Sexual violence (SV) happens when a sexual act occurs without explicit verbal consent and is one of the most common forms of violence that impact women. While all genders experience SV, the Department of Justice reports that men make up 99% of the population perpetrating SV. This indicates that gender plays a significant role in who perpetrates and who experiences SV. This study sought to identify the relationship between self-identified masculinity and views of SV through consent. The research questions to be addressed were: How much influence does the desire to be perceived as masculine by others affect a person’s views of SV, and if there is an association, is it moderated by age.
The study was a secondary analysis of data collected through the 2018 Masculinity Survey administered by New York Public Radio in collaboration with the political polling organization, FiveThirtyEight, following the MeToo-Movement. Surveys were administered to men over 18 across the United States (n=1,615). Identified masculinity was measured by asking respondents how they identified from very masculine to not at all masculine. SV was explored through respondents' definition of what is necessary for sexual consent (read physical body language; verbal consent; make a physical move) with allowance for multiple responses. Bivariate logistic regressions were utilized to model outcomes of each consent option individually and included covariates adjusting for marital status, parent status, sexual orientation, age, and education.
Those who identify as very masculine have a 148% higher odds of obtaining verbal consent (aOR=2.48, p<.0.01) while those who identify as not at all masculine were 72% less likely to believe that obtaining verbal consent. (aOR = 0.28, p<.09). The interaction between being perceived as masculine by others and viewing consent as verbal is statistically significant (aOR= 0.517 p<.05). Those who believe it is important for other people to perceive them as masculine have a 51% lower odds of believing verbal consent is necessary to establish consent for sex than those who do not think being perceived as masculine is as important. There was a significant interaction between age and the importance of being perceived as masculine. Older participants - those ages 35-64 (aOR=2.63, p < .02) and those ages 65 or older (aOR=1.79, p < .02) were more likely than younger participants to endorse gaining verbal permission as necessary for sexual consent.
Conclusions and Implications:
Our study found that men who believe being perceived as masculine by others is important were much less likely to believe obtaining verbal consent was necessary, with this association more pronounced for those under the age of 35. The above findings are especially problematic as verbal consent is the only category that meets the formal definition. This finding indicates a need to assess socialization in masculinity over the lifespan and generationally. Further research must be conducted more broadly to explore the relationship between masculinity and socialization to provide better context for the relationship between men and SV.