“Locker Room (Rape) Culture” and Male Athletes’ Attitudes Toward Sexual Violence: Exploring Psychosocial Dimensions of Masculinity in Sport

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Sappington, Ryan
Hoffman, Mary Ann
The issue of sexual violence perpetrated by male athletes has garnered increased scholarly attention over the last three decades. Existing research, however, has focused largely on whether athletes are more prone to sexually violent attitudes or behavior than other groups, devoting minimal attention toward psychosocial factors within sport that actually underlie this issue. Even fewer studies have situated the problem of male athlete-perpetrated sexual violence (MASV) within the psychology of men and masculinities. To address some of these gaps, the current study explored how male athletes’ sexist and sexually violent attitudes toward women are influenced by their masculine norm conformity and exposure to vignettes depicting violent hazing practices. Two hundred and four NCAA Division I male athletes completed a measure of masculine norm conformity. Participants were then randomized into experimental conditions, exposing them to either one of three experimental vignettes depicting a violent or abusive hazing scenario (e.g., forced nudity, forced touch, or forced binge drinking) or a control vignette depicting a prosocial team-building activity. Results revealed no significant differences across conditions in subsequent reports of rape myth acceptance or sexism, and conformity to masculine norms mostly did not moderate relationships between hazing exposure and outcomes. However, for the full sample (i.e., controlling for hazing condition), greater conformity to the masculine norms of violence, power over women, being a sexual playboy, and heterosexual self-presentation all predicted higher levels of rape myth acceptance and sexism. Furthermore, exploratory analyses revealed that hazing conditions did have an impact on participants’ subsequent levels of state affect. Finally, noteworthy differences emerged across types of sport, whereby athletes participating in team and contact sports endorsed greater masculine norm adherence and higher levels of sexism than their counterparts. Limitations, future research directions, and implications for practice are discussed.