Wednesday, March 25, 2015

URSP Student Colby Fleming Researches Masculinity and Virgin-Shaming in College-Aged Males

Interest in my project and its subject matter began with my sociological research methods course, in which one of my major assignments for the semester was to create a viable research design for a sociological question of my choice. Racking my brain for a workable and interesting research question, I overheard several classmates discussing slut-shaming in women as potential topics. Myself being male, I began to wonder what that might look like for men, and thought that, if anything, I might be more likely to be looked down on as a man for lacking sexual experience rather than possessing too much; I decided to investigate the extent and causes of this phenomenon, if it even occurred at all. Thus my project idea, later titled “Masculinity and Virgin-shaming in College-aged Males,” was born.

On a weekly basis, I am almost certainly transcribing audio interviews into written form, as well as re-reading these transcripts to pick out relationships across the data. My method of choice in investigation is field research in the form of one-on-one interviews to answer questions as to the prevalence of virgin-shaming, its causes, its potential use in manipulating other guys’ behavior, and in what sorts of social settings it would or would not occur. Besides transcribing, I am often otherwise making connections in data obtained from multiple respondents; this week, for instance, I discovered that, though calling someone a “virgin” derogatorily might well be used as a form of bullying, many of my respondents reported that it could just as readily be used to try and provoke a friend into engaging in some masculine activity, say, going out to a bar or flirting with a girl across the room.

The opportunity to actually engage in research is invaluable to my long-term goals; not only am I gaining hands-on experience with procedures like consulting relevant literature, conducting proper data analysis, and writing a professional article for publication, but I am also investigating and learning about a field that is highly relevant in sociology and interests me, as well as learning about the social contexts and surroundings in which I myself am embedded as a man in modern society. This project, then, will help me both practically, with future applications to grad school and jobs, as well as personally, in understanding myself and my social environment more thoroughly. In the future, I am considering work in teaching or in sociological research—or maybe teaching sociology!