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Bias-motivated Aggression against Men: Gender Expression and Sexual Orientation as Risk Factors for Victimization


Bias-motivated aggression is an ongoing problem in the United States, and data show that men comprise the majority of both perpetrators and victims of these types of offenses. Although gay men appear to be at particular risk for victimization, theory suggests that aggression of this type may be understood as a way to preserve exclusive masculine identity and in-group status by punishing those men who step outside rigidly constructed gender boundaries, rather than as a reaction to target sexual orientation alone. As such, studies investigating gender non-conformity as it interacts with gay identity are needed to elucidate how both target gender expression and sexuality potentiate risk for victimization. Therefore, the current study examined the influence of men's sexual orientation and gender expression on the perpetration of bias-motivated aggression. One-hundred two undergraduate men in the Southeastern U.S. participated in a bogus reaction-time task, during which they had the option to shock an ostensible opponent as a measure of aggression. Participants were assigned to one of four opponent conditions (masculine, gay man; feminine, gay man; masculine, heterosexual man; feminine heterosexual man), as part of a 2x2 factorial design. It was predicted that the most aggression would occur toward a gay, feminine opponent. Contrarily, findings indicated that most aggression was evinced toward a feminine heterosexual opponent. Results are discussed in terms of heterosexual men’s nonconformity and the influence of in-group/out-group dynamics on bias-motivated aggression.

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Correspondence to Colleen A. Sloan.

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Sloan, C.A., Berke, D.S. & Zeichner, A. Bias-motivated Aggression against Men: Gender Expression and Sexual Orientation as Risk Factors for Victimization. Sex Roles 72, 140–149 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-014-0443-z

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  • Aggression
  • Gender expression
  • Sexual orientation
  • Social identity theory
  • Exclusively masculine identity