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Sexual aggression in bars: what college men can normalize.

During the past 30 years, there has been a surge of research on men's sexual aggressiveness and sexual assault perpetration. Widely documented are the disturbing findings that 25% of college men report engaging in some type of sexual assault, and college age women are four times more likely to be sexually assaulted than women in all other age groups, usually by men acquaintances (Fisher, Cullen, & Turner, 2000; Koss, Gidycz, & Wisnieswki, 1987). Many earlier investigations were designed to reveal the risks of assault (e.g., Humphrey & White, 2000; Mohler-Kuo, Dowdall, Koss, & Wechsler, 2004), what types of assaults occur and who is most often the target of the assault (Buddie & Parks, 2003; Smith, White, & Holland, 2003), or what health and personal consequences follow victimization (Brener, McMahon, Warren, & Douglas, 1999; Kelley & DeKeseredy, 1994; Ullman & Filipas, 2001). Despite the rich literature and progress in "breaking the silence" about men's sexual aggression, one issue that has received minimal attention is men's greater propensity to engage in sexual aggression at bars and college parties (Flack et al., 2007; Harford, Wechsler, & Muthen, 2003). Typically, drinking settings are organized by an underlying masculinity ideology that endorses alcohol consumption and men's initiative within sexual interaction (Abbey, McAuslan, & Ross, 1998; Buddie & Parks, 2003; West, 2001). Because drinking and drinking settings may increase the likelihood men will be sexually assertive, the present study assessed the extent to which men engage in sexual aggressiveness in bars and off-campus party settings, and then what belief systems--specifically in terms of masculinity ideology--are endorsed by those men who report being sexually aggressive in these college drinking settings.

The Bar Setting for Men: Doing Gender

Sociologically, the bar or off-campus party setting is recognized as a space for competitive performances of masculinity. Connell (1995) coined the term hegemonic masculinity (a concept similar to hypermasculinity) and distinguished it from subordinated or marginalized masculinities. Bar settings are spaces where the interactional rules are often negotiated in terms of the expected hegemonic masculinity (Capraro, 2000; Connell, 2002) and the value of one-upmanship and acceptance of sexually aggressive tactics are part of the ideals and the practices (West, 2001). They are spaces where college men are able, within certain boundaries, to enact empowered identities. There is, of course, latitude in bars in how masculinity gets expressed, but masculinity performances are expected. The setting is one where unapologetic hypermasculinity displays are particularly visible and largely normalized, whether it is drinking contests (Capraro), alcohol-related fighting (e.g., Giancola, 2002; Hartford et al., 2003), "elevator-eyes" and unsolicited sexualized interaction (cf., Cunningham, 1989; Snow, Robinson, & McCall, 1991), misogynistic discourse mostly coming through the terms slut and hottie (cf., Anderson, forthcoming), or sexual aggression (Abbey, 2002; Parks, 2000). Men in bars are freed to and often expected to engage in "hetero-masculinity" performances that involve sexual assertiveness, if not aggressiveness (Cunningham) and bravado (Capraro; Harford et al.). Because of the expectations found in bar settings, college men can initiate sexualized encounters and engage in sexually aggressive masculinity performances that they are unlikely to do in classrooms, libraries, or most public non-drinking places. In bars they become performers of a context-specific masculinity, and they are generally with friends who serve as the audience for their performance.

This interpretation is consistent with Butler (1990) and West and Zimmerman (1987), who conceptualized gender as a routine accomplishment that shifts and changes in different contexts and at different times. When people "do gender" (West & Zimmerman) masculinities and femininities are (re)created, and, often, the gender-based distribution of resources and rewards that privilege men is maintained. Butler proposed that everyone puts on a gender performance, whether traditional or not, and the performance shifts with the interactional context. Thus, it is not a question of whether someone does a gender performance but what form that performance will take. It is the very act of performing gender that constitutes who we are (Butler), and it is when we fail to do gender appropriately that we stand out and are called to account for our action and character (West & Zimmerman, p. 136). So it is not surprising that men routinely engage in masculinity displays; and, most often, their key audience is other men (Connell, 1995; Messerschmidt, 2000).

