Benevolent Racism? : The Impact of Race and Sexual Subtype on Ambivalent Sexism

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McMahon, Jean Marie
Portland State University Library
African American women -- Sexual behavior -- Public opinion; Women; White -- Sexual behavior -- Public opinion; Sexism; Racism; Women -- Social conditions; Race and Ethnicity; Social Psychology
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How does a woman's race influence perceptions of her sexual behavior? This study investigated how race and sexual behavior intersect within an ambivalent sexism framework. Benevolent sexism characterizes women as pure and defenseless, which contrasts with the cultural stereotype of Black women as aggressive and hypersexual. Gender and racial stereotypes may combine to produce different outcomes for women who behave according to negative (promiscuous) or positive (chaste) sexual subtypes. According to shifting standards theory, evaluations and treatment of these women should vary depending on whether the measured behavior is non-zero sum (limitless) or zero sum (finite). To test this hypothesis, participants read about a chaste or promiscuous Black or White woman and reported their hostile and benevolent attitudes about her (non-zero sum) and whether she should be picked to represent an organization that supports women of her sexual subtype (zero sum.) Results suggest, consistent with shifting standards, that more benevolent sexism was expressed to a chaste Black, rather than White, woman. However, the Black woman did not receive more positive trait evaluations or experience an advantage on the zero sum outcome. Minority women who conform to benevolent sexism ideals may be highly praised (non-zero sum reward) but are not given tangible rewards (zero sum reward) for their behavior. This pattern of treatment perpetuates discrimination against Black women within society.