While the Ol’ Pussy Grabber is giving the farm away to Vladimir Putin over in Germany and the GOP is ravaging our healthcare to give the wealthy another needless and destructive tax cut, I thought I’d address something a little easier to take and resolve than the wholesale give away of our democracy. In other words, I’m continuing my assault on rape culture!
According to social psychology, not only does the situation we find ourselves in contribute more to how we behave than does our personality, people consistently underestimate how much the situation affects them.
What’dya ‘xpect from a brunch of pointy-headed academic socialists? My favorite drunk uncle quickly slurs. Pro’lly the personality psychologists say they’s the bes’, too! Ya can’na trust them scientiss. I keep tell’n ya that!
Video Evidence of Situationism, Candid Camera
Here’s some “proof,” not that science ever proves anything. I love this old clip from Candid Camera. While it isn’t scientific proof, it sure is convincing.
Video Evidence of Situationism, the Smoke-Filled Room
Not everyone conforms as readily as these folks do, but almost. Here’s something a little more scientific and a little more convincing.
Jus’ like some snowflake lib’r’ls, my favorite drunk uncle slurs after watching the video with his blurry watery eyes, ta not even know enough ta get outta a burning room. Jus’ proves that you-ni-versifiety jus’ makes ya dumber!
There are tons of these videos on youtube and other social media sites demonstrating the effect of the situation on behavior, and we here at the Psy have written about it, too. Not everyone will comply with the group or authority, but it is a large percentage of people. Psychologists believe that our behavior is influenced by dispositional (internal) factors like personality and situational (external) factors. But, situational factors prevail because we have evolved to fear expulsion from the group. We survived as a species because of our ability to work together as a group.
Campus Rape Prevention Program Focuses on Warning Signs
This study offers a suggestion of how the situation might encourage sexual assault.
In an article published on 11 June 2015 in the New England Journal of Medicine the following findings were reported. A controlled rape prevention program was tested on three Canadian university campuses for one year. The program consisted of teaching freshman women to recognize dangerous situations and take steps to decrease the danger.
Now, you might not realize this, but most sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim already knows. So, the people who developed the program figgered that recognition of when the date, party, or walk home was going pear-shaped and then being able to do something that helped it straighten out again might could be an effective way of lowering the number of assaults.
They compared the findings of the three-month program to that of simply providing brochures and pamphlets. The program consisted of 12 hours of instruction divided over four meetings. That’s a lot. Not every participant completed all four units, but 90% completed at least three of the four.
This is the part where you wanna hold on to your ass. For the 451 women attending the program, 24 experienced “completed rape.” While in the control group of 442, 43 did. Out of those 893 women, 67 were sexually assaulted. Without the program, that number would be about 86. And that doesn’t include the incidents of attempted rape. In the program, 15 experienced an attempted rape and 41 in the control group. All together that is 97 women who were the victims of sexual assault on three Canadian college campuses in one year. Without the program, we can estimate that 168 women would’ve been sexually assaulted.
The program is effective, but it requires a huge investment of time, training, and effort. And, it only focuses on the victims. If we treat sexual assault as the public health problem that it is, we’ll need to intervene with potential perpetrators.
The link to the article on the college rape prevention program: Novel Program Cuts Sexual Assault Rates on College Campuses from Medscape (requires free registration to access)
My point here is that many of the men committing these sexual assaults are reacting to their situation. Some of the situational causes of sexual assault are as follows:
- alcohol and drugs
- excessive exposure to pornography
- an expectation that having sex is possible even likely
- others talking about or witnessing others having sex with less than willing partners who may or may not have been totally or partially incapacitated by alcohol or other drugs
Do any of these boys think that they are rapists? Probably not. Do they think that they’ve hurt these women? Probably not. Are they really even thinking about any of this? Probably not.
The act of sexual aggression has become part of their social milieu. That sexual assault can be reduced by teaching women to be more assertive and less concerned with hurting the feelings of these men is significant. That teaching women that predicting which men will be their rapist is nearly impossible and that they must be en garde with all men is also significant.
Hell fire! my favorite drunk uncle shouts with surprising clarity. Whut in tarnation is wrong wit you? Don’t you know that any girl who is that liquored up got that liquored up so she could? He is looking at me with a mix of anger and distrust and incredulity. Don’t kids know nothin’ nowadays? Nice girls don’t! He intones with menace in his voice. Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker! They is a reason these sayin’s exist.
Confluence Mediational Model of Sexual Aggression
Neil Malamuth has developed a model that seems to predict sexual aggression. He has identified two major constellations of attitudes or traits that seem to make men more prone to sexual assault. One constellation is hostile masculinity and the other is impersonal sex.
- Attitudes that accept violence towards women (I would argue that attitudes that accept aggressive behavior towards women)
- Narcissism, hostility towards women, or sexual dominance (I would argue that includes difficulty accepting women as equals)
- Abusive home environment
- Early delinquent behavior
- Impersonal sexuality (early sex and promiscuity)
But, there is one more factor that Malamuth includes, low empathy. We know from Simon Baron-Cohen‘s work with zero-degrees of empathy that empathy can vary from moment to moment heavily influenced by environmental factors. Add to that the ideas presented in Prejudiced Norm Theory in which people who are highly prejudiced against a group will be encouraged to act on their prejudices if they feel supported by their environment and disparagement humor seems to be especially effective at bringing out this behavior. It is easy to imagine many of those locker room boys only environments where the talk gets rough towards women bringing out the worst in fellows. And, helping to lead young men to committing sexually aggressive acts even sexual assault.
Add to this ugly mix the effect of ambiguity and uncertainty and just like ten people could be convinced to sit in a room slowly filling up with smoke with a smoke alarm going off, young men can be moved to aggress sexually towards women. And it is in those ambiguous cracks that many of us will fall through and either not intervene, not question, or actually participate in acts that we wouldn’t normally do otherwise and even wish we hadn’t years later.
Situationism is the term that social psychologists use to describe the effect that the environment has on behavior and mental processes. For social psychologists the situation consists of much more than just the physical environment, though. It includes the people that you carry around in your head: internalized voices like that of your mother or favorite drunk uncle and imaginary people like a hero of yours, Jacques Cousteau or Martin Luther King or somebody. In addition, we can add the expectations of peers both present and absent. All of these factors combine to help us interpret the social situation that we are in, define what is expected both of us and others, and helps us decide what to do.
So, what I’m arguing is that men find themselves in situations where their is peer pressure and expectations to behave in certain ways towards women and that these can easily lead nice guys into doing bad things like aggress sexually up to and including sexual assault.