deviance v. criminology
i just gave a sociology of deviance lecture about how deviance casts a wider conceptual net than crime (parenthetically arguing that sociologists should really make better use of their intellectual jurisdiction over the former area). whereas criminology is generally concerned with explaining violations of the criminal code, deviance engages a much broader landscape of norm violation. for example, my studies of sexual harassment, civil rights violations, and alcohol use probably fit better under a deviance umbrella than the crim umbrella i use in other work.
sometimes acts shock the collective conscience and arrests are made, but there's simply no prohibition on the behavior in the criminal code. such was the case in cassville, wisconsin this month, when three sad young men attempted to exhume a woman's corpse for sexual purposes. there are all sorts of what were they thinking? details to this act, such as the strange image of the trio stopping at a dodgeville wal-mart to buy condoms before they began digging. fortunately, they were apprehended before they broke into the burial vault.
we all know that such behavior is wrong on many levels, but most states do not explicitly prohibit necrophilia in the criminal code. the wisconsin youth were instead charged with attempted third-degree misdemeanor theft and attempted third-degree sexual assault. the sexual assault charges didn't stick, since the law was not written to cover such behaviors. they remain subject to charges of criminal damage to property and attempt to break into a burial vault, but neither of these carry sanctions commensurate with the shock and outrage expressed by the community.
as you might guess -- particularly in an election year -- a moral entrepreneur has stepped in to rectify this situation. state senate majority leader dale schultz of richland center has pledged to criminalize necrophilia in wisconsin. i imagine that the senator, who helped bring brett favre day to the state last year, will probably face even less resistance on this one. i sure wouldn't oppose such a law -- i just hope they never need to use it.