A number of key risk factors are associated with racist, sexist, and homophobic practices on North American college campuses. However, one additional determinant that has thus far been overlooked is male aggrieved entitlement. Using exploratory qualitative data gleaned by the Campus Quality of Life Survey administered at a large college in the South Atlantic region of the United States, the main objective of this article is to help fill a major research gap by showing that aggrieved entitlement is a correlate that warrants more attention in future empirical and theoretical work on campus climates.
Numerous progressive changes spawned by the feminist movement have occurred over the past several decades, but again, a man was elected President of the United States on November 8, 2016. Why Donald Trump and not another man? One answer is that Trump embodies a white type of hegemonic masculinity (Katz, 2016), which is a practice that legitimizes male domination and female subordination in the U.S. and other parts of the world (Connell, 2005). The basic components of this masculinity are: (a) avoid all things feminine; (b) restrict emotions severely; (c) show toughness and aggression; (d) exhibit self-reliance; (e) strive for achievement and status; (f) exhibit non-relational attitudes toward sexuality; and (g) actively engage in homophobia (Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005; DeKeseredy, 2017; Levant, 1994; Schwartz & DeKeseredy, 1997).
Indeed, there is some evidence to support the claim that, “the desire for a strong virile man in the White House runs deep in the American DNA” (Katz, 2016, p. ix). As well, there remains a strong, white anti-feminist backlash in the U.S., one fueled in part by “the desire to return to aspects of an idealized past in which structured inequality was normalized” (Dragiewicz, 2018, p. 336). Many people, however, especially those on the Left, did not foresee the possibility of a Trump victory and were unaware that thousands of men across the U.S. are feeling what Kimmel (2013) identified three years prior to the presidential election (DeKeseredy, 2019). He uncovered a “new breed of angry white men” who are experiencing aggrieved entitlement:
It is that sense that those benefits to which you believed yourself entitled have been snatched away from you by unseen forces larger and more powerful. You feel yourself to be heir to a great promise, the American Dream, which has turned into an impossible fantasy for the very people who were supposed to inherit it (p. 18, emphasis in original).
The “American Dream” Kimmel refers to is one in which white men are superior to, and receive more privileges than, women and ethnic minorities. Their rage is expressed in many contexts, but the Internet is an increasingly important venue (Dragiewicz, 2008; Rosen, Dragiewicz, & Gibbs, 2009; Levin, 2017). In a culture where most socializing, particularly among youth, is done through electronic channels, using social media outlets enable people to reach a larger audience. In this way, more racist, anti-feminist men can become aware of a very large “support group” and become motivated to join angry white men’s organizations.
Though defined by numerous people as bastions of liberal thought, colleges are now more conservative institutions of higher learning and are not immune to racism, sexism, and the growing culture of male aggrieved entitlement (Bove, 2013; DeKeseredy, Fabricius, & Hall-Sanchez, 2015). However, the extant social scientific literature on key sources of racist, sexist, and homophobic practices on campus overlooks the role of aggrieved entitlement. Using exploratory qualitative data derived from the Campus Quality of Life Survey (CQLS) administered at a large college in a South Atlantic region of the United States, the main objective of this article is to show that it is possibly an equally powerful correlate.
Many researchers (e.g., DeKeseredy, 2019) find the concept of aggrieved entitlement to be a useful analytic tool, but it has not been subject to much empirical inquiry. The limited data that have been thus far collected are derived from a small number of interviews with non-college men and some content analyses of postings on social media and various other places on the Internet (DeKeseredy et al., 2015; Kimmel, 2013, 2018). Before presenting the results of our study, it is first necessary to describe the broader social context in which the CQLS was conducted.
This section’s heading is the title of Lab’s (2003) commentary on Ireland, Thornberry, and Loeber’s (2003) public housing study, but some of his arguments apply to most social scientific research, including the empirical work described in this article. For example, Lab asserts: “One of the most important things that criminologists often fail to address is the context within which they (their projects or topics) are operating. This is true whether they are proposing a new theory, testing an existing explanation, investigating an emerging phenomenon or evaluating an intervention or program” (p. 39).
