I'd Rather Go Along and Be Considered a Man: Masculinity and Bystander Intervention

Journal of Men's StudiesVol. 16 Nbr. 1, January 2008

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This research examines the relationship between masculinity and bystander intervention in crisis situations. Three vignettes were used in vignette-based, semi-structured interviews with 20 college men aged 18 and 19, during which they were asked questions about masculinity and the pressures they feel to appear masculine. Findings indicate these men felt they must not appear weak. This research suggests the pressure to act masculine plays a complex and important role in these young men's decisions about intervening in violent situations.

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I'd Rather Go Along and Be Considered a Man: Masculinity and Bystander Intervention

In October of 2002, the gang rape of an unconscious 15-year-old girl took place at an out of control party. The parents, having left their 21-year-old son in charge, were away for the weekend. The semi-conscious girl was led out of one room and directed to lie down on a pool table. After she passed out, she was assaulted by four perpetrators (one adult and three juveniles) in the presence of six bystanders. When interviewed about the crime, the District Attorney said that the reason none of the bystanders intervened was because they did not want to be considered "wusses" or "be made fun of." The idea the bystanders were more afraid of their masculinity being called into question than the violence potentially turning on them is essential to understanding the perplexing dynamics between gender, power, and violence. This research seeks to answer the question: What role does masculinity play in bystander intervention in crisis situations? For the purposes of this research, a crisis situation is defined as one in which violence is being directed toward another individual in the presence of bystanders or onlookers.

The Bystander Studies

Rosenthal's (1964) landmark book detailed the tragic death of Kitty Genovese who was raped and stabbed to death in the presence of 38 witnesses. The book is a descriptive narrative of the killing and its aftermath, and is the most cited work on an actual case of bystander apathy. In response to the Genovese killing and Rosenthal's published account, John Darley and Bibb Latane (1968) conducted several psychological experiments, considered seminal for later research on bystander intervention. Some of the features noted in their research was that the number of bystanders a research subject saw during a crisis had an important effect on whether the research subject would intervene (e.g., the more bystanders the less likely a research participant would intervene)....

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