Men's sexual aggression within the bar and off-campus party setting may also be related to particular sets of assumptions about the women who occupy this social space. For example, men more often (mis)perceive women who drink at bars as sexually available. Men described women in bars, even women they know well in other contexts, as "looser" than women they might meet in other contexts (Parks & Scheidt, 2000). These beliefs may lead men to feel that women are fitting targets for "hetero-masculinity" displays and sexual aggressiveness (Abbey et al., 1998; Abbey, Zawacki, Buck, & Clinton, 2001).

The availability of alcohol is certainly an element of why bars and off-campus parties are places where men's sexually aggressive gender performances occur. Abbey has argued (e.g., Abbey, Zawacki, & McAuslan, 2000) that alcohol facilitates but does not cause the sexual mistreatment of women. Tendencies to be assertive and mistreat a woman that would otherwise remain dormant may be acted out in these settings when men have "liquid courage" from consumption of large amounts of alcohol (Abbey et al., 2001). Alcohol also provides a convenient excuse for perpetrators to avoid taking personal responsibility by claiming that their conduct was because of the alcohol (Abbey et al., 2001). While drinking and misperceiving a women's availability or sexual interest does not exonerate men's sexual misconduct, it does help account for why men can fail to recognize that their behavior is sexual aggression (Abbey et al., 1998).

While an impressive literature has begun to examine women's victimization in drinking settings (e.g., Buddie & Parks, 2003; Parks, 2000; Parks & Miller, 1997; Parks & Scheidt, 2000), little information is available about what men say they do in these settings. Few studies have examined men's own reports of sexual aggression in bar and party settings (cf., Warkentin & Gidycz, 2007). Researchers have shown a relationship between gender ideologies and sexual aggression/rape supportive attitudes (Locke & Mahalik, 2005; Truman, Tokar, & Fischer 1996). Locke and Mahalik, for instance, found men who conform to specific masculine norms (i.e., having power over women, being a playboy, and taking risks) tended to endorse rape myths and report sexually aggressive behavior. Truman and his colleagues (1996) demonstrated that the men upholding rape myths (e.g., "only bad women get raped" or "you cannot be assaulted against your will") endorsed masculinity standards that support the use of violence. Sexually aggressive men are more likely to endorse misogynous masculine ideologies and therefore less likely to feel disgust, contempt, or guilt when they were asked to imagine engaging in sexual assault. Good, Heppner, Hillenbrand-Gunn, and Wang (1995) similarly found approval of beliefs about traditional masculinity was the best predictor of college men's endorsement of rape myths and antagonist sexual beliefs.

This research was designed to investigate some of the sexual aggressiveness men engage in while in bars and whether or not the men who more often engage in sexual aggressiveness in drinking settings abide by particular gender scripts. We were especially interested in the bearing of men's gender ideologies--their approval of the traditional (and hegemonic) masculinity ideology and their beliefs about women--on their sexual assertiveness in these settings. If Truman et al's (1996) thesis that masculinity ideology is a key determinant of attitudes toward sexual aggression is robust enough to cross over from their attitude-to-attitude finding to our attitude-to-behavior investigation, this study ought to find masculinity ideology to be a key predictor of men's self-reported sexual aggression. Similar to studies of sexual aggression in other settings, it was expected that the men who engaged in sexual aggressiveness in the bar setting would endorse a traditional masculinity ideology. We theorized sexually aggressive men are doing masculinity in bar settings in ways consonant with their understanding of the manhood mandate. The environment of bar and off-campus party settings would be perceived as a legitimate playing field to engage in masculinity performances that include deliberate sexual touching and provocation.



To avoid the limitations of sampling one college environment, a sample of college men (N = 264) enrolled in a number of different private and public colleges and universities across the country was recruited. Modeling Koss, Gidycz, and Wisniewski's (1987) method to recruit a national sample of college students, faculty peers in sociology or psychology (N = 30) in public and private colleges and universities were asked to serve as a recruiters and to invite ten undergraduate men enrolled in a course to complete an anonymous questionnaire. (1) Recruiters asked for volunteers. The volunteers completed a self-administered questionnaire assessing "men's sexual experiences" and returned their questionnaire in a sealed envelope to a drop box or the recruiter, and the recruiter later mailed the packet of completed questionnaires to the first author. Anonymity was maintained by returning the questionnaire in a sealed envelope, and the anonymity of the "recruiter" was maintained by authors not recording the campus associated with a questionnaire. Twenty faculty peers were able to be of assistance. The ten who were unable were not teaching undergraduates that semester (N = 7) or not permitted to distribute the questionnaire, because their IRB restricted outsiders' access to the college's undergraduates. This effort yielded 173 useable questionnaires. To increase sample size, five research students (two male and three female undergraduates enrolled in an advanced research seminar in sociology) in fall 2005 recruited five peers enrolled in different colleges and universities asking each to recruit five men from their classes or dormitories. The second wave yielded 91 questionnaires. Altogether the participants in this sample were enrolled in 22 different colleges.