The broader social, political, and economic context in which this study was conducted is as follows. First, the school is based in a Republican state where, at the time of writing this article (September 2018), Donald Trump had a very high level of popularity and more than 90% of its population is white (Bacon & Mehta, 2018). Further, the demographic characteristics of the research site presented in Table 1 show that the bulk of the students are white and very few students identify with other races. The CQLS sample (n=5,718), not surprisingly then, is also predominantly white, as noted in Table 1. As well, Weiss’ (2013) study conducted at the same institution found many students’ drinking patterns extend far beyond the typical amount of alcohol consumed by binge drinkers.
What is more, as uncovered by Weiss (2013) and previous analyses of CQLS data, there is evidence of a patriarchal rape-supportive culture. For example, 40% of the sample described in Table 1 reported that they believed women on the campus experience discrimination and of the students who responded to a question asking if they agreed with the statement “The institution tolerates a culture of sexual misconduct,” 75% either agreed or strongly agreed. Their perception is well-founded because 34% of the female CQLS respondents reported experiencing at least one of five types of sexual assault since they enrolled at the school (DeKeseredy, Hall-Sanchez, & Nolan, 2018).
Table 1. Demographic characteristics of the main campus population and the CQLS sample
Note: The ethnic category "Hispanic" was considered separate from race in the population column and so the total exceeds 100%.
Though not measured by our survey, it is very likely that these findings are strongly associated with high levels of rape myth acceptance among college students (Canan, Jozkowski, & Crawford, 2016; Lonsway & Fitzgerald, 1994; McMahon, 2010; Phillips, 2017), as well as pornography consumption. Further, false beliefs about rape (e.g., no means yes) are strongly correlated with such consumption, as documented by a rapidly growing body of social scientific knowledge (DeKeseredy & Corsianos, 2016). Note, too, that 14% of (n=409) of the above sexual assault survivors have peers who encourage the use of physical and sexual force to deal with problems in intimate or romantic relationships. As well, 54% (n=1,595) have peers who physically, sexually, or psychologically abuse intimate partners (DeKeseredy, Hall-Sanchez, & Nolan, 2018). These data buttress Gwartney-Gibbs and Stockard’s (1989) claim that, “Sexual aggression and victimization may be a part of peer group culture. That is, the friendship networks from which individuals draw their partners may allow, or even encourage, male sexual aggression and female victimization in different degrees” (p. 185). Unfortunately, since the two CQLS negative peer support measures are gender-neutral, the number of male and female friends who are abusive and who encouraged abuse cannot be determined.
Consistent with many other college campuses, human and programmatic diversity is not “universally welcomed” at the research site (Perry, 2011). Thirty percent of the CQLS participants reported that people on their campus are unfriendly to Muslims and to transgender people, and almost 25% stated that people are unfriendly to feminists. Nearly 40% of the sample stated that racism on the campus is a problem and close to 60% of the participants revealed being victimized by one or more of 15 types of hate- or bias-motivated behaviors. Among the groups at the highest risk of such victimization are members of the campus LGBTQ community and Hispanics. Additionally, 76% of the sample saw or heard at least one of six things on campus that they thought were offensive to other people because of their race/ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or political orientation (DeKeseredy, Nolan, & Hall-Sanchez, 2019). These things are:
leaflets or posters;
spray-painted signs, slogans, or other graffiti;
comments on campus radio, TV, bulletin boards, or social media sites;
articles or cartoons in campus newspapers or magazines; and
general comments or stories that they heard or were told about.
Are the above findings indicators of a campus culture of aggrieved entitlement? Possibly, but this is an empirical question that can only be answered empirically. The CLQS was not specifically designed to do so, but qualitative data presented in a subsequent section of this paper strongly suggest that many men at the research site are experiencing aggrieved entitlement.
The exploratory qualitative data reported here were gathered by a campus climate survey that was administered online in Spring 2016 to 30,470 students enrolled at the previously mentioned U.S. college. Nearly 20% of the total student population (n=5,718) completed the questionnaire, and most respondents took 25 minutes to fill it out. For the most part, as described in Table 1, the sample is representative of the entire student campus community. More women than men, however, participated. Since women are among the highest risk of groups to experience many of the harms addressed in the CQLS, especially sexual assault, it is to be expected that the CQLS elicited a higher percentage of females than that of the school’s general population, as well as a lower percentage of men than that of the wider male student community.
