Benevolent Sexism and Mate Preferences: Why Do Women Prefer Benevolent Men Despite Recognizing That They Can Be Undermining?

Pelin Gul*, Tom R. Kupfer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Benevolent sexism (BS) has detrimental effects on women, yet women prefer men with BS attitudes over those without. The predominant explanation for this paradox is that women respond to the superficially positive appearance of BS without being aware of its subtly harmful effects. We propose an alternative explanation drawn from evolutionary and sociocultural theories on mate preferences: Women find BS men attractive because BS attitudes and behaviors signal that a man is willing to invest. Five studies showed that women prefer men with BS attitudes (Studies 1a, 1b, and 3) and behaviors (Studies 2a and 2b), especially in mating contexts, because BS mates are perceived as willing to invest (protect, provide, and commit). Women preferred BS men despite also perceiving them as patronizing and undermining. These findings extend understanding of women’s motives for endorsing BS and suggest that women prefer BS men despite having awareness of the harmful consequences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-161
Number of pages16
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Volume45
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • benevolent sexism
  • mate preferences
  • parental investment theory
  • romantic relationships
  • social role theory

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