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Men in the Mirror: The Role of Men's Body Shame in Sexual Aggression

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Because research on body shame has predominantly focused on women, the consequences of male body shame for gender relations have been under-investigated. Following up on preliminary findings suggesting that men high on body shame were hostile toward women, in two experiments, we uniquely observed that body shame predisposes men to sexual aggression when they react negatively to masculinity threats. In Experiment 1, men rejected by a female confederate for being unattractive showed rape proclivity to the extent they were high on both body shame and post-rejection negative affect. In Experiment 2, the same pattern emerged on the part of men rejected by a female (but not a male) confederate for ostensibly being gay. In concert, the findings suggest that men's body shame is an overlooked factor in sexual aggression, which has implications for extant rape theories and precarious manhood theory.
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DOI: 10.1177/0146167214535641
2014 40: 1063 originally published online 19 May 2014Pers Soc Psychol Bull
Kris Mescher and Laurie A. Rudman
Men in the Mirror: The Role of Men's Body Shame in Sexual Aggression
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Article
As one of the most common human rights abuses, sexual vio-
lence (rape and sexual assault) victimizes women at much
higher rates than men. In the United States, approximately
one in five female undergraduates are victimized by sexual
assaults (B. S. Fisher, Cullen, & Turner, 2000; Karjane,
Fisher, & Cullen, 2005), although prevalence is difficult to
estimate because around 65% of sexual assaults are not
reported to police (Langton, Berzofsky, Krebs, & Smiley-
McDonald, 2012). Not all rape victims are female, but men
are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of sexual assault and
women its victims (99% and 91%, respectively; Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, 2008; Greenfield, 1997).
Therefore, it is important to investigate factors that promote
male sexual aggression.
Not surprisingly, hostility toward women is one such fac-
tor in male-on-female aggression, which is predicted by trait
aggression and acceptance of interpersonal violence, but it is
non-specific to sexual aggression (Anderson & Anderson,
2008; Malamuth, 1988). Because rape is a fully embodied
act of violence, we might expect body orientations to charac-
terize at least some male perpetrators. Indeed, men who auto-
matically dehumanize women’s bodies (as animals or
objects) also score high on rape proclivity (Rudman &
Mescher, 2012). We might also expect men’s orientation to
their own bodies to play a role; however, male body shame
has been an overlooked element in sexual assault. Researchers
typically employ men as a comparison group to women,
finding that women suffer higher rates of body shame, which
covaries with women’s psychological distress (e.g., depres-
sion and eating disorders; Calogero, Davis & Thompson,
2005; Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997; Moradi & Huang, 2008;
Tiggemann & Kuring, 2004). By contrast, we propose that,
as an individual difference variable, men’s body shame can
be a risk factor for women by predisposing men to sexual
aggression.
Masculinity, Body Shame, and Sexual
Aggression
A muscular physique is so strongly associated with mascu-
linity that men without it are viewed as feminine (not merely
weak; Grogan & Richards, 2002; Weinke, 1998). Surveys
indicate that 50% to 71% of male undergraduates are dissat-
isfied with their bodies, and that 90% desire to be more mus-
cular (Frederick et al., 2007). While a drive for muscularity
is associated with poor self-esteem in male adolescents
(McCreary & Sasse, 2000), men of all ages stress the impor-
tance of having a muscular physique (E. Fisher, Dunn, &
Thompson, 2002; Jones, 2001; McCreary & Sasse, 2002).
535641PSPXXX10.1177/0146167214535641Personality and Social Psychology BulletinMescher and Rudman
research-article2014
1Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ, USA
Corresponding Author:
Kris Mescher, Department of Psychology, Rutgers University, Tillett Hall,
53 Avenue E, Piscataway, NJ 08854-8040, USA.
Email: kmescher@eden.rutgers.edu
Men in the Mirror: The Role of Men’s
Body Shame in Sexual Aggression
Kris Mescher1 and Laurie A. Rudman1
Abstract
Because research on body shame has predominantly focused on women, the consequences of male body shame for gender
relations have been under-investigated. Following up on preliminary findings suggesting that men high on body shame were
hostile toward women, in two experiments, we uniquely observed that body shame predisposes men to sexual aggression
when they react negatively to masculinity threats. In Experiment 1, men rejected by a female confederate for being unattractive
showed rape proclivity to the extent they were high on both body shame and post-rejection negative affect. In Experiment
2, the same pattern emerged on the part of men rejected by a female (but not a male) confederate for ostensibly being gay.
In concert, the findings suggest that men’s body shame is an overlooked factor in sexual aggression, which has implications
for extant rape theories and precarious manhood theory.
Keywords
sexual aggression, sex discrimination, gender identity threat, body image, body shame
Received June 27, 2013; revision accepted September 3, 2013
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1064 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 40(8)
Moreover, men report poor body image following exposure
to images of idealized male bodies (Morry & Staska, 2001)
as well as idealized female bodies (Lavine, Sweeney, &
Wagner, 1999; see also Hunt, Gonsalkorale, & Murray,
2013). Given the ubiquity of such images, men—like
women—may be at risk of developing chronic body shame
(Frederick et al., 2007; Hunt et al., 2013). Indeed, body
shame has been linked to internalized cultural standards of
male attractiveness in heterosexual men (Parent & Moradi,
2011).
Some indirect evidence supports our thesis that body
shame can predispose men for sexual aggression. Men’s
drive for muscularity has been associated with endorsing
sexist attitudes, traditional gender roles, and a tendency to
objectify women (McCreary, Saucier, & Courtenay, 2005;
Steinfeldt, Gilchrist, Halterman, Gomory, & Steinfeldt,
2011; Swami & Voracek, 2012). Moreover, male partners
were more domestically violent to the extent their body
image was poor (Shelton & Liljequist, 2002). In an experi-
ment, men who were told they performed poorly on a strength
task subsequently delivered more painful electric shocks to a
criticizing female confederate, as compared to men paired
with a silent female confederate (Richardson, Leonard,
Taylor, & Hammock, 1984). However, we could find no
prior research documenting a direct link between male body
shame and sexual aggression.
Our discovery of this relationship was serendipitous, aris-
ing from research investigating dehumanization of women’s
bodies (Rudman & Mescher, 2012). Reasoning that women’s
own self-objectification might moderate dehumanization, we
administered the Objectified Body Consciousness Scale
(McKinley & Hyde, 1996) in two studies, which includes an
index of body shame (described in the “Method” section).
Measures of gender prejudice included hostile and benevo-
lent sexism (Glick & Fiske, 1996), negative attitudes toward
rape victims (Ward, 1988), rape myth acceptance beliefs
(Burt, 1980), and rape proclivity, which combines two sub-
scales (willingness to rape and force a sexual partner) from
the Attraction to Sexual Aggression Inventory (Malamuth,
1989). Women did not support our hypothesis (i.e., women
who self-objectified were not more likely to implicitly dehu-
manize women). Instead, unexpected positive relationships
emerged between men’s body shame and all of these mea-
sures, presented in Table 1. That is, men high on body shame
were also hostile toward women. For women, these relation-
ships were either negligible (Study 1) or confined to hostile
sexism and attitudes toward rape victims (Study 2). The nov-
elty of this unexpected pattern for men warranted further
examination.
Additional preliminary research also revealed that men
high on body shame were low on self-esteem (Heatherton &
Polivy, 1991), r(210) = −.62, p < .001, and masculinity, using
the Personality Attributes Questionnaire (PAQ; Spence,
Helmreich, & Stapp, 1975), r(40) = −.53, p < .001. They did
not score high on PAQ femininity items, except for seeks
social approval, r(40) = .31, p < .05, and feelings easily hurt,
r(40) = .48, p = .001. We also found a positive relationship
between men’s body shame and precarious manhood beliefs
(e.g., “It is fairly easy for a man to lose his status”; Burnaford,
Weaver, Bosson, & Vandello, 2009), r(124) = .21, p = .02.1
The overall pattern suggests that men high on body shame
may be chronically at risk of masculinity threat.