Recruiting participants involved a campus-wide effort and entailed using multiple methods, including posters, flyers, direct email communication, and in-class announcements. Incentives were also used to recruit respondents. All types of publicity informed students of the prospect of being randomly chosen to get one of 20 $50.00 VISA gift cards (also made explicit in the instrument). Lotteries are widely used in Web surveys and are repeatedly found to be more effective than other enticements (Couper & Bosnjak, 2010; Pedersen & Nielsen, 2016).
Email invitations to participate in the CQLS were sent to 30,470 students, with the first of four weekly requests issued on March 28, 2016. In each one was a link to the questionnaire that was administered using Qualtrics software. After clicking the link to the survey in the email invitation and then clicking a button to participate, participants were taken to a screen including a consent form. Students who stated that they did not want to participate were deleted from the email reminder list.
The CQLS is mainly a quantitative study of students’ various victimization experiences, but a supplementary open-ended question is found at the end of the questionnaire. The main reason for using it was to minimize underreporting. There are a wide variety of reasons for why victims, particularly survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence, might not disclose incidents. These include embarrassment, fear of reprisal, “forward and backward telescoping,” deception, and memory error (DeKeseredy & Rennison, 2013). Others suggest that under-reporting can come from the reluctance or inability to recall traumatic incidents and the belief that violent or other types of abusive behaviors (e.g., digital types of sexual violence) are too minor or inconsequential to mention (Pritchard, DeKeseredy, Nolan, & Hall-Sanchez, 2018).
If, however, respondents are asked to complete self-report, supplementary, and/or open-ended questions, some forgetful participants will reveal they have been victimized (DeKeseredy & Schwartz, 1998). For example, Smith (1987), who designed our open-ended question, found that some silent or forgetful female victims of male intimate violence (n=60) who participated in his Toronto woman abuse survey changed their answers when asked again in different words by a telephone interviewer. Belated responses increased the overall violent victimization prevalence rate by approximately 10%, and 21 belated disclosures increased the severe violence rates. Smith defined prevalence as the percentage of women who ever reported having been physically abused.
On top of giving respondents more opportunities to disclose events, including those not listed in quantitative questions, supplementary open-ended questions like this one used in the CQLS help build researcher-respondent rapport (Pritchard et al., 2018; Smith, 1994):
We really appreciate the time you have taken to complete this survey. And, we’d like to assure you that everything you told us will remain strictly anonymous.
We realize the topics covered in this survey are sensitive and that many students are reluctant to talk about their own campus experiences. But we’re also a bit worried that we haven’t asked the right questions.
So now that you have had a chance to think about the topics covered in this survey, would you like to provide us with any additional information about the quality of life on this campus? If so, please use the box below.
Like the rest of your responses to this survey, any information you provide is anonymous and will only be reported grouped with other comments.
Thirteen percent of the 5,718 respondents answered the question. We did not anticipate many comments reflecting aggrieved entitlement, but this was not the case. In fact, 44 participants provided narratives indicative of this problem and the rich qualitative data presented in the next section added much texture and context to the statistical data reported earlier.
Research team members started the work described here by first carefully and separately reading all the responses to the above question, which was time consuming. Then, during several meetings, all team members revealed seeing evidence of aggrieved entitlement, which again, was not anticipated. A decision was thus made to revisit all the responses and to select narratives that (1) deny high rates of female sexual victimization and make claims of false accusations and (2) that reflect anger at, or disdain for, women, ethnic and sexual minorities, and campus diversity, equity and inclusion policies. As well, narratives provided by people who saw or heard things indicative of aggrieved entitlement were chosen. The 18 narratives included in this article are from different people and the demographic characteristics of the 44 respondents are presented in Table 2. Fifty percent are male, 38.6% are female, and the vast majority are white (86.3%) and heterosexual (86.3%).
