Category Archives: Sanction

Gender and Sex

Many people think of Gender and Sex as one in the same, but in reality Gender and Sex are two completely different things. Every country has their own idea of what Gender and Sex is within their culture. Our culture in the United States has put very strong gender roles based on a person’s sex, which is why many people assume Sex and Gender are the same thing.  Sex refers to the physical and biological characteristics that define men and women. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, and activities that a society considers appropriate for men and women.

When we were born we were already given a gender identity the common blue or pink blanket that gets wrapped around us — boys get the blue and the pink for girls. The idea is that a certain color should be tied to a certain gender based on the sex. As we grow up from baby to toddler we start to get different things, such as toy trucks or baby dolls. Behaviors become programmed in us, as well.  Boys are taught to not cry when they get hurt and to hide any emotion or they will seem weak, while girls are taught to be weak, pampered and want help.


There is also a double standard in our gender roles.   When girls play with boy toys they are considered a “tomboy,’ but if a boy wants to play with a doll it is completely vulgar and unnecessary.  In the childhood years it only gets worse because by now they understand the idea of gender and have already been sanctioned enough to start to conform to the roles that society has formed for them. They will soon come to the conclusion that what parts they were born with is the gender they are, even if they are uncomfortable with being that gender.

Even in adulthood we can’t escape these gender roles no matter how much we try. The society we live in will sanction us back into our roles. Our sex also confines us in the work place, along with our gender. If a female in a business stated an opinion, she would seem bossy, but if the same opinion was stated by a male, he would seem as a leader.

While some people accept that we are all different regarding gender, the majority of the society doesn’t accept gender diversity, which is why this is such hard topic to talk about. The reason why I think many people don’t want to accept gender diversity, is because it can seem confusing. We as humans like simple and easily explainable answers and if something is hard to understand, we don’t want any part of it. Hopefully one day gender will no longer be a restrictive role played by boy or girl and people can freely express who they want to be without being sanctioned.

— Grace



Placing an institution into the subcategory of a total institution is more a matter of degree than simply qualifying with an affirmative or negative.  The shades of gray are somewhat ironic considering the decisive imagery of the phrase itself.  Current thinking from sociologists places a degree of totality on any given institution, not only those that are traditionally viewed as totalitarian.  To give an example used often enough in the media to run the risk of becoming a cliché, shopping centers and casinos have perfected the art of isolating their clientele from the outside world.  With no easily accessible exits, no clocks, no view of the sun or sky, and dodgy cell phone reception, it can be easy to find oneself spending a great deal more time and money in these establishments then intended.  Although these places have intentionally adopted an aspect of totality to obtain profit, most people would be hesitant to actually label them as total institutions.  Rather, they utilize concepts of totality to control one aspect of their respective clients, rather than their every action.

The view that all social institutions have degrees of totality is reminiscent of Karl Marx’s conflict theories.  As in many of the theories of social conflict, the presence of a degree of totality in most or all social institutions lends weight to the argument that social institutions aim to exert control over their respective members.  That control does not have to be negative.  To give an example, family is considered a social institution, of which marriage is a part.  Marriage shows characteristics of totality.  In particular, it is widely accepted that a degree of isolation is expected in favor of social interaction with the nuclear family.  Assuming this hypothetical marriage is a happy one, the benefits of marriage outweigh the sacrifices, making the presence of totality benign.  However, from a purely analytical perspective, the institution of marriage preserves itself through control of its members’ outside interactions.  This is a key factor in a total institution.

The aforementioned idea that all institutions display totality in degrees means that institutions not generally considered totalitarian can still be analyzed with the totality concept in mind.  Marriage has already been given as an example.  The shopping centers and casinos mentioned earlier apply equally well.  Corporations make vast sums of money using sociological concepts to generate profit.

Institutions with a high degree of totality have been the subject of a great deal of scrutiny in recent decades.  Re-socialization is an important issue that strongly affects the way we handle dangerous members of our society.  Re-socialization is the process we use to purge a person of unwanted traits or behaviors that are the result of their initial socialization, or to instill positive traits and behaviors they may be missing.  The prison system and military organizations are perfect examples of re-socialization at work.  In theory, prison sentences are no longer meant to merely be punishment for crimes committed.  The process of re-socialization is applied in order to rehabilitate inmates and prepare them to rejoin society.  The level of success is arguable, if only due to a lack of budgeting and priority, but the ideal of rehabilitation exists at the very least.

