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Violence still offers a great challenge to the general well being of the society beside threatening the meaningful and peaceful coexistence of the human race. In every sector of the society, there are indications of violence; from schools, families, streets and between nations. Violence in itself is an aggressive conduct that is meant to cause physical injury to an individual or a group of individuals. There are various forms of violence manifested in various social relations and interactions. The most serious form is sexual violence which normally takes various dimensions.
The extensive literature on sexual violence offers no doubt that violent action may continue even after sexual access has been achieved or sexual frustration has allegedly been satisfied. In numerous instances, sexual violence and aggressive impulses may dominate sexual ones. Sex may become a way of expressing aggression in less coercive scenes in the form of frustrating one’s victim. Motivations for this actions vary and it cannot be denied that sexual violence is a social fact. However, the impulse is embedded in the general violent tendencies among particular individuals. Sociologist have often attempted to provide insight into the aspect of violence and how it relates with other aspects within the society.
This paper offers a critical perspective on violence by looking at the most prominent sociological and general theories that attempt to explain the phenomenon. Over the course of my analysis of the general and sociological theories of violence, I hold the view that for the phenomenon to be comprehended, there is need for a theoretical framework that encompasses a reciprocal incorporation of structural, institutional and interpersonal violence. This is the only way that the various aspects of violence that manifests in the society such as sexual violence can be fully understood. Almost all mainstream and traditional explanations of violence start as an ad hoc explanation that attempt to account for the pragmatic regularity of the various forms of separated and self-contained violent events in such isolated entities as ethnicity, gender and class as they are in turn associated with differences in sociology, biology, psychology, mass media and culture.
However, most contemporary explanations and analysis of violence remain nonobjective and incomplete as they stress on different yet related phenomena of violence in separation without trying to offer a comprehensive explanation or a framework that includes the complete range of institutional, structural and interpersonal violence. According to Barak (2003), most of these single-dimensional explanations of violence draws a line between behavioral expressions of individuals and the institutional and structural expressions. As such, sexual violence can only be understood by appealing to the general theories of violence and the circumstances that predispose an individual to violent acts. Literature on this subject is varied with different sociologists appealing to divergent theories derived from other fields.
Interpersonal explanations of violence fall under four categories that are based not only on the causative factors of violence as being either external or internal but also on the specific focus or inclination assumed to exist between human nature and violence. Traditional conception and explanations of general violence had been related with the theories that root the origin of violence within the individual or within his social environment. Consequently, some of the contemporary theories still hold that human beings are naturally inclined to act violently with little motivation or stimulation and that violence is basically the result of a failure of control or restraint (Perry, 2006). Other theories on the other hand hold that human beings are naturally inclined toward conforming to rules of custom and order, needing much in the way of stimulation and motivation. The proponents of such theories perceive violence to be a product of deviant or unusual impulses. This non-critical dualistic conception of violence sees it as normative in one case and aberrant in another. It may well be the case, dialectically, that the different forms of violence are both normative and aberrant depending on their cultural and social acceptability.
Either way, the difficulties associated with contemporary interpersonal theories of violence and antisocial behavior together with the dualistic approaches are being handled by the current emergence and development of life course, developmental and integrative perspectives. When applied to violence, these epistemological approaches view human interaction as a complex phenomena that transcends behavioral motivations and cultural constraints that exist inside or outside the individual. When wrested against the traditional, single dimensional theories of violence, life course and integrative explanations offer models that are conceptually dynamic, developmental and multidimensional is essence.
The focus of life-course models of violence is mainly on the developmental trajectories that shifts toward and away from particular behavior courses. Integrative explanations on the other hand emphasize on the link between the internal and external influences on violence or nonviolence. When applied to violence, these pathways identify the accumulative nature of the behavior, the reversed consequence of abusive and non-abusive behavior and the integral link between situations, events and conditions in the course of an individual’s personal and social experiences.
Many explanations of general violence fragment into those theories that explain violence in one of the two basic ways. The first one is in terms of those processes or properties that are either externally or internally motivated. In either of these situations, individuals are stimulated to act violently. The second one is in terms of the failure or absence of internal or external restrictions which inhibit or prohibit individuals from yielding to their violent impulses. Social and self control represents these constraints. The tendency to reduce violence to a single basic variable or set of variables is one aspect that is shared in common by all these explanations of violence. This single dimensional explanations of violence recognize in most cases the importance of other variables even though they hardly factor them into their analysis and explanations. For instance, various explanatory frameworks have been proposed so a to make sense of violence in general. Among them are subcultural theory, socio-biological theory, patriarchal theory, social learning theory, inequality theory, conflict theory and general systems theory.
Sociobiological theories are employed in offering explanations of sex violence such as rape (Alexander, 1974). Explanations of such intimate violence are rooted on the inclusive fitness theory which hold that people will behave in ways to maximize the probability of their gene transmission to future generations. There are indeed correlations between cases of sexual violence and paternal uncertainty (Buss, 1984). By contrast, sociocultural and social learning theories are more about nurture than they are about nature. These explanations of violence address issues related with attitudes toward gender and hold that that violence is learned and motivated by an integration of contextual and situational factors (O’Leary, 1988). For instance, the maintain that the social context of a dysfunctional family may result in an aggressive personalities and violent behavior. On the other hand, situational aspects like alcohol abuse, marital infidelity or financial problems may stomach aggression ans sexual violence. The most common of the social learning theories is the intergenerational transmission of violence. There is often a link between those individuals who had been abused sexually as children becoming sexually abusive teenagers and adults (Straus et al, 1980).
There exists a correlation between violence and gender. Messerschmidt (2004), make use of the structured action theory to derive a gendered based sociobiological theory of violent behavior, including sexual violence. The structured action theory possess a long established focus on gender salience and fluidity and thus offers a theoretical model for assessing sexual violence and how it relates to body and society. The key to comprehending how the different kinds of gender constructions relate to violence is based on the way in which social actions are structured by a specific gender relations within a specific social setting. Messerschmidt argues that the interactive and reversed gendered relations within the society offers the necessary motivation for violent behavior. In order to comprehend the role of violence, an individual must appreciate how action and structure interact into the activities of violent predispositions, motivations, opportunities and the subsequent violent behaviors.