The present study investigated the
relationship between alcohol abuse, hostile sexism, and masculinity.
Participants included 60 male undergraduate students attending a private
liberal arts college on the East coast. The participants completed the
Ambivalent Sexism Inventory (Glicke & Fiske, 1997), the Alcohol Use
Disorders Identification Test (Kelly, Donovan, Kinnane, & Taylor, 2002),
and the Personal Attributes Questionnaire-24 (Lenney, 1991). The first
hypothesis was that males exhibiting higher levels of alcohol consumption would
be more likely to exhibit hostile sexist attitudes towards women than those who
show lower levels of alcohol consumption. This was supported by a significant
positive correlation between hostile sexism and alcohol consumption. The second
hypothesis proposed those males who measure high on a scale of masculinity
would also score higher on a level of alcohol consumption, but no significant
relationship was found. Findings seem to imply that risk behaviors, such as
alcohol abuse, may be influenced by cognitive beliefs yet fail to properly
outline to what extent specific personality traits may also play a role.
Evolutionary theory suggests
that contemporary human affinity towards alcohol consumption stems from a
preference among early primates for ripe fruit, which was detected by the
emanation of ethanol, the basis for alcoholic beverages (Buss, 2004). Although,
such indicators were essential amongst primates and early hunter-gatherer
societies, in a modernized world this predilection often serves as a maladaptive
by-product of evolution leading to over-consumption and abuse of alcohol.
of alcohol among men may contribute to the behavioral manifestations of
cognitive hostile sexism. Hostile sexism includes the blatant and overtly
negative beliefs toward women that lead to dominative paternalism and
heterosexual hostility (Glick & Fiske, 1997). These beliefs are often used
to maintain the patriarchal structure of male-female relationships. One example
of the behavioral manifestations of hostile sexism is physical violence against
women. In a striking statistic, battered women account for 22-35% of all
females seeking emergency medical services, according to the American Medical
Association. A strong prediction of male to female violence is frequent alcohol
use by males. In fact, alcohol is estimated to be a factor in over half of all
domestic violence incidences (Torres & Han, 2003). This finding is further
supported by Abbey, Ross, McDuffie, & McAuslan (1996) who found that men
who abused alcohol are often more likely to commit severe sexual assaults
against women. Although alcohol appears to play a significant role in the
perpetuation of aggression against women, it is not clear how hostile sexist
beliefs and alcohol abuse are associated, or whether a direct relationship even
does suggest, however, those sexist attitudes relate to masculinity in a
general sense (Pek & Leong, 2003). Several studies have found a link
between a self-concept of Ďmasculineí in males and biased sex-related attitudes
such as hostile sexism in American society (Archer & Rhodes, 1989).
Furthermore, this association has been supported across cultures. For example,
Pek and Leong (2003) found that those individuals whom ascribe to the values of
Chinese modernity, egalitarianism, and sex equality do not endorse general
negative sexist beliefs. However, individuals who favor the patriarchy
exemplified in Chinese traditionalism do in fact harbor these negative sexist
Identity Theory seeks to explain the origins of such sexist beliefs and how
they come to be reinforced through sex-based traits (Glick & Fiske, 1999).
Within social identity theory there is an ideal self that a person strives to
become and an undesired self, which a person wishes to avoid. Males striving
towards a masculine ideal self will hold belief systems that reflect the
fundamental tenets of stereotypical masculinity (Glick & Fiske, 1999), and
the stereotypical behaviors of the out group, or females, would be considered
improper and unwelcome for exhibition by a male (Kilianski, 2003). As such,
males with a strong masculine identity are more likely to espouse negative
attitudes toward women or femininity, and thus, hold more hostile sexist
Once again, the
use and abuse of alcohol may play a prominent role in the association between
masculinity and hostile sexism. Masculine expression and values have often been
paired with drinking, and this association may exert a subtle influence on
young men who are searching for a gender identity. Often these gender roles are
solidified through popular media; one only has to look at the genre of classic
Western films to see the emphasis upon drinking and violence as methods of
camaraderie and masculinity. Wedding (2000) proposes that for men in the West,
guns and whiskey are the mediaís most pertinent symbols of manhood. For
example, a common reoccurring character in Western films is the drunken
professional: an eloquent and influential society member who drinks from
disdain for civilization. Another example is the gunfighter, who, only after
consumption of alcohol finds the courage to kill an enemy or perform some other
remarkable deed. At the same time, these male characters often portray and
enact patriarchal attitudes toward women. It may be this influence, among young
males who consume alcohol, which engenders a sense of masculine power and
hostile sexism toward women, as an effort to becoming more of an archetypal
alcohol consumption is deemed a customary male behavior, it has emerged as a
natural part of the societal gender role assigned to males in North America.
