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Psychology of Men and Masculinities


Sexual violence, including rape, is a pervasive problem on college campuses in the United States. Although men perpetrate the majority of sexual violence, men’s attitudes, experiences, and perspectives are not typically included in research on rape and sexual violence. We addressed this empirical gap through our mixed-methods analysis of 365 young men’s definitions of the term “rape.” Our analysis via consensual qualitative research revealed that men’s definitions fit into nine primary domains: lack of consent, taken advantage of, sex, sexual activity, unwanted, gender/sex-specific, harm to victim, relationship, and emotional response, as well as a miscellaneous domain. Further, using chi square tests of independence, we compared responses from men with and without a history of sexual violence perpetration. Findings showed that the definitions generated by men with a history of perpetration were less likely to include non-penetrative sexual violence and were more likely to use gender/sex-specific language in their definitions of rape. We conclude that most young men have a generally accurate understanding of rape, though perpetrators’ understandings may be somewhat narrower and more limited than those without a history of perpetration. We end with recommendations for refocusing sexual education curricula to better aid in the prevention of sexual violence perpetration. Specifically, given that (most) men know what rape is, educators should emphasize the cultural and situational factors that make rape more likely so all people can reduce the risk of sexual violence and take proactive precautions to prevent it.






This article was updated July 13, 2022 with minor corrections. If the previous version is required for some reason please contact the repository administrator.


©American Psychological Association, 2020. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. Please do not copy or cite without author's permission. The final article is available, upon publication, at:

Yes, (most) men know what rape is.pdf (66 kB)
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