Commitment to a Deviant Occupation: The Case of Exotic Dance

Mindy Wilson, The Pennsylvania State University

The current research on crime and deviance highlights the importance of understanding both continuity and change in deviant careers. Such research stresses that although some deviant propensities may be enduring, there is considerable evidence of the long-term impact of social bonds to criminal trajectories (Sampson and Laub, 1993), as well as the influence of "local life circumstances" on individual likelihood of offending (Horney, Osgood, and Marshall, 1995). Applying this criminological framework, I present findings from an ongoing qualitative study of commitment to deviant behavior. Based on ethnographic data from participant observation and open-ended, semi-structured interviews with approdximately 40 women involved in a deviant occupation, exotic dance, the current study compares changes in participants' local life circumstances with the initiation, persistence, and desistance of deviant employment. Furthermore, I draw on a commitment framework (Johnson, 1973, 1991, 1999; Johnson, Caughlin, nd Huston, 1999) to discuss how such factors as personal employment, increasing investments, and decreasing available attractive alternatives act to explain the persistence and desistance of exotic dance work.

(Return to Program Resources)

Updated 05/20/2006