The ages of the men ranged from 17 to 49, yet the mean age was 21.5 years (SD = 3.6). The significant majority of the men are never-married (94%) and exclusively heterosexual (96%). About 81% of the men identified themselves as white, 5% African American, 3% Asian American, 6% Latino/Hispanic, and 5% biracial. Nearly 44% were employed either part-time or full-time. Third-year students were the modal group and defined the median for the sample; nonetheless the men are almost equally representative in all four undergraduate years. Their father's and mother's level of education ranged from grade three through doctoral-level work, with the median for fathers being a college degree (M = 15.2) and nearly the same for mothers (M = 14.6).


Sexual aggressiveness in bars. Starting from Koss and Oroz's (1982) original 13item Sexual Experience Survey (SES), we developed a survey of 27 sexual experiences that assess more thoroughly the types of self-reported sexual behaviors men engage in as undergraduates. Our criticism of the SES is the way it underestimates distinct types of coercive sexual behaviors, partly because it blends together distinct actions, such as in the question "Have you had sex acts (anal or oral intercourse or penetration by objects other than the penis) when a woman didn't want to because you threatened or used some degree of physical force?" Threatening to use force and use of force are different, and the question merges together forced anal intercourse, oral sex, and vaginal rape with some object. We also wanted to specifically assess men's sexual aggressiveness in bar settings.

Participants reported the frequency of 27 "sexual experiences" (0 = No, never; 1 = Yes, one or two times; 2 = Yes, at least three times). Among the items were six that index sexual aggressiveness in bar and off-campus party settings--self-reports of having started a sexual conversation in a party or bar, brushed up against a woman intentionally, rubbed or stroked the knee/thigh of a woman the man did not know well, asked a woman they did not know to have sex, grabbed a woman's butt, and while dancing or at a bar pressing up against a woman from behind. Tallying men's responses to the six items provides a good estimate of men's use and frequency of use of sexual aggressiveness. The scale ranges from 0-12 and has good internal consistency (a = .78).

Gender ideologies. Ideologies, or beliefs about how the world should operate, frame the strategies of action an individual sees as possible (Swidler, 1986). Masculinity ideology is one aspect of gender ideology and was assessed with the Male Role Norms Scale (Thompson & Pleck, 1986, 1995). Using a 7-point Likert format, the respondent reports his endorsement of a conception of manhood that has been described as "traditional" (e.g., "Success in his work has to be a man's central goal in this life" or "A real man enjoys a bit of danger now and then"). The 26 disagree-agree statements determined the extent to which hegemonic masculinity is supported. The subscales are antifemininity (the importance of men avoiding activity and behavior perceived as feminine; M = 3.84, SD = .99), status orientation (the importance of gaining and maintaining respect and status from others; M = 4.03, SD = .83), and toughness (the importance of the values of being emotionally inexpressive and physically aggressive, if necessary; 4.01, SD = .93). Reliability estimates indicate the three subscales have satisfactory internal consistency in this sample of men (a = .78, .78, and .71, respectively).

Antagonist beliefs about women is a different aspect of gender ideology and was assessed with a three-item index (a = .79) that averages men's disagree-agree responses on a 7-point Likert-type scale to "In a dating relationship a woman is largely out to take advantage of a man," "Most women are sly and manipulating when they are out to attract a man," and "A lot of women seem to get pleasure in putting men down." In general, men disagreed with these antagonist beliefs (M = 3.68, SD = 1.25, range 1-7).

Gender self-image. People embody gender, developing identities that differentially adhere to the normative masculinities within their culture and social lives (Butler, 1990; Connell, 1995). To rule out a competing argument that it could be college men's gender orientation instead of their adherence to a masculinity ideology that likely determines their sexual conduct in bar settings, the short form of Bem Sex Role Inventory was added to the questionnaire. The respondent assesses himself on 30 attributes, indicating on a 7-point scale (ranging from "never or almost never true" to "always or almost always true") how each attribute mirrors him. Among the listed attributes are 10 socially desirable attributes to define an instrumental orientation (e.g., assertive, willing to take risks), 10 summarizing an expressive orientation (e.g., sensitive to others, compassionate), and 10 non-gendered attributes (e.g., tactful, jealous) that are ignored. Reliability estimates reveal the "instrumental" and "expressive" measures are internally consistent (a = .86 and .89, respectively).

