Written by Jamal Tillman
Victims of Bullying
Bullying (the act of intimidating others) has been a hot topic issue for the past two decades (Wang, Iannotti, Nansel, 2009). It appears in our current society, we are playing catch-up with mitigating an uncontrollable fire within the social parameters of our K-12 schools. Bullying is a problem. However, there seems to be another branch on the proverbial tree: sexual violence. Discussions are occurring regarding a potential connection between bullying and sexual violence; researchers are attempting to find a link between bullying behavior (i.e., relational, cyber, or physical) and increased perpetuation of sexual violence (Basile, Espelage, Rivers, McMahon, & Simon, 2009). Regarding the bullying problem, one can see that certain elements can be overtly sexist and/or homophobic in nature (Daley, Solomon, Newman, & Mishna, 2007). Bullying, in this regard, may be connected to sexual violence (Basile et al., 2009).
Prevalence of Bullying and Sexual Harassment
Basile and colleagues (2009) state that bullying perpetration by both girls and boys occurs more frequently than sexual harassment perpetration; additionally, no significant difference exists between girls and boys regarding sexual harassment perpetration in the form of bullying (i.e., inappropriate verbal abuse, derogatory terms or slander, or forced inappropriate contact; Basile et al., 2009). However, students who identify as gay, bisexual, lesbian, or transgender report higher instances of sexual harassment and bullying victimization (Basile et al., 2009). The study by Basile and colleagues (2009) mentions that there are several factors that bullying and sexual violence perpetration have in common: avoidant attachment styles, rape myth beliefs, gender biases and conformity to gender-based roles/stereotype. However, the article (Basile et al., 2009) also points out that even though these factors are shared by both bullying and sexual violence perpetration, this does not mean that the factors are congruent regarding both bullying and sexual violence perpetration.
Some of those factors previously mentioned can be related to sexism and toxic masculinity (i.e., a critique of the way society has created men to be dominant, aggressive (sexually and otherwise), and unemotional, both collectively and as individuals); toxic masculinity can create unhealthy societal standards for boys and men, as well as plant the seeds of misogyny and overtly sexist ideals (Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005). If we believe that bullying can lead to sexual violence in males, then can we also assume that the root behavior itself (bullying) has connections to perceived masculinity? It is no secret that the victims of bullying are often those who are seen to be at the lower ends of the social hierarchy. The usual targets are often racial and ethnic minorities, females, “unpopular” kids, and those who fail to conform to society’s ideals of sexuality (Vervoort, Scholte, & Overbeek, 2010) and gender conformity. Bullying behavior is a unified combination of negative attitudes and the power that the bully has over the victims. Further inquiries could bring eye-opening results and provide the general population with additional insight into the bullying epidemic, as well as provide possible solutions that could help us mitigate such behavior and potentially create safer environments in our schools.
Basile, K. C., Espelage, D. L., Rivers, I., McMahon, P. M., & Simon, T. R. (2009). The theoretical and empirical links between bullying behavior and male sexual violence perpetration. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 14, 336-347. doi: 10.1016/j.avb.2009.06.001
Daley, A., Solomon, S., Newman, P., & Mishna, F. (2007). Traversing the Margins: Intersectionalities in the Bullying of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 19(3-4), 9-29.
Wang, J., Iannotti, R. J., & Nansel, T. R. (2009). School Bullying Among Adolescents in the United States: Physical, Verbal, Relational, and Cyber. Journal of Adolescent Health, 45, 368–375.
Connell, R. W., & Messerschmidt, J. W. (2005). Hegemonic masculinity rethinking the concept. Gender & society, 19(6), 829-859.
Vervoort, M. H., Scholte, R. H., & Overbeek, G. (2010). Bullying and victimization among adolescents: The role of ethnicity and ethnic composition of school class. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39(1), 1-11.
Dr. H. Colleen Sinclair
Social Psychologist, Relationships Researcher,
Ms. Jessica Utley
Lab Manager of the Social Relations Collaborative and Blog Editor