Masculinity Threat and Aggression
Precarious manhood theory posits that, in contrast to wom-
anhood, men are not assured of their masculinity status as a
result of puberty; rather, it must be continuously earned and
defended (Vandello, Bosson, Cohen, Burnaford, & Weaver,
2008). Consequently, it is easier to threaten men’s gender
identity than it is to threaten women’s (e.g., Bosson, Prewitt-
Freilino, & Taylor, 2005; Rudman, Dohn, & Fairchild, 2007).
Moreover, masculinity threat can cause men to aggress. Men
given feminine feedback on a bogus personality test threw
harder punches, as measured by an electronic sensor, com-
pared with controls (Vandello et al., 2008; see also Bosson &
Vandello, 2011; Bosson, Vandello, Burnaford, Weaver, &
Wasti, 2009). Women who challenge male dominance may
be especially at risk in this situation (Dall’Ara & Maass,
2000). For example, masculinity-threatened men harassed a
feminist female confederate more so than a traditional female
confederate (by emailing pornographic photos; Maass,
Cadinu, Guarnieri, & Grasselli, 2003). If scoring low on a
strength task provides a masculinity threat, then men’s deliv-
ery of painful shocks to a criticizing female confederate is
evidence that masculinity threat promotes male-on-female
aggression (Richardson et al., 1984).
However, our concern is with the link between men’s
body shame and hostility toward women shown in Table 1,
observed without any acute threat. We propose that men high
on body shame may be under chronic masculinity threat, but
for this idea to be tenable, masculinity threat should have
consequences for men’s body image. Consistent with this
Table 1. Correlates of Body Shame by Participant Gender (Pilot
Research).
Pilot Study 1 Pilot Study 2
Men
(n = 212)
Women
(n = 358)
Men
(n = 126)
Women
(n = 101)
Hostile sexism .20** .05 .19* .21*
BS .09 .05 −.01 .05
ATRV .21** .03 .37*** .22*
RMA .20** −.004
Rape proclivity .22** .05 .19* .18
Note. ATRV is the negative attitudes toward female rape victims. Rape
proclivity is the willingness to rape or force a sexual partner against
his or her will (item was worded differently for men and women).
BS = benevolent sexism; RMA = rape myth acceptance.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
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Mescher and Rudman 1065
view, men under acute masculinity threat (via false feedback
on a personality test) showed a poorer body image than men
who experienced affirmed masculinity (Hunt et al., 2013).
Furthermore, men who lost to a female confederate in an
anagram competition showed lowered body satisfaction,
relative to those who lost to a male confederate (Mills &
D’Alfonso, 2007). The present research afforded a test of
whether acute masculinity threats have an effect on male
body shame, but our overarching goal was to investigate
whether men chronically high on body shame would react to
such threats with sexual aggression when the perpetrator was
female.
The Role of Female Rejection
Female sexual rejection appears prominently in extant rape
theories (for a review, see Baumeister, Catanese, & Wallace,
2002) and male rapists typically report that conflicts with
women arising from rejection (actual or perceived) precipi-
tated sexual assaults (McKibben, Proulx, & Lusignan,
1994). However, whether female rejection heightens mascu-
linity threat for men high on body shame is unknown. Rape
theorists have posited that men high on narcissism
(Baumeister et al., 2002), male entitlement (Hill & Fischer,
2001), or hyper-masculinity (Mosher & Anderson, 1986;
Mosher & Sirkin, 1984) may be especially likely to respond
to female rejection with rape. These theories do not seem
applicable to men high on body shame, given our pilot work
suggesting that they are low on self-esteem and masculinity,
while high on approval seeking and easily hurt feelings.
However, Malamuth speculated that insecure men fear
rejection from women and may engage in sexual aggression
to reassert control because “The power that a woman may
have by virtue of her sex appeal may be particularly threat-
ening to [such men]” (Malamuth, Linz, Heavey, Barnes, &
Acker, 1995, p. 354). To our knowledge, the current
Experiment 1 provides the first test of this hypothesis.
Specifically, we subjected some men to female rejection
(refusal to partner him for a “dating study”) to examine
whether men high on body shame who reacted negatively to
rejection would respond with rape proclivity.
Another factor likely to heighten masculinity threat is
being misclassified as gay (Bosson et al., 2005; Bosson,
Taylor, & Prewitt-Freilino, 2006). Because heterosexuality
is a strong prescription for men (Herek, 1989; Kimmel,
2004), being called “gay” is often deemed insulting to het-
erosexual men (Burn, 2000; Thurlow, 2001). Indeed, com-
pared with women, men report more sexual prejudice (e.g.,
Herek, 2002), likely because they strive to differentiate
themselves from gay men to protect their masculinity
(Carnaghi, Maass, & Fasoli, 2011; Falomir-Pichastor &
Mugny, 2009). Consistent with this view, men under mascu-
linity threat showed more derogation of a feminine (but not
a masculine) gay man, compared with unthreatened counter-
parts (Glick, Gangl, Gibb, Klumpner, & Weinberg, 2007;
see also Talley & Bettencourt, 2008). Therefore, Experiment
2 used rejection “for being gay” as another instantiation of
masculinity threat.
The Role of Emotion Regulation
Why do some men respond poorly to insults and female
rejection, while others remain unaffected (Malamuth et al.,
1995)? We theorized that responses might be related to men’s
emotional processing. Although social rejection often
increases negative affect and emotional distress (Leary,
Twenge, & Quinlivan, 2006), this is not always the case. For
some people, rejection causes emotional numbness
(Blackhart, Nelson, Knowles, & Baumeister, 2009), referred
to as a “shock” reaction (Twenge, Catanese, & Baumeister,
2003; Werner, Kerschreiter, Kindermann, & Duschek, 2013).
Others may deliberately attempt to inhibit emotional distress
post rejection (Larsen, 2000), spurred by sensitivity to physi-
ological cues corresponding to negative affect (interoceptive
sensitivity; Werner, Duschek, Mattern, & Schandry, 2009). If
men high on body shame are low on interoceptive sensitivity
(i.e., are “out of touch” with their bodies), they may be less
able to self-regulate when they are upset, compared with
men low on body shame. Therefore, we anticipated that only
men high on body shame who reacted negatively to female
rejection would respond with sexual aggression, reasoning
that this response would be most likely for participants who
felt significant emotional distress that they were unable to
regulate.
Overview and Hypotheses
In Experiment 1, men were rejected by a woman as a partner
for a dating study for being unattractive. In Experiment 2,
men were rejected due to “being gay” by either a male or
female confederate. Compared with (not rejected) control
men, we expected both types of rejection to elicit more sex-
ual aggression from men high on body shame but only when
the perpetrator was female (not male) and only if they were
unable to down-regulate negative affect.
Across experiments, we measured body shame using the
same measure employed by the pilot research. However, we
used two measures of sexual aggression to determine the
generality of our results. In Experiment 1, we adopted the
rape proclivity index used in the pilot research. In Experiment
2, we relied on a rape behavioral analogue (RBA; Rudman &
Mescher, 2012). Finally, we examined the discriminant
validity of body shame by including other shame-related
measures in each experiment.
Experiment 1
To model masculinity threat based on romantic rejection, an
attractive woman rejected male participants as dating part-
ners on the basis of finding them unattractive after viewing
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1066 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 40(8)
their photo. In the control condition, her decision was
unavailable “due to a computer failure.” For rejected men,
we predicted that body shame and negative affect together
would elicit sexual aggression. For men in the control group,
this pattern should not appear because there was no threat to
their masculinity.
