University of Sussex
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Rethinking misogyny: men’s perceptions of female power in dating relationships

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posted on 2023-06-08, 18:50 authored by Anna Imogen Arrowsmith
My PhD research explores the role of men’s subjective accounts of interactions with the women they date, especially with reference to whether they experience women to have power in dating relationships. It comprises a qualitative analysis of the responses gained from semi-­-structured interviews conducted with 20 British men and 10 Pick Up Artists (men who attended classes to learn how to increase their confidence when dating women) all aged 21-­-40. Current debates around gendered power are largely focused on female subjectivities, and are core to political and theoretical differences between second and third-­- wave/post-­-feminisms. I argue that in order to understand the workings of (heterosexual) gendered power relations, we must pay attention not only to issues of structural power but also to men’s perceptions of the lived experiences of such relationships. At a time of increased uncertainty about gendered identity and increased pressure to see the ‘self’ as a project, such perceptions may be both very varied and at variance with accepted structural analyses of gendered power. Following three introductory chapters in which I trace the debates around masculinity and a contemporary social order focused on risk and individuality, I analyse the interviewees’ responses in order to explore how the men position themselves within the gender and dating discourses that are available to them. The effects of what Ulrich Beck described as ‘individualism’ and the use of ‘constructed certitude’ are explored, as is how the men deal with conflicting ideas borne out of living in an age when ideals from both hegemonic and inclusive masculinities co-­-exist. Whether men acknowledge their own insecurities or whether they focus on perceived external triggers, such as female culpability, and whether men respond to insecurities by focusing on an active process of overcoming them (thus remaining inside hegemonic ideas), is also a focus. Subject areas explored include the role of homosocial behaviour in dating, the gendered dating process, the power of female beauty, men's bodily anxieties, media representations of dating, men's body image, unwanted pregnancies and female aggression. I conclude that we cannot dismiss men's perceptions of female power in dating as mistaken, as has been argued. If men's realities include such perceptions, then their un/willingness to relinquish 'more' power needs to be understood if equality between the sexes is to be increased.


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