Kimmel (2013) found that conservative men’s rights organizations are prime examples of groups experiencing aggrieved entitlement. They, like the students at our research site, are predominantly white and this white male respondent’s voice is arguably the best prelude for the presentation of subsequent student narratives:
I firmly believe that white males are not being able to express their problems. This is a large population on this campus and while women, colored, and foreign students’ problems are being handled, the white males are being portrayed as the “bad guy” and not given the help everyone else is receiving. White males have problems too!
One of the main strategies angry white men repeatedly use to deal with “their problems” is claim that they are the “real victims” and that rates of male-to-female sexual assault are greatly exaggerated (DeKeseredy et al., 2015). This is one of the main themes found in our qualitative data. A white, heterosexual, male undergraduate vividly highlights a variation of this theme, which was found in 18 narratives:
This survey will undoubtedly be used to show that white men are bad and don’t have any of the bad experiences that “people of color” or refrigerator gendered people face … Furthermore, the school police should not handle sexual assault cases. This is to be handled by actual law enforcement not connected to the school. That way there isn’t any bias. If one did occur and the perpetrator is found guilty, the school should take whatever action it deems necessary. But we live in country of innocent until proven guilty. The university should at least act like it. But, because I have checked “white” and “male” in your survey, none of this matters to you.
Respondents who were members of fraternities echoed the above respondent’s words. This man said:
Teachers treat Greek life male students unfairly and the school could care less. Just because you wear Greek letters does not mean you can be diminished and treated unfairly at school. The fact a teacher I had pointed at me and blamed me for being a part of the rape culture at this school is out of line. But what am I supposed to do? Tell the school when they will laugh at me so I did nothing and felt uncomfortable talking to the teacher or being in class.
A similar male student adds:
I would be greatly happy if this school would stop perpetuating the “rape culture” meme. There is no rape culture, and faulty statistics are used when talking about sexual assault. It is nowhere the epidemic academia has made it out to be. Rape is bad, yes, and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. This enthusiastic consent BS is a load of crap, though. Most of our language is not verbal anyway. It is very obvious if someone does not want to have sex. I think that the social justice warriors have gotten the better of us.
Table 2. Demographic characteristics of respondents who provided evidence of aggrieved entitlement
It is not only white, heterosexual males who hold the above views. Some white, heterosexual women’s responses mirror or echo the words of angry white men. This one’s response to our open-ended question is a prime example:
When discussing “sexual misconduct” and the reporting such a case, I (as a woman) feel like it is easy for young men to become targets of such allegations and young women on campus are not equally held responsible. For instance, the mandatory “alcohol edu” course has largely blamed young men for “sexual misconduct” in scenarios such as “drunken hookups,” which are labelled as rape if regretted later. In one instance, it is clearly taught that if a female and male have sex while drunk, the male is at fault even though NEITHER could “properly consent.” These scenarios are admonish-able as they demonize young men on campus. I have also seen many flyers stating the very inaccurate statistic that 1 in 4 women on campus are raped. This simply isn’t true and has been proven so many times.
She is not a lone voice in the U.S. Many other women across the country sharply oppose the efforts of feminists and declare that they significantly exaggerate male patriarchal practices and discourses, censor “reasonable behavior,” and demand “special rights” beyond those of men (Marwick, 2013). Affiliates of Women Against Feminism (WAF) are highly visible examples of antifeminist women. In the summer of 2014, they created a Tumblr page, a Twitter hashtag, and campaigns on Facebook, YouTube, and other social media in response to #YesAllWomen and to the Who Needs Feminism campaign. WAF has since greatly increased in size and primarily involves mainly white, college-aged women posting pictures of themselves holding up handmade placards stating why they oppose feminism. Most posts begin with “I don’t need feminism because” followed by their reasons. Based on analyses of data gathered from a content analysis of WAF Tumblr postings, DeKeseredy et al. (2015) assert that the WAF social media campaign not only helps fuel men’s aggrieved entitlement, but like Internet-linked men’s rights groups, also buttresses rape myths and the claim that women are as violent as men in intimate relationships (Laidler & Mann, 2008; Mann, 2008). Unfortunately, the language and vocabulary for rape myth justification is available to men in many different parts of society. Below is another white female student’s statement that is in line with the goals of WAF:
There needs to be a focus on sexism toward males too. Men get discriminated against as much as females but aren’t as apt to reporting it. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, though.
