Lay Beliefs About Gender and Sexual Behavior: First Evidence for a Pervasive, Robust (but Seemingly Unfounded) Stereotype

Jaimie Arona Krems, Ahra Ko, Jordan W. Moon, Michael E.W. Varnum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although casual sex is increasingly socially acceptable, negative stereotypes toward women who pursue casual sex remain pervasive. For example, a common trope in television, film, and other media is that women who engage in casual sex have low self-esteem. Despite robust work on prejudice against women who engage in casual sex, little empirical work has focused on the lay theories individuals hold about them. Across six experiments with U.S. adults (N = 1,469), we found that both men and women stereotype women (but not men) who engage in casual sex as having low self-esteem. This stereotype is held explicitly and semi-implicitly; is not driven by individual differences in religiosity, conservatism, or sexism; and is mediated by inferences that women who have casual sex are unsatisfied with their mating strategy—yet the stereotype persists when women are explicitly described as choosing to have casual sex. Finally, the stereotype appears to be unfounded; across experiments, the same participants’ sexual behavior was not significantly correlated with their self-esteem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)871-889
Number of pages19
JournalPsychological Science
Volume32
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • open data
  • self-esteem
  • sex differences
  • sex/gender
  • sexual behavior
  • social cognition
  • social perception
  • stereotypes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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