Unlike the prison system, the large military budget and the higher priorities veterans receive over inmates have been the cause of a great deal of change in this example of a total institution.  The results of an ever increasing awareness of the effects of total institutions’ can be seen in the military’s handling of both recruits and veterans.  Military trainers have long expressed the idea that before you build a person up, you have to break them down.  This is the most fundamental part of the re-socialization process used by total institutions.  A recruit’s sense of identity is the largest barrier to responding to socialization, so it is the first thing to be attacked.  Hair and clothes are made generic, contact with the outside world is extremely limited, and personal choice is almost nonexistent.  Stress levels are kept as high as possible while recovery periods are made shorter.  During their initial training, army recruits are lucky to get five hours of sleep per day, and not always consecutively.  Activities are carefully controlled and monitored for several months.  Better standing of total institutions has led to changes in these practices in the past decade.  The military is adopting philosophies of strengthening without degradation.  Sleep schedules are longer and stress levels are generally kept at a lower state.  One of the reasons for this is that the process of institutionalization has been found to have harmful long term effects.  The obsolete nature of institutionalization can be seen when the extreme control exerted by prison systems succeeds only to create model prisoners, who re-offend when they are released back into the population.  The same can be said of soldiers.  A person may do very well in their assigned role as a soldier, but their new adjustment can cause trouble when they are exposed to the outside world once again.

Totality in our social institutions is not only an issue for those who enlist in the military, or send their children to a boarding school.  Because totality exists in degrees in every social institution, and because these institutions tend to attempt increased control over time in order to maintain their power over members through sanctions, it is important to understand how these total institutions’ methods apply in everyday society.


“Anomie is a state of normlessness that typically occurs during a period of profound social change and disorder, such as a time of economic collapse, political or social revolution, or even sudden prosperity.” – Jon Witt

According Dr. Cecil Greek at FloridaStateUniversity, “Emile Durkheim used anomie to describe a condition of deregulation that was occurring in society. Anomie, simply defined, is a state where norms (expectations on behaviors) are confused or not present” ( Some people might say life is hard, some might say that life is only as hard as you make it. I say that it is a little bit of both. There are certain guidelines or behaviors to life that if followed can make things a little more pleasant. My parents always said to me, “treat people the way you want to be treated.”  This should not be a hard concept to follow. We as people like it when someone treats us with respect. It makes us feel good as a person, whether we know this person personally or not.  It seems as time goes on, people treat one another with complete disrespect. Some people seem to be confused on what good behavior is when dealing with one another. Norms help control behavior in society, a loss of norms can result in normlessness. When communities break down eventually norms within the community breakdown. This can lead to many things.

I was once friends with a girl who had parents that had money. Not too much money, just enough to give her anything she wanted. She had a new car at sixteen and always had nice clothes and shoes.  She had it all.   She may have been a little over spoiled but this was her reward for worked hard in school. She was one of the sweetest people I have ever met; everyone loved her. It seemed like she never had a bad day and always pleasant, smiling, joking, and helping others. Both of her parents had good jobs and made good money until one not so good day. Her father was in a bad car accident, lost his job and would be unable to work for the next couple of years due to multiple surgeries.  When the accident happened my friend was in her first year of college. Her mother tried to hide their financial problems as long as possible.  As time went on, finances got worse. Finally her mother sat her down and explained the whole thing. Their finances were lower than ever before. Their social status had dramatic change. The ways of life that were once normal to her had now become a state of normlessness.  Her mother now worked all the time, and took care of her husband. Her parents no longer had time for her or money. Working and going to school full time was a challenge for her. It seemed her whole life had been turned upside down, she was different now. As time passed her behavior changed, she became mean and very unpleasant. I remember when she started to pull away, and keep to herself more. She no longer wanted to hang out or talk. She would sometimes say that she did not know what to do, or which way to go. In a short time her grades dropped and she began doing things some might call deviant. It seemed is if she did not care anymore. I believe that my friend may have slipped into a state of Anomie after her father’s accident.