To measure sexual aggression, we used a rape proclivity
index that correlates with men’s sexual arousal when viewing
depictions of rape (Malamuth, Haber, & Feshbach, 1980;
Malamuth, Heim, & Feshbach, 1980) and with men’s body
shame (see Table 1). To test the discriminate validity of body
shame, we included two measures of generalized shame
proneness (negative self-evaluation and withdrawal in
response to shame-inducing situations; Cohen, Wolf, Panter,
& Insko, 2011) and an author-designed index of sexual shame.
Method
Participants
Participants (N = 127) were heterosexual men who com-
pleted the experiment in exchange for credit toward their
Introductory Psychology research requirement. Six partici-
pants were excluded due to missing data and/or sexual orien-
tation. Of the final sample, 63 (50%) were White, 45 (35%)
Asian, 8 (6%) Latino, 5 (4%) Black, and 6 (5%) selected
another option.
Materials
Pretesting the confederate photo. A pilot sample (N = 239,
121 men) rated the attractiveness of 21 portraits of college-
aged White women posed against neutral backgrounds
downloaded from the Internet (gettyimages.com). Partici-
pants rated the physical attractiveness of each image (pre-
sented randomly) on a scale ranging from 1 (very
unattractive) to 10 (very attractive). The female phantom’s
image selected was high (but not extreme) on attractiveness,
M = 7.28 (SD = 1.80).
Negative affect. To reduce reactivity post rejection, partici-
pants were told that their mood would be measured at ran-
dom intervals during the session; in fact, the measure was
always completed first and immediately after the rejection
manipulation. Participants indicated the extent to which they
felt each emotion “right now” on a scale ranging from 1 (not
at all) to 5 (very much). Negative emotions were hurt,
insulted, offended, ashamed, angry, disgusted, sad, and hos-
tile. Positive emotions (happy, confident, calm, proud, and
amused) were filler items. A principle components factor
analysis of this measure at Times 1 and 2 revealed only a
positive and a negative factor in each case. Therefore, nega-
tive emotions at Time 2 were combined to form the negative
affect index (α = .92). High scores reflect more negative
affect following the rejection manipulation.
Body shame. Participants completed the body shame sub-
scale from the Objectified Body Consciousness Scale
(McKinley & Hyde, 1996). It consists of 13 items anchored
on a scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly
agree). Sample items include, “I am ashamed by the size and
shape of my buttocks,” “I feel like I must be a bad person
when I don’t look as good as I could,” and “Overall, I am
comfortable with how my body looks” (reverse scored).
Items were averaged so that high scores reflected more body
shame (α = .81).
Shame proneness. Participants responded to the Guilt and
Shame Proneness Scale (GASP; Cohen et al., 2011) on a
scale ranging from 1 (very unlikely) to 7 (very likely). The
subscales of primary interest, shameful self-evaluation and
shame-withdrawal, each consist of four shame-inducing sce-
narios. An example of the self-evaluation subscale is,
You rip an article out of a journal in the library and take it with
you. Your teacher discovers what you did and tells the librarian
and your entire class. What is the likelihood that this would
make you would feel like a bad person?
An example of the shame-withdrawal subscale is, “You
take office supplies home for personal use and are caught by
your boss. What is the likelihood that this would lead you to
quit your job?” Items were averaged so that high scores
reflected more shameful self-evaluation (α = .60) or shame-
withdrawal (α = .58).2
Sexual shame. To provide additional discriminant validity for
body shame, participants completed eight author-designed
items on a scale ranging from (1) strongly disagree to (5)
strongly agree. Sample items include “I worry that sexually, I
am not like other men,” and “I sometimes feel ashamed of my
own sexual inclinations.” Items were averaged so that high
scores reflected greater sexual shame (α = .79).
Rape proclivity. Participants completed Malamuth’s (1989)
Attraction to Sexual Aggression Scale, anchored at 1 (very
unlikely) to 5 (very likely). Participants indicated whether, if
they could be assured of never being known or punished,
they were aroused by, attracted to, or would be likely to com-
mit rape. Three other items replaced “rape” with “force a
sexual partner to do something they did not want to do.”
These six items were averaged to form the rape proclivity
index (α = .84).
Procedure
Participants were recruited for a study investigating “the fac-
tors that build effective teamwork,” in which they believed
they would compete with a partner over a networked com-
puter in teamwork building tasks, with the most effective
teams earning a chance to win US$100. Upon arriving at the
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Mescher and Rudman 1067
lab, the experimenter took a digital photo of the participant,
ostensibly for upload to his networked partner, and escorted
participants to a private cubicle with a computer. The experi-
menter provided basic instructions before starting the pro-
gram and leaving the participant alone. After consenting to
the study, participants completed a personality profile, osten-
sibly to be uploaded along with their digital photo to their
networked partner. Profile items included age, gender, col-
lege major, and questions such as, “If you could have a super
power, what would it be?” and “What would you rather be
doing right now”? After “uploading” this information, the
computer program explained that the participant had been
“randomly assigned” to the condition in which his partner (in
fact, a phantom female confederate) would choose whether
or not to perform the teamwork tasks with him. Participants
were shown the digital photo of the attractive confederate
and a brief profile describing her as 19 years old, female, and
majoring in psychology.
While participants waited for their partner’s response to
their photo and personality profile, they completed the first
negative affect measure and filler questionnaires. Control
participants were then told that the computer malfunctioned
and could not connect them with their partner. Participants in
the rejection condition were told they were rejected by their
partner and given the following feedback:
I heard about this study from my roommate. She said it was
actually about dating, after the test she had to hang out with the
guy and answer a bunch of questions about attraction. Looking
at this photo, I’m really not attracted to this guy. He’s not my
type at all and I don’t want to have to go out with him. I’d rather
do the other study for the points.
Participants were then enrolled in a “second study” to
complete their obligation; a second consent form described it
as “investigating how relationships have evolved with tech-
nology.” Participants then completed the second negative
affect measure, the GASP, and measures of body shame,
sexual shame, and sexual aggression (in that order). The pro-
gram randomly assigned participants to condition and admin-
istered the items for each measure in random order. After
indicating their sexual orientation for exclusion purposes,
they were thoroughly debriefed and compensated.3
Results and Discussion
Preliminary Analyses
Table 2 presents the descriptive statistics and correlations
among the focal variables as a function of rejection. Providing
convergent validity, body shame was positively correlated
with shame-withdrawal and sexual shame for both groups.
For rejected men, body shame was positively related to Time
2 negative affect and also rape proclivity, replicating our
observation from pilot research. Furthermore, for rejected
men only, rape proclivity was positively related to Time 2
negative affect, shame-withdrawal, and sexual shame. Thus
it will be important to distinguish the effects of body shame
from those of shame-withdrawal and sexual shame.
Also seen in Table 2, rejected men scored higher on Time
2 negative affect than control men, t(125) = 4.52, p < .001,
d = .75. Not shown in Table 2, the difference between Time 1
and Time 2 negative affect was also greater for rejected men
(M = 0.47, SD = 0.65) than control men (M = 0.06, SD =
0.30), t(125) = 4.56, p < .001, d = .76. Thus the manipulation
had the intended effect. No significant differences emerged
on Time 1 negative affect, body shame, sexual shame,
shameful self-evaluation, or rape proclivity, all ts(125) <
1.35, ps > .17. Unexpectedly, control men scored higher on
shame-withdrawal (M = 2.59, SD = 0.98) than rejected men
(M = 2.22, SD = 0.88), t(125) = 2.21, p = .03, d = .39. That is,
control men were more likely to respond to shameful situa-
tions by withdrawing than rejected men.
