The three types of deviance discussed in this book lie at the borderline of crime. There has long been dispute as to whether they should be considered crimes, sins, vices, diseases, or simply as patterns of social deviance. In each case the offending behavior involves a willing and private exchange of strongly demanded yet officially proscribed goods and services; this element of consent precludes the existence of a victim--in the usual sense of the word. Each of these problems also has certain medical--as well as legal, psychological, and sociological--aspects. Although this complexity has fostered useful research and analysis by specialists in various fields, it has also produced a somewhat confusing range of views as to the methods with which such behavior should be dealt. To the extent that sociologists have studied these borderline problems at all, their goal of detached scientific observation (of "ethical neutrality") has inhibited whatever interest they might feel in directly challenging substantive criminal law provisions. Yet, as this volume tries to suggest, key aspects of the problem being studied may be directly or indirectly attributable to such legal proscriptions. Policy is not merely a reaction to an existing problem; rather, the relation between policy and problem is reciprocal. A specific policy may cause new problems, or make existing ones worse, and the sociologist must take this into account.
It is partly to illustrate this interrelation of problem and policy that three "crimes without victims" are discussed here. The discussion should have the further value of focusing on some topics which have been largely neglected by sociologists. The social problems of abortion and homosexuality are almost completely by-passed in existing texts; drug addiction often is discussed, but in such instances the role of policy is usually considered only as an afterthought. It is hoped that the present study will prove useful in supplementing conventional textbooks in criminology, deviance, and social problems, and be of interest to the general reader.
Although this volume deals with some basic questions I have been working on for a number of years, the actual manuscript was prepared while I was on a year's leave of absence from Tufts University, and in residence at the Center for the Study of Law and Society, University of California, Berkeley. I am grateful to the Russell Sage Foundation and to Tufts for making that opportunity possible. Throughout the course of this work I have benefited especially from extensive discussion with, and critical comment on early draft materials by, Sheldon L. Messinger and David Matza.