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Poverty shapes men's attitudes towards women, study finds

Researchers found a 'simmering resentment towards women' among men from poorer communities.

Deprived: Study will be used to inform future policy (file pic).
Deprived: Study will be used to inform future policy (file pic). Danny Lawson / PA Archive

Scottish men who grow up in areas of widespread poverty are more likely to have unhealthy attitudes towards women and sex, new research has found.

A two-year study conducted in some of Scotland's poorest communities looked at the influence of a person's surroundings on their approach to sexual health, including coercion and violence.

Researchers were struck by the "undertone of simmering resentment towards women" in the men's responses, "particularly in relation to perceived 'appropriate' femininity, sexuality, and sex".

They concluded that tackling misogyny and sexism goes beyond the individual and needs to be approached from a community level.

The team, led by Glasgow Caledonian University's Dr Karen Lorimer, spoke to 116 men and women aged 18-40, in what they believe to be the first study of its kind in the UK.

Using focus groups and interviews, they were asked about their experiences living and growing up in their community, and quizzed on their views towards men and women, their understanding of consent and their views and experiences of physical, sexual and verbal abuse.

Dr Lorimer said: "Within sexual health, we found looking narrowly at what individuals know is never going to solve sexual health issues and improve attitudes towards equality.

"What we found is that if you are a young man living in a community, where there is a norm for violence; where there is peer acceptance that you have sex with lots of women; where women are treated poorly; you will have limited opportunities to adopt more positive forms of masculinity that could help foster more equal relationships.

"To tackle misogyny, sexism and violence, we need to work at a community level and look beyond individuals.

"If we want to make a difference, we can't just hand people a leaflet and expect them to change when there are bigger influences on them."

The study, funded by the Chief Scientist Office, was co-authored by Professor Lesley McMillan of Glasgow Caledonian University, Professor Lisa McDaid of the University of Glasgow, Dona Milne from NHS Lothian, Sian Russell of Newcastle University and Kate Hunt of the University of Glasgow.

Its findings will be used help inform future sexual health policy.

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