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“Blurred Lines?” Sexual Aggression and Barroom Culture

Authors

  • Kathryn Graham,

    Corresponding author
    1. Social and Epidemiological Research Department, Centre for Addition and Mental Health, London, Ontario, Canada
    2. Psychology Department, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada
    3. National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
    4. Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    • Reprint requests: Kathryn Graham, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Suite 200, 100 Collip Circle, London, ON, N6G 4X8, Canada; Tel.: 519-858-5000; Fax: 519-858-5199; E-mail: kgraham@uwo.ca

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  • Sharon Bernards,

    1. Social and Epidemiological Research Department, Centre for Addition and Mental Health, London, Ontario, Canada
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  • D. Wayne Osgood,

    1. Department of Sociology, Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania
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  • Antonia Abbey,

    1. Department of Psychology, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan
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  • Michael Parks,

    1. Department of Sociology, Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania
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  • Andrea Flynn,

    1. Social and Epidemiological Research Department, Centre for Addition and Mental Health, London, Ontario, Canada
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  • Tara Dumas,

    1. Social and Epidemiological Research Department, Centre for Addition and Mental Health, London, Ontario, Canada
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  • Samantha Wells

    1. Social and Epidemiological Research Department, Centre for Addition and Mental Health, London, Ontario, Canada
    2. Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    3. Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada
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  • Thicke, R. (2013). Blurred Lines. Interscope Records.

Abstract

Background

Meeting potential sexual/romantic partners for mutual pleasure is one of the main reasons young adults go to bars. However, not all sexual contacts are positive and consensual, and aggression related to sexual advances is a common experience. Sometimes such aggression is related to misperceptions in making and receiving sexual advances while other times aggression reflects intentional harassment or other sexually aggressive acts. This study uses objective observational research to assess quantitatively gender of initiators and targets and the extent that sexual aggression involves intentional aggression by the initiator, the nature of responses by targets, and the role of third parties and intoxication.

Methods

We analyzed 258 aggressive incidents involving sexual advances observed as part of a larger study on aggression in large capacity bars and clubs, using variables collected as part of the original research (gender, intoxication, intent) and variables coded from narrative descriptions (invasiveness, persistence, targets' responses, role of third parties). Hierarchical linear modeling analyses were used to account for nesting of incidents in evening and bars.

Results

Ninety percent of incidents involved male initiators and female targets, with almost all incidents involving intentional or probably intentional aggression. Targets mostly responded nonaggressively, usually using evasion. Staff rarely intervened; patron third parties intervened in 21% of incidents, usually to help the target but sometimes to encourage the initiator. initiators' level of invasiveness was related to intoxication of the targets, but not their own intoxication, suggesting intoxicated women were being targeted.

Conclusions

Sexual aggression is a major problem in bars often reflecting intentional sexual invasiveness and unwanted persistence rather than misperceptions in sexual advances. Prevention needs to focus on addressing masculinity norms of male patrons and staff who support sexual aggression and better management of the highly sexualized and sexist environments of most bars.

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