There are two aspects of the male gender role that highly weigh upon the
decision to partake in alcohol consumption, traditional male attitudes and
masculine gender role stress. Traditional attitudes assume men will be
physically as well as emotionally tough, have an elevated social status, and
actively avoid feminine pursuits (McCreary, Newcomb, & Sadava, 1999).
Masculine gender role stress, the second aspect, is the stress that occurs with
the realization that an individual falls short of fulfilling societyís
requirements for manliness. It is possible therefore to infer that males, who
internalize more traditional male role attitudes, as well as those who experience
more gender role stress, are more engaged in alcohol use than those who do not
maintain such thoughts.
Such a thought can
be explained by the rationale that alcohol consumption is associated directly
with a manís self-perceived level of masculinity (McCreary et al., 1999).
Drinking alcohol, often to excess, thus falls into a category similar to body
building, sexual assault, or pornography. Alcohol consumption is overall
considered to be, according to Caparo (2000), a male domain, meaning it is male
dominated, male identified, and male centered. Men are drinking because they
believe they are supposed to; after all, itís what a man should do.
The current study
seeks to directly examine the relationship between hostile sexism, masculinity,
and alcohol abuse among male college students. Based on previous findings, it
is hypothesized that higher levels of hostile sexist attitudes towards women
will be associated with greater consumption of alcohol among college males.
Additionally, it is proposed that among this same population of males a
relationship exists between alcohol consumption and masculinity such that those
who measure high on a scale of masculinity will score higher on a level of
alcohol consumption than those low in masculinity.
included 60 undergraduate males age 18-22 enrolled in a medium-sized private
liberal arts college on the East Coast. The participants were selected through
convenience sampling from the student body and are considered to be
representative of the male campus population for this particular college.
Demographic Sheet: This basic
questionnaire included items about participantís age, gender, race, status of
romantic relationship, living and work situation, as well as parental marital
Masculinity. The Personal Attributes
Questionnaire (PAQ-24) (Lenney, 1991) was used to assess masculinity. The
Personal Attributes Questionnaire consists of twenty-four pairs of
contradictory characteristics, measuring levels of socially desirable male and
female traits on a Likert-type scale. Only the eight masculinity items will be
utilized in this study. The items are added together to obtain an overall
score, with higher scores indicating a higher level of masculinity. The
Personal Attributes Questionnaire, in its entirety, has demonstrated good
internal consistency (a= .83) and acceptable convergent validity (Lenney,
Hostile Sexism. The Ambivalent Sexism
Inventory (ASI) (Glick & Fiske, 1997) is a twenty-two item, six-point
Likert-type questionnaire measures hostile and benevolent sexism. Average
scores on both subset scales are combined to provide a total score for
ambivalent sexism. In this study only the hostile scale will be used, which
includes eleven items.† The higher the
average score, the higher the level of hostile sexism demonstrated by the
individual. Internal consistency ranges from 0.8 to 0.9, and acceptable
evidence for both convergent and divergent validity have been reported (Glick
& Fiske, 1997).
Alcohol Consumption. The Alcohol Use
Disorders Identification Test, (AUDIT) (Kelly, Donovan, Kinnane, & Taylor,
2002) was used to assess alcohol consumption. It consists of 10 questions,
rated on a scale of 0-4, with higher scores indicating more frequent and
problematic use of alcohol. Item scores were then added together to generate a
total score reflecting the extent of alcohol consumption and possibility of
alcohol-related harm. An internal consistency of a= 0.88 and acceptable
levels of concurrent, construct, and criterion validity have been reported for
this measure (Kelly et al., 2002).
asked, on a voluntary basis, to complete paper-and-pencil surveys. Once
students agreed to participate, and before being handed the survey packet, they
were asked to sign a consent form, which was then placed in a folder separate
from the completed surveys in order to maintain anonymity. Subjects were then
given a packet containing the directions, a demographic sheet, and study
questionnaires. Once the participants completed the packets they simply
personally returned them to the researchers in an anonymous, sealed envelope.