Analysis Strategy

A multivariate analysis using nested regression assessed the significance of men's masculinity ideology on their sexual aggressiveness in bar settings. This technique provides a number of advantages. First, by using nested equations we can assess how much more variance is explained by incrementally adding factors of interest. It also provides a measure of how much variance in sexual aggressiveness continues to be explained by which gender ideologies. This gives us a more precise indicator of the importance of men's gender ideologies on behavior, net other background factors that can affect both sexual aggressiveness and gender ideologies. The initial regression equation determined which aspects of gender ideology best predicted sexual aggressiveness. The next equation added a cluster of background variables to determine if the theorized robustness of masculinity ideology continued to predict behavior. The equation included assessments of men's age, race, education, marital status, instrumental and expressive gender orientation, sexual orientation, and sexual history--having engaged in self-reported consensual oral/vaginal sex. In this sample 14% of the men bad no prior oral/vaginal sexual involvement.


As expected, some background variables covary. Inversely correlated with men's age is being never-married (r = -.51, p < .001) and positively correlated with age is having experienced self-reported consensual oral/vaginal sex (r = .20, p < .01). It was the younger men who more often endorsed antagonist beliefs about women (r = - .22, p < .01) as well as the traditional masculinity standards that advocate antifemininity, achievement of status, and emotional/physical toughness (r = .27, .23, .18, respectively, p < .01). Similarly, heterosexual men endorsed antagonist beliefs about women (r = .15, p < .01) more than the bisexual and gay men, as well as endorsed the traditional masculinity standards that advocate antifemininity, achievement of status, and emotional/physical toughness (r = .31, .16, .26, respectively, p < .01). Because the sample does not represent a single college environment, the correlation between age and education was smaller than might be anticipated (r = .46, p < .01) and is atypical of the pattern found in most four-year, liberal arts colleges. Age and education only share 20% common variance.

The relationships among antagonist beliefs about women and the measures of masculinity ideology were, as expected, statistically significant (p < .001), since they all assess gender ideology. Antagonist beliefs correlated positively with the antifemininity, status, and toughness dimensions of masculinity ideology (r = .30, .34, .39, respectively). The variance shared was never greater than 20%. Thus, the measures do chart distinct facets of gender ideology.

Men's reports of their sexual aggressiveness in bar settings are detailed in Table 1. On average, the participants were not likely to have directly asked a woman to have sex. Rather, they most often used a nonverbal form of aggressiveness, such as stroking a woman's leg or grabbing her buttocks. Only one-third of the men reported that they had directly asked an acquaintance or someone they had met in the bar setting to "have sex" since they had been college students. By comparison, two-thirds had pressed up against a woman from behind and 80% avowed that they had "grabbed a woman's butt." At least one-half of the men reported that they had rubbed an acquaintance's or stranger's knee/thigh, and close to two-thirds disclosed that they had at [east on one occasion intentionally brushed up against a woman or started a sexual conversation. The scale mean (5.52) is very close to the mid-point (range 0-12), and just 15% of the men had nonaggressive scores that ranged between 0 and 1. Although not recorded in the table, 92% of the men had utilized at least one of the sexually aggressive acts since they were students, at least two-thirds of the men had engaged in four or more of these behaviors, and 15% had utilized all six.

Summarized in Table 2 are the results of the nested regression analysis that was designed to assess the importance of masculinity ideology to men's sexual aggression in bars. The first equation (Model 1) examines only the influence of gender ideology on sexual aggression, and it finds men's sexual aggressive behavior in bars is rooted in their endorsement of the toughness aspects of masculinity ideology (p < .001) and their antagonist beliefs about women (p < .05), not their opinions of the antifemininity and status dimensions of masculinity ideology. The second equation introduces men's age, marital status, race, education, instrumental and expressive gender orientation, sexual orientation, and sexual history. The results affirm that the toughness factor of masculinity ideology is a predictor of men's bar-related sexual aggressiveness and that the sexually aggressive men maintain antagonistic beliefs about women.

