Aaron McBrideSociology 10811/15/1998 Explaining Teen Prostitution Using Sociological Theories of DevianceDeviance is defined as the behavior or acts that defy the norms of a society. For many years, scientists have researched on the various forms of deviance in the hope of developing theories that explain why some people act the way they do.The two case studies presented here both involve prostitution among the young people of society. One is entitled Enjo Kosai . It involves Japanese high school and middle school girls escorting middle-aged men as dates in exchange for money. In addition to providing the men with company, they also offer sex. The girls consider this service normal because it is as common as any other part time job. From this, they are able to get money to buy clothes and accessories (Sumiko, 1997). The second case involves some Americans boys in Nashville, Tennessee, studied by a sociologist named Albert J. Reiss. The youths studied range from 12 to 17 years of age and are identified as low class status. They are involved in providing mouth genital fellatio, otherwise referred by them as blow-jobs . The services have the frame of a typical normal business transaction. The customer asks for service, it is given to him, and he pays. The deal is known as the peer-queer transaction. However, the transaction contains rules that must be followed by both parties, thus making it a kind of a social organization (Reiss summary).The boys regard this deviance as a way of making quick and easy money. Most of them come from low class societies and are career-oriented. However, they have to find other ways of making extra money. Since legitimate means of making money are limited, and the consequences of using an illegitimate means are great, they find the peer-queer transaction a perfect way of earning money. In contrast to accepting this kind of job, they do not, whatsoever, consider themselves as homosexuals. Outside the transactions, they are heterosexuals who have great pride in their masculinity. They can resort to violence if their customers see them otherwise, especially if they violate the rules of the transactions (Reiss summery). Both cases are in no doubt a problem in society. Why is it happening? Looking at the theories of deviance presented to us by Robert Stark, it is difficult to pinpoint the best explanation for both cases. I could only agree that both case studies have element of one theory or another. Even with that in mind, the theories present some flaw to the situations. I have picked on the structural-strain theory and the control theory as the possible explanations.Presented by Robert K. Merton in 1938, it states that a person s position in the social-structure or stratification system is a factor to one s deviance. He suggests that those who commit crime or acts of deviance are usual people of the lower class. They do so to alleviate themselves of their poverty. (Stark, 1997, 183)Although it has been refuted for its lack of middle-class crime and the fact that of those poorly placed in the stratification system, the great majority do not commit acts of significant deviance , Merton s idea could explain the problem among American boys. The article states that they do this to earn easy money (Reiss summary). Being in a low class status level of society suggests that they lack adequate resources. They will therefore resort to finding other means of attaining money. In this case, they have opted for prostitution as a method. They have dreams for their career and only want some extra money to elevate themselves from their social positions.
On the contrary, this aspect of the structural-strain theory does not apply to the Japanese girls. According to the article, the girls involved are very, often seemingly, normal girls coming from upstanding homes. Some are enrolled exclusive secondary schools (Sumiko, 1997, p.45). They are an example of middle-class people who commit acts of deviance. Definitely, they cannot be poor and therefore the theory cannot be applied. For the Japanese situation, the control theory seems to explain it fairly well. The theory states that people with weak ties with others are more likely to deviate than the ones who have close and tight-knit relations. The theory has sub-theories of attachment, involvement, investment, and beliefs a person holds (Stark, 1998, pp. 187-191).Looking at these sub-theories, attachment and beliefs apply to the Japanese situation despite that the evidence given in the article is not clear-cut. The attachment sub-theory refers to the degree or level an individual is close to a group or another person (Stark, 1998, pp. 188-189). The girls are weak because they have weak social bonds with their parents. The article points out that, for the most part, the girls have grown up with parents who are more engaged in attaining economic wealth than family togetherness and values (Sumiko, 1997, p. 46). This statement implies that they do not have strong relations with their children and do not watch them carefully. This neglect creates freedom for the girls to engage in Enjo Kosai .The belief theory refers to the fact that what an individual perceives to be right or wrong for them will govern his moral credibility (Stark, 1998, p.). These girls believe that it is their right to sell their bodies: it is their choice (Sumiko, 1997, p.46). These beliefs have therefore resulted in them being seen as prostitutes. On the other hand, the control theory does not apply to the American boys issue. The article does not give any evidence that they have weak bonds with others, or are not involved with other productive activities. However, they do believe that it is okay to engage in the peer-queer transaction as long as they do not deviate from their rules (Reiss summary). This belief has encouraged them to be prostitutes. Once again, we have a theory that partially explains both of the case studies. In conclusion, I do agree that both cases are acts of deviance. They are similar circumstances, but defining a theory to explain both studies is not easy because each has an aspect of one theory or another. Nevertheless, they are both social problems that need to be addressed carefully, for the participants are in danger of physical and mental problems.