According to Jon Witt, “deviance is behavior that violates the standards of conduct or expectations of a group or society.” Behavior is only deviant if society responds to it that way — a state of mind if you will.  What is deviant to one person may not be to another. I believe the scope of deviance varies from one group to another.  Negative sanctions can discourage public deviance with public punishment.  For example, a drunk drivers face, name and possible punishment may be put in the newspaper. This public punishment could increase conformity by discouraging similar violation by other people. Every society has their own deviant individuals just as everyone is deviant from time to time. Sounds funny but I think deviant behavior can be a shared behavior that could bring people together.

In society there are times when the existentence of external forces seem to out weight the individuals own will. This external force can have a massive influence on an individual’s behavior.  The influence that society can have on one’s behavior can be a good thing or a bad one. This influence from society can help keep us socially integrated. Social integration makes people feel like they fit in or belong to something.

When social integration is weak, it is easier to be deviant. When people feel like they belong to a group they may be less likely to commit deviant acts and more likely to conform in order to fit in. Once conformed, the individual may feel more connected, less lonely and isolated. This would decrease the feeling of Anomie. When people within a society have more shared experiences in common this increases social integration.


Without the social norms that we abide by each and every day, there would be absolutely no expectations of how anyone is supposed to “normally” behave. From the moment we wake up on our mattress, usually atop a box spring and frame (the standard sleeping structure in western culture); we follow the norms that have been taught to us since the moment we entered onto this earth.

I think that maintaining these norms, and being seen as normal for abiding by them, are of extreme importance to nearly everyone in every society. To fit in is everyone’s ultimate goal. In order to retain the importance of the norms we’ve constructed, we have created different levels of negative sanctions to deal with the disobedient social deviants. Whether it be conscious or subconscious, every time we view someone falling outside of norms we think negatively of them and react in various ways, from simply rolling our eyes to picking up a phone and dialing the police (depending on the severity of the norm breaking).

who_thisweek_26092011_17731gr-17731h2Norms in society can range from things that are seemingly insignificant as the kind of clothes we wear to things that are considered law. We consider these small norms to be folkways, and little concern is raised when someone decides to deviate from them. Although it is a folkway to wear casual clothing, such as jeans in what is considered a casual setting, no one is too bothered by someone deciding to “dress up” in something more along the lines of a suit jacket or a nice dress.  Norms that are deemed more necessary and absolute, such as driving on a specific side of the road, or refraining from murder, are referred to as mores. These mores are often written down formally whether in formats such as a school handbook, driving manual, or in laws defended by the government. Once written down, these norms are considered to be formal norms, as opposed to informal norms, which are generally grasped by the population, but not necessarily written down. Example of informal norms are the common etiquettes we’ve been raised with, such as not being “too loud” in a public environment or grocery shopping from the store aisles as opposed to someone else’s cart.


Negative sanctions are not the only sanctions to exist in our world of norms. Positive sanctions are seen just as often as negative sanctions. We’re given positive sanctions for obeying our norms through our good grades in schools, promotions and pats on the back at work, and general statuses in life. Because the average person obeys the norms laid out for them, they will have many more opportunities than someone who has deviated from these norms, such as a convicted felon.  Other than the obvious jail time and/or fines, felons are negatively sanctioned beyond that to continuously remind them of their wrongdoings. These sanctions can include: refusal to enter other countries, not being allowed a job in childcare or public office, etc., whereas these travel and job opportunities are seemingly very basic and attainable to the Average Joe.

