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College Male Masculinity and Its Effects on Likeliness to Intervene Sexual Assault

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Psychology
Wordcount: 2548 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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Statement of the Problem

Masculinity has been studied throughout different aspects of research, including what defines masculinity (Hust, Rodgers, Ebreo & Stefani, 2019) and how these characteristics of masculine individuals affect social situations. Sexual harassment and intervention of bystanders is commonly observed with a male perpetrator and a female victim, resulting in a lack of studies on same-sex gendered assaults and male victims. The following study will observe how self-reported masculinity effects the likeliness to intervene in situations of sexual assault with different gender combinations.

Justification for and Significance of the Study


 Masculinity definitions have consisted of sexual domination and control rather than monogamy, which results in male sexual aggressiveness (Hust, Rodgers, Ebreo & Stefani, 2019). Thus, men who have a history of partaking in sexual assault are more likely to encourage sexual violence when they feel their masculinity is at risk (Zounlome & Wong, 2018). Additionally, threats to masculinity may lead men to force sexual relations onto victims in order to avoid feeling emasculated (Moore, Stuart, McNulty, Addis, Cordova, & Temple, 2008). College men are especially at risk for being forced to conform to masculinity ideals, and thus will accept sexual violence towards women more readily (Seabrook, Ward, & Giaccardi, 2016). Further, college men who rated high on a masculinity scale also scored high on violent behaviors, including the number of accounts of sexaual aggression towards women (Casey, Masters, Beadnell, Wells, Morrison & Hoppe, 2016). While masculinity has been studied, the connection between masculinity and likeliness to intervene is unknown.

Gender of Perpetrator.

Research suggests that originally sexual harassment and rape was seen as a way to  “emphasize men’s physical and social dominance over women” (Mitchell, Angelone, Kohlberger & Hirschman, 2009). In situations where individuals witnessed a female bringing a drunk man back to her bedroom, more than half of the participants did nothing to intervene (Hoxmeier, O’Conner & McMahon, 2018). In addition, when given a case with a female perpetrator, a majority of people did not believe the assault would be considered valid (Hammond, Ioannou & Fewster, 2017).

Gender of Victim.

Males who are assaulted by older men question their heterosexual identity as well as their masculinity, furthering the shame surrounding male victims of sexual assault (Hlavka, 2017). On the flip side, men assaulted by women perpetrators are met with disbelief and skepticism when they speak of their victimization (Hlavka, 2017). Females are less likely to convict a perpetrator of a male victim than that of a female victim, thus further invalidating a male victim’s experience (Mitchell et. al., 2009). Men who share their experiences are held to the expectation of enjoying the unwanted attention, and thus are believed to experience less stress afterwards (Judson, Johnson, Perez, 2013). Due to this expectation, male victims are less likely to talk about their experiences, and thus are more likely to suffer higher rates of post-traumatic stress and depression than those who talk about their experience (Lukacena, Reynolds-Tylus & Quick, 2019). In addition, many male victims experience guilt for their lack of sex drive, as well as feeling doubt regarding heterosexuality, as well as a feeling of a lack of control (Judson et. al., 2013).  Socially, male victims suffer stigma surrounding their assault, including a sense of shame (Lev-Wiesel & Besser, 2017).

College females are also at risk of sexual harassment, with one in four women experiencing sexual harassment before they have graduated (Johnson, Walker, & Rojas-Ashe, 2019). Female victims who are sexually assaulted by other women worry people will consider their harassment as illegitimate as it is not a male perpetrator (Ollen, Ameral, Reed & Hines, 2017).

Likeliness to Intervene

A majority of people report a desire to help and intervene in situations of sexual assault, yet when given the chance to intervene, they did not (Rothman, Edwards, Rizzo, Kearns & Banyard, 2019). Bennet and Banyard (2014) discovered intervention rates may also decrease when the bystander knows the perpetrator, as they are much less likely to view the situation as problematic. Furthermore, if the bystander knows the victim, they are more likely to view the situation as problematic but feel unsafe to intervene, and the situation continues on (2014). Individuals are even less likely to intervene in more serious situations which may involve professionals, such as cops, to become involved (Banyard, 2008).



 The sample of the current study will be heterosexual college men aged 18 to 24. Participants will be gathered from posters posted around campus as well as through email list serves. Participants will be asked to report to the research center to complete the study. The survey and vignettes will be provided on paper. The entire process will take forty minutes to one hour. There is no compensation for participation.

 Demographics. Age, gender, year in college, and sexuality will be collected from participants.

Study Design

Both the surveys and the vignettes will be administered as physical paper copies. All participants will be given an initial survey in which they rate their masculinity. From there, participants will be separated into four groups, labelled as Group A, Group B, Group C, and Group D. Each group will read one of four vignettes. All four vignettes are identical except the names and pronouns are changed. Group A will read a vignette of a male perpetrator and a female victim. Group B will read about a female perpetrator and a male victim. Group C will read of a male perpetrator and a male victim, and Group D will read about a female perpetrator and a female victim. Once the participants are finished reading the vignettes, they will be given a reflective survey. Participants will be debriefed and provided with a list of counseling services at the end of the study. The scale used to measure masculinity will be the The Conformity to Masculine Norms Inventory-46.

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Scales. The Conformity to Masculine Norms Inventory-46 (Parent & Moradi, 2011) is used to rate the amount a participant abides by traditional masculine norms and expectations. The CMNI-46 contains 46 items with 11 subscales consisting of: Winning, Risk-Taking, Emotional Control, Violence, Dominance, Playboy, Primacy of Work, Reliance, Power Over Women, Disdain for Nonheterosexuals, and Pursuit of Status. A 6 point Likert scale is utilized, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 6 (strongly agree). Higher scores indicate a stronger connection to masculine norms.

Sexual harassment vignette.The vignette is prefaced with the following note: “Please read the following situation of a college party. When finished, please complete the survey provided by the assistant.” The vignette provided will depict a scene of a college party. The perpetrator will approach the victim and initiate casual conversation. As the conversation continues, the perpetrator starts to touch the victim’s arm and move closer. The victim is described to be uncomfortable but does nothing to stop the interaction. The perpetrator continues on to touch the victim’s waist and hips. Still, the victim is uncomfortable but makes no attempt to stop the advances. The perpetrator then suggests the two of them “go somewhere private”, to which the victim expresses not wanting to leave their friends. The perpetrator persists, suggesting the victim’s friends will not mind. The vignette ends with the victim being led upstairs by the perpetrator, still feeling uncomfortable.

 Intervention component. The survey given to measure intervention will be given after reading the provided vignette. The survey will consist of questions such as: “This scene shows sexual harassment”, “I would physically do something to stop the situation”, “I would say something to stop the situation”. The survey will be comprised of a five point Likert scale, with a score of 1 being a result of strongly disagree and a score of 5 a result of strongly agree. A higher score shows an increased likeliness to intervene, while a lower score reveals unlikeliness to intervene.


Masculinity and Intervention

 It is expected that a higher a participant scores on the masculinity scale, the less likely they will be to intervene. As suggested by other studies, men who conform to traditional masculinity norms are more likely to partake in violent and sexually aggressive behavior. Therefore, the likelihood to interrupt such situations is lower.

Intervention and Gender Specifics

 Whether or not the victim is male or female, as well as the gender of the perpetrator, will have an effect on the participants likeliness to intervene. It is expected that if the victim is male, the likeliness of intervention will be less than if the victim were female. It is also expected that both same sex groups – male and male, as well as female and female – will have lower intervention rates than their mixed gendered counterparts.



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