The total process took approximately 10-15 minutes.
and standard deviations for alcohol abuse, hostile sexism and masculinity are
presented in Table 1. Relations among the variables within the sample were
examined using the Pearson correlation coefficient (Table 2).† A significant correlation was found between
hostile sexism and alcohol abuse such that higher levels of hostile sexist
beliefs were associated with higher levels of alcohol abuse, r (58) = .26, p < .05. No other significant correlations were found.
Summary of Means and Standard Deviations
Correlations Among Alcohol Abuse,
Masculinity and Hostile Sexism
* p < .05.
significant relationship in this study between increased levels of alcohol
abuse and increased levels of hostile sexism in males affirms previous research
that suggests alcohol is also related to higher instances of hostility and
aggression against women (Hoaken & Stewart,
2003; Fals-Stewart, Golden, & Schumacher, 2003; Abroms,
Fillmore, & Marczinski, 2003). In cases
of male sexual aggression, 66% of the instances involve drinking alcohol before
the assault occurs. Ullman, Karabatsos, and Kossí (1999) study found that men
who frequently abuse alcohol are more likely to commit more severe sexual
assaults. The current findings, however, suggest that the association between
alcohol abuse and aggressive acts against women may be mediated by cognitive
sets such as hostile sexism. In addition, in many instances of alcohol related
sexual assaults, the aggressor does not know the victim, suggesting that
hostile sexist attitudes towards all women, regardless of former experience
with a specific individual, may be an important mediating factor.
Understanding this apparent link
allows foresight in identifying those individuals who are most vulnerable for
perpetrating aggressive acts towards women. As such, the occurrence of violent
acts driven by hostile sexist attitudes, which according to this study are
exacerbated by alcohol consumption, could be curbed with early intervention.
This is particularly relevant as the occurrence of date and acquaintance rape
continually rises. Women need to be aware of the personality traits in the men
they choose to surround themselves with. There exists in these findings, a
potential target for prevention and educational programs focused on these types
of sexual violations against women on college campuses.
Contrary to the findings of prior
research (Archer & Rhodes, 1989), hostile sexism was not significantly
associated with masculinity in the current study. Similarly, masculinity was
not associated with alcohol abuse. The lack of significance in the current
analyses may be due, in part, to the relatively low scores on measures of
masculinity within this sample. Likewise, variability on measures of both
alcohol abuse and masculinity was relatively high, suggesting that the males
who participated in this study may be less typical of the overall male college
student population in terms of their endorsement of stereotypical masculine
traits and their consumption of alcohol. Notably, the mean level of hostile
sexism was also very low, indicating a low occurrence of hostile sexism within
this sample, which also suggests that the sample did not represent a
stereotypical male population. Although the current sample may be biased toward
less stereotypical male identities, it may also reflect the changing nature of
masculinity within American society. It is possible that the current generation
of young males value a wider range of personal attributes, thus weakening the
association between masculinity and stereotypical male qualities, such as
holding hostile sexist beliefs and engaging in excessive alcohol consumption.
In addition to the apparent
non-representative sample, there are several limitations that deserve
attention. In having all the subjects come from one small private college,
which is predominantly Caucasian, upper middle class, and Catholic, the sample
diversity was greatly diminished, reducing external validity. Participants were
recruited using a convenience sample and therefore may not be representative of
the students at large. In retrospect it appears that many of the subjects
lacked the hyper-masculine qualities of a stereotypical male, such as student
athlete or fraternity brother. Moreover, using a small sample size does not
adequately address the wide possible range of attitudes and may have limited
the studyís power to detect significant associations. Finally, social
desirability may have resulted in an underreporting of problematic alcohol use
and hostile sexist attitudes.
future studies, more of an effort should be made to both increase the size and
diversity in the sample to ensure that participants better represent the
college male population. In addition, taking steps to mask the studyís intent
may reduce social desirability and elicit more truthful responses. Further
research proposals could include sampling at-risk populations, such as
alcoholics and men who have engaged in violence against women in an attempt to
determine if the relationships between the variables are intensified. It would
also be useful to determine if indeed these behaviors and ideals generalize
beyond the college population.†
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