tumblr_l8vf4zt3wb1qdpi3fo1_500My personal view of norms is exceptionally mixed. On one hand, I feel that norms suffocate any real sense of self and individualism. However, on the other hand, I recognize the importance of providing someone with violent tendencies a standard at which to abide by so that they don’t act on possible homicidal urges. Unfortunately because norms are so heavily relied upon, they are the major players in creating the petty insecurities we feel on a daily basis. I think that if the norms laying in the more aesthetic/subjective spectrum (such as clothing and beauty standards of the gender binary, grooming habits, interest in pop culture, etc) were to be given less focus and attention, the world would be a much happier place. If everyone could mind their own business and pay no mind as to what someone chooses to wear or who they feel like having a relationship with, it’s my belief that suicide would not be nearly as prevalent; especially in those who strain the importance of such things- teenagers. Instead of constantly having to conform and act off of what we think is “normal” our Me and I could just be one, and there wouldn’t have to be so much stress put on our looking glass self. Bullying wouldn’t exist and Ugg boots would’ve not been so vital to every fourteen-year-old girls existence. But in order to do this, one of the important factors would be to significantly cut the amount of corporate advertising shown in all forms of media. Given that in 2010 advertisers spent fifty billion dollars on television advertising alone (Ad Age), one could say cutting such a thing would be detrimental to the United States economy. Although it’s obvious that petty folkway norms can be seemingly of so much more importance in our daily lives, and cause a myriad of self detriment- I don’t think there’s any realistic way in the foreseeable future to be rid of them.


We have all seen them, “gangsters” walking around with saggy pants and baggy sweatshirts known for causing trouble and committing crime, or Goth’s with gaged ears and all black attire, known for being emotionally unstable and violent. These people are said to be deviant, with norms and values that differ from those of the greater society. These subcultures create their own norms and values that others see to be different, or deviant.

Norms are an established standard of behavior maintained by a society.  Norms can be formal, informal, folkways or mores. Formal norms are those that generally have been written down and specify strict punishment if violated. Laws are an example of formal norms. Informal norms are those that are understood but not necessarily recorded. Examples of informal norms include how one behaves in a college level classroom. Folkways are norms that govern everyday behavior but do not result in much concern if violated. Wearing acceptable clothing is an example of a folkway. Lastly, mores are norms that are seen as necessary to the welfare of society, and are based on what is right and wrong. Religious doctrines are an example of mores. Defying any of these norms can result in an individual being perceived as deviant. For an individual to conform is for him or her to go along with peers, acting in a similar manner. Just as one can conform to society, that is following social norms, one can also conform to a deviant group, acting in a way that is different from the rest of society.

Perhaps the most recognized deviant groups in society are criminals. Criminals can be individuals who commit crimes such as murder or assault, or small crimes such as income tax evasion or misinterpretation of advertisement. Whether the crime was a violent crime resulting in extreme punishment, or a small senseless one with little recognition, every move we make as humans has a sanction. Sanctions are tactics used by society to penalize or reward individuals for their behavior. Negative sanctions used for criminal activity, for example, include jail or prison sentencing, fines and community service. These sanctions are largely responsible for the “good behavior” of society, as individuals stray from behavior that could result in these negative sanctions. Positive sanctions are also part of keeping society under control, so to speak. These sanctions include praise or rewards for good behavior, such as a student being on the honor roll, or getting certificates for perfect attendance. Sanctions are a means of encouraging conformity to the standards of society, while also preventing individuals from becoming deviant.

All types of sanctions are a part of social control.  “We create norms to provide social order . . . we enforce them through social control – the techniques and strategies for preventing deviant human behavior in any society” (Witt 130). Social control can be exercised in families, by parents, in colleges, by teachers, or in government by the police or legislature. One example of social control in schools is the hidden curriculum. Just as sanctions teach individuals what is socially acceptable throughout life, the hidden curriculum is used in schools to teach children what behaviors are acceptable. For example, students learn to speak only when they are called on, and are taught how to socialize with authority figures in an acceptable way. These lessons are ones that will be critical throughout life, to conform to society.

Teachers are likely to have a life-long effect on their students. Not only do teachers demonstrate socially acceptable behavior to students, but they often label students as well. Labeling can both help and hurt a child while growing up. For example, if the teacher labels a student as dishonest at a young age, that child is likely to keep that label throughout his or her education. Labeling can also be seen as a sort of stereotyping. African Americans have been labeled as delinquents, bad kids or criminals for years. Labeling a group of people as bad, in this case, puts them at a disadvantage because they are more likely to accept that label.

