Higher Education Ph.D. Dissertations


Narratives of Undergraduate Men about Masculinity and Men's Violence

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Higher Education Administration

First Advisor

Ken Borland (Committee Co-Chair)

Second Advisor

D-L Stewart (Committee Co-Chair)

Third Advisor

Jeanne Novak (Other)

Fourth Advisor

Ellen Broido (Committee Member)


College, specifically undergraduate, men are often described as “drunken, promiscuous… lovers of pornography, sports, and video games who rape women, physically assault each other, [and] vandalize buildings on campus” (Harris & Harper, 2014, p. 10). These behaviors are perceived to be common, even normal, for undergraduate men. The behavior is observable on today’s college campuses and was commonplace at the conception of post secondary institutions in the United States.

The research on college men and masculinity primarily focuses on toxic behavior. These studies perpetuate the belief that most college men behave this way, amplify participation in toxic behavior, and undermine most men that do not. I focused on college men who worked to disrupt toxic gender norms that perpetuate men’s violence.

I sought to understand how college men defined masculinity by listening to the stories they told of how they learned to define masculinity as children, as adolescents, and as college men involved in anti-violence initiatives. The study also attempted to understand how their definitions of masculinity were shaped and informed by their involvement in these initiatives. In addition, the study considered why some college men were motivated to disrupt toxic gender norms; why they became and remained involved in anti-violence initiatives.

This qualitative study was conducted using narrative inquiry and a constructionist paradigm. Josselson (2011) suggested four processes for narrative data analysis: overall reading, re-reading for narratives, re-reading for patterns, and dialoguing the themes. I utilized these steps for data analysis.

Participants initially defined their masculinity in concert with traditional masculine norms; ideals they were taught as children. Gender and cultural discourse informed how they defined and performed their masculinities. They also engaged in behavior consistent with dominant gender and social discourse to ascend social hierarchy and gain social status.

The participants matured in how they defined their masculine identities and became more inclusive of non-traditional depictions of masculinity in other people. However, they were motivated to be perceived as good men because they believed this would result in social accolades and increased social status. Thus, these men continued to define their masculinity through hegemonic ideologies.