Masculinities and violence against women among young people: identifying discourses and developing strategies for change

In spite of public policies and legislative changes aiming at curtailing violence against women (VAW) around the world, women continue to be exposed to violence throughout their life course. VAW does not occur in isolation as it is strongly influenced by the gender order and the way masculinities are enacted. Therefore understanding masculinities, and promoting anti-VAW masculinities, is crucial if violence against women is to be reduced in Europe and internationally.

Aims and objectives

This research project sets out to:

  • explore and position the discourses that young people (men and women, 18-24 years) use in their understanding of masculinities
  • explore how these discourses influence young people’s attitudes, behaviours and responses to violence against women (VAW)
  • explore individual and societal factors supporting and promoting anti-VAW masculinities discourses
  • develop strategies and resources to support and promote anti-VAW masculinities.
Project implementation

The project will be based on innovative, participatory research using a multi-country, mixed-methods approach. In the first phase, data will be gathered using semi-structured interviews and focus groups discussions in order to identify the discourses that young people use to conceptualize masculinities and VAW. Phase two will consist of a concept mapping study that will examine the patterns of priorities and perceived relationship between the different strategies/actions for supporting and promoting anti-VAW masculinities, identified in phase 1.

Project Outputs


Edwards, C., Bolton, R., Ó Súilleabháin, F. Leane, M. and Fennell, C. (2023) Addressing Masculinities to Tackle Violence Against Women in Ireland: Findings from the PositivMasc Study. Cork: University College Cork.

Bolton, R., Edwards, C., O'Suilleabhain, F. and Leane, M. (in press - 2023) ''I'm not victim blaming but...': Young people's discourses in understanding sexual violence against women'. Sociological Research Online.

Bolton, R., Leane, M., Ó Súilleabháin, F., Edwards, C., & Fennell, C. (2023). “Wherever There’s Men, it can Happen”: Constructions of Violence Against Women by Young Adults in Ireland. Violence Against Women, https://doi.org/10.1177/10778012221150273 

Daoud, N., Carmi, A., Bolton, R., Cerdán-Torregrosa, A., Nielsen, A., Alfayumi-Zeadna, S., Edwards, C., Ó Súilleabháin, F., Sanz-Barbero, B., Vives-Cases, C., & Salazar, M. (2022). 'Promoting Positive Masculinities to Address Violence Against Women: A Multicountry Concept Mapping Study', Journal of Interpersonal Violencehttps://doi.org/10.1177/08862605221134641

Carmen Vives-Cases, Nihaya Daoud, Claire Edwards, Ariadna Cerdán-Torregrosa1, Robert Bolton, Emily Felt and Mariano Salazar (2022) Promoting Positive Masculinities to Address Violence Against Women in Young People: Evidence From the PositivMasc Projecthttps://positivmasc.ki.se/wp-content/uploads/sites/113/2022/09/PosMasc_PolicyBrief_A4_FINAL-3.pdf 


Edwards, C., Bolton, R., Salazar, M., Vives-Cases, C. & Daoud, N.(2022) 'Young people’s constructions of gender norms and attitudes towards violence against women: a critical review of qualitative empirical literature', Journal of Gender Studies.  DOI: 10.1080/09589236.2022.2119374

Bolton, R., Edwards, C., Leane, M., Ó Súilleabháin, F. and Fennell, C. (2021) “‘They’re you know, their audience”: How women are (ab)used to cement the heterosexual bonds between men’, Irish Journal of Sociology. DOI: 10.1177/07916035211034355

Edwards, C. and Bolton, R. (2021) ‘The role of young masculinities in men's violence against women’, RTE Brainstorm, 16 March 2021.

Salazar, M., Daoud, N., Edwards, C., Scanlon, M. & Vives-Cases, C. (2020) ‘PositivMasc: masculinities and violence against women among young people. Identifying discourses and developing strategies for change, a mixed-method study protocol’, BMJ Open, 10: 1-7. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2020-038797(2). 


PositivMasc Research Report Launch, 31 August 2023. A recording of the report launch is available here 

Bolton, R., Edwards, C., Leane, M., O'Suilleabhain, F. and Fennell, C. (2021) 'Education, education, education': Young people talk about preventing violence against women in intimate partner relations in Ireland. [Oral Presentation], 4th European Conference on Domestic Violence, Ljubljana, Slovenia , 13-SEP-21 - 15-SEP-21

Bolton, R., Edwards, C., Leane, M., O'Suilleabhain, F. and Fennell, C. (2021) 'They’re, you know, their audience': how sexual harassment and violence against women is shaped by solidarities between men. [Oral Presentation], Sociological Association of Ireland 2021 Annual Conference, Online , 07-MAY-21 - 08-MAY-21

An interview with Mariano Salazar (PositivMasc Coordinator) on the background and aims of the project is available to view on YouTube at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aviB6-52OmI. The interview was conducted on 8 September 2020 by Nawal Aït Ali, Project Manager of Gender-Net Plus.

Bolton, Robert (2021) '"They're, you know, their audience": How violence against women is organised by men's relations with other men'. Presentation at ISS21 seminar, Deploying a Gender Lens: Snapshots from Current Research, 18 February 2021. A recording of the presentation is available here 

Project Funding & Dates 

PositivMasc is funded by Horizon 2020 (GENDER-NET Plus ERA-NET Cofund) and runs from 2019–2023.

Project Team

UCC: Dr. Claire Edwards (PI) (Applied Social Studies) Claire.Edwards@ucc.ie; Dr. Maire Leane (Applied Social Studies) M.Leane@ucc.ie; Dr. Fiachra Ó'Súilleabháin (Applied Social Studies) fiachra.osuilleabhain@ucc.ie; Professor Caroline Fennell (School of Law) c.fennell@ucc.ie; Dr Robert Bolton (post-doctoral researche) robert.bolton@ucc.ie

Consortium: Dr. Virgilio Mariano Salazar (Project Co-ordinator) Karolinska Institutet, Sweden; Dr. Nihaya Daoud (PI) Ben-Gurion University, Israel; Dr. Carmen Vives-Cases (PI) University of Alicante, Spain.



Institute for Social Science in the 21st Century (ISS21)

Top Floor, Carrigbawn/Safari Building, Donovan Road, Cork, T12 YE30