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· PART ONE – Module IV Interaction Forum: Violence Against Women, Traditional Gender Roles, & “#MeToo” – 300 Words

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PROMPT: Many researchers see violence against women as related to dynamics of power and dominance in society that represent a male-dominated (patriarchal) social structure. Male domination can be expressed in various ways. For example, feminist theorists have argued that rape and sexual assault are forms of social control that reinforce both the “traditional male sex role” in society and the “historical powerlessness of women in male-dominated societies” (Alvarez and Bachman, p. 188). Other theorists argue that men and women are socialized differentially, with men being taught to be aggressive and virile whereas women are taught to be submissive and passive (Alvarex and Bachman, p. 189).

 

INSERT PAGE 189

Other scholars have focused on the socialization process of males and females and argue that traditional socialization practices encourage males to associate aggression, dominance, strength, and virility with masculinity. In contrast, traditional female stereotypes encourage females to be submissive and passive. Further, as Diana Scully and Joseph Marolla explain,

 

Males are taught to have expectations about their level of sexual needs and expectations for corresponding female accessibility which function to justify forcing sexual access. The justification for forced sexual access is buttressed by legal, social, and religious definitions of women as male property and sex as an exchange of goods. Socialization prepares women to be “legitimate” victims and men to be potential offenders.75

 

In fact, research does support the contention that a belief in traditional sex roles is related to attitudes endorsing violence toward women. For example, Martha Burt interviewed a representative sample of almost 600 adults and found that individuals with a belief in conventional sex-role stereotypes were more likely to

 

endorse rape myths, such as that women are partially responsible for their own rapes, that many women enjoy rape, and that women who are drunk cannot be raped;

have attitudes supporting violence against women; and

 

 

 

The Writing Part

In this interaction forum, post a response that describes some of the evidence from Alvarez and Bachman, Chapter 6, which shows that there is an association with violence against women and traditional gender roles and attitudes. Then, comment on whether you think social movements like “#Me Too” can minimize problems of sexual assault related to traditional sex roles and attitudes, as discussed in A&B pp. 196-97. Engage with other students on these issues, i.e., in terms of what studies find about the causes of violence against women or commenting on methods to minimize it.

 

Insert pages 196-197

In contrast to these policies, electronically monitoring high-risk sex offenders with GPS technology has shown promise. In California, the state with the greatest number of sex offenders under GPS surveillance, Stephen Gies and his colleagues recently compared outcomes between paroled sex offenders who were placed on GPS monitoring with a control group of parolees who were not. Importantly, both groups of offenders were matched to be as equivalent as possible on things such as age, race, and prior time incarcerated, along with other factors. The researchers found that compared to the control group under regular parole supervision, those under GPS surveillance were more likely to register as sex offenders, less likely to be rearrested within a one-year time period, and less likely to be reconvicted. Importantly, however, most of these arrests were for parole violations, not new offenses. In fact, less than 4% of both the control group and GPS monitored parolees were rearrested for a new offense.93 In sum, there is more work needed to determine which policies and practices actually work in preventing this type of violence.

 

It should not be surprising that debates about sexual offending legislation are often heated. Some critics argue that states should do more to rehabilitate sex offenders in the first place and that registries and residential restrictions placed on offenders only serve to stigmatize offenders and prevent them from moving on with their lives. Other legal scholars contend that these laws are really nothing more than a second punishment for those who have already paid their debt to society. In a fascinating examination of sex offender legislation over the 20th century, Chrysanthi Leon concluded that all sex offenders, regardless of the contextual circumstances of their crimes, are now classified as “monsters” requiring confinement, which prioritizes the public’s belief “that all sexual offending is harmful, dangerous, and caused by deviant desires that are compulsive and beyond control.”94 Today, based on politicians’ need to appear tough on crime, such legislation will probably continue to become ever more punitive, regardless of its effectiveness to combat such crimes.

The #MeToo Movement

While the laws in the previous section were designed to protect us from certain kinds of sexual predators, our cultural consciousness regarding what is considered acceptable is quickly evolving to more accurately reflect the more typical sexual assaulter. Although the “Me Too” movement was founded in 2006 by Tarana Burke, it did not come to the forefront of public consciousness until several women alleged that movie producer Harvey Weinstein had raped them in October of 2017.95 After actress Alyssa Milano asked her followers to speak up about sexual assault after these accusations against Weinstein, the words me too began appearing on social media by the thousands.96 After the movement became a hashtag (#MeToo), The Washington Post reported that the two words were “the top trend nationwide on Twitter and yet another rallying cry for women and men who have experienced some type of sexual harassment or assault.”97 About 30% of those who have tweeted the hashtag are men.

 

Photo 6.5 #MeToo has appeared on social media millions of times. Has this changed your perceptive about the prevalence of sexual assault?

At the time of this writing, it has now been about one and half years since the allegations against Weinstein were made and the #MeToo movement emerged as a cultural force. This movement came on the heels of an earlier movement, under the hashtag #NotOkay, which began after an Access Hollywood video was released that showed Donald Trump boasting about kissing and groping women. There are several reasons people post in these movements. For example, while #MeToo posts are most often made to bring past victimizations to light, a large percentage of them are also to offer support to all sexual assault victims. From a societal perspective, it is hoped that these individual posts and movements like them will continue to decrease individual perceptions that this predatory behavior is tolerated.

 

How does this affect the prevalence of sexual assault? It goes back to the original goal of rape law reforms and deterrence theory. If would-be offenders believe that their offending behavior will be made public and sanctioned, they will be less likely to engage in such behavior. Offending behavior made public on social media not only has the potential of resulting in formal sanctions by the courts, as we have seen with Harvey Weinstein, but also involves public shaming, which is a form of informal social control. In contrast to formal social control, which involves formal law enforcement sanctions, informal social control sanctions do not involve the criminal justice system. They are meted out by our family, friends, places of employment, and so on. For example, when other famous people, including the comedian Louis C.K. and Senator Al Franken, were accused of sexual misconduct, Franken felt compelled to resign his Senate seat and Louis C.K. had several performances cancelled. Both were publicly shamed by these allegations, and even though they did not face legal sanctions, the informal sanctions they did receive surely impacted their lives and sent a message to other would-be offenders. Importantly, research shows that informal sanctions such as these are as powerful as formal sanctions in deterring criminal behavior.98

 

In sum, movements such as #MeToo and #NotOkay may decrease the prevalence of sexual assault for several reasons, including by changing social attitudes about what behavior is appropriate and by increasing the costs, both formal and informal, of engaging in such behavior. It is up to future research to determine what effects these movements have had. What is certain is that the #MeToo movement is spreading globally. It has brought down Bollywood stars in India, has jeopardized the former Costa Rican president Oscar Arias Sanchez’s Nobel prize, has placed academics in China under scrutiny, and has exposed faith healers in Brazil, to name a few.

 

Conclusions

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