When sexual aggressiveness is regressed on both gender ideology and background characteristics, the data show sexually aggressive men are also younger, heterosexual, unmarried and embody the dominant culture's masculinity expectations as they describe themselves in terms of instrumental attributes (e.g., being assertive, dominant, willing to take risks, forceful), and they are more likely to have engaged in self-reported consensual sexual intercourse.


It is important to note this research confirms earlier reports that sexualized encounters initiated by college men are ordinary in bar settings. Few respondents reported they had not engaged in some type of sexually aggressive behavior in a bar or off-campus party setting, and almost 80% reported having "grabbed a woman's butt." These data mirror the reports of women's experience with men's sexual aggression in bars (Fisher et al., 2000; Parks & Miller, 1997). The norms of masculinity particular to drinking settings (cf., West, 2001) do seem to encourage men to cross a boundary of sexual conduct that would not be tolerated in any number of other settings.

Gerson and Peiss (1985, p. 319) noted that "boundaries are an important place to observe gender relations, [for they] reveal the normal, acceptable behaviors and attitudes as well as deviant, inappropriate ones." The most frequently self-reported aggressive behaviors were those in which the man, especially in a crowded and noisy drinking setting, could potentially maintain anonymity, while the woman's ability to evade contact was restricted. Those behaviors included grabbing her buttocks and pressing up against a woman from behind. By contrast, men were less likely to engage in behaviors that put both parties on more equal, less anonymous footing, including starting a sexual conversation or asking a woman they didn't know to have sex. In a review of literature on discrimination, Lott (1995) concludes that, "If by approaching a woman, a man can demonstrate to her, to himself, and/or to onlookers that he is 'in charge,' then such behaviors are likely" (p. 33). It would not be radical to suggest the pervasiveness of men's sexual aggressiveness in bars constitutes a man-made hostile environment that has the potential to maintain men's threat of sexual violence (e.g., Parks & Miller, 1997), and render the bar, once again, a masculine space. Much as Schwartz (2005) surmised, perhaps the most important thing we have learned about sexual aggressiveness over the past 20 years is that violence is gendered and learned and can only be understood in the context of gender inequality.

Gender studies scholars propose that approval of one's masculinity performances is conferred by other men and is something that one always risks losing by not doing the expected gendered behavior (see for example, Connell, 1995). Engaging in sexual aggressiveness in bar settings, we conclude, is likely to be perceived as normative behavior, especially by college-age men. Bar-related sexual aggression serves as a means of earning one's manhood, whether or not men judge sexual aggressiveness as consonant with their private self. The behavior is context-fixed, rather than an essential characteristic of the men doing masculinity. Earlier, West (2001) noted masculinities are negotiated differently in drinking setting than in workplaces. The typical college man in our study had engaged in sexualized interaction in bars that would be recognized as harassment, if not assault in most other social settings.

Young men's (mis)perception of the legitimacy of their sexual aggression in a bar or campus party setting and attitudes about what actually is sexual assault are undoubtedly linked. Hill and Silva's (2005) investigation of sexual harassment on campus notes that men are more likely than women to engage in contact harassment (e.g., "brushing up against someone in a sexual way" or "touched, grabbed or pinched someone in a sexual way"), and the most frequent reason men engage in sexually harassing behavior is because they thought it was funny. They also believe that (hetero)sexualized aggressiveness was simply part of college life--everyone was doing it. Other studies also have demonstrated men's proclivity to engage in sexual aggression is associated with the context (e.g., Boswell & Spade, 1996 noted that men's behavior changes as they moved from the lower-drinking bar scene to a heavy-drinking fraternity party).

Another important contribution of this study is that it provides insight into what beliefs are maintained by the men who are sexually aggressive in bar settings. Closely aligned with previous work linking masculinity and sexual aggression (Connell, 2002, Good et al., 1995; Hill & Fischer, 2001; Locke & Mahalik, 2005; Truman et al., 1996), this study demonstrates men's sexual aggressiveness in bars is strongly related to their acceptance of our society's dominant, or hegemonic, masculinity and how it encourages men to be assertive, tough, and, under some conditions, aggressive and violent. We have demonstrated a strong attitude-behavior relationship, wherein the masculinity ideology that operates as a dominant cultural standard is what seems to underlie men being sexually aggressive in bars and at parties. The results extend the findings of previous research linking masculinity and sexual aggression by identifying which masculine norms are predictive, and which are not predictive.. College men who endorse the toughness expectations of masculinity ideology, and who perceive themselves in terms of socially desirable instrumental qualities, are the men most likely to engage in frequent sexual aggression in bar and off-campus party settings.

