Home > Press Releases > Groundbreaking New MTV-PRRI Study: Majority of Young Women Say Pressure on Men to Act Masculine Leads to Sexually Aggressive Behavior
Groundbreaking New MTV-PRRI Study: Majority of Young Women Say Pressure on Men to Act Masculine Leads to Sexually Aggressive Behavior

Survey of Millennials and “Gen Z” Examines Beliefs on Gender, Race, Discrimination, and Political and Social Issues

WASHINGTON (January 10, 2018) — A groundbreaking new survey from MTV and PRRI finds that young people age 15-24 believe social pressure to act masculine may be leading young men towards violent and sexually aggressive behavior. The survey — a unique examination of the views of both young millennials and their “Gen Z” successors — finds that:

  • Sixty percent of young people believe pressure to act masculine prevents men from expressing their emotions in healthy ways.
  • More than four in ten young people believe this pressure to act masculine specifically leads to sexually aggressive (46 percent) or violent behavior (43 percent).

Majorities of young men (52 percent) and young women (69 percent) believe pressure to act masculine prevents men from expressing their emotions in healthy ways. Yet, men and women differ on their perceptions of other consequences of this pressure.

  • Young women are more likely than young men to say pressure to act masculine encourages sexually aggressive behavior (54 percent vs. 37 percent, respectively).
  • While 53 percent of young women say this pressure encourages violent behavior, just 34 percent of young men share this belief.

“In the midst of the critical national conversation now taking place on issues of sexual harassment and assault, this survey shows that young Americans in their teens and early twenties see serious negative consequences flowing from traditional depictions of masculinity,” notes Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI. “Young women, in particular, are worried that these expectations carry within them the seeds of sexually aggressive or even violent behavior.”

“The striking fact that this survey pre-dates the recent wave of high-profile sexual harassment cases shows that most young people — especially young women — were ahead of the curve on these issues,” said Chris McCarthy, President of MTV. “Many of them are speaking up and taking action and it’s critical that we amplify their efforts.”

The survey also found that seven in ten (70 percent) young Americans have personally seen or experienced discrimination in the last 12 months because of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, or religious beliefs.

  • One in four (25 percent) young people report being targeted or treated unfairly themselves in the last 12 months.
  • More than four in ten (43 percent) say this treatment caused them to fear for their personal safety.
  • A majority of young people believe that discrimination against Muslims (75 percent) and transgender people (56 percent) has increased in the U.S. over the past 12 months; about half (47 percent) say black people have faced increasing discrimination as well.

Many young Americans are not standing idle when faced with discrimination.

  • Nearly half of young people (49 percent) who have witnessed someone being targeted or mistreated say they have personally intervened.
  • A majority (55 percent) of young people report having more conversations with friends or family members about groups of people being targeted or treated unfairly in the last 12 months.

With so many young Americans choosing to speak out around issues of discrimination, it is unsurprising that young people support free speech on campus, even if the content of that speech is offensive.

  • Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of young Americans — including 71 percent of young college graduates — say colleges and universities should allow speakers on campus who promote views about race, gender, or religion that are offensive to some students.

These conversations are translating into broader political activism for many young Americans, especially online and among young women.

  • Almost half (48 percent) of young women say they have signed an online petition, as have 39 percent of young men. Thirty-seven percent of young women and 30 percent of young men have volunteered for a group or cause they care about.
  • Young women are somewhat more likely than young men to have donated money to a campaign or cause, by a margin of 25 percent to 18 percent, respectively.

“Although young people are the most diverse generation the country has ever seen, they do not speak with a single voice on issues of race and gender,” notes Dan Cox, PRRI Research Director. “Many young white men in particular perceive lower levels of discrimination than their generational peers.”

Young Americans are not united on every issue, particularly those that pertain to race. Perceptions of “reverse” discrimination differ among young Americans by race and ethnicity.

  • More than one-third (36 percent) of white young people, including 43 percent of young white men, say that, today, discrimination against white people is as serious as that experienced by blacks and other minority groups.
  • Only 16 percent of black, 19 percent of Asian-Pacific Islander, and 28 percent of Hispanic young people agree.

Most young Americans do not believe that diversity efforts are detrimental to whites.

  • Only about one-third (32 percent) of young people overall, and 38 percent of white young people, believe efforts to increase diversity almost always come at the expense of whites.
  • White young men are more divided. Nearly half (48 percent) believe diversity efforts will harm white people, while more than half (52 percent) disagree.
  • Only 28 percent of white young women believe efforts to promote diversity harm white people.


The survey was conducted by PRRI in partnership with MTV among a random sample of 2,023 young people age 15-24 who are part of the GfK’s YouthPulse panel, a nationally representative probability sample of teens and young adults. Interviews were conducted online in both English and Spanish between July 19 and August 3, 2017. The margin of error for the overall survey is +/- 2.7 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence. The design effect for the survey is 1.6.

About PRRI:

PRRI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization specializing in research at the intersection of religion, values, and public life.

About MTV:

MTV is a global youth culture brand inspired by music. For more information, check out mtvpress.com. MTV is a unit of Viacom Inc. (NASDAQ: VIAB, VIA)