Body Shame, Response to Rejection, and Sexual
Aggression
We expected men high on body shame to retaliate with sex-
ual aggression to the extent that being rejected by an attrac-
tive woman upset them. To test this, we mean-centered
predictor variables (Aiken & West, 1991) and hierarchically
regressed rape proclivity on rejection condition (coded 1 =
rejected, −1 = control), body shame, Time 2 negative affect
(Step 1), and all interaction terms (Step 2). There was an
unsurprising positive main effect of negative affect, β = 0.21,
p = .03, and an unexpected negative main effect for condi-
tion, β = −0.20, p = .03, which further analyses suggested
was due to a suppressor effect.4 There was also a Rejection ×
Body Shame interaction, β = −0.73, p = .02. Simple effects
showed that body shame and rape proclivity were positively
related in the rejection condition, r(63) = .32, p = .01, but not
in the control condition, r(60) = .04, p = .74 (see Table 2).
These effects were qualified by the predicted Rejection ×
Body Shame × Negative Affect interaction, β = 0.99, p = .01.
Among control men, the Body Shame × Negative Affect
interaction was weakly negative, β = −0.25, p = .17, and the
main effects were negligible, both ps > .50. However,
rejected men showed the expected Body Shame × Negative
Affect interaction, β = 0.52, p < .001. Figure 1 shows the
results for rejected men ±2 SD from the mean on body shame
and negative affect (in black). Simple slopes tests (Aiken &
West, 1991) confirmed that negative affect was positively
related to rape proclivity for rejected men high on body
shame, β = 1.05, t(61) = 6.43, p < .001. In contrast, negative
affect was negatively related to rape proclivity for rejected
men low on body shame, β = −0.67, t(61) = 2.76,
p = .008. Thus only men high on body shame were more
sexually aggressive to the extent that they were upset by the
female confederate’s rejection.
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1068 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 40(8)
Figure 1 also shows the predicted means for control men
in gray. The control means are descriptively lower than those
for the focal group (rejected men high on body shame and
negative affect), with one exception: Control men high on
negative affect but low on body shame scored similarly to the
focal group. Nonetheless, body shame and negative affect
did not significantly affect rape proclivity among control
men as it did for rejected men. The pattern of results was
quite different (reflecting a negative interaction of body
shame and negative affect) but because this effect was weak,
p = .17, we refrain from interpreting it.
The (nonorthogonal) simple slopes tests decomposing the
interaction the other way showed a comparable pattern for
rejected men. Body shame was positively related to rape pro-
clivity for rejected men high on negative affect, β = 1.37,
t(61) = 5.28, p < .001, but negatively related to rape procliv-
ity for rejected men low on negative affect, β = −1.05, t(61)
= 3.91, p < .001. In concert, our results suggest that high
body shame and negative affect catalyze sexual aggression,
but only for rejected men (i.e., men under masculinity threat).
Discriminant Validity for Body Shame
To examine body shame’s discriminant validity, we mean-
centered all predictor variables. First, we hierarchically
regressed rape proclivity on rejection condition, shame-with-
drawal, Time 2 negative affect (Step 1), and all interaction
terms (Step 2). Results showed only a weak effect for nega-
tive affect, β = 0.19, p = .06, with no remaining effects, all ps
> .10. The three-way interaction term was weak, β = 0.27,
p = .43. Second, we replaced shame-withdrawal with shame-
ful self-evaluation. Results showed only a main effect for
negative affect, β = 0.24, p = .01, with no remaining effects, all
ps > .21. The three-way interaction term was weak, β = −0.26,
p = .43. Thus generalized shame proneness, with or without
negative affect, was not a factor in men’s rape proclivity.
Third, we regressed sexual shame in the same regression
analysis and found a significant Rejection × Sexual Shame ×
Negative Affect interaction, β = 0.77, p = .04. Among control
men, the Sexual Shame × Negative Affect interaction was
nonsignificant, β = −0.20, p = .37, as were the main effects,
both ps > .28. However, rejected men showed a main effect
for negative affect, β = 0.44, p < .001, qualified by a signifi-
cant Sexual Shame × Negative Affect interaction, β = 0.42,
p < .001. Simple slopes tests revealed a positive relationship
Table 2. Descriptive Statistics and Correlations by Rejection Condition (Experiment 1).
Body shame Negative affect Shame-withdrawal Shameful self-evaluation Sexual shame M SD
Rejected mena
Body shame 2.39 0.59
T2 negative affect .30* 1.68a0.82
Shame-withdrawal .45*** .35** 2.23a0.88
Self-evaluation .15 .18 .09 4.90 1.21
Sexual shame .49*** .17 .23 .25 2.55 0.60
Rape proclivity .32* .37*** .30* −.03 .25* 1.13 0.35
Control menb
Body shame 2.31 0.54
T2 negative affect .24 1.17b0.38
Shame-withdrawal .35** .37** 2.59b0.96
Self-evaluation .30* .11 .20 4.83 1.26
Sexual shame .34** .21 .32* .42** 2.66 0.65
Rape proclivity .04 −.03 .14 .02 .13 1.24 0.59
Note. Means with a, b subscripts significantly differ by condition. T2 = Time 2 (post-rejection).
an = 65 men.
bn = 62 men.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
2.001.000.00-1.00-2.00
RAPE_PROCLIVITY
2.00
1.50
1.00
0.50
0.00
Negative Affect
Body Shame
High -----
Low _____
Figure 1. Predicted rape proclivity scores for men ±2 SD from
the M on body shame and post-rejection negative affect for men
who were rejected for a dating study by an attractive woman
(black squares) and for control men (gray circles)—Experiment 1.
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Mescher and Rudman 1069
between negative affect and rape proclivity for rejected men
high on sexual shame, β = 1.24, t(61) = 5.81, p < .001. In
contrast, post-rejection negative affect was inversely related
to rape proclivity for men low on sexual shame, β = −0.54,
t(61) = 2.14, p = .03. Thus, as with body shame, men high on
sexual shame were more sexually aggressive to the extent
they were upset by the confederate’s rejection of them.
Would body shame contribute unique variance to rape
proclivity after controlling for sexual shame? To find out, we
hierarchically regressed rape proclivity on condition, body
shame, sexual shame, Time 2 negative affect (Step 1), and all
interaction terms (Step 2). Beyond the known main effect for
negative affect, β = 0.20, p = .04, the only significant find-
ings were the known effects involving body shame: the
Rejection × Body Shame interaction remained significant,
β = −0.73, p = .04, as did the Rejection × Body Shame ×
Negative Affect interaction, β = 1.04, p = .04. By compari-
son, the Rejection × Sexual Shame × Negative Affect inter-
action was weak, β = 0.23, p = .62, as were the remaining
effects, all ps > .21. Thus after controlling for the effects of
body shame, sexual shame was unrelated to rape proclivity.
These findings bolster the unique significance of men’s body
shame as a factor in sexual aggression.
In summary, Experiment 1 modeled a situation in which
an attractive woman rejects a man for not being “her type”
and he retaliates with sexual aggression. Our findings sup-
ported our expectation that female rejecters are at risk of
retaliation from men high on body shame who feel threat-
ened by the rejection. Experiment 1 ruled out generalized
shame proneness as a competing moderator, and although
sexual shame moderated exactly as body shame did, after
controlling for body shame, it no longer did (whereas the
effects for body shame remained significant). Thus
Experiment 1 suggests that body shame may be an important
precursor for male sexual aggression. We sought to concep-
tually replicate and extend these findings in Experiment 2.