Hill and Fischer (2001) contend that men's sense of entitlement vis-a-vis women is crucial in understanding sexually aggressive behaviors. This entitlement, however, may be more a state than trait. Because the men were in a bar setting, the college men in our study seem to have felt entitled to initiate sexualized interaction or sexual contact. And. most had. This lends support to the notion that men's sexual aggression in bar settings may be motivated by factors beyond their attitudes toward women, even though antagonist beliefs about women also predict sexual aggressiveness. More specifically, men's sexual aggressiveness is behavioral conformity to bar-related masculinity norms. The men more often engaging in heteronormative aggressiveness are the ones who maintain beliefs that men should be "tough" and sexually assertive.

On the whole, it appears that men in bar and party settings feel entitled to do masculinity performances that cross boundaries of propriety, and their sexually aggressive masculinity performances may be primarily for the benefit of other men. Their performances are intended to be witnessed by other men, and when unchallenged can (re)legitimize the conventional norms of hyper-(hegemonic) masculinity found in college bars. It is the symbolic nature of their behavior that is important (cf., Swindler, 1986).

This argument is similar to findings Benard and Schlaffer (1993) (2) report. They contend the harassment by "the man on the street" is, like other forms of sexual violence, usually done by men in groups as opposed to men by themselves, and is tied in some ways to a performance for other men. The performance testifies that the public realm belongs to them. Benard and Schlaffer also observed some public areas are exempt, such as social spaces where people know each other well and where the conventional, clearly marked lines of power and status are absent.

It is significant that she is the other for the college men's hetero-masculinity performances. Earlier, Beneke (1982) hypothesized it is normative for men to view sex as an achievement, using sporting terminology such as "scoring" in reference to having sex with a woman. Especially in the domain of a bar setting, it makes sense that those men who are drinking and supported by peers would be those most willing to be sexually aggressive.

One factor not examined is the bearing of men's alcohol use. As suggested by McCreary, Newcomb, and Sadave (1999) and Quigley, Leonard, and Collins (2003), masculinity performances in bars typically result in increased alcohol consumption and violence and vice-versa. Still needed is a careful observational or analog study of whether or not men's sexual aggressiveness in a bar setting is increased with alcohol consumption, or, whether the influence of the drinking context itself is more salient (cf., Buddie & Parks, 2003). Very relevant are the findings in analog studies of alcohol-related aggression that greater intoxication was associated with increased vulnerability to peer pressure (e.g., Giancola, 2002). If, as suggested, the normative expectations for doing masculinity while drinking in bars and at parties include being sexually assertive, we would expect to find evidence of increased sexual aggression when peer encouragement and alcohol are both involved.

Especially in the domain of a bar setting, it makes sense that those men who perceive themselves as assertive, willing to take risks, and forceful would also be the men most apt to be sexually aggressive and benefit from other men's approval. Simply put, finding gender orientation helps to predict who engages in more bar-related sexual aggression is as unsurprising as evidence that antagonist beliefs about women predict sexual aggressiveness. What is significant, however, is appreciating the frequency of men's sexual (mis)conduct in bar settings and identifying which masculine norms are predictive, and which are not predictive, of sexual aggression in bar settings. As this study attests, bar-related sexual aggressiveness is prevalent and seems to be normalized in bar settings; and, even though the proportion of men who have engaged in sexual aggressiveness is high, the more sexually aggressive are the men who endorse being emotionally and physically tough.

The findings in this study should be accepted with some caution. They reflect self-reports from one national sample of college men. Even though the sample was collected from a wide range of colleges and universities, it has the limitations of all other nonrandom samples. As well, the questionnaire sought information that involved reports about the respondent's sexual history. Despite participants' anonymity, the men may not have completed the questionnaire candidly. The demand effect of reporting a sexual history that involves sexual aggressiveness and assault may have encouraged men to report more socially desirable behavior; if so, the study underestimates the frequency of men's sexual aggressiveness. There are also the inherent methodological problems with respondents reporting on behavior from the past, and especially on behavior that may be deemed anti-social.


