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Professor's research unlocks clues to preventing sexual assault on college campuses

June 14, 2013

A Loyola University New Orleans psychology researcher is uncovering the links among fraternity membership, hypermasculine behavior and the links to sexual assault on the college campus. New research by Loyola professor Charles Corprew, Ph.D., found that hypermasculinity—callous sex attitudes towards women and the belief that danger is exciting and violence is manly—plays a role in developing hostility towards women and sexually aggressive attitudes, particularly for men who are not in fraternities.

The study, to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of College Student Development, surveyed more than 200 young men from three southern universities. It found that the more 18- to 25-year-old non-fraternity men adopted hypermasculine attitudes, the more they developed hostile attitudes toward women, a pre-cursor to sexual assault.

Also disturbing, fraternity members in the same age group reported slightly more sexually aggressive attitudes than college men not in fraternities, according to the study; however, these attitudes did not increase as fraternity men adopted more hypermasculine attitudes. Corprew and research assistant Avery Mitchell believe fraternity membership is contextual and men in some fraternities may garner social capital by adopting hypermasculine attitudes.

Corprew’s research also suggests that men in college may develop macho attitudes as a coping mechanism to deal with this brief and challenging developmental period. And that can spell trouble for the college campus, especially when it comes to sexual assault.

“The important aspect to remember is that we need to prevent sexual assault,” Corprew said. “College men face development issues and challenges that may lead to negative coping, particularly if these attitudes and behaviors have been socialized over time. Our job is to provide the necessary resources for college men to cope positively and gain the ability to navigate successfully in these arenas. In turn, this may lessen the development of hostile attitudes toward women and the rate of sexual assault on campuses.”

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