Experiment 2
One limitation of Experiment 1 concerns the scope of our
findings. Believing a woman rejected them after she viewed
their photo may have heightened men’s appearance con-
cerns (although we note that there was no main effect of
rejection on body shame; see Table 2). Moreover, for obvi-
ous reasons, the confederate was always female, but she was
also attractive. In Experiment 2, no photos were displayed,
of either participants or confederates. We also varied the
confederate’s gender and used sexual misclassification as
the masculinity threat (e.g., Bosson et al., 2005; Thurlow,
2001). As a dependent measure, we employed a RBA, which
obliges men to choose between violent and sexually violent
pictures to repeatedly expose women to them. Men who
implicitly dehumanized women as animals (Rudman &
Mescher, 2012) or evaluated rape favorably (Widman &
Olson, 2011) also scored high on the RBA. As in Experiment
1, we predicted that when a female confederate rejected men
as a team partner for “being gay,” men high on body shame
would respond with sexual aggression to the extent that they
were upset by the rejection. To provide discriminant valid-
ity, we did not expect this pattern for men provoked by a
male perpetrator (see also Anderson & Anderson, 2008;
Malamuth, 1988).
Method
Participants
Men prescreened to be heterosexual (N = 214) completed the
experiment in exchange for credit toward an Introductory
Psychology research requirement. Of these, 104 (49%) were
White, 67 were Asian (31%), 17 (8%) Latino, 12 (6%) Black,
and 14 (6%) selected another option.
Materials
Participants completed the same negative affect and body
shame measures from Experiment 1. Reliabilities were com-
parable (αs = .91 and .82 for Time 2 negative affect and body
shame, respectively). We included the sexual shame measure
from Experiment 1 as a further test of body shame’s discrim-
inant validity (α = .73).
RBA. The RBA (Rudman & Mescher, 2012) obliged men
over 17 trials to choose between two images, one depicting
rape or sexual harassment, the other male-on-male aggres-
sion. Stimuli included both classical paintings and contem-
porary photos or advertisements.5 The cover story for the
RBA was as follows:
For this last part of the study we need you to help us select
pictures for an upcoming study with women. In this study we
will show women a subset of these pictures many times to test
their perceptions. For this next task, we will show you two
pictures and we would like you to pick the one you think we
should use in the women’s study. Pick the one you think should
be shown to women many times.
Responses were scored so that 0 = violent, 1 = sexually
violent, and summed to form the RBA (α = .82; possible
range: 0-17).
Procedure
Participants were recruited using Experiment 1’s cover story
and instructions, which were identical with the exception
that no photos were taken. After “uploading” the same per-
sonality profile used in Experiment 1, the computer program
provided participants with a brief profile of their networked
partner, who was described as either female or male, 19
years old, and a psychology major. After completing the
first negative affect measure and filler questionnaires,
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1070 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 40(8)
control participants were informed of a technical failure, as
in Experiment 1.6 Rejected participants were provided with
the following feedback:
I don’t think we have anything in common and won’t be a good
team. It would be a waste of time to work on an experiment
together if we can’t win the money. I’d rather work with someone
else, or complete a different study, than work with this guy on
teamwork tasks. Looking at his profile, I get the impression he
is gay. We won’t work well together if he likes men.
As in Experiment 1, participants were then enrolled in a
“second study” to complete their obligation. After providing
consent, they completed the second negative affect measure
and measures of body shame, sexual shame, and the RBA (in
that order). Participants were then fully debriefed and
compensated.
Results and Discussion
Preliminary Analyses
Table 3 shows the descriptive statistics and correlations
among the focal variables as a function of rejection condi-
tion. Replicating Experiment 1, body shame was positively
correlated with Time 2 negative affect, sexual shame, and
RBA scores for men in the rejected condition. Among con-
trols, body shame was only correlated with Time 2 negative
affect.
Table 3 also shows that rejected men scored higher on
Time 2 negative affect than control men, t(212) = 5.62, p <
.001, d = .71, as in Experiment 1. Moreover, the difference
between Time 1 and Time 2 negative affect was again greater
for rejected men (M = 0.60, SD = 0.95) than for control men
(M = 0.12, SD = 0.43), t(212) = 4.82, p < .001, d = .63.
Results of a 2 (confederate gender) × 2 (rejection condition)
ANOVA confirmed main effects of condition for Time 2
negative affect and the negative affect difference score, both
Fs(1, 210) > 4.27, ps < .001. Thus regardless of confederate
gender, men rejected for “being gay” were more upset than
controls. This same ANOVA for the remaining variables
(Time 1 negative affect, body shame, sexual shame, and the
RBA) produced no significant results, all Fs(1, 210) < 2.95,
ps > .09.
Body Shame, Response to Rejection, and Sexual
Aggression
To conceptually replicate Experiment 1, men high on body
shame in the female confederate condition should be more
willing to expose women to sexually offensive materials to
the extent that they were upset by the rejection. Using mean-
centered predictor variables, we first sought to establish that
female (not male) rejection was necessary to provoke men
into sexual aggression. To preserve statistical power, we con-
ducted a focused test by hierarchically regressing the RBA
on condition (coded 1 = rejected, −1 = control), confederate
gender (coded −1 = male, 1 = female), body shame, Time 2
negative affect (Step 1), and the focal four-way interaction
term (Step 2). Results showed a main effect for body shame,
β = 0.20, p = .01, and also the expected four-way interaction,
β = 0.17, p = .01. To specifically test our hypotheses, we then
hierarchically regressed the RBA on condition, body shame,
negative affect (Step 1), and all interaction terms (Step 2)
separately for men in the male [female] confederate
condition.
For men in the male confederate condition, results showed
no significant effects (all ps > .08), and the Rejection × Body
Shame × Negative Affect interaction was negligible, β =
0.16, p = .64. For men in the female confederate condition,
there was a positive main effect for body shame, β = 0.21,
p = .04, but on replicating Experiment 1, the predicted
Rejection × Body Shame × Negative Affect interaction was
also significant, β = 0.57, p = .01. For men rejected by a
woman for “being gay,” there was a positive main effect for
body shame, β = 0.32, p = .03, qualified by the expected
Body Shame × Negative Affect interaction, β = 0.32, p = .04.
Figure 2 shows the results for these men ±2 SD from the
mean on body shame and negative affect in the female con-
federate condition (in black). Simple slopes tests were
weaker, but in the same direction as for Experiment 1:
Negative affect was positively related to the RBA for rejected
men high on body shame, β = 0.44, t(52) = 1.72, p = .09, but
negatively related to the RBA for rejected men low on body
shame, β = −0.49, t(52) = 1.77, p = .08. The interaction con-
firms that the two slopes significantly differed, replicating
Experiment 1.
Figure 2 also shows the predicted means for control men in
the female confederate condition (in gray), who showed only
a main effect for Time 2 negative affect, β = 0.37, p = .01. As
Table 3. Descriptive Statistics and Correlations by Condition
(Experiment 2).
Body
shame
Negative
affect
Sexual
shame M SD
Rejected mena
Body shame 2.26 0.60
T2 negative affect .34*** 1.94a0.95
Sexual shame .34*** .26* 2.50 0.66
Rape analogue .23* −.03 .11 9.33 4.30
Control menb
Body shame 2.22 0.62
T2 negative affect .25* 1.34b0.56
Sexual shame .10 .10 2.42 0.62
Rape analogue .01 −.09 .07 8.94 4.12
Note. Means with a, b subscripts significantly differ by condition.
T2 = Time 2 (post-rejection).
an = 109 men.
bn = 106 men.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
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Mescher and Rudman 1071
can be seen, all predicted means were descriptively lower
than the focal group’s mean (rejected men high on body
shame and negative affect). A check on the predicted means
for men in the male confederate condition (who showed no
significant effects) also revealed low RBA scores (range:
1.30-1.56).
