and aggression may also be a way for men to maintain their masculine identity and assert their dominance. Additionally, motivations for white-collar crimes could involve status, competition, and the need to prove traditional masculinity.

By understanding these underlying motivations, efforts can be made to develop new solutions and prevent gender-based criminal activities from occurring. Expansion:

Low Status Crimes Committed by Men

While some men may engage in high-status criminal activity, others may indulge in low-level street crimes. These low-level crimes often stem from the connection between working-class identity and masculinity, which may drive men to participate in street violence to assert their power and status.

Street Violence and Masculinity

Working-class men who lack access to legitimate forms of power, such as social status or earnings, may turn to street violence as a means of asserting their masculinity. These men may strive to create an identity that revolves around toughness, physical strength, and dominance.

Violence is the ideal vehicle to demonstrate these qualities, and hence, men who are driven to establish such an identity are more prone to engaging in street violence. In addition, violence creates a sense of ‘belonging’ among working-class men as they engage in acts of violence as a form of peer bonding.

Such actions are seen as a way of ‘fitting in’ within the group, further reinforcing masculinities associated with hard-hitting street behaviors.

Utilitarian Crime and Male Pursuits

Utilitarian crimes, such as theft and drug dealing, may also be tied to traditional notions of masculinity. Drug dealing, for example, is often seen as a male pursuit due to its association with success, wealth, and status, all of which are highly valued under traditional norms of masculinity.

Similarly, theft may be seen as a means of self-preservation and proves a man’s ability to be resourceful and independent. While both examples are low-status crimes, they still represent a way for men to assert themselves under the ideation of traditional masculinity.

Patriarchal Control over Women

Patriarchal control over women impacts numerous areas of society, from domestic violence to the objectification of women in the media.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is defined as the use of control and coercion to maintain power in intimate relationships. It is a pervasive problem that occurs across class groups and is often not reported, making it difficult to quantify the extent of domestic violence perpetration.

The reasons for domestic violence are tied to the need for control over one’s life and partners. The use of violence and psychological abuse provides the means of that control and also signals the male’s masculine credentials.

The control dynamics of domestic violence can extend to the use of censorship and social isolation of the female partner. Heidensohn (1986) highlights the connection between the need for control over their circumstances and masculinity as a primary driver for domestic violence perpetuated by men.

It highlights the ways in which violence perpetuates problematic conceptions of masculinity, as men employ violence as a means of exerting control over women.

Male Gaze and Objectification of Women

The male gaze is linked to the objectification of women in media, pornography, and in real-life situations. Patriarchal norms encourage men to view women as objects to be controlled, which empowers men to use violence or other forms of abuse to enforce this mode of control further.

The objectification of women results in harassment and contributes to the prevalence of sexual violence. In pornography and popular media, men have been socialized to view women as sexual objects, which results in a series of harmful consequences.

The objectification of women dehumanizes them, reducing the female body to an object purposely meant for male pleasure.

Other Uses of Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is a form of control and has been used in various ways to exert control over men and women. Rape perpetrated by men against men is a common occurrence in many settings involving power dynamics.

In prisons, male-on-male rape is a frequent occurrence, and the perpetrators often enjoy a level of power over their victims. Situational homosexuality is another form of sexual violence that relies on the concept of male dominance where men engage in sexual acts with other men frequently to exert power over their victims.

The practice can be found in some military settings where male sexuality is seen as a way of maintaining control over ‘outsiders.’

Combatants in war also use rape in areas of conflict as a weapon of control through intimidation and fear. This practice often results in life-long mental and physical traumas for female survivors and demonstrates the ways in which patriarchal socialization can perpetuate forms of control that actively target women.


To conclude, normative masculinities are a significant predictor of criminal activities within men. Financial strain, the need for perceived success, and control are closely tied to the need to maintain a sense of masculinity under patriarchal systems.

From street violence to high-level fraud, men actively engage in activities that develop and maintain patriarchal ideals. This masculinization of criminality extends to the control dynamics that underlie other offshoots of violent male behavior, such as domestic violence, objectification of women, and sexual violence.

It is vital, therefore, that research continues focusing on these areas extensively to eradicate problematic patriarchal systems that influence masculine behavior anomalies. In conclusion, this article highlights the impact of patriarchal values on men’s criminal behaviors, showing that traditional masculinity norms have a significant influence on men’s engagement in criminal activities, including street violence, white-collar crimes, and various forms of violence towards women.

Understanding these underlying motivations is crucial to develop new solutions and prevent such behavior to ensure a more equitable society.


1) What is the connection between traditional masculinity and crime rates among men?

Traditional masculinity values financial success, power, status, and control over others, all of which can drive men to engage in criminal behavior. 2) Why do men often engage in low-level street crimes like violence, theft, and drug dealing?

These low-level crimes often stem from the connection between working-class identity and masculinity, which may motivate men to participate in street violence to assert power and status. 3) What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is the use of control and coercion to maintain power in intimate relationships and is perpetuated by men who view the use of violence and psychological abuse as a means of control over their partners. 4) What is the male gaze?

The male gaze is a patriarchal system that encourages men to view women as sexual objects that can be controlled. 5) How is sexual violence used to exert control?

Sexual violence is used as a form of intimidation, fear, and power to exert control over men and women, with situations like combat, situational homosexuality being some of the areas where such practices are implemented.

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