, ,

Apologies for going silent, but I’ve been in crunch mode over a lecture on rape culture. The crush is over, thankfully, and said lecture has been released in video, transcript, and footnote form.

But one strange thing about it is that I never go into depth on the rape myth acceptance literature. There’s actually a good reason why: after thirty years of research, modern papers don’t even bother with 101 level stuff like “why is this a myth?” or even “how many people believe myth X?”, because it’s been done and covered and consensus has been reached. My intended audience was below the 101 level and hostile to the very notion of “rape culture,” rendering much of the literature useless.

But there is soooooo much literature that it feels like a grave injustice not to talk about it. So, let’s try something special: this will be an index post to said literature. It’ll give you the bare minimum of preamble you need to jump in, and offer a little curation. This will evolve and change over time, too, so check back periodically.

This means the comment policy is going to be a bit weird. There will be no debate on whether or not rape myths exist, let alone rape culture; follow the video link above if you insist, and we’ll discuss it there. Attempts to debate will be deleted, without warning. What is cool to share are paper suggestions, sub-topics to cover, and… that’s pretty much it.

What is a “Rape Myth”?

A “rape myth” is pretty self-explanatory: it is a false belief about sexual assault, typically shared by more than one person. Martha Burt’s foundational paper of 1980 includes these, for instance:

“One reason that women falsely report a rape is that they frequently have a need to call attention to themselves.”
“Any healthy woman can successfully resist a rapist if she really wants to.”
“Many women have an unconscious wish to be raped, and may then unconsciously set up a situation in which they are likely to be attacked.”
“If a woman gets drunk at a party and has intercourse with a man she’s just met there, she should be considered “fair game” to other males at the party who want to have sex with her too, whether she wants to or not.”

Other myths include “men cannot be raped” and “if you orgasm, it can’t be rape” (we’re meat machines, and at some point low-level physiology will override high-level cognition).

What papers should I prioritize?

As mentioned, there’s Burt’s 1980 contribution, which goes into great detail about validity and correlations with environmental factors, and developed a questionnaire that became foundational for the field.

The present research, therefore, constitutes a first effort to provide an empirical foundation for a combination of social psychological and feminist theoretical analysis of rape attitudes and their antecedents.

The results reported here have two major implications. First, many Americans do indeed believe many rape myths. Second, their rape attitudes are strongly connected to other deeply held and pervasive attitudes such as sex role stereotyping, distrust of the opposite sex (adversarial sexual beliefs), and acceptance of interpersonal violence. When over half of the sampled individuals agree with statements such as “A women who goes to the home or apartment of a man on the first date implies she is willing to have sex” and “In the majority of rapes, the victim was promiscuous or had a bad reputation,” and when the same number think that 50% or more of reported rapes are reported as rape only because the woman was trying to get back at a man she was angry with or was trying to cover up an illegitimate pregnancy, the world is indeed not a safe place for rape victims.
Burt, Martha R. “Cultural Myths and Supports for Rape.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 38, no. 2 (1980): 217.

But there’s also the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale, developed twenty years later and benefiting greatly from that.

First, we set out to systematically elucidate the domain and structure of the rape myth construct through reviewing the pertinent literature, discussion with experts, and empirical investigation. Second, we developed two scales, the 45-item IRMA and its 20-item short form (IRMA-SF), designed to reflect the articulated domain and structure of the rape myth construct, as well as to possess good psychometric properties. Finally, whereas content validity was determined by scale development procedures, construct validity of the IRMA and IRMA-SF was examined in a series of three studies, all using different samples, methodologies, and analytic strategies. […]

This work revealed seven stable and interpretable components of rape myth acceptance labeled (1) She asked for it; (2) It wasn’t really rape; (3) He didn’t mean to; (4) She wanted it; (5) She lied; (6) Rape is a trivial event; and (7) Rape is a deviant event. […]

individuals with higher scores on the IRMA and IRMA-SF were also more likely to (1) hold more traditional sex role stereotypes, (2) endorse the notion that the relation of the sexes is adversarial in nature, (3) express hostile attitudes toward women, and (4) be relatively accepting of both interpersonal violence and violence more generally.
Payne, Diana L., Kimberly A. Lonsway, and Louise F. Fitzgerald. “Rape Myth Acceptance: Exploration of Its Structure and Its Measurement Using theIllinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale.” Journal of Research in Personality 33, no. 1 (March 1999): 27–68. doi:10.1006/jrpe.1998.2238.

