Low libido and difficulty achieving orgasm are just two common concerns that can seriously affect a woman's sex life as well as her level of sexual satisfaction. In a new study, a subtle, often overlooked, form of sexism called "benevolent" sexism has also been shown to affect the sex life of women, specifically leading to fewer orgasms.

Benevolent Sexism: The Less-Noticeable Form of Misogyny

If you are asked to come up with an example of a misogynistic belief, one that obviously belies a disdain for women, you may come up with something like, "Women are snobbish and picky," or "Women are manipulative liars." Statements like these that sound angry and are quite blatantly sexist are termed "hostile sexism." However, there are more subtle forms of sexist beliefs that can be harder to pinpoint and may seem harmless at first glance. These types of beliefs are called "benevolent sexism" or "ambivalent sexism."

Benevolent sexism as a concept was first defined in 1996 by researchers Peter Glick and Susan Fiske. Benevolent sexism generally involves beliefs in rigid gender roles, such as the idea that it is men's duty to protect women. While the thought that men should protect women may seem sweet at first, if you really think about it, it implies that men are the stronger sex while women are weak and helpless. Benevolent sexism is a nice-feeling way of justifying a lower social status for women.

Benevolent sexism also very frequently involves beliefs about male versus female sexuality. Someone with ambivalent sexist beliefs is likely to believe the double standard that it is a man's nature to enjoy having sex, especially with lots of partners, but that if a woman does the same, it violates her natural purity. These types of sexist beliefs about sexuality help to explain the statistical correlation showing that sexism affects sex life, especially for women.

"Benevolent" Sexism Affects Sex Life

Study Finds Sexism Affects Sex Life in Negative WaysWhen a woman holds misogynistic beliefs, her sex life will suffer. That may sound strange, but recent research proves it. A study was conducted at the University of Queensland in Australia and published in the journal Archive of Sexual Behavior. The researchers assessed the female participants' attitudes toward the roles of men and women and found that women who exhibited higher levels of benevolent sexist beliefs had fewer orgasms.

The researchers note that women who endorsed ambivalent sexism usually also believed that men are by nature selfish in bed. This turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, as although these sexist women had fewer orgasms, their partners' number of orgasms were not affected. Perhaps holding benevolent sexist beliefs causes a woman to attract a partner who is also sexist and happens to be selfish in bed. Another possibility as to why sexism affects sex life is that if a woman holds benevolent sexist beliefs, she may be more likely to see sex as something that men "do" to women, or to see it as a "wifely duty" and therefore not take charge of her own pleasure.

Another study, published in the Journal of Sex Research found that people who had high levels of benevolent sexism were more likely to believe that sex is an exchange between a man and his wife: The man provides financially for his wife, and he has the right to receive sex in return. This is a damaging belief to have and is a likely contributor to the fact that women with high benevolent sexism levels have fewer orgasms. If a woman thinks having sex with her husband is just the cost she pays for being provided for, then naturally she won't be inclined to ask for what she wants in bed. This same study found that people who had a high level of benevolent sexism were also less likely to believe that forced marital sex should be put in the same category as rape.

Other Implications of Benevolent Sexism

Benevolent sexism affects sex life, but this is only one small effect of the phenomenon. Glick and Fiske later went on to publish a 19-nation study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in the year 2000. More than 15,000 people from 19 countries completed a test called the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory. The results showed that in countries where people tend to have high levels of benevolent sexism, the people also had high levels of hostile sexism. In fact, the correlation between benevolent and hostile sexism was quite strong.

Aside from this correlation, Glick and Fiske also found that benevolent sexism was a strong predictor of nationwide gender inequality. Specifically, countries with high benevolent sexism rates were the same countries where men were more educated, had more money and were a larger part of politics. This study demonstrates that benevolent sexism and hostile sexism may appear to be different at first glance, but they are really two sides of the same coin.

Statistics show that women who hold ambivalent sexist beliefs are more likely to have less ambitious goals when it comes to career and education and are more likely to be financially dependent on their husbands. As you can see, benevolent sexism has insidious negative effects on women's lives, far beyond the bedroom.

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