Men who watch a lot of sports on TV are more likely to accept rape myths, suggests a study.
The “hyper-masculine” presentation of male athletes in the media is linked with the prejudice that can be used to downplay sexual assault, according to the findings.
Alpha male personas contrast with the women who are sometimes shown as “trophies or props” in sports programs, say scientists.
Researchers at Washington State University in the United States noted that women have recently gained more prestige, but the gender split still exists and may be affecting male college students.
Fraternity and non-fraternity boys were asked about their consumption of magazines such as Sports Illustrated, specialty TV channels like ESPN, and sport-themed YouTube channels and websites.
Experts found that young men were far more likely to accept false views on rape if they held “masculine norm” beliefs: thinking they ought to control women and have sex with as many of them as possible, the latter dubbed male sexual permissiveness.
Overall, the research team was pleased to note that few participants accepted rape myths.
No link was found between believing in rape myths and whether they had a fraternity membership.
Study lead author Professor Stacey Hust: “Sports media exposure had a unique contribution, and it was significant.
“Even after accounting for beliefs about controlling women and sexual permissiveness, sports media use still appeared to have an effect.
“This was true among fraternity members and non-fraternity members.”
After being ranked on their sports media use, the 500 young men were asked about the extent to which they agree with rape myths and masculinity.
Rape myths included false beliefs that women who “tease” men, or dress in a certain way, deserve anything that might happen.
In addition, the young men were asked whether they thought rape must involve a weapon.
People who accept rape myths are more likely to sexually assault or sexually coerce a victim, according to previous research.
The researchers hope their findings, published in the Journal of Health Communication, could help debunk masculine norms, and encourage further studies into how sports media contributes to misogynistic views.
Prof. Hust added: “We need to find ways to emphasize the more positive aspects of masculinity.
“Parents may also want to talk to their kids about the ways women and men are portrayed in sports and help their children evaluate those messages more critically.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
“What’s the latest with Florida Man?”
Get news, handpicked just for you, in your box.