Women tend to be more attracted to men who view females as pure and nurturing but also weak and needing extra care – an attitude that has been named benevolent sexism. That’s the conclusion of a new study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
“We became interested in this topic, because we realized a paradox in the literature on benevolent sexism,” explained study author Pelin Gul of Iowa State University.
“Previous studies have found that men’s benevolent sexism has many detrimental consequences on women (such as undermining their competence, restricting their freedom, confining them to the kitchen), yet research had also shown that women prefer benevolent sexist men and even find these men more attractive than non-benevolent sexist men.”
“We realised that theoretical perspectives on mate preferences, especially parental investment theory, could solve this puzzle,” Gul said. “It could be that women’s attraction to benevolent sexist men is because they perceive these men as willing to invest, which could even outweigh the downsides of benevolent sexism. This explanation was entirely absent in the literature, and so that is what we wanted to add to this literature.”
Across five studies, with 782 female participants, the researchers found that women perceived a male romantic partner who held benevolent sexist attitudes as more willing to protect, provide, and commit for them, which in turn made him more attractive. Feminist women were as likely as non-feminist women to prefer benevolent sexist men over more egalitarian men.
In the study, benevolent sexist men were described as believing that women should be cherished and protected by men, and should be helped before men in emergency situations. They were also described as giving their coat to a woman in the cold and opening doors for her.
Non-benevolent sexist men, on the other hand, were described as holding more egalitarian views. They didn’t beleive that a woman should be set on pedestal by her man, nor did they offer women coats or hold open doors.