are more attracted to men who are sexist because they think they are
more willing to protect them, provide for them and commit to a
relationship, scientists say.
who are considered to be sexist in a well-meaning way – for example
if they are chivalrous or think women need a man to protect them –
may be more attractive.
though women find these men patronising and can feel undermined by
them, they are more likely to want to couple up with them than with
men who don’t give them special treatment.
say women may be hard-wired to think the benefits of being with a
kind but sexist man outweigh the downsides.
scientists maintain that, despite romantic and flattering elements
of the relationship, even well-meaning sexism reinforces the idea
women are inferior.
even women who consider themselves strong feminists showed the same
preferences in the study by British and US researchers.
from the University of Kent and Iowa State University carried out
five tests to explore the theory that women are more attracted to
what they call ‘benevolent sexists’.
means well-meaning or kind, and experts define the sexism as men
who, for example, think women are more delicate or should be
cherished or looked after by a man.
is different to hostile sexism in which women are degraded, such as
saying a woman’s place is in the kitchen.
attitudes were the norm for decades, particularly after the Second
World War, and saw men as breadwinners and women as homemakers.
this has shifted in recent years as gender attitudes change, more
women focus on their careers, and couples increasingly share their
this study suggests heterosexual women’s preferences for partners
may not be moving on as quickly.
researchers’ tests found women are more attracted to men who have
benevolent sexist attitudes or actions than they are to men who
treat them as equals or don’t give them special treatment.
scientists, Pelin Gul and Tom Kupfer say: ‘Women find benevolent
sexist [BS] men attractive, not because they are ignorant of the
harmful effects, but despite being aware of them.
suggests that the desirable aspects of BS attitudes and behaviors
are sufficient to overcome the perceived negative effects.
proposal is that women approve of BS attitudes and behaviors because
they are taken as cues that a man is willing to invest by being
protective, providing, and committed.’
the study, women’s attraction to this willingness to invest is
traced to a more basic hard-wired survival instinct, in which
females choose mates in order to improve their children’s chance of
male who is more likely to be protective or provide food for the
family would improve the chance of offspring surviving, the study
may have in turn shaped women’s psychology to make them
subconsciously prefer men who are a bit sexist.
the study the researchers write: ‘Evidence shows that many women –
even those who desire [equal]relationships – want a man to be
chivalrous, by, for example, paying for dates and opening doors for
the finding that high feminist women, and not only low feminist
women, rated a [sexist]potential romantic partner as more attractive
despite being more aware of the detrimental effects, suggests that
the attraction may be a mate preference for women in general, and
not just for women who endorse traditional gender roles.
in the five study groups – the biggest study contained 233 women,
the smallest 104 – were asked to look at scenarios of interactions
with men or profiles of men and to consider them as either a work
colleague or romantic partner.
scenarios included men who were kind but in what is considered a
sexist way, and men who treated the women as equals and didn’t offer
any special treatment.
women then rated the men’s warmth and attractiveness, and how
willing they thought they would be to provide for, protect or commit
were also asked to rate their own feminist views, and how
patronising or undermining they found the men in the scenarios.
who displayed benevolent sexist traits were consistently rated as
more attractive and, at the same time, more patronising.
results suggest women find the men more attractive despite knowing
their attitudes have negative effects.
pair’s findings were published in the journal Personality and
Social Psychology Bulletin.