Taken together, our findings confirm that high body
shame and negative affect together promote sexual aggres-
sion, but only for men rejected by a woman (not a man) for
“being gay.”
Discriminant Validity for Body Shame
For men rejected by a woman, it was possible that sexual
shame would echo the effects of body shame, as it did in
Experiment 1. We therefore hierarchically regressed the
RBA on rejection condition, sexual shame, Time 2 negative
affect (Step 1), and all interaction terms (Step 2) for men
with a female confederate. Results were negligible for sexual
shame, all ps > .10. Instead, there was the known main effect
for negative affect, β = 0.23, p = .03. Thus the effect of nega-
tive affect on men rejected by a woman “for being gay” was
specific to men high on body shame, not men high on sexual
shame. For men with a male confederate, results of this same
analysis were negligible, all ps > .21.
In summary, Experiment 2 conceptually replicated
Experiment 1 by showing that men high on body shame who
reacted negatively when a female confederate delivered a
masculinity threat responded with more sexual aggression,
compared with their counterparts low on negative affect.
Thus men high on body shame do not need to be rejected for
their appearance (as in Experiment 1) to retaliate against
women with sexual aggression. By comparison, men with
low body shame did not show this pattern; instead, they
were somewhat less likely to retaliate against women if the
rejection upset them (and significantly less likely in
Experiment 1). Furthermore, being rejected by a male con-
federate had no effect on men’s RBA scores, which were
generally low. Thus body shame and negative affect together
catalyzed sexual aggression on the part of men rejected by a
woman for “being gay.”
General Discussion
Two experiments uniquely demonstrated the role of male
body shame in sexual aggression for men who responded
negatively to masculinity threats. In Experiment 1, men
rejected for a dating study by a desirable woman were will-
ing to commit sexual assault to the extent that they were high
on body shame and upset by the rejection. In Experiment 2,
men high on body shame who were upset when rejected by a
woman for “being gay” were likely to repeatedly expose
future women to pictures of sexual assault. As in past
research, men retaliated against women when their masculin-
ity was threatened (Dall’Ara & Maass, 2000; Maass et al.,
2003; Richardson et al., 1984), but unique to the present
research, this effect was specific to men high on body shame
and post-rejection negative affect. These findings support the
role of body shame in male sexual aggression and further
suggest that this linkage can be exacerbated by men’s reac-
tions to masculinity threats.
Our findings may seem counterintuitive, given that prom-
inent rape theories have posited that men high on masculinity
or self-esteem pose the greatest risk to women (Baumeister
et al., 2002). Moreover, men who are large or strong tend to
also be aggressive (DeWall, Bushman, Giancola, & Webster,
2010; Sell, Tooby, & Cosmides, 2009). For this reason,
Bosson and Vandello (2011) speculated that muscular or
“big” men might be especially likely to aggressively restore
masculinity when under threat. This may well be the case,
but our findings suggest that body-ashamed men may be par-
ticularly vulnerable to masculinity threats from women,
which promotes sexual aggression, and thus deserve more
attention from theorists.
Both experiments relied on men reacting with negative
affect following a masculinity threat, but why do some men
react negatively to rejection while others do not? If body
shame causes men to feel “out of touch” with their bodies,
they may be compromised in their ability to regulate nega-
tive affect. In the present research, men low on body shame
were less likely to sexually aggress to the extent that they
were upset by female rejection. This suggests that men with
a healthy orientation to their bodies may be more sensitive to
physiological cues that promote self-regulation, compared
with men high on body shame (Werner et al., 2009).
2.001.000.00-1.00-2.00
RBA
14.00
12.00
10.00
8.00
6.00
4.00
2.00
0.00
Body Shame
High -----
Low
Negative Affect
_____
Figure 2. Predicted RBA scores for men ±2 SD from the M on
body shame and post-rejection negative affect who were rejected
for being gay by a female confederate (black squares) and for
control men in the female confederate condition (gray circles)—
Experiment 2.
Note. RBA = rape behavioral analogue.
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1072 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 40(8)
Prior research has targeted hostility toward women as a
factor in male-on-female aggression (Anderson & Anderson,
2008), but what makes men hostile toward women? We have
uniquely identified male body shame, which is conceptually
unrelated to some previously identified factors (e.g., trait
aggression and acceptance of interpersonal violence), while
negatively related to others (e.g., high self-esteem and domi-
nance; Baumeister et al., 2002). But why would being
ashamed of their body predispose men to sexual aggression?
Our findings are consistent with our reasoning that such men
may be under chronic masculinity threat, making them more
sensitive to acute instances. They are also in line with
Malamuth et al.’s (1995) speculation that insecure men may
engage in sexual aggression because they resent women’s
sexual power. Future research is necessary to untangle these
two plausible explanations.
Limitations and Future Directions
Because laboratory settings are limited in their ability to
investigate sexual aggression, measures like the RBA may be
among the best on offer (Rudman & Mescher, 2012).
Nonetheless, there is a sobering gap between actual rape and
our attempt to model the consequences of social situations
that threaten men’s masculinity and place women at risk.
Whether body shame is a catalyst for sexual assault among
actual perpetrators is a question for future research.
We focused on men’s body shame because pilot research
revealed unexpected linkages between it and men’s willing-
ness to report sexual aggression (e.g., rape proclivity, likeli-
hood to sexually harass, and street harassment). However,
in our experiments, body shame was only associated with
sexual aggression among rejected men, not controls (see
Tables 2 and 3). These results are consistent with our argu-
ment that body-ashamed men react aggressively to mascu-
linity threats because this threat is relatively chronic for
them, but they raise the question of why control men did
not also show this correlation (as in the pilot work). Perhaps
not being rejected (because the computer failed) served to
affirm men’s masculinity by warding off the threat of rejec-
tion, or perhaps they imagined they would have been
accepted had the equipment worked.
Although two experiments confirmed the role that body
image plays in sexual aggression for men whose masculinity
is threatened by a woman, it is left to future research to deter-
mine why this occurs. Our efforts to mediate the link between
body shame and rape proclivity using the variables described
in preliminary research (e.g., those shown in Table 1 but also
the PAQ masculinity subscale, selected items drawn from the
femininity subscale, state self-esteem, and precarious man-
hood beliefs) were unsuccessful. We have suggested intero-
ceptive sensitivity (Werner et al., 2009) as one possible
mediator. Future research might also include acute measures
of masculinity threat, female rejection sensitivity, and resent-
ment of women’s sexual power as possible candidates
(Malamuth et al., 1995). To our knowledge, these measures
would have to be designed and validated in advance for this
purpose.
The age of our participants was appropriate because
young men are especially likely to sexually aggress against
women (Barbaree, Hudson, & Seto, 1993; Freeman, 2007).
Nonetheless, older men should be investigated to examine
the generality of our findings. Young men may be more criti-
cal about their bodies, even if in better physical shape than
older men. It may be the case that body image declines in
importance as men mature. Whether difficulty in obtaining
physical ideals affects older men’s body shame and sensitiv-
ity to masculinity threats is an empirical question.
Finally, it is important to address whether sexual aggres-
sion serves an adaptive or maladaptive function for men
under masculinity threat, whether they are high on body
shame or not. Future research should examine this question.
