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A helpful conceptual model: Hegemonic masculinity

Using the right conceptual model is vital to capturing and responding to the risks posed by coercive control.
Hegemonic masculinity.
Little girl sitting with head in her hands while large shadow of man with bottle in his hand and woman pointing to him in background

Hegemonic masculinity

‘Hegemonic masculinity refers to the set of ideals and practices that denote the most prized ways of being a man in any given context. The concept of hegemonic masculinity remains an integral part of studies of masculinities, and is an important tool for addressing a range of concerns.’

(Our Watch, 2019. p.24)

When engaging with the man using these tactics, here are some questions that might be helpful for you to gauge how controlling they may be:

  • “How important is fairness to you?”
  • “How has winning become so important to you in your relationship?”
  • “When things are challenging, what are things that you feel you NEED to do?”

Of course, it is impossible to script the exact words for every situation, but it is important for us, as practitioners, to not shy away from asking men (whom we suspect of being controlling) questions that illuminate their beliefs and, perhaps, double standards.

This is not to say that responding to coercive control or, in fact, even recognising it, is not challenging. Hamberger et al. (2017, p.9) have captured its vagueness succinctly: “coercive control has remained a somewhat fuzzy concept; reminiscent of Supreme Court Justice Stewart’s famous definition of obscenity – “I know it when I see it”.

This knowing it when we see it idea is one that will resonate with many of us. Many describe it as a ‘gut instinct’ that there’s “something about this man, about this relationship” that doesn’t feel “right”. However, the challenge we are all faced with is “seeing it” early enough to have a meaningful impact.

Male pondering image of man and woman behind him. Man behind him has hand on hips and seems to be controlling woman with pointing of his finger. Male thinking 'something seems off about this'

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Understanding Coercive Control

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