Society’s Masculinity vs. Rape Culture


In our discussion of Richard Fung’s, Looking for My Penis, we discussed how there is an assumption in society that men’s sexual desire is “natural,” and is “normal.” This got me thinking about masculinity and its values that are pressed on to society as what a guy “should be like.” In a study by Michele Harway and Jennifer Steel, entitled “Studying masculinity and sexual assault across organizational culture groups,” they identify the values that are portrayed as “manly” in our society: being tough, dominant, and sustaining physical hardship. A huge promoter for these masculine values are sports, which are continuously accepted as a great activity for boys in which they can develop the “masculine” qualities of violence, strength, and power, while also discouraging traditional “feminine” qualities. However, Harway and Steel found through research “masculine sex-typed men expressed a greater likelihood of committing an acquaintance rape and greater support for rape-supportive attitudes than did more androgynous men.” So does this mean that society has been pushing a “norm” for males that promotes rape? Well…I think so.

A study by Melanie Hill and Ann Fischer examined what, specifically, is the characteristic of this heteromasculine norm that promotes rape culture. According to their article, “Does entitlement mediate the link between masculinity and rape-related variables,” of the four dimensions (success, power, competition; restrictive emotionality; restrictive affectionate behavior between men; and conflicts between work and family relations) of masculine gender roles, power is the characteristic that links traditional masculinity to rape culture. More specifically, men are taught by society to feel entitled—entitled to being pleased sexually. Going back to Feng, he stated that “taste” is learned, so therefore this entitlement is not something that males are born with, something is teaching them to be this way. Unfortunately, as I am currently watching the Cubs game, a big contributing factor to these normalized traits is something near and dear to my heart: sports.

Males in sports are rewarded for showing aggression. By continually praising them for their conquests, sports reinforce the “masculine” traits of powering toward what they want. The game may be a safe space for men to collaborate and overpower another team in order to get what they want, but when that attitude transfers over to their daily lives, when they want a woman, those same praiseworthy traits are dangerous. Another reinforcing agent for heteronormative masculinity is the military mentality. Harway and Steel point out that the military and law enforcement receive some of the highest and most distinguished awards for showing aggression. Although sports and the military promote these values, the media portrays them on a much larger scale and reaches a lot more people.

The media is a hegemonic power in our society. It controls what we consume and how we consume it, it runs under this journalism ideal of objectivism but continues to be subjective in its reporting. For one, media presents professional athletes as celebrities. Young boys seeing these men on screen, with their fancy cars and lavish lifestyles, and they want to be like them. This worship of professional athletes further drills into society the idea that men have to be powerful to be successful. Hollywood also plays a huge role in the idea that men are entitled to things that they want. Movies and T.V. shows consistently show a guy taking a girl on a date, then getting sex after. As Hill and Fischer point out, these ideas of entitlement as the norm for men is promoting the rape culture that infects so many people. Through testing, the researchers found that “masculinity predicted general and sexual entitlement.” The values that society has been pressing on to males for so long turns out to be a toxic promotion for rape culture.


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