What else is interesting?

There was marked variability (…) among studies in their reported relationships between RMA and attitudinal factors related with gender and sexuality (…). Not surprisingly, however, large overall effect sizes with a positive direction were found with oppressive and adversarial attitudes against women, such as attitudes toward women (…), combined measures of sexism (…), victim-blaming attitudes (…), acceptance of interpersonal violence (…), low feminist identity (…), and adversarial sexual beliefs (…). Decision latency (i.e., estimated time for a woman to say no to sexual advances), hostility toward women, male sexuality, prostitution myth, therapists’ acceptance of rape victim scale, sexual conservatism, vengeance, and sociosexuality (i.e., openness to multiple sexual partners) were examined in one study each, and their effect sizes ranged between medium to large and were all significantly larger than zero. Homophobia had a significant moderate effect size (…) as well as male-dominance attitude (…), acceptance of rape (…), and violence (…). However, profeminist beliefs (…), having sexual submission fantasies (…), and male hostility (…) were negatively related to RMA.
Suarez, E., and T. M. Gadalla. “Stop Blaming the Victim: A Meta-Analysis on Rape Myths.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 25, no. 11 (November 1, 2010): 2010–35. doi:10.1177/0886260509354503.

Results of a multiple regression analysis indicated that sexism, ageism, classism, and religious intolerance each were significant predictors of rape myth acceptance (all
p < 0.01; … ). Racism and homophobia, however, failed to enter the model. Sexism, ageism, classism, and religious intolerance accounted for almost one-half (45%) of the variance in rape myth acceptance for the present sample. Sexism accounted for the greatest proportion of the variance (35%). The other intolerant beliefs accounted for relatively smaller amounts of variance beyond that of sexism: classism (2%), ageism (2%), and religious intolerance (1%).
Aosved, Allison C., and Patricia J. Long. “Co-Occurrence of Rape Myth Acceptance, Sexism, Racism, Homophobia, Ageism, Classism, and Religious Intolerance.” Sex Roles 55, no. 7–8 (November 28, 2006): 481–92. doi:10.1007/s11199-006-9101-4.

We did not find any effect of participant’s gender on rape attributions. Our results confirm those obtained by other authors (Check & Malamuth, 1983; Johnson & Russ, 1989; Krahe, 1988) who haven’t found significant gender effects on rape perception when situational factors were manipulated. Our results also contradict the general finding that men hold more rape myths than women do (Anderson et al., 1997). Our data indicate that it is not the observer’s gender that determines rape attributions but his or her preconceptions about rape. Thus, the influence of gender on rape attributions might be mediated by RMA, which then might explain why some studies reveal a significant gender effect (Monson et al., 1996; Stormo et al., 1997).
Frese, Bettina, Miguel Moya, and Jesús L. Megías. “Social Perception of Rape How Rape Myth Acceptance Modulates the Influence of Situational Factors.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 19, no. 2 (February 1, 2004): 143–61. doi:10.1177/0886260503260245.

The current research further corroborates the role of rape myths as a factor facilitating sexual aggression. Taken together, our findings suggest that salient ingroup norms may be important determinants of the professed willingness to engage in sexually aggressive behavior. Our studies go beyond quasi-experimental and correlational work that had shown a close relationship between RMA and rape proclivity [RP] as well as our own previous experimental studies, which have shown individuals’ RMA to causally affect RP. They demonstrate that salient information about others’ RMA may cause differences in men’s self-reported proclivity to exert sexual violence.
Frese, Bettina, Miguel Moya, and Jesús L. Megías. “Social Perception of Rape How Rape Myth Acceptance Modulates the Influence of Situational Factors.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 19, no. 2 (February 1, 2004): 143–61. doi:10.1177/0886260503260245.

