Michael Flood

How do men respond to women’s rejections of them, including sexual rejections? While most respond in appropriate ways, some respond with hostility and abuse, and this is shaped by common norms of masculinity and male sexuality.

There was substantial media attention in mid-March to the reactions of right-wing media personality Piers Morgan to member of the British royal family and former actress Megan Markle. I was approached to give media commentary, and put together the following notes.

Sexual consent comprises an agreement to participate in a specific sexual activity. It involves feeling safe, respected, comfortable, enthusiastic, informed, and self-determined. For consent to be genuine, it must be given freely and voluntarily. Consent must be active and demonstrated throughout the whole sexual encounter (RASARA, 2021, pp. 1-2).

Note: A version of this text now has been published as a Briefing Paper from the QUT Centre for Justice, here.

Much of the work to engage men in preventing violence against women across the globe is profeminist — it is informed by feminist perspectives and done by or in collaboration with women and women’s organisations. Men involved in this work typically are expected to support feminism and to be accountable to women and feminism. But which feminism should profeminist men support? There has been relatively little discussion of this question in the ‘engaging men’ field.

I have been working on issues of men, masculinities, and gender for 32 years, and it looks to me like men’s roles in building gender equality are now part of the public agenda to an unprecedented extent. Almost every day, there are new stories and initiatives on how men can support women’s participation in medicine and science, end domestic and sexual violence, share the load of fathering and housework, and more. This focus has a compelling rationale. Above all, we will not make much progress towards gender equality without change among men, and men themselves will benefit from this progress.

Engaging men and boys in the prevention of domestic violence is, at its heart, a project of social justice. A feminist and social justice approach to domestic violence prevention, first, recognizes domestic violence as a social injustice: this violence causes harm, is fundamentally linked to power and inequality, and acts as a fundamental barrier to gender equality. Second, it addresses the social inequalities at the root of this violence and, third, it works for change through social action. How do contemporary efforts to engage men and boys measure up to this approach?

NOTE: Now also see the 5-page Policy Brief, summarising this report and released in November 2021, available here.

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Mobilising men is a vital part of social change towards gender equality, but it is under-developed in Australia.

What is the state of gender norms in Australia? To what extent are traditional norms of masculinity still dominant, and to what extent are they shifting or breaking down? Do young men agree with stereotypical constructions of masculinity, and if they do, what implications does this have for their lives and their relations with others? To answer these questions, this webinar draws on two recent Australian surveys, one among young men aged 18 to 30 and another among people in Australia. The webinar then explores how we may reconstruct masculine norms.