Norms are more important in everyday life than most people know. Without norms, we would not know how to work together, how to work individually, or how to function as an entire community. Although there are disadvantages of having norms, such as having deviant individuals, norms are an absolute necessity of society.


Works Cited

Lunchcountersitin, . “Incarceration Rate per 100,000 Residents.” Chart. Bureau of Justice Statistics (2009). Web.

Maricopa CountyJail. Web. 23 Feb. 2013. <;.

Sackermann, Joern. Germany, Gothic People. Lightstalkers, Cologne. Web. 23 Feb. 2013.

Stylephotographs, . African Student Raising her Hand in University Class. 123RF. Web. 23 Feb. 2013.

Witt, Jon. SOC. 2012th ed. N.p.: McGraw Hill, 2012. Print.


Culture shock is defined as the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes (, 2013).  It is what happens when one encounters people, or groups, that have a different set of values, norms, and even laws.  Culture shock can even happen within a certain country, if that country is diverse enough. For example, one might experience culture shock when going from northern Michigan to Texas. There are things such as the weather, food, and dialect that are different from what one considers normal if from northern Michigan. To better understand what culture shock is, one must better understand what a culture is.  Wherever one lives in the world, culture is comprised of norms, folkways, mores, laws, and even includes languages to name a few.

Have you sat in a movie theater and watched as everyone got quiet once the movie started?  Or how you just know how to act while you’re attending church?  What about how we raise our hands to ask a question in class?  These are norms of our society, or in other words, what people have decided is acceptable.  There are different types of norms for different societies.  For example,  folkways deal with norms within a particular society.  A folkway is a norm that when broken, it is not that big of a deal even if a norm is broken. You will still be made aware that what you did was wrong, but you will live to see another day.  A good example that comes to mind is for men in particular. When using the urinal, you are supposed to stand at least two urinals away from the next person. Where is this rule written?  It is not written, but if you were to go stand right next to another man at a urinal when there are other spaces available, you would be sanctioned.  For example, the man you stood next to might leave in a hurry, or give you a dirty look, because what you did is considered wrong.  Mores are norms that are taken more seriously and obedience to must be necessary for society.  Mores are usually made into laws. These laws are enforced with more serious sanctions, such as prison, to make sure our obedience is mandatory.

These patterns of society help create our culture. Society needs these patterns of behavior to survive.  Without these, we would easily fall into chaos caused by the lack of rules.  Think of a school room full of students without the teacher.  The children will go wild, pulling hair and running around, with no one to object. In doing so, they break the norms of the class room. Nothing would be able to be accomplished until the teacher returns to establish the norms.  Without those norms in place, the children were not able to learn and advance; staying in the same state until the norms were again in force.

Now that we better understand what culture is and consists of, we can talk about culture shock.  I experienced this when I went from Michigan to the country of Malawi. I was trading not only countries, but races as well.  As I went from the dreary parts of Michigan to the warm heart of Africa, I could not help but feel out-of-place.  The people talked different, transportation was odd to me, and do not get me started on the food.  As I immediately began comparing the two places, for a time, I began to think my home was better, simply because we did not eat caterpillars and all (for the most part) spoke the same language.  Although those thoughts passed as I spent more time there, I now realize that to be Ethnocentrism.  I feel bad holding what I was used to as being better than where I was, but that is a fairly common thing to do.  Looking back, I think that Ethnocentrism could even be the founder of racism.  It would not be very hard for those feelings of, “My culture is better than yours,” to lead to the idea that, “I am better than you.”

As time went on, I became more acceptable to the culture and the people around me. In turn, it became easier for me to practice cultural relativism, or the judging of peoples’ behaviors based on their own culture.  For instance, eating bugs as part of a meal.  In America, it is considered disgusting, however, in Malawi it would be considered normal.  So as I began to practice cultural relativism, I no longer deemed that as wrong and took part in such cultural activities.

While I was in Malawi, I went to some interesting places.  Once, we were invited into a very wealthy Indian man’s home.  I felt so strange because I was still in Malawi, but everything I had come to associate Malawi with was gone.  Instead of a dirt floor, he had tile.  He told us that he resented the dirtiness of most of the people there.  He almost lived to set himself apart from the dirtiness of the rest of the country.  As we left this man’s home, we looked around and realized that there was a whole group of people who felt the same way.  This counter-culture openly opposed the main culture of Malawi, but they could not get rid of the main culture entirely.

