URC

The Archetypal Manís Man:
An Examination of the Relationship Between Alcohol Abuse,
Hostile Sexism and Masculinity Among College Males

Mindi Hopkins
Danielle Miller
Beth A. Kotchick*.

Loyola College, Maryland*



Abstract

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.

Introduction

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.

Abuse 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 exists.

Research 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 attitudes.

Social 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 beliefs.

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 man.

Because 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.

Method

Participants

Participants 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.

Measures

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 status.

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, 1991).

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).

Procedure

Students were 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.

Results

The means 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.

Table 1

Summary of Means and Standard Deviations

N=60

Mean

Standard Deviation

Alcohol Abuse

10.65

6.409

Masculinity

25.667

6.117

Hostile Sexism

4.82

1.020

 

Table 2

Correlations Among Alcohol Abuse, Masculinity and Hostile Sexism

 

Alcohol Abuse

Masculinity

Hostile Sexism

Alcohol Abuse

1

-.106

.261(*)

Masculinity

 

1

-.047

Hostile Sexism

 

 

1

* p < .05.

Discussion

The 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.

In 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.†

 


References

Abbey, A., Ross, L. T., McDuffie, D., & McAuslan, P. (1996). Alcohol and dating risk factors for sexual assault among college women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 20, 147-169.

Abroms, B. D., Fillmore, M. T., & Marczinski, C. A. (2003). Alcohol-induced impairment of behavioral control: Effects on the alteration and suppression of proponent responses. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 64, 687-695.

Archer, J., & Rhodes, C. (1989). The relationship between gender-related traits and attitudes. British Journal of Social Psychology, 28, 149-157.

Buss, D. (2004). Evolutionary psychology: The new science of the mind: second edition.Pearson Allyn & Bacon: New York.†

Caparo, R. L. (2000). Why college men drink: Alcohol, adventure, and the paradox of masculinity. Journal of American College Health, 48, 307-315.

Fals-Stewart, W., Golden, J., & Schumacher, J. A. (2003). Intimate partner violence and substance use: A longitudinal day-to-day examination. Addictive Behaviors, 28, 1555-1574.

Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (1999). The Ambivalence Toward Men Inventory: Differentiating hostile and benevolent beliefs about men. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 23, 519-536.

Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (1997). Hostile and benevolent sexism: Measuring ambivalence sexist attitudes toward women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 119-135.

Hoaken, P. N. S., & Stewart, S. H. (2003). Drugs of abuse and the elicitation of human aggressive behavior. Addictive Behaviors, 28, 1533-1554.†

Kelly, T.M., Donovan, J.E., Kinnane, J.M., & Taylor, D.M. (2002). A comparison of alcohol screening instruments among under-aged drinkers treated in emergency departments. Alcohol & Alcoholism, 37, 444-450.

Kilianski, S. E. (2003). Explaining heterosexual menís attitudes toward women and gay men: The theory of exclusively masculine identity. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 4, 37-56.

Lenney, E. (1991). Sex roles. In J.P. Robinson & P. R. Shaver (Eds.), Measures of personality and social psychological attitudes. Measures of social psychological attitudes, Vol. 1 (pp. 573-660). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

McCreary, D. R., Newcomb, M. D., & Sadava, S. W. (1999). The male role, alcohol use, and alcohol problems: A structural modeling examination in adult women and men. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 46, 109-124.

Pek, J. C., & Leong, F. T (2003). Sex-related self-concepts, cognitive styles and cultural values of traditionality-modernity as predictors of general and domain-specific sexism. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 7, 31-49.

Torres, S., & Han, H. (2003). Womenís perceptions of their male battersí characteristics and level of violence. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 24, 667-679.

Ullman, S. E., Karabatsos, G., & Koss, M. P. (1999). Alcohol and sexual aggression in a sample of college men. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 23, 673-689.

Wedding, D. (2000). Alcoholism in the western genre: The portrayal of alcohol and alcoholism in the western genre. Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education, 46(2),3-11.

 


* Project was approved by the Human Subjects Review Committee of Loyola College in Maryland

 


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