Conclusion
Our hypothesis that men high on body shame who react neg-
atively to masculinity threats would respond with sexual
aggression was supported by the present findings. The find-
ings are consistent with men’s admission that female rejec-
tion often precipitates sexual assault (McKibben et al., 1994),
surveys suggesting that men aggress against relationship
partners to the extent that their body image is poor (Shelton
& Liljequist, 2002), and research showing that men under
masculinity threats aggress against female confederates (e.g.,
Dall’Ara & Maass, 2000; Maass et al., 2003; Richardson et
al., 1984). We extended these findings to include sexual
aggression that may target women as a group, but only for
men high on body shame who react negatively to female
rejection. Thus men’s body shame may be a key component
in male-on-female sexual violence. Considerable research
has shed light on the issues that trouble women’s experiences
with their bodies (Moradi & Huang, 2008). In light of the
present findings, men’s body image should be investigated
with the same tenacity, and not merely in contrast to wom-
en’s, but as a challenge in its own right.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect
to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Funding
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support
for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This
research was partially supported by Grant BCS-1122522 from
National Science Foundation to the second author.
Notes
1. We did not find any evidence linking male body shame to their
height—either current or while growing up, both rs(318) < .04,
ns, but there were positive links between male body shame and
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Mescher and Rudman 1073
being overweight in the past, r(318) = .22, p < .001, and at pres-
ent, r(318) = .18, p = .001.
2. Cohen, Wolf, Panter, and Insko (2011) report alphas of .63 to
.67, which they state is on par with similar measures. Our own
alphas are lower, and we could not improve them. No doubt the
use of only four items for each subscale contributes to low inter-
nal consistency.
3. To obtain Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval, we agreed
to a standardized debriefing by the computer program, rather
than probing for suspicion. Prior research found that including
suspicious men did not harm the results (Anderson & Anderson,
2008; Malamuth, 1988, Footnote 3).
4. Because condition had a weak zero-order effect on rape pro-
clivity (r = −.12, p = .18), but a positive one on negative affect
(r = .38, p < .001), we suspected a suppressor variable effect.
Typically, the direction of the suppressors effect is negative;
as a result, people high on this variable (rejected men) are dis-
counted, whereas people low on this variable (control men) are
weighed more heavily. To remove this effect, we residualized
negative affect (adjusting for condition) to “cleanse” it of irrel-
evant variance that is not related to rape proclivity (Pedhazur,
1982). A simultaneous regression predicting rape proclivity from
condition and residualized negative affect revealed no effect of
condition (β = −0.11, p = .17), while the effect of negative affect
remained significant (β = 0.22, p = .01). This analysis suggests
that rejection condition does not, in fact, have a negative influ-
ence on rape proclivity, but was instead acting as a suppressor
variable—leading to a pattern of results that reflect a statistical
artifact rather than an actual relationship between condition and
rape proclivity.
5. Of the sexually offensive images, 12 depicted rape (six used
classical paintings, six used magazine ads or other photos). Two
photos depicted female bondage, and three photos were other-
wise offensive (e.g., statue of a man with a large erection). Of
the male-on-male aggression images, 10 depicted war (six used
classical paintings, four depicted modern men in battle garb).
Three photos portrayed men being assaulted by other men, two
photos portrayed aggressive athletes, one photo depicted a man
being gang raped (Dolce & Gabbana magazine ad), and one
photo depicted a man with a bruised and bandaged face.
6. We also included a “rejection for no reason” condition as a sec-
ond control. However, due to a technical error in the program-
ming, we were unable to include them in this report.
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... Importantly, even when women actively confront, they may still experience sexual violence. Men who are overtly rejected by female interaction partners report experiencing body shame, and body shame is linked to sexual aggression (Mescher & Rudman, 2014). Thus, objectification misfit can result in sexual violence through both implicit or explicit processes occurring in male perpetrators and related processes triggered in women due to men's objectifying behaviours and the female sex role. ...
... Past research has reported a correlation between masculine ideation and reported sexual aggression (Mosher & Anderson, 1986;Smith et al., 2015), and certain aspects of masculine ideology are correlated to the endorsement of sexually explicit material and rape-supportive attitudes-specifically, those to do with status and anti-femininity (Ickes, 1993;Mikorski & Szymanski, 2016;Quackenbush, 1989;Truman, Tokar, & Fischer, 1996;Vega & Malamuth, 2007;Ward, Merriwether, & Caruthers, 2006). Given the relationship between greater adherence to cultural notions of masculinity and endorsement of sexual aggression (Malamuth, Sockloskie, Koss, & Tanaka, 1991;Mescher & Rudman, 2014;Mosher & Anderson, 1986;Quackenbush, 1989), we further hypothesized that self-identified highly masculine men-regardless of their sexual orientation-would espouse greater rape-supportive attitudes and more positive perceptions of sexually explicit material, and that this would be especially true for men who had their performance of masculinity threatened. This same endorsement would not be shown by either gay or straight men who perceive themselves as highly feminine. ...
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... Past research has reported a correlation between masculine ideation and reported sexual aggression (Mosher & Anderson, 1986;Smith et al., 2015), and certain aspects of masculine ideology are correlated to the endorsement of sexually explicit material and rape-supportive attitudes-specifically, those to do with status and anti-femininity (Ickes, 1993;Mikorski & Szymanski, 2016;Quackenbush, 1989;Truman, Tokar, & Fischer, 1996;Vega & Malamuth, 2007;Ward, Merriwether, & Caruthers, 2006). Given the relationship between greater adherence to cultural notions of masculinity and endorsement of sexual aggression (Malamuth, Sockloskie, Koss, & Tanaka, 1991;Mescher & Rudman, 2014;Mosher & Anderson, 1986;Quackenbush, 1989), we further hypothesized that self-identified highly masculine men-regardless of their sexual orientation-would espouse greater rape-supportive attitudes and more positive perceptions of sexually explicit material, and that this would be especially true for men who had their performance of masculinity threatened. This same endorsement would not be shown by either gay or straight men who perceive themselves as highly feminine. ...
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... shame (Castonguay, Pila, Wrosch, & Sabiston, 2015;Mescher & Rudman, 2014) and social physique anxiety (Martin, Kliber, Kulinna, & Fahlman, 2006) have also been reported. Longitudinal research suggests that body dissatisfaction increases in men from middle school to young adulthood (Bucchianeri, Arikian, Hannan, Eisenberg, & Neumark-Sztainer, 2013). ...
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Framed within social self-preservation theory, the present study investigated men's psychobiological responses to social-evaluative body image threats. University men ( n = 66) were randomly assigned to either a high or low social-evaluative body image threat condition. Participants provided saliva samples (to assess cortisol) and completed measures of state body shame prior to and following their condition, during which anthropometric and strength measures were assessed. Baseline corrected values indicated men in the high social-evaluative body image threat condition had higher body shame and cortisol than men in the low social-evaluative body image threat condition. These findings suggest that social evaluation in the context of situations that threaten body image leads to potentially negative psychobiological responses in college men.
... Experimental research on what has been called "masculinity threat" demonstrates that men's feelings of inadequacy and emasculation can contribute to the perpetration of sexual violence. Scholars have found that men mitigate body shame (Hunt et al. 2013;Mescher and Rudman 2014), social exclusion (Murnen 2015), and masculine insecurity (Kroeper et al. 2014) through a variety of tactics including sexual aggression and violence. In these contexts, sexual violence is one mechanism for reaffirming one's sense of power, security, and identity. ...
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Available: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/soc4.12397/abstract | Despite strong evidence that men perpetrate most acts of sexual violence, little is known about the factors that lead some men to commit such harmful acts. A growing body of feminist scholarship has begun to explore this question, although the disciplinary and geographic breadth of these studies has prevented the development of a cohesive research agenda. This literature review contributes to this task by reviewing the major theoretical contributions to the study of masculinity and sexual violence, detailing some of the ways in which sexual violence aids in the production of masculine individuals, groups, and states. Taken as a whole, we argue that this body of scholarship views sexual violence as a mechanism through which social constructions of masculinity are produced and reproduced, although the forms that this violence takes vary by context. We conclude with a discussion of some of the theoretical and empirical limitations of this research and consider the implications of these findings for public policy.