New Picture

As I moved from the warm heart of Africa to the neighboring country, Zambia, I noticed that because of the size of the country and number of different tribes, it was hard for them to be united under one culture.  In the north, you had the Bembas, in the south was the Tongas, and eastward was home of the Chewas.  These subcultures were still able to relate to most things, but you just knew that they were different.   They differed in their mores, folkways, and values of the larger society (Jon, 2011, 63). I believe that the shared main culture within all of the tribes of Zambia is what keeps it together. If a country lacks that main culture similarity and there are competing cultures fighting for dominance, the result may very well be civil war.  Looking at the civil war in the United States, the culture of the South was to have slaves while the culture in the North was anti-slavery.  The two different cultures were so close to each other, within the same country, the differences could only be solved by war.

Culture is very much a part of who we are.  Every day we are shaped by our culture and the rules that come with it.  We need our culture to hold us together and help society to continue to advance.  When we are placed into a culture that we do not relate with, we are shocked.

Works Cited

“Culture Shock”. OxfordUniversity Press. 2013 2/23/13 <

Witt, Jon. Soc 2012 Ed. Boedeker, Gina. New York: McGraw-Hill. 2011. Posted by: Fallon Burke, 2009  Titled Chaos in Classroom.


We act a certain way based on where we are and who we are with. We categorize our attire with words like “formal” and “casual”. We adjust to any situation we are in. We obey many unspoken rules because we cannot imagine how others would react if we did not. What pressure causes people to confine themselves within the walls of “acceptable” social behavior?


The answer is conformity, which is a form of social control. It is the act of going along with peers—individuals of our own status who have no special right to direct our behavior. Included in this post is the theme music and video clip for a show called “Weeds,” and it gives a great visual representation of conformity in a suburban community. Conformity is parallel to obedience. To conform is such a natural behavior that we do not realize that we conform to societal standards every day. We do, however, acknowledge and enforce conformity when a member of society is being deviant (that describes a term called “negative sanctioning”). Deviance is parallel to disobedience. Essentially, that makes deviance the opposite of conformity. People are either rewarded or punished based on whether they conform to the behavior of their society. So, here is a question: If uniqueness is valued in some cultures, why are people punished for not conforming?


Conformity can be both good and bad. On the positive side, conformity maintains order. Society would be a complete mess if there was no form of social control. People would not be able to learn to function if their society had no guidelines. On the negative side, conformity suppresses the “black sheep” of society. Those who choose not to conform are negatively sanctioned and are pressured to behave. There are those who like to fit in and there are those who like to stand out. Luckily, there will always be deviant people, because without them, the accepted behaviors of societies would never be reinforced and conformity would be lost.

Works Cited

Weeds Theme Song. N.d. YouTube. YouTube, 05 May 2007. Web. 25 Feb. 2013. <;.


In a small town, a couple sits together on a bench, laughing. Their fingers are entwined and the young woman rests her head on the shoulder of the man beside her. A slight breeze produces goosebumps on the woman’s skin and she cuddles closer to her partner. He puts his arm around her to keep her warm and kisses her forehead. They are happy and in love. As time passes, people from around the town begin to rise from their houses and start their morning routine. The couple notices the stares, the angry looks, and the snarky comments coming from passer bys. This couple has an age difference. She is 17 and he is 25.

In the United States it is considered wrong and even illegal to have a relationship with such a large age difference. What makes it so wrong? A social norm is a term used to describe what is normal in society. For instance, we are expected to say please and thank you .It is expected that we wear clothes in public and shake hands when meeting someone. When a person or groups of people are disinclined to follow a social norm within their society they are participating in a concept known as deviance.  The couple that is in a relationship that is not following the social norms of society is being deviant. When you come from a family of straight A’s and you bring home a failing report card you are being deviant of your family’s social norms.

