This is why far more men than women are being fined for breaking the lockdown in Yorkshire

So far in April, North Yorkshire Police have fined 153 people for breaking lockdown restrictions on non-essential travel.

A deserted Whitby Harbour during lockdown
A deserted Whitby Harbour during lockdown

Astonishingly, 126 of those given fixed penalty notices were men, and the vast majority were aged 18-45. There were only seven fines among offenders aged over 55.

Most of them were fined for gathering in groups to participate in recreational activities forbidden during the lockdown, such as camping, drinking, barbecuing, drone flying and cycling.

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Several have been caught driving into North Yorkshire from other areas of the country to view second-hand items such as cars and TVs for sale.

In one instance, nine men from Bradford aged between 22 and 41 were unable to offer an explanation of why they had gathered in the Yorkshire Dales village of Malham at midnight on a Sunday, and were duly fined.

Seven men from York aged between 18 and 45 were fined after police found them drinking alcohol in the beer garden of a closed pub after a cycle ride.

And in an example of how inappropriate activity can divert emergency resources during the lockdown, at least 10 responders including police, paramedics, the specialist Hazardous Area Response Team and mountain rescue volunteers had to be called to the assistance of an 18-year-old mountain biker who had fallen and broken his femur on Ilkley Moor during the Easter weekend.

Dr Kitty Nichols, a lecturer in gender and social research methods at the University of Sheffield, believes the reasons men are more prepared to flout the restrictions are linked to a range of complex factors, ranging from them having fewer domestic responsibilities to being more likely to engage in high-risk activities and simply being unsure of how to react to having large amounts of free time.

"We have always understood that historically, men are more likely to commit risky practices and indulge in high-risk behaviour. They are more resistant to laws and social norms than women, and they have been socialised in a certain way. 'Lad culture' is based on young men who think they are powerful, strong and healthy, and this continues up through the age groups. Men have less concern about risk.

"Statistically, women are more law-abiding - when they do commit crime it tends to be things like fraud or avoiding the TV licence fee.

"Because of the social expectations of men and the pressures they are under, they are looking for outlets such as sporting activities at a time like this. Men may be trying to re-assert their masculinity as they feel threatened by the sudden restrictions. For men, it can be harder to say no to their peers when they are asked to do something like go and fly a drone.

"There is a group mentality and they feel they need to behave like they are one of the guys - it's part of their sense of self-worth."

Dr Nichols also points out that men's attitudes to their health can contribute to a disregard for personal welfare.

"Men have complex relationships with their health - they often feel as if they are invincible. They are less likely to report physical health issues or to admit physical weaknesses, so that means they're more likely to still go out and about."

The responses of younger men are also reflective of the freedoms they enjoy in society.

"White men especially have not had much resistance in their lives before - they've usually been able to do as they please and have been able to transition through society fairly easily. Now they have lost some of that freedom.

"For many of these men, they won't have been furloughed or had a period of economic inactivity before. Men don't have as many career breaks as women, they don't usually take long parental leave."

Traditional gender expectations, as well as the fact that more women are employed in key worker roles in sectors such as health, education, retail and social care, also play a part.

"A lot of women are still working, so they don't have all of this free time. They are more likely to be nurses or to work in supermarkets. The family roles are still unequal - we've already heard women reporting that they are doing more of the home-schooling."

Dr Nichols also offers an explanation of why the lockdown breaking is less prevalent among older men.

"After 55, men are likely to be in stable relationships and to have families. They start to think about their own mortality more, but they are also 'policed' by their relatives who put pressure on them not to go out or take risks. Their social networks change as they get older and they feel less pressure to behave in a certain way."

However, Dr Nichols also suggests that gathering in groups can be interpreted as a sign that men are feeling anxious about coronavirus and are seeking reassurance and distraction from their friends.

"Men are struggling too - this will have a big impact on male mental health, especially among people not used to inactivity. They will be strongly affected by it and their reaction may just be to hang out together. Meeting to talk about their stresses and worries could be helping them to cope.

"There are implications for the future, if these inequalities persist - we now realise how many women are trying to juggle so many different things."