Her voice and similar narratives provide three key services to angry white men. First, they give many women a false sense of safety. Second, they make thousands of women who are abused by men on a daily basis invisible. Additionally, they buttress attempts to deny the existence of a dominant rape culture and “the cultural normalcy” of male-to-female violence in private places (DeKeseredy et al., 2015; Meloy & Miller, 2011). Further, from a radical feminist theoretical and political standpoint,1 the female students who support the notion of “men as victims” are exonerators. In other words, they are apologists for the patriarchal status quo, exonerate men who oppress them and other women, and turn women against each other (Daly, 1978; DeKeseredy, DeKeseredy, & DeKeseredy, in press; Dines, 2017).
Radical feminists argue that the most important set of social relations in any society is found in patriarchy and that, throughout the world, females are the most oppressed social group while, regardless of their race/ethnicity and social class, men always have more power and privilege. The main causes of gender-inequality identified by radical feminists are: (1) the needs or desires of men to control women’s sexuality and reproductive potential and (2) patriarchy (DeKeseredy & Schwartz, 1996; Renzetti, 2018).
It should be emphasized, nonetheless, that the number of female students in our sample who have views similar to the above women’s (n=4) is much smaller than the amount who provided evidence of campus-based male aggrieved entitlement and a rape-culture. This 22-year-old, heterosexual, Hispanic woman is one of 15 such respondents:
Sexual assault and domestic violence occurs among all student populations, but I believe there is an unprecedented amount going on amongst social fraternity members. It has become a culture among the men of social fraternities to lack any respect for women and to take advantage of females without their consent. This is a personal opinion from personal experience.
Male entitlement is also expressed by this woman:
I feel a HUGE issue with males on this campus is their sense of entitlement to the females’ bodies. I have lost count of the number of times I have had my butt grabbed by males I have never spoken to. Catcalling is huge downtown. I have had a man whisper in my ear he was going to rape me and had countless comments telling me to smile, that I looked good or about my boobs bouncing while I walked. I have had strangers make jokes to me saying that they knew me and when I said I didn’t recall they said it was because they drugged me.
Though in the minority (n=3), a few white, heterosexual men in the sample concurred. This one said:
I’ve witnessed many situations in which males have been physically or sexually aggressive under the influence of alcohol. Furthermore, this is what happens and is accepted as “the way things are.”
This man more directly speaks to the issue of aggrieved entitlement:
I also believe that sexual misconduct stems in part from an increasingly individualistic culture in which isolated (usually white) males think that they are entitled to something (respect, love, sex?) from women and, as a consequence, engage in stalking, date rape, and other similar misconduct to “get back” when they don’t feel that they got what they “deserved.”
One more progressive white male student’s voice is worth repeating here:
It also seems that I usually overhear sexist and objectifying comments from young, seemingly middle-class, affluent, white males. Some of the things I’ve overheard are abhorrent. The most disturbing thing is the frequency of comments describing women as objects primarily for sex and ownership.
Angry white men, including those who are college students, blame members of LGBTQ and/or certain ethnic communities for their “problems” (Kimmel, 2017). Eleven male narratives illustrate this theme and below is one example:
All I can say is kids on this campus need to stop being pussies and stick up for themselves instead of tattling. Snitches deserve whatever they get for being babies. This school is sheltering these kids too much and it’s wasting the resources. If they can’t handle living at college, and getting a taste of what the world is like, they should go back home to suckle of mommy and daddy’s teats. These “special snowflakes” should receive no special accommodations and should accept and prepare for the harassment and ridicule that comes with rainbow hair or the flaunting of how gay you are.
In the view of another respondent:
Gender identity people are getting too many special privileges that they will not get in the real world and they’re being coddled and will not be prepared for life outside of academia.
Eminent African-American scholar Cornell West (2001) directs us to the fact that “race matters.” Additionally, he notes, “our truncated public discussions of race … fail to confront the complexity of the issue in a candid and critical manner” (p. 4). Race also matters to some of our respondents, but the discussion they would like is fundamentally distinct from that sought by West. Ponder this male student’s perception of his school:
This university is becoming increasingly discriminatory to people who do not fit into the category of “minority.” Straight, white, Christians are very frequently silenced in conversations about any type of social issue, especially men. This university fosters a hostile environment to those who hold conservative principles and are often told their worldview is wrong or bigoted even in classrooms.