Rape myth acceptance and time of initial resistance appeared to be determining factors in the assignment of blame and perception of avoid-ability of a sexual assault for both men and women. Consistent with the literature, women in this study obtained a lower mean rape myth acceptance score than men. As hypothesized, men and women with low rape myth acceptance attributed significantly less blame to the victim and situation, more blame to the perpetrator, and were less likely to believe the assault could have been avoided. Likewise, when time of initial resistance occurred early in the encounter, men and women attributed significantly less blame to the victim and situation, more blame to the perpetrator, and were less likely to believe the sexual assault could have been avoided.

The hypothesis that traditional gender-role types (masculine and feminine) would be more likely to blame the victim following an acquaintance rape than nontraditional gender-role types (androgynous and undifferentiated) was unsupported.
Kopper, Beverly A. “Gender, Gender Identity, Rape Myth Acceptance, and Time of Initial Resistance on the Perception of Acquaintance Rape Blame and Avoidability.” Sex Roles 34, no. 1–2 (January 1, 1996): 81–93. doi:10.1007/BF01544797.

Given that callous sexual attitudes permit violence and consider women as passive sexual objects, it follows that for men who endorse these, sexual aggression becomes an appropriate and accepted expression of masculinity. In this sense, using force to obtain intercourse does not become an act of
rape, but rather an expression of hypermasculinity, which may be thought of as a desirable disposition in certain subcultures. Taken together, these research findings suggest that an expression of hypermasculinity through callous sexual attitudes may relate to an inclination to endorse a behavioral description
(i.e., using force to hold an individual down) versus referring to a sexually aggressive act as rape. Hence, we hypothesize that the construct of callous sexual attitudes will be found at the highest levels in those men who endorse intentions to force a woman to sexual acts but deny intentions to rape.Edwards, Sarah R., Kathryn A. Bradshaw, and Verlin B. Hinsz. “Denying Rape but Endorsing Forceful Intercourse: Exploring Differences among Responders.” Violence and Gender 1, no. 4 (2014): 188–93.

The majority of participants were classified as either sexually coercive (51.4%) or sexually aggressive (19.7%) based on the most severe form of sexual perpetration self-reported on the SEQ or indicated in criminal history information obtained from institutional files. Approximately one third (33.5%) of coercers and three fourths (76%) of aggressors endorsed the use of two or more tactics for obtaining unwanted sexual contact on the SEQ. Although 63.4% of sexually aggressive men were classified based on their self-reported behavior on the SEQ alone, another 31% were classified on the basis of criminal history information indicating a prior sexual offense conviction involving an adult female, or on the agreement of both sources (5.6%). Notably, 90.1% of sexually aggressive men also reported engaging in lower level sexually coercive behaviors.DeGue, S., D. DiLillo, and M. Scalora. “Are All Perpetrators Alike? Comparing Risk Factors for Sexual Coercion and Aggression.” Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment 22, no. 4 (December 1, 2010): 402–26. doi:10.1177/1079063210372140.

The tactics category reported most frequently was sexual arousal, with 65% of all participants being subjected to at least one
expenence. Within this category, persistent kissing and touching was the most cited tactic (62% of all participants). Emotional manipulation
and deception was the next most frequently reported category, with 60% of participants being subjected to at least one experience. Within this category, participants
cited the specific tactics of repeated requests (54%) and telling lies (34No) most often. Intoxication was the third most frequently reported category, with 38% of all participants being subjected to at least one tactic. More participants reported being taken advantage of while already intoxicated (37%) than being purposely intoxicated (19%). The category with the lowest frequency of reports was physical force and harm, with 28% of participants being subjected to at least one tactic.Struckman-Johnson, Cindy, David Struckman-Johnson, and Peter B. Anderson. “Tactics of Sexual Coercion: When Men and Women Won’t Take No for an Answer.” The Journal of Sex Research 40, no. 1 (February 1, 2003): 76–86.

HJH 2015-02-08: Bolded comment policy, to increase the chance of it being read.
HJH 2015-10-31: Added a few more papers, relating to sexual coercion and hostility.