Date of Award

12-2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Kevin Swartout, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Sarah Cook, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Dominic Parrott, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Erin Tone, Ph.D.

Abstract

Framed in the I3 model of aggression, which states that aggression results from the combination of predisposition toward aggression, an instigation, and inhibiting factors, the current dissertation explored the relationships among shame proneness, masculine identity threat, and emotional acceptance predicting sexual aggression. I hypothesized that men who were prone to shame (impelling factor) and were less accepting of emotions (inhibiting factor) would be more likely to engage in sexually aggressive responding following a threat to their masculinity (instigation). Participants were 299 men recruited from a university research pool and Amazon Mechanical Turk. This study used a web-based analogue of sexual aggression, in which participants were led to believe they were interacting with a fictional partner who dislikes sexual content in media. After completing self-report measures and receiving fictional feedback that their responses were typical of women (masculinity threat) or typical of men (no threat), participants were asked to choose between a sexually explicit video and a neutral video to send to their partner, and they selected the number of seconds that their fictional partner would watch the video. The choice to send sexual content to an unwilling partner was considered sexually aggressive responding. The results indicated that men who were less accepting of emotions and exposed to the masculinity threat chose a longer duration of the sexually explicit video for their partner to watch. Contrary to hypotheses, shame proneness did not increase the likelihood of sexual aggression or moderate the effect of the masculinity threat on sexual aggression. Furthermore, the hypothesized three-way interaction in which men who were prone to shame, reported low acceptance of emotions, and exposed to the masculinity threat would be more sexually aggressive was not supported. Further exploratory analyses revealed that proneness to guilt, but not shame protected against sexual aggression, and a tendency to externalize blame significantly interacted with the masculinity threat to predict sexual aggression. Although the original hypotheses were only partially supported, the findings indicate that the way in which emotions are processed (e.g., accepting the emotion or externalizing blame) and masculinity threats play a role in sexual aggression. Implications and future directions are discussed.

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