Friendships between young men – at school, sports clubs, online and in other social contexts – can be important sources of support.
However, sometimes young men bond with each other by being disrespectful, dominating, hostile or aggressive towards girls and women.
This is not to say that young women and other groups of young people always bond in respectful ways. But to prevent violence against women, we need to specifically look at male bonding over the disrespect of women and girls – because the evidence tells us that this is a key driver of violence against women.
How disrespect is used in male bonding
Disrespect for girls and women can be seen in a number of ways young men bond with one another. Some examples include:
- “Bros before hoes” or “bro code” – belittling girls/women as a way of emphasising loyalty to other boys
- “He’s whipped” or “the missus” – telling boys they’re weak if they are not 100% in control in a relationship, or if their girlfriend shows leadership or independence
- “Girls are only good for one thing” – suggesting that girls and women are only valuable for sex
- “What would you give her out of 10?” or “check out the rack on that” – objectifying girls and women
- “Locker-room talk” or “footy trip rules” – supporting the idea that men are entitled to behave however they want if there are no women around
- “Player” – valourising sexual conquest, encouraging each other to have sex with as many girls as possible or boys ‘using’ girls to impress each other
- “He’s a mate” or “he’s a good bloke” – protecting other boys/men, or emphasising their good qualities, when they have been disrespectful or used violence
- “One of the boys” – suggesting that only boys truly understand other boys and
- “You know what girls are like” – perpetuating stereotypes and using them to ignore or dismiss girls/women’s opinions or feelings.
Why does this matter?
These types of negative relations between men are associated with a higher probability of violence against women because:
- an emphasis on sexual conquest may lead young men to disregard young women’s wishes—for example, by not seeking ongoing consent during sex
- when young men prioritise relationships with other young men, they’re effectively saying that young women are less deserving of respect;—therefore, they may treat young women disrespectfully
- if young men are taught to support other young men, irrespective of their behaviour, they may excuse or even encourage disrespect and violence towards young women
- young men may be reluctant to take a stand against their peers’ disrespect of girls, or even their use of violence, because they fear rejection from their peers.
What can be done?
Young men should learn that there are more positive and respectful ways for them to relate to other young men and young women. They should also learn that they are never the only ones who feel uncomfortable in situations where others are disrespecting women, and that they should feel encouraged to do something about it.
Read next: Challenging male bonding over disrespect of women and girls