Saturday, December 4, 2021

Dan Cassino and Yasemin Besen-Cassino's "Gender Threat"

Dan Cassino is Professor of Government and Politics at Fairleigh Dickinson University and Executive Director of the FDU Poll.

Yasemin Besen-Cassino is Professor and Chair of Sociology at Montclair State University. She is the editor of Contemporary Sociology.

Cassino applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Gender Threat: American Masculinity in the Face of Change, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Gender Threat is towards the beginning of our examination of how men make use of pornography in order to assert their masculinity. There’s lots of work on attitudes about pornography, and use of pornography, but much of it is hampered by a reliance on self-reports about pornography use – and there’s good reason to believe that men and women might be lying about it. We know that the use of online pornography increased dramatically as high-speed internet access spread across the US, but reported rates of US have only inched up, leading us to look for a different way to measure the use of pornography. Instead of relying on self-report, we make use of Google data, and, in particular, Google searches for, and within, the most popular pornography site (and in the top 10 of all sites) on the internet, Pornhub.

Were a reader to open up our book to page 99, they’d get some idea of what the book is about, and our approach, but wouldn’t have much of an idea of why we’re so interested in isolating changes in the rates of use of various genres of pornography. What I like about page 99 is that it highlights some of the things the book does well: it’s setting up a link between masculine gender identity to a common behavior, just as the book has done previously for behaviors ranging from sexual harassment and voting to pornography use. It also gives an idea of how we’re going about this: we’re not drawing on self-reports, but outside sources and experiments that give use better insight into what’s really happening with men’s gender identities. As we show throughout the book, what men say, and what men actually do, are two very different things.

The problem with page 99 of our book is that it’s set up for a punchline that comes a few pages later. Not only is the number of households in which men are feeling economic stress correlated with Pornhub searches a month later, they’re correlated with the use of particular kinds of pornography. In what is the most uncomfortable set of analyses we did for the book (not to mention the sort we really didn’t want to talk about in front of our child), we did a content analysis of the most popular genres of pornography on Pornhub, and found that gender role threat among men led to increases in those genres that were more degrading to women, but not other types (we kept the details of that part to the methodology appendix in the back).

Much of the work that’s been done in studying masculinity has been qualitative, and those approaches are great for answering some questions (and we make use of them, too), but page 99 does a reasonable job of setting up the rigorous quantitative analysis we’re bringing to the table, even if it doesn’t explain why we’re so interested in it.
Learn more about Gender Threat at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue