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The Federal Government Is Studying How Drunk Men Look at Women

The federal government is hoping that a study of drunk men's eye movements will help to reveal the role alcohol plays in gender relations and sexual violence against women.
July 28, 2015, 5:20pm
Photo via Flickr user Pay No Mind

Hope you've been a nice drunk lately, because the US federal government is willing to spend almost a quarter of a million dollars to figure out what we all knew: Gender bias and gender relations are still shit these days, especially when alcohol is involved.

This week, New York magazine revealed photos of 35 accusers who have come forward to say that they were drugged and sexually assaulted by Bill Cosby—most commonly by mixing a Quaalude or other date-rape drug into wine and cocktails that he served to them. Think we need to open up the discussion about aggression toward women, especially when alcohol is involved? Sort of an understatement, but yeah.

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The National Institutes of Health think so, too. They have committed to spend over $222,000 to get to the bottom of how to limit male aggression toward female acquaintances in booze-fueled situations.

How will they do that? Researchers at the University of Iowa say that they will start by looking at the eye movements of young men when they are drunk and when they are sober. (Evidently, no one ever told them that the crotch is the real window to the soul.)


The men will be asked to view scenes that show women who vary "along sexual interest, provocativeness-of-dress, and attractiveness dimensions in a background context that varies in sexual relevance." The gist is to ask the men to assess the women's sexual interest in them.

The researchers believe that the drunker men get, the more they lose their ability to judge a woman's degree of attraction to them. According to the grant application, "participants will complete assessments of drinking patterns, alcohol expectancies, rape-supportive attitudes, insensitivity to women's rejection cues in a simulated rape, and past history of sexual aggression."

The goal, according to the researchers, is to "leverage theories and methods from basic cognitive and vision science to advance understanding of the effect of alcohol consumption on men's perceptions of women." In short, the study will also look at whether men aged 21 to 25 have "rape-supportive attitudes" that are exacerbated by booze.

The scientists seem to understand that this project is only the beginning of what will need to be a long-term study: "The present project will lay the groundwork for the future development of cognitive-training strategies that target the precise visual-attention patterns generating [individual] differences in sexual-interest judgments and consumption-related reductions in men's sensitivity," according to the researchers.

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The study began in May and the budget for the project will not expire until April 2016. In all seriousness, there may not be time to lose when it comes to improving safety for women, whether they want to have a glass of wine with a male friend or not.