To ensure that people relate to one another well, the society is governed by a number of laws, mores, and rules. According to Martin, deviation is when social standards are broken (16). This definition identifies sexual harassment as a transgression of sex and sexuality-related societal standards. In such instance, both historically and culturally specific sexual deviance and what is considered sexually deviant exist. The term refers to behaviors that include persons seeking erotic fulfillment in ways that are deemed inappropriate, unusual, or strange by either the majority of or influential members of the community (Matin 16). As such, sexual deviance refers to conduct with a sexual factor to it and is regarded a violation of societal norms, the anticipations, or limits of behavior for particular cultural settings (Matin 16). Therefore, based on Adam Johnson’s story, his behavior with the minor is deviant as it encompassed sexual aspect in it and it was in violation with the societal norms of the English community.
Footballer Adam Johnson was sentenced to a six-year jail term after he was found guilty of sexually harassing a 15-year old girl (Robson et al. 1). Apparently, the footballer was found guilty by a majority verdict of sexual activity that entailed digital penetration with the minor. His behavior was deviant. Jetten states that deviant behaviors refer to presumed conducts that defy social expectations that are established and enforced by people with influence and have been applied to particular groups or people in specific situations (465). Martin adds that deviance often entails the violation of a norm or norms (37). However, norms do not prescribe particular actions as much as they set standards for what is perceived as acceptable in a particular society. Consequently, deviance takes place when traits or actions of an individual fall outside the standards that mark the regular acceptance range in society.
Johnson’s behavior can be categorized as under-conforming deviance. According to the Heckert and Heckert’s typology, negative deviance involves subnormal actions that do not measure up to what is acceptable in a particular society (Martin 37). In other words, this refers to actions that do not accord with the standards set by the society or social norms. In their book “Understanding Deviance,” Downes et al. highlight three types of social dimensions including the folkways, mores, and laws (46). The folkways dimension is concerned with the minor everyday habits such as tradition and etiquette. Regarding mores, this dimension is based on the behavioral standards set by the larger society. Lastly, the laws dimension involves the strongest set of norms, which are usually coded and sanctioned (Downes et al. 46). When negative deviance is pervasive or chronic to the level where violating norms is an end in itself among a group, the result is anarchy (Durkin 183). Negative deviance focuses on behaviors that involve the nonconformity or underconformity to norms along with negative evaluations.
The concept of sexual deviance denotes behaviors that involve people seeking sensual gratification through means that are odd and unacceptable to the society (Martin 37). Sexual deviance refers to behaviors that have a sexual aspect to them and are considered a violation of either the norms of the general society or the conduct standards for specific settings (Durkin 186). This includes overlooking the laws established by a country. It is unlawful for anyone to engage in any form of sexual activities with a minor or an individual below the age of 16 in the United Kingdom.
Apparently, even though the footballer knew that the girl had not attained the age of 16, he went on to lure her to engaging in sexual activities with her. According to the victim, on her second meeting with Johnson, he digitally penetrated her even after the victim was uncomfortable with his actions (Robson et al. 1). She further stated that even though she knew that it was wrong, the defendant compelled her to engage in the sexual activity with him. Additionally, evidence provided during Johnson’s trial including a video recorded on the girl’s phone and WhatsApp messages proved that the offender engaged in sexually deviant activities with the minor including kissing and digital penetration.
While Johnson can be said to display negative sexual deviance or underconforming sexual deviance behaviors, his love and skill for the football game are exceptional and thus positively deviant. Positive deviance refers to supernormal actions that go beyond what is acceptable in the society. Mainly, Downes et al. suggest that it occurs when individuals accept norms without limits and qualification (46-48). Just like most athletes, his long-term over-conformity (positive deviance) to the sports ethics might be blamed for his negative sexual deviance.
Arrogance coupled with sexual perversion is often a major factor that leads to sexual deviance among professional players. According to Martin, athletes and other celebrities have a likelihood of engaging in under-conforming deviant behaviors such as assault and sexual abuse (34). Long-term over-conformity to the sports ethic has been linked to various other deviant behaviors including sexual assault, group theft, and drinking among others (Martin. 34). The admiration and awe accorded to athletes who entertain people as they get involved in deviant over-conformity on the field interfere with the enforcement of the norms and standards of the society. Martin claims that athletes are more likely to engage in sexual abuse against women (36). Additionally, much of the deviance among athletes entails unquestioned acceptance as well as conformity to the value system exemplified in the ethics of sports.
