This article explores the gendered nature of crime by investigating the motivations and justifications used by male and female substance abusers whose current source of income is shoplifting. Drawing upon interviews from a larger study, this subsample of active male and female offender narratives produces several themes. First, despite difficult personal circumstances and constant need to satisfy drug addictions, agency in action is expressed in how male and female drug users negotiate criminal options in an urban drug market. Second, men give different reasons for shoplifting over other hustles than do the more common subject of shoplifting studies, women. Although men rationalize shoplifting as a logical alternative to more “masculine” crimes (e.g., robbery), women compare it to the highly “feminized” crime of sex work. What male and female shoplifters do seem to share is a similar assessment of financial rewards and harm. Shoplifting is constructed as a form of work by women but less clearly so by the men. Third, both the men and the women express themselves using gender constructs in a fluid and dynamic way. They revise and develop ideas about what is masculine and what is “feminine.” We conclude that gender and agency is played out in this urban environment through crime selection and underlying rationales.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- drugs and crime
- gender and crime/justice
- substance abuse