Zaikman, Y. and M.J. Marks. 2014. Ambivalent Sexism and the Sexual Double Standard.

Zaikman, Yuliana and Michael J. Marks. 2014. Ambivalent Sexism and the Sexual Double Standard. Sex Roles 71:333-344.

The sexual double standard: in Western societies, “the notion that women are evaluated negatively and men positively for engaging in similar sexual behaviors” (333, see also Marks and Fraley 2005), incurring derogation and praise for women and men, respectively.  However, there is a seeming lack of strong empirical support that demonstrates the SDS’s firm existence. Instead, the SDS seems to be a contextually-based cultural phenomenon. Study investigates negative prejudice (hostile sexism) and positive prejudice (benevolent sexism). Their study of 232 undergraduates noted that:

  • Men tended to have more benevolent attitudes toward other men, than women had for other women.
  • Women who had high hostility for other women tended to esteem highly sexually-active men more. Those who had the perception that women use sex to manipulate men and to gain power tended to rate highly-sexually active women more negatively than HSA men. Women rated HAS women lower than HSA men.
  • Men who had low benevolence sexism scores (that is, those who did not hold traditional gender roles) were more likely to rate HSA women with more esteem than HSA men, and more so that this group considered HSA women to be more esteemed than women with low numbers of sexual partners.
  • Men who hold hostile sexist beliefs rated HSA men more esteemed than HSA women. Men who held few hostile beliefs toward men tended to rate HSA women more esteemed than HSA men.
  • Women who had high benevolent sexist scores toward men tended to rate HSA men with more esteem than HSA women.

Thus, women’s sexist attitudes tended to reinforce a traditional sexual double standard; whereas men’s sexist beliefs contributed to both a traditional and reverse sexual double standard.  Hostile attitudes toward the same gender (and benevolent attitudes toward the opposite gender) were related to demonstrating the sexual double standard.

Hostile sexism can be conceptualized as having negative/derogatory attitudes toward women, while benevolent sexism holds stereotypical, but positive attitudes toward women (Glick and Fiske 1996). Additionally, Glick and Fiske (1996) regard hostile sexism source from perceived power differences (manifested as sexual harassment, insubordination to women leaders, etc.), whereas benevolent sexism sources from women’s roles as reproductive, caretaking, vulnerable, professionally-inept, and androcentered. Though sexism is often associated with attitudes toward women, sexism can also be directed toward men – as a hostile rejection of men’s power in the workplace and sexuality – or, through benevolence – as men become critical to reproduction and often bear higher statuses (perceived competence, power, etc.) that are admired by women (Glick and Fiske 1999).  This tends to result in the diminishment of women’s own values, in their personal comparisons to men (Glick and Fiske 1999).  Hostile and benevolent sexism can occur simultaneously, resulting in ambivalent sexism. In a study of German women, women who do not adhere to traditional gender roles are often the targets of other women’s hostile sexism (Becker 2010).

Men expect higher sexual activity expectations out of women who initiate dates (Mongeau and Carey 1996; Morr Serewicz and Gale 2008) – possibly leading to unintended consequences if these expectations are not met. Additionally, studies demonstrate that perceived consequences of women-initiated dates seem to lead people to think that scenarios of date rape are more justified (Muehlenhard et al 1985), and a greater support of rape myths (Emmers-Sommer et al 2010).  Sexist attitudes are related to the stigmatization of victims of acquaintance rape, and the blaming of victims in cases of stranger rape (Yamawaki 2007).

(kx^ though their measures of number of sexual partners seems well theorized, their assessment of “traditional positivity” – a value of esteem, trustworthiness, popularity, and perceived intelligence does not seemingly address the complicated and nuanced nature of the SDS.)


Becker, J. (2010). Why do women endorse hostile and benevolent sexism? The role of salient female subtypes and internalization of sexist contents. Sex Roles, 62, 453–467.

Emmers-Sommer, T. M., Farrell, J., Gentry, A., Stevens, S., Eckstein, J., Battocletti, J., & Gardener, C. (2010). First date sexual expectations: The effects of who asked, who paid, date location, and gender. Communication Studies, 61, 339–355.

Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (1996). The ambivalent sexism inventory: Differentiating hostile and benevolent sexism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 491–512.

Glick, P., & Fiske, S. (1999). The ambivalence towards men inventory – differentiating hostile and benevolent beliefs aboutmen. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 23, 519–536.

Marks,M. J., & Fraley, R. C. (2005). The sexual double standard: Fact or fiction? Sex Roles, 52, 175–186.

Mongeau, P. A., & Carey, C. M. (1996). Who’s wooing whom II: An experimental investigation of date-initiation and expectancy violation. Western Journal of Communication, 60, 195–213.

Morr Serewicz,M. C., & Gale, E. (2008). First-date scripts: Gender roles, context, and relationship. Sex Roles, 58, 149–164.

Muehlenhard, C. L., Friedman, D. E., & Thomas, C. M. (1985). Is date rape justifiable? The effects of dating activity, who initiated, who paid, and men’s attitudes toward women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 9, 297–309.

Yamawaki, N. (2007). Rape perception and the function of ambivalent sexism and gender-role traditionality. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 22, 406–423.


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