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Safety Alert: If you believe your computer activities are being monitored, please access this site from a safer computer. To immediately exit this site, click the escape button. If you are in immediate danger, contact 911, a local crisis line, or the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224.


Unmasking Sexual Harassment and Lessons for Violence Prevention

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

By: Jane Kato-Wallace, Brian Heilman, and Ché Nembhard; Promundo US

There’s been a lot of media attention lately on the behavior of adult men in power, from Harvey Weinstein to government legislators. But research shows that men are socialized early on to buy into toxic ideas of manhood. Recently, along with our colleagues at Promundo, we released a report called “The Man Box,” exploring how young men’s attitudes about “being a real man” link with their reported rates of perpetrating sexual harassment, among many other harmful outcomes. In this study, we used representative samples of more than 1,000 young men in the U.S., United Kingdom, and Mexico, including rural/urban areas, and young men in all educational and income levels.

Our findings have major implications for understanding the root causes of sexual harassment and how to prevent it. We found that:

  • Though the majority of men do not harass, bully, or approve of violence, one in five young men in Mexico and one in three young men in the U.S. and the U.K. had made sexually harassing comments to a woman or girl they didn’t know in a public or online space in the prior month.
  • Young men who hold the strongest belief in harmful masculine norms related to hypersexuality, homophobia, and aggression, are up to 10 times as likely to have perpetrated this sexual harassment as men who least believe in these norms.
  • Nearly 2/3 of respondents to the Man-Box tool had been told, at some point in their lives, that a “real man” behaves a certain way.

Peers, parents, teachers, the media and others play a role in reinforcing harmful ideas about how men should act to be considered “real men.” If an individual knows no other narrative or definition of manhood, our data show, their actions often follow that narrative. So then, what are some ways we can challenge these beliefs and provide a new narrative? We can:

  • Start young, engaging youth in reflection and discussion about respect, equality, gender norms and the rejection of violence;
  • Implement bystander approaches, teaching young men to speak out in nonviolent ways when they see the abusive behavior;
  • Listen to women and include their voices at all levels of programming and outreach.

For more good ideas on how to work with young men to deconstruct harmful masculine norms and prevent all forms of men’s violence against women, please tune into the webinar that we are presenting, “What Does the Evidence Say? Innovative Approaches to Engaging Men and Boys,” on March 29, hosted by the National Latin@ Network. To register or for more information, click here.

You can find the full Man Box Study here and the Unmasking Sexual Harassment research brief here.

Promundo is a global leader in promoting gender justice and preventing violence by engaging men and boys in partnership with women and girls; its mission is to work to promote gender equality and create a world free from violence by engaging men and boys in partnership with women and girls. It is a global consortium with member organizations in the United States, Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Portugal.

Ché Nembhard is a Program Assistant at Promundo-US. Previously, Ché worked at the Executives’ Alliance for Boys & Men of Color, a network of non-profit institutions, where he focused on the development of collective action strategies for foundation executives to contribute to the success and access to equal opportunities for boys and young men of Black, Native, Latino, and API descent. He also worked with the Department of State during the Obama administration, supporting research on violence and conflict resolution domestically and in Central America. Ché received his BA in International Relations from Howard University in Washington, DC.

Jane Kato-Wallace, MPH is Promundo’s Director of Programs. She is a gender and masculinities expert who has led the adaptation of Promundo’s gender-transformative methodologies on gender equality, preventing violence, and youth engagement in over 20 countries around the world. In the U.S., she is the co-investigator of two CDC-funded Manhood 2.0 studies aiming to evaluate community-based approaches to promote improved health and prevent violence with young men and boys of color. Jane has a Master’s degree in Public Health from Columbia University.

Brian Heilman is a co-author of the 2017 State of the World’s Fathers and 2016 State of America’s Fathers reports, the lead author of The Man Box study on harmful effects of rigid masculine norms in the U.S., U.K., and Mexico, and a co-author of multiple reports using International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) data. Brian has extensive program and research experience

in South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East, and is deeply engaged as a sexual violence prevention educator in collaboration with the Sexual Violence Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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