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The subjective meaning of sexual harassment and sexual assault perpetration: from the perspectives of self-identified perpetrators
Örebro University, School of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences.
2018 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

This thesis explores male sexual assault and sexual harassment perpetration. The theoretical orientations

were constituted of a theoretical synthesis of primarily Max Weber's theory of action, motivation and

subjective meaning, and theoretical aspects of sensemaking. Four research questions were divided into

two qualitative studies. Study 1 conducted a systematic review of a diverse field of the research

literature on sexual harassment and sexual assault perpetration. The two objectives of study 1 were to

explore what kinds of factors are associated with sexual harassment and sexual assault perpetration and

what kinds of meanings the research literature attributes to perpetrators actions. The first objective of

study 2 was constituted of a qualitative investigation of what kinds of subjective meanings selfidentified

perpetrators attribute to their actions. Analysis relied on a hermeneutical interpretation of

meaning. Empirical materials were obtained via asynchronous online inquiries and collection of

confessional online posts authored by self-identified perpetrators. The second objective of study 2 was

to explore in what ways factors associated with male sexual harassment and/or sexual assault

perpetration against women affect the subjective meanings perpetrators' attribute to their actions.

Findings from study 1 (research review) suggest that sexual misconduct is associated with factors

stemming from individual (e.g. psychological characteristics), social (e.g. norms, attitudes and beliefs

of how to act as a man), situational (e.g. alcohol intoxication's distortion of meaning and detrimental

effect on judgement), communicative (e.g. misperception and misinterpretation of cues from women)

and power-related (e.g. sexually harassing or assaulting as a means to obtain or to exert power) factors.

Findings further suggest that the research literature attributes obtainment of sexual/physical

gratification, exertion of power, will to power and obtainment of a perceived sense of control as primary

meanings of perpetrators sexually coercive or harassing actions. Primary findings of study 2 highlight

the complex nature of power and its central relation to sexual misconduct, where perpetrators attribute

will to power, obtainment of sexual gratification, obtaining enjoyment from exerting power, and

ideological subordination as the subjective meaning of their actions. Suggested further is that selfidentified

perpetrators attribution of subjective meanings to their actions is characterized by a

sensemaking practice of moral disengagement, where distortion of the meaning of sexually oriented

actions through euphemistic labeling and perceiving sexually coercive behaviors as a form of game or

play are central aspects. Lastly, analysis of the empirical materials in this study suggests that the

subjective meanings these men attribute to their actions are associated with individual, socioculturally

embedded, situational, communicative and power-related factors.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. , p. 93
Keywords [en]
Sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual misconduct, sexual coercion, sexual misconduct
National Category
Sociology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-67589OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-67589DiVA, id: diva2:1228614
Subject / course
Sociologi
Supervisors
Available from: 2018-06-28 Created: 2018-06-28 Last updated: 2018-06-28Bibliographically approved

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