Men's intimate partner abuse and control : reconciling paradoxical masculinities and social contradictions

Murphy, Clare (2009) Men's intimate partner abuse and control : reconciling paradoxical masculinities and social contradictions. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Intimate partner abuse and control is one of the most common forms of violence against women, and is considered an international problem of social, political, legal and human rights significance. Yet few studies have attempted to understand this problem from the perspective of male perpetrators. This gap is addressed by conducting in-depth interviews with 16 able-bodied men of white European ancestry born and educated in New Zealand or Australia, who have been physically violent and/or emotionally, intellectually, sexually or financially controlling of a live-in female partner. This thesis extends and deepens the dominant ways of thinking about men’s intimate partner abuse by utilising a new theoretical framework compatible with contemporary feminist scholarship. A synthesis of Connell’s theory of masculinities and Bourdieu’s field theory is utilised for the purpose of exploring more nuanced, complex understandings of manliness and men’s relationships with men, women and social structures. Through such an analysis, this thesis finds that men’s perpetration of power and control over women is driven by a need to avoid the stigma of appearing weak. As a consequence, their desire and ability to show love, care and empathy is suppressed in favour of a presumed honourable manliness, and their female partners are used as weapons in the pursuit of symbolic capital in the form of recognition, prestige and acceptance from real and/or imagined men. This research also uncovers the complex interplay between masculine practices and particular social contexts. For example, the norms of practice encountered from those in authority, such as teachers, sports coaches, police, court judges and workplace management, influences the decision making of the men in this study, to use, or not to use, physical violence, psychological abuse and structural control. The principal conclusion is that there is a repertoire of paradoxical masculinities and contradictory social messages available to the men in this study. But gender policing by other men, complicit women and those in authority provides little room for legitimate complexity in masculine practices. Perpetrators in this study reconcile these conflicts of interest by generally avoiding subordinated masculinity and possible ostracism, and instead practicing more heroic hegemonic masculinities by abusing and controlling women and particular other men. This thesis concludes that for intimate partner abuse and control to cease, changes in power structures have to occur at all levels of society.

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ID Code: 31854
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Carpenter, Belinda, Adkins, Barbara, & Robertson, Neville
Keywords: Bourdieu, bullying, Connell, domestic violence, habitus, hegemonic masculinity, honour, intimate partner abuse, masculinities, perpetrator, power and control, psychological abuse, subordinated masculinity, symbolic capital
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Schools > School of Justice
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 19 Apr 2010 06:44
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:56

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