Why Men Grope Women Culture, sex, and projective identification explain groping.

This was a repost on groping and public harassment of women. After a Fox Sports reporter Maria Fernanda Mora was groped by a man on live television, during an interview.
We wanted to understand why this still happens.
This post is not meant to justify harassment against women, but to look at a psychological reason of why it happens.

Here are three reasons men grope women.

The first is cultural conformity. By culture, I mean the implicit and explicit rules of conduct that will generate approval and avoid disapproval. When a man gropes (or otherwise assaults or harasses) a woman for cultural reasons, it means that the reward sought is not so much the physical contact with the woman but the approval of others for doing so.
A cultural explanation would also include the relevance to the man of inducing the woman not to dress or behave in certain ways. News stories of men in other countries attacking women in public for wearing Western garb may fit this model.
In many parts of America, cultural rules strengthen the patriarchy and the privileges of maleness by defining men as free agents and women as property. Hitting on women may be rewarded by cheers from other men. As other men have reported, I’ve never heard anything in a locker room (or in a poker game) like Trump’s comments. Still, to the extent that Trump’s behavior with and about women is reinforced not only by the women and their bodies but by giggling admiration from other men, it’s cultural.
Groping and ogling women garners sexual reinforcers in the form of touching and seeing things that are pleasurable in a sexual way. This would seem to apply mainly to teenaged boys, who presumably are more strongly potentiated to be reinforced by sexual stimuli than adults are, and who presumably are not as used to seeing and touching women as adults are.
For many men, the sexual reinforcement obtained by touching or looking is offset by the effect on the woman; for them, causing the woman discomfort is aversive. In consensual sex and in pornography, there is either no aversive effect on the woman or no apparent aversive effect. Information that links pornography to sex trafficking or pathological reasons for the woman’s engagement can ruin pornography for many men.
When the man is very wealthy or very charismatic, women may pretend not to be bothered by the groping in exchange for the chance at a relationship or so as not to disadvantage themselves socially or economically. And some women in some circumstances may enjoy groping or ogling by strangers for reasons not relevant here, except to say that these women require men to distinguish them from most women, a relatively easy distinction to make for men who find women’s discomfort aversive.
The main reason men grope women, though, is projective identification. Projective identification is a defense mechanism: It works to preserve beliefs about a person’s narrative and definition of self by disowning aspects of the self that don’t fit that narrative or definition.
In projective identification, you get other people to embody embarrassing aspects of the self so you can then define yourself in counterpoint to the disowned aspects. In projection, you merely imagine that others are like you claim not to be; in projective identification, you act in a way that actually gets them to be what you claim not to be. For example, a woman who cannot bear to think of herself as aggressive drives slow in the left lane and marvels at how angry other drivers tend to be as they honk and scream at her. In comparison with the people she sees, she has indeed become someone with remarkably little anger. A man who is terrified of being ordinary insists that every encounter with him be intimate, startling, and emotionally courageous; others react with exhaustion and retreat to mundane pleasures like small talk and watching TV. In comparison with them, he has indeed become an extraordinary person.
Many men are raised to detest their own dependence, passivity, and vulnerability. This occurs not only through punishment of boys for being weak but also through excessive praise for their strength, agency, and toughness. The latter creates a situation where the boy being normally vulnerable or scared becomes a loss of face. Groping, ogling, and catcalling are often ways of inducing in women feelings of vulnerability, weakness, and fear. Compared to women scurrying away from a frightening man, the man seems to himself to be tough, strong, and courageous. Compared to a woman paralyzed or befuddled by being groped, the man seems to himself to be a master of the universe. Bullying works the same way.

Author: Michael Karson Ph.D., J.D.
Published on: Psychology Today
Link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/feeling-our-way/201610/why-men-grope-women