As with research on masculinity and sexual assault in general, this study foretells the dangers of the traditional and still hegemonic masculinity ideology that encourages men to act like the imaginary "man" in our society. If, as is suggested, sexual aggression can be normalized in context-specific spaces, future research might focus more specifically on aspects of social settings that are predictive of aggression. Shifting attention from which men are sexually aggressive to what settings encourage heteromasculinity performances to include sexual aggression (e.g., private parties with peers and/or crowded public bars with the greater possibility of anonymous encounters) would shift the discourse to one that recognizes sexually aggressive men perform within societal norms that permit sexual coercion (cf., Segal, 1990). This new line of research would be extremely useful for policy groups interested in working to expose hostile environments and reduce sexual aggression on and off campuses.


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College of the Holy Cross


University of Connecticut Women's Center

(1) Information on the sex/race/class identities of the faculty peers and student recruiters was never recorded. The five student recruiters included two white men and three white women enrolled in research seminar at Holy Cross. They volunteered to assist the first author to recruit undergraduate men; they contacted five friends enrolled in colleges and universities elsewhere, who in turn asked five men to complete the anonymous questionnaire. Faculty recruiters were probably two-thirds white men known to publish in men's studies or family studies. The faculty recruiters received by surface mail a packet containing a cover letter asking for help, ten questionnaires with envelopes, recommendations to have the men volunteering to return the questionnaire to a drop box or the next class session, and a stamped, large envelope to return the sealed, completed questionnaires. On best recollection, nearly all faculty recruiters returned the packet of completed questionnaires within two weeks. Thus, no precise information is available on how sampling skewed participation. The sample is certainly skewed by being limited to college men.

(2) We wish to thank one anonymous reviewer for cueing this reference.

Edward H. Thompson, Jr., Department of Sociology & Anthropology, College of the Holy Cross; Elizabeth J. Cracco, Violence against Women Prevention Program, University of Connecticut Women's Center.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Edward H. Thompson, Jr., Department of Sociology & Anthropology, College of the Holy Cross, 1 College Street, Worcester, MA, 01610-2395. Electronic mail:
Table 1
Sexual Aggressiveness in Bar Settings

 No, Once Three or
Have you never Twice more

... asked a woman you didn't know to 64.4% 21.5% 14.2%
 have sex?
... started a sexual conversation at 41.5 30.0 28.5
 a party or bar?
... rubbed or stroked the knee of a 46.7 28.0 25.3
 woman you didn't know well at a
 party or bar?
... been in a situation where you 32.7 31.5 35.8
 brushed up against a woman
... pressed up against a woman from 35.2 26.9 50.4
 behind at a bar or while dancing?
... grabbed a woman's butt? 22.7 26.9 50.4

Sexual Aggression Index (range 0-12)

Have you Mean SD

... asked a woman you didn't know to 0.50 .73
 have sex?
... started a sexual conversation at 0.87 .83
 a party or bar?
... rubbed or stroked the knee of a 0.79 .82
 woman you didn't know well at a
 party or bar?
... been in a situation where you 1.03 .83
 brushed up against a woman
... pressed up against a woman from 1.07 .88
 behind at a bar or while dancing?
... grabbed a woman's butt? 1.28 .81

Sexual Aggression Index (range 0-12) 5.52 3.78

Table 2
Nested Regression Models of 'Men's Sexual Aggressiveness in Bar Settings

 Model 1 Model 2

 b (SE) b (SE)

Gender ideologies
Antagonist attitudes .355 * (.178) .409 * (.165)
 toward women
MI-Status 0.282 (.311) .221 (.288)
MI-Antifemininity -0.096 (.272) .223 (.267)
MI-Toughness 1.086 ** (.322) .653 * (.300)


Age .137 * (.066)
Race (white) -.116 (.466)
Education -.154 (.143)
Married -1.734 (+) (.910)
Exclusively hetereosexual 1.831 (+) (.971)
Expressive orientation .184 (.242)
Instrumental orientation .782 ** (.224)
Consensual sex 1.457 *** (.270)

[R.sup.2] .136 .323
Adjusted [R.sup.2] .122 .290
F 9.790 9.624
df 4.249 12,241
P <.001 <.001

(+) p < .10. * p <05. ** p <.01. *** p<.001.
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Author:Thompson, Edward H., Jr.; Cracco, Elizabeth J.
Publication:The Journal of Men's Studies
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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