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A murderous ‘underclass’?: press reporting of sexually motivated murder

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date1996
JournalThe Sociological Review
Journal number3
Volume44
Number of pages18
Pages398-415
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The ‘underclass’ is widely held by commentators of the Right to be responsible for a host of social problems, including violent crime. This paper shows how in the reporting of sexually motivated murder in a sample of nine British newspapers for one complete year (1992), the image constructed is one where unemployed and other marginalised men are portrayed as the main perpetrators of sexual violence. This, the authors argue, hampers our understanding of sexual violence, for it suggests that it is only men of a ‘low’ socio-economic background who are a potential threat to women and children. It is also suggested that the ‘symbolic environment’ of the press reporting of sexual murder provides a context in which a more authoritarian benefit regime and greater control of poor communities can be spuriously justified.