Sex Roles [sers] PP978-sers-472556 September 12, 2003 15:19 Style ﬁle version June 3rd, 2002
Sex Roles, Vol. 49, Nos. 9/10, November 2003 (
Effects of Victim Gender and Sexuality on Attributions
of Blame to Rape Victims
and Karen M. Long
Previous research suggests that homosexual male rape victims receive more blame than hetero-
sexual victims. In this study, we examined effects of victim gender and sexuality on judgments
of victims of stranger rape by a male perpetrator. Participants read a rape vignette in which
victim gender and sexuality varied, and then rated the amount of blame they attributed to
the perpetrator and victim. Victims were attributed more blame if their sexual orientation
suggested potential attraction to the perpetrator: gay men and heterosexual women received
more blame than did lesbians and heterosexual men. Further, homophobic attitudes toward
gay male victims increased the blame attributed to them: perpetrators of rape of gay men were
seen as least responsible for their actions, and the character of gay male victims was seen to
be a stronger contributory factor than it was for other victims.
KEY WORDS: rape perceptions, blame attributions; sexuality.
In America a woman is raped approximately ev-
ery 2 min (Buddie & Miller, 2001) and 110,000 men
are raped each year (Rape Crisis, 2002), but it is be-
lieved that only one third of sexual assaults and rapes
are reported (U.S. Department of Justice, 1997, as
cited in Buddie & Miller, 2001). It is clear that rape
is a prevalent problem in society today, for both men
and women. It is presumed that victims of rape re-
ceive sympathy and support following their ordeal,
but the reality can be somewhat different. The public,
the authorities, the rapists, and even the victims them-
selves often attribute blame to the victim (Field, 1978;
Kahn, Mathie, & Torgler, 1994). People endorse such
rape myths as victims want or enjoy rape, and victims
(especially women) encourage rape by engaging in
risky or indiscreet behavior (Burt, 1980; Field, 1978).
Attitudes such as these have led many researchers
to argue that some societies are “rape supportive”
because victims are held somewhat responsible for
their ordeals, whereas perpetrators are excused (to
University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, UK.
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some extent) and seen as partly justiﬁed in their ac-
tions (e.g., Brownmiller, 1975; Burt, 1980). When peo-
ple attribute blame to victims, they place them under
scrutiny, and factors such as the victims’ respectability
(Mazelan, 1980), dress (Kanekar & Kolsawalla, 1980),
and attractiveness (Thornton & Ryckman, 1983) are
used to determine the extent to which a victim is held
responsible for her attack.
Whether a woman rape victim accepts and ad-
heres to the gender role ascribed by society affects
the extent of blame she will receive for her ordeal.
Women are expected to “play traditional gender roles
and to restrict their behaviors accordingly” (Ward,
1995, p. 76). If a description of a rape of a woman
suggests that the victim has broken these ascribed
roles, then her behavior is seen as a contributory fac-
tor in her rape (Best & Demmin, 1982) and she re-
ceives more blame (Krahe, 1988). If the victim was
dressed provocatively, she evokes a greater attribu-
tion of responsibility (Kanekar & Kolsawalla, 1980).
Even social behaviors that are perfectly normal can
be perceived as contributory. For example, a victim
described in a rape vignette as “having had a drink
on her own in a bar” prior to her rape received
more blame for her attack than a woman described as
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