There are thousands of different social norms in society. A woman is expected to shave her legs, have no facial hair, be skinny, with a high pitched voice, smooth clean skin, and a graceful walk. It is expected or seen as normal for a man to be muscular, have short hair, and a low voice. So if a man grows his hair long or a woman doesn’t shave her legs, he or she is being deviant.

This video shows two males wearing a dress into a mall who get kicked out. It’s up to you to decide if it was the deviant act of the boys wearing the dresses that got them kicked out, or if what the officer was saying was the true reason.

Deviance is also in the eye of the beholder. The couple sitting on the bench may not feel that they are deviating from a social norm, they are in love and happy and feel there is nothing wrong with that. In other cultures it may be a social norm for a young girl to marry a man twice her age. In some cultures 16 is the proper age to marry. The couple on the bench may not see the deviance that others do.

If deviance is in the eye of the beholder then how do we decide what is normal and what isn’t? We do it through social control. Social control is the concept that prevents deviant behavior and enforces the wrong and the right of norms. When deviance occurs in society, some type of punishment is brought forth to show that what is happening is wrong. Another way of enforcing social norms is through rewards. Sanctions are the penalties and rewards that keep deviance from occurring and enforce our social control. In the situation involving the couple with an age difference, the sanction could be jail time. In the United States it is a deviation of a social norm administered by the state to be in a relationship with a minor, if you’re considered an adult which is 18 or older. This type of violation is considered a crime and the sanction will be administered by the state, i.e. jail time.


Deviance plays a major part in society. In order for something to be considered wrong, we need a
person or a group of people to deviate from the social norm. Once that deviance has occurred,
society will determine if it’s ok or wrong. If it considered ok then it will be incorporated into a social norm, but if it is considered wrong within society then it is a deviant action and a punishing sanction will be used. The “social construction of reality” is a phrase used by sociologist Berger and Luckmann to describe how we make our society through our actions, it is the process that occurs to decide what is considered normal or not in society.  For example, during the Victorian era, woman wore white makeup to make themselves look pale. Today we use spray tan or lay in the sun to look as tan as we can. In today’s society, if you wore white makeup like Queen Elizabeth did, you would be considered deviant. Deviance changes many times throughout history. How many different topics can you think of that were considered social norms before but are now considered deviant?

When you’re trying to decide what clothes to pick out,-so that you fit in with all your friends at school, you are trying to conform to a social norm instead of deviating from it. When you’re a male, and you use the urinal farthest from the other male in the bathroom, your conforming to a social norm; if you went to the closest one to him, you would be deviating and a sanction might be that he punched you for invading his personal space. Even though you might not know it, you actually worry about deviance in everything you do. In all the choices you make, you’re deciding how to conform to a social norm rather than deviate from it. Or, if you were trying to rebel that day, you may think of the many deviant acts that you could do. Though the couple on the bench is not worried about being seen by others, they did worry about what to wear that day, or how to act with each other. Together they are deciding what is deviant and not deviant in their relationship.

Works Cited

Witt, Jon. SOC 2011. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2011. 59-149. Print.


SOC1“That’s so gay”. “Don’t be gay”. “No homo”. “What a fag”. All of these remarks can be heard almost daily. It is socially unacceptable or undesirable to be gay. A stigma is a label used to devalue members of certain social groups (Witt). Whether or not these remarks are directed at a gay person, it fuels the stigma against homosexuals and homosexuality.

My mom and dad got divorced in 1997 and my mom came out as a lesbian. Since then she has gotten married (legally in the state of New York) to her partner of 12 years, Lara. I have seen and experienced first hand the discrimination gay and lesbians experience due to the stigma homosexuality has.

Society puts us under immense amounts of pressure not to veer off from the norms.  In order to avoid the stigma many people live their whole lives in the closet, afraid of what might happen if they come out. They will be seen as deviant and will experience negative sanctions for their decision to come out as homosexual. Many people are bullied, beaten, and even murdered or driven to suicide because their sexual orientation violates the mores society dictates everyone should live by.

There is group superiority that extreme homophobic people have, such as Focus On The Family, One Million Moms, and the American Family Association. These groups feel as though being gay is deviant and shouldn’t be shown on television, supported legally, or given any civil rights. These people see being homosexual as taboo.

