Exposure to anti-feminist conspiracy theories intensifies rape myth acceptance among sexist people

In recent research published in the journal Violence against women, scientists have shed light on the relationship between belief in conspiracy theories about feminists, sexism, and acceptance of rape myths. Their findings suggest that people who harbor higher levels of hostile sexism are more inclined to accept rape myths, particularly when exposed to feminist conspiracy theories. This connection highlights the interaction between political predispositions, sexist ideologies and conspiratorial beliefs in shaping attitudes towards sexual violence.

“Conspiracy theories can take an intergroup approach, where targets of conspiracy theories can become victims of prejudice and discrimination,” said study author Daniel Jolley, assistant professor of social psychology at the University of Nottingham.

“In our work, we wanted to examine whether conspiracy theories about feminists – which propose that feminists secretly act in their own interests (for example, by secretly dismantling traditional family values) for their own benefit – can inspire prejudice towards women. women, specifically sexual prejudice (i.e., endorsement of rape myths).”

“We were also interested in exploring the effect of feminist conspiracy beliefs and sexist ideology on (sexual prejudice). It was thought that a link between feminist conspiracy beliefs and rape myths might result from such beliefs espousing a hostile sexist view of women. “In our work, we wanted to examine this empirically with a correlational and experimental design.”

The researchers conducted two different studies. Study 1 aimed to establish a link between belief in feminist conspiracy theories and rape myth acceptance, exploring whether this relationship was influenced by the level of sexist attitudes. They surveyed 201 UK residents and measured their belief in general and specific feminist conspiracy theories, levels of hostile and benevolent sexism, and acceptance of rape myths, among other factors.

The researchers found that belief in feminist conspiracy theories was significantly associated with greater acceptance of rape myths. In other words, those who agreed with the statement “Feminists are involved in secret plots and plans” also tended to agree with statements such as “If a woman is raped while she is drunk, she is at least to some extent responsible for “let things come to light.” hand”.

This relationship was particularly pronounced for individuals who exhibit high levels of hostile sexism, suggesting that endorsement of feminist conspiracy theories contributes to rape myth acceptance, especially among those who already harbor antagonistic attitudes toward women. On the other hand, benevolent sexism did not show a moderating effect on this relationship, pointing to the specific role of hostile sexism in linking feminist conspiracy beliefs to sexual prejudice.

In Study 2, the researchers took an experimental approach to further investigate these dynamics. They exposed 578 participants to feminist conspiracy content or a control condition, then measured their belief in feminist conspiracy theories and acceptance of rape myths. The researchers also collected data on hostile sexism prior to the experimental manipulation to examine its role in the relationship between conspiracy exposure and rape myth acceptance.

The experimental manipulation successfully increased belief in feminist conspiracy theories among participants exposed to pro-conspiracy content, compared to those in the control group. This effect was found to be moderated by participants’ pre-existing levels of hostile sexism; those with higher levels of hostile sexism showed a greater increase in belief in feminist conspiracy theories following exposure to conspiracy content.

But the researchers found no direct effect of conspiracy theory exposure on overall rape myth acceptance. Instead, the relationship between exposure to feminist conspiracy theories and rape myth acceptance was conditional on the level of hostile sexism.

Specifically, for people higher in hostile sexism, increased belief in feminist conspiracy theories following exposure was associated with greater acceptance of rape myths. This suggests that the path from exposure to conspiracy theory to endorsement of rape myths is significantly influenced by pre-existing sexist attitudes.

“Our research demonstrates that belief in feminist conspiracy theories is positively related to endorsement of rape myths (i.e., sexual prejudice) and that this link is strengthened for people who report higher levels of sexist attitudes.” hostile,” Jolley told PsyPost.

“Furthermore, we found that exposure to feminist conspiracy theories was associated with rape myths through an increase in feminist conspiracy beliefs. Still, once again, the effect was strengthened by higher levels of hostile sexism. “This work supports the notion that feminist conspiracy beliefs and sexual prejudices are likely the result of a bond that sustains a person’s sexist predispositions.”

The study, “Sexism and Feminist Conspiracy Beliefs: Hostile Sexism Moderates the Link Between Feminist Conspiracy Beliefs and Rape Myth Acceptance,” was written by Daniel Jolley, Silvia Mari, Tanya Schrader, and Darel Cookson.

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