This white male student offers a similar observation at the end of his narrative:
I have found with programs and studies like these that often time the obvious is left unspoken, such as how are the groups just talked about racist towards other groups. I have found several ethnic backgrounds to be more racist and more read to be loud and pull the race card without hesitation to almost any circumstance regardless of the actual situation or happenings … Just because some populations, such as white men, are not constantly begging for attention, their situations are often dismissed. I would like to see more studies on this matter.
At the time of writing this article in late September 2018, Judge Brett Kavanaugh was being considered for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court and during the confirmation hearing process, Palo Alto University psychologist Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and two other women accused him of sexual assault. These allegations jeopardized his nomination and thousands of people, including some members of Senate Judiciary Committee, claimed these women made false accusations. Declarations of false accusations and “the rights of the accused” are certainly not new and have been repeatedly stated on college campuses for decades even though less than 2% of campus rapes reported to the police are false allegations. Not surprisingly, then, false accusations and the rights of the accused are two salient themes that materialized from 10 respondents’ narratives.
Several statements, such as this one, stand out:
As a native straight white, male, honors student, I feel at risk for prosecution over assault. I am concerned that our society would be more willing to punish me if there were false claims against me. Because the victims … are heavily favored. I worry that an accusation would be enough to ruin my future … I think those who make false accusations should be punished. …
Others had similar views, including this male student who said:
Especially in cases of sexual assault/rape, I believe that the University is biased. When a woman reports that she was sexually assaulted by a male, the male is already seen as guilty before any evidence that shows that he actually did in fact commit the crime. Males are “guilty until proven innocent.” I have a male friend who was wrongly accused of sexual assault/rape by his ex-girlfriend … His ex-girlfriend is a person who seeks attention and will do so anyway she can get it, including lying about being raped. At first, it all started as physical abuse, and as the case went along, it increased to rape. Before this event, I did not know a person that is that delusional to lie about being sexually assaulted, but I am very surprised. Now, I am not saying that all women are lying to get attention because this is not the case at all. I just know that in this particular case, this girl was lying to get attention. Just wanted to throw it out there.
Like females involved with the WAF social media movement, some female respondents concurred with the above statements. This woman, for example, stated:
The issue is that the school is TOO nice to the person who reports and therefore is biased towards that person. I had an issue this year where a friend of mine was falsely accused of attempting sexual assault, but because he is a guy and the girl made the report, they were biased towards her and he ended up leaving the school.
Another white, heterosexual woman recommend that the school should “Be sure the people claiming they were raped aren’t making up stories to hide their regret. Don’t ruin student lives because they were accused falsely of rape.” Women’s claims like these are not rare and there is a literature showing that women can be hostilely sexist toward other women and police traditional gender norms (DeKeseredy et al., 2015; Glick & Fiske, 1996; Sibley, Overall, & Duckitt, 2007). Moreover, today, many younger female members of the general population find value in pornography, despite its sexist, racist, and violent content. Actually, viewing pornography, particularly on secular college campuses, is now a common experience for female undergraduate students (DeKeseredy & Corsianos, 2016; Foubert, 2017). This is due, in large part, to what Dines (2010) coins as “internalizing porn ideology, an ideology that often masquerades as advice on how to be hot, rebellious and cool in order to attract (and hopefully keep) a man.” Related to this problem is that scores of young women, especially North American female undergraduates (DeKeseredy, DeKeseredy, & DeKeseredy, in press), accuse anti-porn feminists like Dines of “denying them the free choice to embrace our hypersexualized porn culture” since as “rising members of the next generation’s elite,” they see “no limits or constraints on them as women” (p. 100).
It should also be noted in passing that some administrators around the U.S. contend that studies finding high rates of campus sexual assault are flawed and, at best, reveal high rates of “regretted sex” (DeKeseredy, 2011; DeKeseredy & Flack, 2007). As demonstrated by the aforementioned events surrounding Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation (which took place two years after the survey was administered) and narratives included in this article, there is still a major anti-feminist backlash against efforts to curb sexual assault and to hold men who engage in this behavior accountable for their actions.
