Academic journal article Culture, Society and Masculinities

Masculinity of Men Communicating Abuse Victimization

Academic journal article Culture, Society and Masculinities

Masculinity of Men Communicating Abuse Victimization

Article excerpt


This study explored, through in-depth interviews, the experiences of men sexually, psychologically, and/or physically victimized by female romantic partners. Men's narratives were analyzed to determine how masculinity and construction of victim-identities were related. Results show that abused men construed victimization as precipitated internally through self-blame and externally via societal-blame. Gendered masculinity was demonstrated for most men in the form of hegemonic-striving via complicit rationalizations; however, a minority of men constructed victimization in terms of protest masculinity.


Each year, 3.2 million men in the United States are victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). Male IPV victimization, while not as common as female victimization, is a serious problem with its own set of identity issues for male victims. Unfortunately, men's victimization from female partners receives comparatively limited scholarly attention (George, 2003).

The goal of this study was to explore, through in-depth interviews, male IPV victims' communication of gender identities. I first present existing IPV literature to frame my approach to gendered victimization. I employ a theoretical lens of varying masculinities to discuss my findings in terms of heterosocial expectations for men.


IPV may involve sexual (e.g., rape), physical (e.g., using objects or one's body to hit, kick, push, bite, shoot, stab, or strangle another person), and/or psychological (e.g., name calling; degradation; silent treatment; contingent affection; threats of destruction and/or death; social isolation; induced debility; relational obsessiveness or possessiveness) communication perpetrated by a romantic partner (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). The most extreme type of IPV relationship is known as intimate terrorism (Johnson, 2008). Believed to involve primarily female victims, intimate terrorism is also experienced by men (Eckstein, 2009; Sarantakos, 1999). Victims of intimate terrorism are subjected to coercive control: support systems are weakened, distrust is cultivated, and humiliation is enforced through identity attacks (Romero, 1985). Often likened to being a prisoner of war, these IPV victims live through (a) debilitation, physical and psychological abuse to weaken mind and body; (b) dread, degradation and threats; and (c) dependency, controlled resources supplemented by kindness (Farber, Harlow, & West, 1957; Walker, 2000).

Strong societal perceptions exist that men rarely or never experience intimate terrorism from women (George, 2002, 2003; Migliaccio, 2001). As a result, men who do experience this type of victimization from female partners are viewed and treated differently from "normal" victims (Coney & Mackey, 1999). Without societal acknowledgement, male IPV victims may embrace dominant views of themselves as failures at masculinity. Social stigmatization of men as inappropriate victims not only affects males; viewing women as more suitable victims also may allow hegemonic norms to operate and keep women powerless (Dobash & Dobash, 1978). For men, who are discounted from expressing victimized identities, it may be difficult to articulate expected, dominant forms of masculinity.

All victims receive pressure to maintain silence about their experiences (Harris & Cook, 1994). However, in male-dominated societies like the U.S., men may receive further messages to suppress weakness or feelings associated with victimization (Kimmel, 2006). This denigration may cause men to strategize about communicating their victimization and enactment of their identities visà-vis others. The manner in which male IPV victims communicate gendered identities is unknown; men with similar experiences may embrace and/or react to victimization differently.


Masculine typologies are not static explanations; embodiment of particular masculinities changes over time and situations for different individuals. …

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