Malamuth’s Confluence theory can be used to explain the reason athletes are more likely to engage in sexual abuses. According to the theory, sexual promiscuity and hostile masculinity merge to lead to sexually aggressive behaviors (Best 107). Natural selection has established significantly varying psychological mechanisms in the thinking processes of men and women regarding intimacy and sex. This has led to the males’ preference for short-term over long-term relationships and mating patterns and is most prevalent among hegemonic males such as athletes.
The third component of the confluence theory suggests that high-dominance personality among elite personalities in the society such as athletes is distinguished by self-interested goals and motives, lack of compassion towards other common community members, and little concern about the probable impact of their actions on other people (Best 107-108). According to Malamuth, this dominance level results from childhood socialization along with the incorporation of cultural and familiar messages.
Sociologists presume that various factors explain why athletes might abuse women or girls. Firstly, athletes are taught that aggression is a legitimate solution (Best 106). This results from the fact that athletes always compete and seek to win at all costs. Secondly, elitism and invulnerability can also be perceived as a factor as to why athletes are more likely to get involved in sexual abuses against women. Essentially, athletes often feel superior and separate from the other members of the society. This results from the hubris-expression of uniqueness as well as the accompanying sense that one is being separate and above the other community members (Jetten et al. 464). Consequently, they tend to engage in deviant behaviors since they belief that they are invulnerable to consequences.
Additionally, the firm support against competitors irrespective of the action of athletes can also be blamed for their sexual deviance. Since they are competent and famous individuals, a majority of people tend to perceive elite athletes as morally upright individuals. Consequently, when they are alleged to have committed negative deviant actions, people tend to defend them (Best 105). For instance, in Johnson’s case, his fans humiliated the victim claiming that she was giving false allegations
Various methods are used to manage sexual deviance among individuals. In regards to athletes and other elite sportsmen and celebrities, various laws have been established to ensure that they do not engage in such behaviors. Primarily, rather than been treated differently, they are treated the same way as the other members of the society irrespective of their influence and significance. As such, anyone who engages in a deviant behavior faces the same law applied to other people in the community.
Since deviant over-conformity poses a problem to their social interactions, elite athletes control their behaviors to the established and acceptable standards. This results from their desire to safeguard their reputations (Jetten et al. 461). Additionally, since setting limits does not accord to the sports ethic, they often attempt not to allow admiration and awe to interfere with their social processes. This is facilitated by rules and regulations within the athlete community to ensure that they do control deviant under-conformity (Jetten et al. 464). For instance, teams have established that athletes who are confirmed to be engaging in unacceptable behaviors are suspended or sacked. The goal of such actions is to diminish the separation between athletes from the rest of the society, alter social processes to ensure that athletes do not feel above the law, and create community awareness of the need to confront athletes devoid of allowing admiration and awe to interfere.
In conclusion, on the grounds of Johnson’s story, proof of sexual deviance is evident as his actions with the minor did not accord with the standards set by the society or social norms. In that regard, his sexual behavior is best explained by a societal action. The reason he engaged in such conduct can best be explained using Malamuth’s Confluence theory. According to the theory, sexual promiscuity and hostile masculinity merge to lead to sexually aggressive behaviors. Nonetheless, athletes can avoid such deviance through controlling their behavior to the established as well as acceptable standards to guard their reputation. The behavior can also be prevented by not allowing admiration and awe to interfere with their social processes. Generally, this is facilitated by rules and regulations within the athlete community to ensure that they do control deviant under-conformity.
Best, Joel. “Deviance: The Constructionist Stance.” Constructions of Deviance. Social Power, Context, and Interaction. 5th ed. Canada: Thomson Wadsworth (2006). Print.
Downes, David, Paul Rock, and Eugene McLaughlin. Understanding Deviance: A Guide to the Sociology of Crime and Rule-Breaking. Oxford University Press, 2016. Print.
Durkin, Keith F., and Clifton D. Bryant. “”Log on to Sex”: Some notes on the Carnal Computer and Erotic Cyberspace as an Emerging Research Frontier.” (1995): 179-200.
Jetten, Jolanda, and Matthew J. Hornsey. “Deviance and Dissent in Groups.” Annual Review of Psychology 65 (2014): 461-485.
Martin, Patricia Yancey. “The Rape Prone Culture of Academic Contexts Fraternities and Athletics.” Gender & Society 30.1 (2016): 30-43.
Robson, Steve and Richard Wheatstone. “How Adam Johnson Went From England Star To Jailed Paedophile”. Mirror.UK, (2017): 1-4.