Confrontation and loss of control: Masculinity and men’s fear in public space

Day, K., Stump, C., & Carreon, D.

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Day, K., Stump, C., & Carreon, D. (2003). Confrontation and loss of control: Masculinity and men’s fear in public space. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 23(3), 311–322.

Confrontation , Fear , Masculinity , Public Space

Existing research typically examines fear in public space from women’s perspectives. To date, environment–behavior researchers have largely overlooked men’s fear in public space, and the role of masculinity in shaping men’s perceptions of fear and safety. This paper investigates the intersections of traditional, dominant masculinity—or masculinism—and men’s fear in public space, based on interviews with 82 undergraduate men students. Masculinism features qualities such as control, competition, aggression, and physical strength. We argue that, for many men, public spaces and situations that challenge this masculinist identity may generate fear. Similarly, spaces and situations that promote feelings of safety do so, in part, by bolstering this identity. We employ the lens of masculinity to explore men’s feelings of fear of the unknown, heightened awareness and safety, fear of confrontation, and safety in numbers. Conclusions examine implications for the development of masculinity and recommendations for future research.

Main finding
Studies about fear in relation public space often focus on the perspectives of women. In this study, the authors explore in what ways men experience fear in relation to public space. This research indicates men could generally experience less fear than women about public spaces, experienced fears often relate to "unknown places" and locations associated with potential conflicts, and that men rely a sense of heightened awareness as well as traveling in groups as strategies to reduce fear.

Description of method used in the article
Semi-structured interviews with undergraduate men students (N = 82, average age 20) at the University of California, Irvine. Open-ended interview questions about public space focused on the themes of (a) fear, (b) perceptions of being feared, and (c) perceptions of women’s fear.

Of some practical use if combined with other research

Organising categories

Crime and Aggression
Physical types
Geographic locations