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'Cause We’re All Just Part of the System Really': Complicity and Resistance in Young Sportsmen's Responses to Violence Against Women Prevention Campaigns in England

Burrell, S.R. (2021) ''Cause We’re All Just Part of the System Really': Complicity and Resistance in Young Sportsmen's Responses to Violence Against Women Prevention Campaigns in England.', Sociological Research Online . pp. 1-19.


In recent years, initiatives to prevent men’s violence against women on university campuses in England have been growing. However, there remains a lack of institutional recognition about the gendered dynamics of this abuse and the importance of engaging men in ending it. This research sought to shed light on how young men make sense of violence prevention campaigns, through eight focus groups with 45 members of men’s university sports teams. The focus groups illustrated the need for prevention work to expand men’s critical consciousness of complicity in violence against women, to encourage them to reflect on both their personal connections to the problem and the positive role they can play in preventing it. This complicity was at times exhibited within the focus groups themselves, such as in defensive responses when patriarchal privileges and norms were brought into question. These included shifting the focus away from men’s violence and onto men’s victimisation, naturalisations of partner violence as an inevitability, and disassociating from the problem as if it was separate from the participants’ lives. Collective masculine norms appeared to play a substantial role in shaping the discussions, illustrating how these can mediate young men’s responses to prevention campaigns. However, at times the participants did challenge sexism among one another and articulate resistance to men’s violence against women, demonstrating their capacity to create change. The article contends that violence prevention requires critically addressing men’s practices and what Hearn calls the ‘hegemony of men’ more broadly, rather than only problematising specific ‘forms’ of masculinities.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (
Date accepted:08 September 2021
Date deposited:11 November 2021
Date of first online publication:10 November 2021
Date first made open access:11 November 2021

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