A Slat in the Face: Analysing Attitudes towards Slapping a Partner

Harper, Bryony (2021) A Slat in the Face: Analysing Attitudes towards Slapping a Partner. [Dissertation (University of Nottingham only)]

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Intimate partner violence has long been understood as a symptom of patriarchal structures with a focus on the experiences of female victims of male violence.

Subsequently, explanations of intimate partner violence do not account for male victims of female violence or intimate partner violence in same-gender relationships. Research has repeatedly highlighted differences in the approval of male-to-female and female-to-male intimate partner violence.

Research Questions

This research aims to answer the following research questions:

Are there differences in approval towards slapping an intimate partner based on the gender of the perpetrator and the victim?

Are there differences in approval towards slapping an intimate partner between various demographic groups?

In what situations might an individual approve of slapping an intimate partner?


An online questionnaire designed to collect both quantitative and qualitative data was created on the JISC online survey platform1. To recruit participants the questionnaire was distributed via a variety of social media platforms to a self-selecting sample. The questions used were based on the research of Straus et al., (1997). Participants were asked if there are there any situations that they could imagine in which they might find it justifiable for; a woman to slap her male partner's face; a man to slap his female partner’s face; a man to slap his male partner’s face; and a woman to slap her female partner’s face.

Participants were then asked to describe situations in which they might find slapping justifiable for each of these gender pairings. Care was taken to ensure that this research meets ethical standards, particularly due to the sensitive nature of the research topic.

1 https://www.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/ (last accessed 20th November 2020)


Results showed that female-to-male slapping is most justifiable, followed by female-to-female slapping and male-to-male slapping with male-to-female slapping being least justifiable though these results were not statistically significant. There were differences of approval between different demographic groups. The highest levels of approval for slapping a partner were found amongst participants aged 35-44, BAME2 participants, and LGBT+3 participants.

Participants found slapping a partner to be justifiable in a variety of situations, most frequently when violence was used in self-defence. Other justifiable situations described by participants included: in defence of a child or vulnerable person; being playful; infidelity; as part of consensual sexual activity; and that their partner was in shock or being hysterical. The situations in which slapping was reported as being justifiable varied for the different gender-pairings.


There are some limitations to this research. The small sample size and the overrepresentation of women, those aged 18-34, and those who identify as LGBT+ means that the sample, and therefore the results, are not representative of the wider population and so the results cannot be generalised.

The data collected does not tell us why participants felt that slapping was justifiable or why they felt that the situations they had described were justifiable. This information might have helped to understand why some participants felt that slapping was justifiable in some gender pairings but not in others and why some demographic groups were more likely to find slapping a partner justifiable.


Approval of slapping an intimate partner is influenced by the gender of the victim and the perpetrator, though this difference appears to be less than in previous research and was not statistically significant. The levels approval of slapping an intimate partner vary between demographic groups and the approval of slapping an intimate partner is dependent on the situation in which the slap has taken place.

It is recommended that this research be conducted on a wider scale with a representative sample to capture and reflect the attitudes of the general population. Alternatively, it may be interesting to research the attitudes of populations who are likely to encounter victims of domestic violence, including police, judges, refuge workers etc. Further research is also needed to understand attitudes towards intimate partner violence involving trans and non-binary individuals.

2 BAME is an acronym for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic. The term is commonly used though it has been criticised (Fakim & Macaulay, 2020). Participants who described themselves as being black, asian or from multiple ethnic groups have been included as BAME participants.

3 LGBT+ is an acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans. The ‘plus’ is inclusive of other groups, such as intersex, asexual, queer, etc. Participants included those who indicated that they identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, confused, trans and/or non-binary have been included as LGBT+ participants.

Item Type: Dissertation (University of Nottingham only)
Depositing User: Visser, Kathleen
Date Deposited: 10 May 2022 14:57
Last Modified: 10 May 2022 14:57
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/69131

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