Sex Roles [sers] PP673-sers-455296 November 8, 2002 17:41 Style ﬁle version June 3rd, 2002
Sex Roles, Vol. 47, Nos. 5/6, September 2002 (
But She Was Unfaithful: Benevolent Sexism
and Reactions to Rape Victims Who Violate
Traditional Gender Role Expectations
G. Tendayi Viki
and Dominic Abrams
The role of benevolent sexism (BS) in accounting for victim blame in an acquaintance rape
case was investigated. Participants were presented with vignettes that described an acquain-
tance rape. Control condition participants were given no descriptive information about the
victim, whereas in the “cheating” condition the victim was described as a “married woman.”
As predicted, participants who scored high in BS attributed more blame to the acquaintance
rape victim who was assaulted during an act of inﬁdelity than to a victim in similar circum-
stances whose marital status was unknown. These ﬁndings complement those of other research
(Abrams, Viki, Masser, & Bohner, in press), which indicate that individuals high in BS are
more likely to react negatively to rape victims who can be viewed as violating social norms
concerning appropriate conduct for women.
KEY WORDS: benevolent sexism; hostile sexism; rape; victim blame.
Stereotypic beliefs about rape seem to inﬂuence
people’s evaluations of victims of sexual assault (e.g.,
Bohner et al., 1998; Krah´e, 1988). Rape myths, which
have been deﬁned as “stereotypical beliefs about
rape that put women at a disadvantage” (Bohner &
Schwarz, 1996, p. 163), are an important example of
such beliefs. Individuals high in rape myth acceptance
(RMA) have been found to be less likely to deﬁne a
situation as a “rape” even when it meets the legally
accepted criteria (e.g., Fisher, 1986) and to attribute
more blame to the victim of rape and less blame to the
assailant (Krah´e, 1988). An example of a rape myth
is the commonly held belief that only certain types of
women (e.g., sex-workers) are usually raped (Burt,
1980). Although such a myth is clearly empirically
false, it serves the function of obscuring and denying
the personal vulnerability of all women by suggesting
that only certain kinds of women are vulnerable to
sexual violence (Lonsway & Fitzgerald, 1994).
University of Kent at Canterbury, Canterbury, United Kingdom.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Department of
Psychology, University of Kent at Canterbury, Canterbury CT2
7NP, United Kingdom; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the present research we examine victim blame
in relation to different types of victims of acquain-
tance rape. In predicting victim blame, we consider
the role of rape myth acceptance, but our main focus
is on the role of benevolent sexist beliefs.
Benevolent Sexism and Victim Blame
Glick and Fiske (1996) proposed that sexist at-
titudes may not entirely manifest in hostile forms.
Rather, sexist attitudes may be ambivalent (ambiva-
lent sexism), composed of both hostile sexism (HS)
and benevolent sexism (BS). Hostile sexism can be de-
ﬁned as the typical antipathy that is often assumed to
characterize sexist prejudices. Benevolent sexism, on
the other hand, is a set of attitudes that are sexist but
subjectively positive and affectionate toward women.
Glick and Fiske (1996) developed the Ambivalent
Sexism Inventory (ASI), which is a 22-item measure
that assesses an individual’s level of ambivalent sex-
ism. Although, HS and BS subscales were found to be
positively correlated (Masser & Abrams, 1999), Glick
and Fiske (1996) maintained that BS and HS “have
2002 Plenum Publishing Corporation