To the best of our knowledge, this is the first exploratory study to uncover in-depth qualitative data on aggrieved entitlement on the college campus. The results strongly suggest that many male college students, at least at our research site, feel “stiffed” (Faludi, 1999) despite being in privileged positions. Focusing on these men and the women who support them is what also makes this study unique because most of the previous studies of aggrieved entitlement and similar factors focused heavily on adult, working-class people who were not in college and on young men in extremist groups (e.g., Hochschild, 2016; Kimmel, 2013, 2018). It seems, then, that white male aggrieved entitlement is not restricted to a particular age group or social class and it appears that it also entails promoting rape myths and denying the existence of alarmingly high rates of sexual assault on college campuses like the one uncovered at our research site (34%). Further, the exploratory data reported here suggest that aggrieved entitlement may, in addition to other key risk factors (e.g., alcohol and pro-abuse peer support), contribute to sexual assault, hate-crime and bias incidents, and other violent behaviors that plague campus communities. Still, at this point in time, the strength of the association is unclear. What we definitely do know, however, is that like the men studied by Kimmel (2013), the bulk of the CQLS male respondents who revealed evidence of experiencing aggrieved entitlement are not supportive of progressive efforts aimed at making communities safer and more equitable for women, sexual minorities, and ethnic minorities.
Still, it may seem painfully obvious, but worth stating nonetheless: more research is necessary. Future studies, too, should involve the use of both qualitative and quantitative methods. For example, the concept of aggrieved entitlement needs to be operationalized and included in representative sample surveys to determine the extent, distribution, and key sources of its presence on college campuses. Observational procedures and in-depth interviews are also necessary. Ideally, researchers should strive for data triangulation and use several different methods to study aggrieved entitlement in institutions of higher learning and elsewhere (Denzin, 2017).
Likewise, much theoretical work is needed. Why do white male college students experience aggrieved entitlement? We can easily speculate here, but research specifically designed to answer this question will help develop a richer theoretical understanding of college white men’s anger and tell us more about why many white college women help fuel male aggrieved entitlement. It is also necessary to focus on patriarchal and racist discourses that exist in mixed-sex peer groups. For example, a few campus surveys found that women in some of these groups contribute to their male friends’ sexual assaults on women and their belief that their hurtful behaviors and patriarchal attitudes are regularized parts of campus life (DeKeseredy, Hall-Sanchez, & Nolan, 2018; Gwartney-Gibbs & Stockard, 1989).
In the words of Kurt Lewin (1951), the founder of modern social psychology, “There is nothing so practical as good theory” (p. 169). Surely, to both prevent experiencing aggrieved entitlement and its negative consequences, good theories can lead to the development of effective policies and prevention initiatives. So far, there are few answers to the question “What is to be done about male aggrieved entitlement?” DeKeseredy (2019) and Kimmel (2013) offer some, but like the bulk of the earlier research on aggrieved entitlement, their solutions do not focus squarely on college males and the women who support them. Yet, we must also continually recognize that much of what is good in the world is produced by college males and other men (Bowker, 1998). What is more, every day we see and hear of more men engaging in counter-hegemonic practices. We could definitely use a few more of them (Katz, 2006).
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Walter S. DeKeseredy is Anna Deane Carlson Endowed Chair of Social Sciences, director of the Research Center on Violence, and professor of Sociology at West Virginia University. His has done extensive empirical and theoretical work on various types of violence against women.
Kathryn Burnham is a doctoral candidate in Sociology at West Virginia University. Her research interests include sexual assault, gender, evaluation, and criminological theory.
Robert Nicewarner is a Ph.D. student in Sociology at West Virginia University. His current research interests include the psychodynamics of police and community relationships.
James Nolan is professor of Sociology at West Virginia University. His research focuses on violence against women on campus, neighborhood dynamics, police procedures, crime measurement, hate crimes, and equity and inclusion in higher education.
Amanda Hall-Sanchez is an assistant professor of Criminal Justice and the Director of the Graduate Program in Criminal Justice at Fairmont State University. Her research and publications focus heavily on separation/divorce violence against women in rural communities.