... Consistently, when men were told that they were responding in feminine ways on a diagnostic gender test, they were more likely to send pornographic material to a female confederate (Maass, Cadinu, Guarnieri, and Grasselli, 2003). More recent but similar investigations have examined threat through a precarious-masculinity framework, showing that men are more likely to aggress against women following insults directed at their bodies (Mescher & Rudman, 2014). This presumably occurs because body insults cause masculinity threats and aggression can assuage these threats. ...
... Another demonstrated that heterosexual men who objectify their romantic partners are more likely to sexually coerce and pressure them, an effect that is mediated by the amount of shame men feel about their partners' bodies (Ramsey & Hoyt, 2015). This echoes research outside of romantic relationships demonstrating connections between the objectification of women, body shame, and violence against women (e.g., Donnerstein, 1980;Mescher & Rudman, 2014;Rudman & Mescher, 2012). ...
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... More specifically, developing one's musculature is viewed as a behavioural and attitudinal response to men's threatened masculinity (Griffiths, Murray, & Touyz, 2015;Swami & Voracek, 2013), which in turn allows men to (re)assert their dominance over perceived threats. Although scholars have typically centred the source of that threat around women and gender equality (Mescher & Rudman, 2014;Mills & D'Alfonso, 2007), the same perspective can be applied to the ways in which ethnic minority men negotiate their body image ideals within hegemonic ethnic hierarchies. ...
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On a longitudinal sample of 181 emerging adult men (Mage = 19.36, SDage = 1.48), we analyzed how diverse socializing agents (fathers, male peers, magazines, music videos, TV dramas, and TV sitcoms) related to adherence to masculine norms, and how norm adherence related to men's interpersonal sexual cognitions and behaviors (romantic relationship self-efficacy, sexual self-esteem, and alcohol-primed sexual encounters). We found that male peers, magazines, and music videos related to masculine norm adherence one year later, and that norm adherence predicted increased alcohol-primed sexual encounters. We followed this up with analyses investigating the role of specific masculine norms and found unique socialization and outcome paths for different masculine norms. For example, analyses indicated that male peers were positively related to norms of winning, power over women, playboy attitudes, and risk-taking, and that playboy attitudes, risk-taking, emotional control, and self-reliance predicted lower levels of romantic relationship self-efficacy. Interestingly, sitcom viewing related to lower adherence to masculine norms including heterosexual presentation and having power over women. Findings identify the unique influence of male peers, magazines, and music videos on young men's sexual cognitions and behaviors and highlight how combining different socialization agents in one model is key to identifying these unique patterns of socialization and their consequences.
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The present study tested the hypothesis, derived from feminist perspectives on body image, that men’s greater endorsement of sexist attitudes and objectification of women would be associated with their own drive for muscularity. A total of 327 British men completed scales measuring their drive for muscularity, sexist attitudes, hostility toward women, objectification of women, and key demographics. Results showed that greater drive for muscularity was significantly predicted by stronger objectification of women, hostility toward women, and sexist attitudes, once men’s age and body mass index had been taken into account. These results suggest that oppressive beliefs held by men are associated with a desire for a more muscular physique. Implications for theoretical models seeking to explain drive for muscularity among men are discussed in conclusion. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)
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Conducted 2 experiments with a total of 436 undergraduates to identify the specific dimensions in portrayals of sexual violence that inhibit or disinhibit the sexual responsiveness of male and female college students. Exp I replicated earlier findings that normals are less sexually aroused by portrayals of sexual assault than by depictions of mutually consenting sex. In Exp II, it was shown that portraying the rape victim as experiencing an involuntary orgasm disinhibited Ss' sexual responsiveness and resulted in levels of arousal comparable to those elicited by depictions of mutually consenting sex. Surprisingly, however, it was found that although female Ss were most aroused when the rape victim was portrayed as experiencing an orgasm and no pain, males were most aroused when the victim experienced an orgasm and pain. The relevance of these data to pornography and to the common belief among rapists that their victims derive pleasure from being assaulted is discussed. Misattribution, identification, and power explanations of the findings are also discussed. Finally, it is suggested that arousing stimuli that fuse sexuality and violence may have antisocial effects. (37 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).
Book
Awards: 2011 ACJS Outstanding Book Award An unprecedented look at college women's risks of and experiences with sexual victimization Unsafe in the Ivory Tower examines the nature and dimensions of a salient social problem—the sexual victimization of female college students today, and how women respond when they are, in fact, sexually victimized. The authors discuss the research that scholars have conducted to illuminate the origins and extent of this controversial issue as well as what can be done to prevent it. Students and other interested readers learn about the nature of victimization while simultaneously gaining an understanding of the ways in which criminologists, victimologists, and social scientists conduct research that informs theory and policy debates. Key Features Provides detailed information about sexual victimization on college campuses today; Introduces broad lessons about the interactions of ideology, science and methodology, and public policy; Integrates current data, research, and theory, based on the authors' national studies of more than 8,000 randomly selected female college students Intended Audience This supplemental text is ideal for courses such as Sex Crimes, Violence and Abuse, Victimology, Gender and Crime, Sociology of Violence, Sociology of Women, and the Sociology of Sex and Gender in departments of criminology, criminal justice, sociology, and women's studies. It is also useful for those involved in studying or creating public policy related to this issue and for those interested in sexual victimization on campuses generally.
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In an attempt to understand the relationship between the body and masculinity, this paper explores the extent to which body image has significance in men's lives. I begin by considering the cultural ideal of the male body as conceived within the context of popular culture. Citing both cultural examples and empirical evidence, I argue that the muscular body type represents the dominant cultural ideal. I then explain how the present paper builds on prior research on the male body image. My argument here is that prior research has neglected to study the meaning of body image from the perspective of men's everyday lives and therefore provides an incomplete assessment of men's views of body image. In response, this paper draws from interview data compiled from a larger study, illustrating the different ways men relate to cultural ideals of male bodies, how men adjust to the demands of ideals, and how men normalize their own bodily condition. This paper suggests that men develop a number of complex strategies to negotiate the meaning of their bodies in view of cultural ideals of male physiques.
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Previous research has found masculine gender roles to predict rape-related behaviors and attitudes, but there is some ambiguity in the literature regarding the mechanisms of these associations. Further, theoretical literature has suggested repeatedly that men's sense of entitlement to women is crucial in understanding rape-related behaviors and attitudes. On the basis of these 2 bodies of literature, we speculated that men's sense of entitlement may be an important 3rd variable partially driving the relations between masculine gender roles and rape-related variables. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to examine the relations among entitlement, rape-related behaviors and attitudes, and masculine gender roles. More specifically, the authors used path analyses to test a conceptual model whereby entitlement mediated the links between masculine gender roles and 4 rape-related variables. Results revealed that men's sense of general and sexual entitlement completely mediated the relations between masculinity and rape-related attitudes and behaviors in 3 of the 4 models and partially in the 4th.
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Previous research has yielded inconsistent results concerning affective reactions to social exclusion. The present study provides evidence that conscious perception of bodily signals (“interoceptive awareness”) constitutes an important moderating factor in this context. We compared participants with high versus low cardiac interoceptive awareness in regard to affective, cognitive, and physiological measures while they were included and excluded in a discussion with confederates. Participants with high interoceptive awareness showed a smaller decrease of positive affect and perceived acceptance as well as a smaller increase of negative affect and perceived rejection when comparing an inclusion phase with a subsequent exclusion phase than did participants with low interoceptive awareness. No significant differences in cognitive and physiological measures were observed. We assume that individuals with high interoceptive awareness, to whom physiological signals are more easily accessible, reduce aversive states to a larger degree by using somatic information for self-regulation. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)