Acceptance of Guided Imagery of Marital Rape as a Function of Macho Personality

By Sullivan, James P.; Mosher, Donald L. | Violence and Victims, January 1, 1990 | Go to article overview

Acceptance of Guided Imagery of Marital Rape as a Function of Macho Personality


Sullivan, James P., Mosher, Donald L., Violence and Victims


After completing the Hypermasculinity Inventory (Mosher & Sirkin, 1984), 146 college men randomly imagined guided scenarios of rape or consenting sex with either a wife or a stranger. As predicted, macho men enjoyed imagining callous sex (i.e., both rape and consenting stranger sex) more than nonmacho men who were more disgusted, ashamed, and distressed. Callous sex, including the rape of both wives and strangers, was justified by macho men as a man's right and his sexual nature. Macho men were less rejecting of the rape of strangers than nonmacho men, but both macho and nonmacho men were relatively more accepting of the rape of wives. Macho men were less rejecting of sexual violence in general when compared to nonmacho men.

Russell (1982), in a survey of 930 women in San Francisco, and Finkelhor and Yllo (1985), in a survey of 323 Boston area women, demonstrated that rape by a husband was at least twice as common (14% or 10%) as rape by a stranger (7% or 3%, respectively).

Marital rape, moreover, occurred repeatedly. Seventy-one percent of wives reporting rape in Russell's (1982) sample said they were raped more than once; 34% had been raped 20 times or more. In Finkelhor and Yllo's sample 50% of the married women raped by their husbands had been raped 20 times or more (1985). In other reports, from 59 to 87% of victims report they were raped more than once by their husbands (Frieze, 1983; Pagelow, 1980; Shields & Hanneke, 1981; Thyfault, 1980).

Furthermore, these studies maintain that wife-rape is neither limited to the coercive use of force to obtain sexual gratification nor is it always a secondary punishment and retaliation aimed at the battered wife. The motives of the rapist-husband may be multiple; the interpersonal interactions in the episode of rape, complex. Still, feminist authors maintain that wife-rape, like all rape, results from a dysfunctional socialization of boys and girls oriented toward maintaining patriarchal supremacy (Brownmiller, 1975; Griffin, 1971; Millet, 1970).

Mosher and Tomkins (1988) posited that the ideology of machismo underlies the socialization and enculturation of boys into a macho personality script. The ideology of machismo is defined as an organized system of ideas forming a worldview that chauvinistically exalts male dominance by assuming masculinity, virility, and physicality to be the ideal essence of real men who are seen as adversarial warriors, competing for scarce resources (including women as chattel) in a dangerous world. Such an ideology developed historically when affects were bifurcated and stratified (Tomkins, 1987) into superior masculine affect (excitement, surprise, anger, disgust, and dissmell and inferior feminine affects (enjoyment, fear, distress, and shame) when nomadic warriors subjugated peaceful agrarian societies.

Mosher and Tomkins (1988) introduced seven socialization dynamics (e.g., "Fearexpression and fear-avoidance are inhibited by parents until partial reduction through habituation activates excitement."), three rites of passage, and three enculturation dynamics to account for the development of a macho personality script in response to such socialization and enculturation scenes. The macho script is the set of rules for ordering information in a family of scenes that seeks to match the enactment of the macho role to the ideology of machismo. That is, the rules are used to interpret and understand scenes that challenge macho identity or afford an opportunity to be macho, to predict and produce such scenes to direct and control the unfolding scene, and to explain and evaluate the outcomes of the scene.

The macho personality constellation consists of a set of scripted dispositions to act on three beliefs: (a) violence is conceived as manly, (b) danger is conceived as exciting, and (c) sex is conceived as an entitlement. The 30-item, forced-choice Hypermasculinity Inventory (Mosher & Sirkin, 1984) was developed to measure this personality constellation as an index of the macho script. …

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