The family structure in American is changing. There is no longer the ideal husband, wife, 2.5 kids, and dog. There are families with adopted children, single parent households, guardians, and families with gay parents. As a child of a lesbian I had my own experiences with the stigma attached to having a gay parent. People assume that the child of a gay parent will become gay themselves. There is this theory that being gay is somehow contagious or a choice.

When traveling to Italy last summer I was in a bit of culture shock when I realized that being gay was more accepted than it is in America. My mom and Lara could walk around holding hands without being stared at. Though as we have seen with each election people are becoming more and more accepting with many states making gay marriage legal. When my mom and Lara got married in New York there was a celebration of love and acceptance. They were finally able to legally declare their love, just as heterosexual couples have always been able to.

Homosexuals have become their own subculture. Since they have been discriminated against and cast as the out group, they have band together. They have their own bars, clubs, vacation spots, and even argot. “Let’s have a kiki”, “spill the tea”, and “throwing shade” all started as “gay lingo” then started spreading to the mainstream media.

There has been a push by the government, media, and people throughout America to take the stigma out of being gay. This will take time and might never happen, but through elections, television shows, music, and people supporting one another the stigma has decreased little by little over time.


Socialization is the way in which we learn our culture, and the norms of that culture.  Behavioral expectations are referred to as norms.  Violating or deviating from these norms leads to negative sanctions.  Obeying these norms leads to positive sanctions.  We learn the socialization of our culture through various people and groups that are called agents of socialization.  These can include the media, our peer groups around us, our workplace, family, and even governments.  For example, young children may learn some manners from a children’s media show.  Their family may reinforce the socialization of manners with negative or positive sanctions for following or not following these norms of culture.


In contrast to socialization, resocialization is getting rid of old behavior patterns and accepting new ones as a part of a new life transition.  Resocialization occurs best in a total institution setting.  In this setting, a single authority figure inside the institution will decide what activities will be conducted by individuals during the day and when.  The people inside the total institutions have almost their every move set out for them.  If they do not comply to these orders by authority figures, than they will face consequences.  These are some of the factors that make a place a total institution.  Another factor is having every aspect of life within the institution be related towards the goals of the organization.  Examples of total institutions include mental institutions, the military, convents, and prisons.  In a prison institution, the prisoners are forced to dress very similary, do the same activities as other inmates, and share their living spaces with others.  They are stripped of their identities, and are forced to conform to the way everyone else acts and appears because they have no other choice.  Isolation occurs for some

In a penitentiary institution, a degredation ceremony begins to resocialize the prisoners into the institution.  They are stripped of all of their personal belongings including phones, clothes, jewelry, etc.  They are then forced to wear clothes similar to everyone else.  They may begin to lose their sense of self during this degredation ceremony.  From this point on, they have scheduled daily activities and routines that allow for little time to themselves.  Everything they do is based upon the goals of the total institution.


After these degredation ceremonies, prisoners will learn to discard their deviance for the law and take on new behaviors and new social roles inside of the institution.  They may have a daily job to perform, and are made to model the ways in which they are expected to act in the workplace in an effort to resocialize them into a working class society inside of the institution. Agents of socialization that may influence them during this time include family encouragement, media role models, and government counseling programs inside the prisons.  There are also educational programs inside the prisons to help them develop important skills.  For instance, in the following video, inmates work with shelter dogs in an effort to help train them to be more pleasurable to families that will then adopt them.  Caring for these animals also helps to reduce tension within the institution for the inmates.


Resocialization also exists in the form of new life changes.  The disengagement theory discusses the ways in which older people should sever their personal social relationships and give up their social roles that they hold within society.  They are discarding old behaviors such as talking with their friends or going to work every day, for a new role in society.  Their new role in society is to prepare for death.  Some are even forced into retirement homes.  Some cultures practice a more extreme form of disengagement theory.  For example, the Fulani people of Africa force their older people to live next to the graveyard and prepare for death.  They consider them to be already socially dead.  Many people disagree with the disengagement theory, and believe it to be unhealthy for anyone to sever their personal relationships.  Although many believe that older people will be more comfortable if they are retired from their working role in society, most agree that they should still stay active within society.