Hostile Masculinity Syndrome

Hostile Masculinity Syndrome Definition

Hostile Masculinity SyndromeHostile masculinity syndrome refers to a personality profile that includes interrelated attitudes and emotions that may be grouped within two primary components: The first consists of hostile, distrustful, insecure feelings toward people, particularly women, accompanied by misogynous (woman-hating) attitudes, such as beliefs that rape victims secretly desire to be victimized. The second component consists of a desire to control and dominate women that results in deriving sexual arousal and gratification from such domination over women. Men who have such a syndrome typically also have an insecure sense of masculinity and are hypersensitive to rejection from women. They are frequently highly narcissistic as well.

Hostile Masculinity Syndrome Analysis

Research has shown that not only are there differences among men within a society in the extent to which they fit such a profile, but there are some reliable differences in comparing societies to each other. Cross-cultural research focusing on some of the key components of hostile masculinity, such as men’s hostility toward women, has found not only differences among different societies but also that such hostility is highly correlated with women’s hostility toward women. Interestingly, however, the degree of women’s hostility toward men was found to be highly correlated with women’s status in the society. In societies where women’s status was more equal to that of men’s, there was relatively less hostility toward men than in societies with lower status for women. In contrast, men’s hostility toward women was not found to be correlated with women’s status in the various societies, and research continues to look at the factors that may be responsible for such cross-cultural variation. The United States was found to be relatively high in both men’s hostility toward women and women’s hostility toward men. India was found to be very high on both, whereas Scandinavian countries (e.g., Sweden) were found to be among the lowest in both types of hostility.

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Males having such a hostile masculinity syndrome of feelings and attitudes are expected to be more motivated to behave in negative ways toward females and to condone such behavior in others. Research has found support for such expectations. This profile has been useful in research predicting which males are more likely to be sexually aggressive toward females, with the findings revealing that men who are relatively high in this syndrome are more likely to sexually coerce females. This is particularly the case if the men also have a generally promiscuous sexual lifestyle whereby they are frequently in relatively short-term sexual relationships, without much personal attachment or intimacy.

Hostile masculinity, or some of its key components, has also been shown to predict other behaviors in addition to direct sexual aggression. For example, an association has been found with men’s nonsexual physical and verbal aggression toward their marital partners as well as with sexual harassment of women.

In addition to these findings outside the laboratory, research in laboratory settings has shown some similar predictive ability of this personality profile. For example, after being mildly insulted in a laboratory setting, males who scored higher on hostile masculinity have been found to give more aversive “punishment” to females than those lower on this personality profile and to talk to them in a more domineering and hostile way. Interestingly, the same personality profile does not equally predict similar aggression or hostile speech toward other males, suggesting some specificity in these men’s motivation to target women.


  • Malamuth, N. (1996). Research on the confluence model of sexual aggression based on feminist and evolutionary perspectives. In D. Buss & N. Malamuth (Eds.), Sex, power, conflict: Evolutionary and feminist perspectives (pp. 269-295). New York: Oxford University Press.