Men who endorse hostile sexism suffer a damaged romantic life, study finds

Guys who are worried that women are subverting men’s natural and rightful place at the top of society have trouble experiencing fulfilling and rewarding relationships, research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin has found.

The study by Matthew D. Hammond and Nickola C. Overall of the University of Auckland was based on a body of research known as Ambivalent Sexism Theory.

The psychological theory holds that negative attitudes about women come in two main forms: benevolent sexism and hostile sexism.

Benevolent sexism describes the belief that women are best suited as homemakers and cannot function well without a strong, protective male partner. Hostile sexism, on the other hand, describes the belief that women use underhanded tactics to obtain positions of power — they “sleep their way to the top.” Both forms of sexism maintain that women should be subordinate to men.

Hostile sexism asserts “aggressive attitudes toward women who challenge men’s power, such as feminists or career women,” the researchers explained in their study. “However, hostile attitudes toward women impede men’s ability to fulfill their relational needs and do little to promote women’s adoption of traditional roles.”

Previous research has found that men who endorse hostile sexim are more accepting of violent behavior towards their intimate partners and are more afraid of intimacy.

“These findings indicate that the power concerns associated with [hostile sexism] are not restricted to maintaining dominance outside the home,” Hammond and Overall wrote. “Indeed, the power which women hold within relationships should be particularly threatening for men who endorse [hostile sexism].”

The two-part study of 164 committed heterosexual couples in New Zealand confirmed that hostile sexism isn’t just directed towards women in society who purportedly subvert men’s power — it applies to romantic partners as well.

In the first study, the couples reported their own behavior and their partners behavior multiple times across a year. The second study followed a similar protocol, but the behaviors were reported daily over a 3-week period.

In both studies, Hammond and Overall found that men who endorsed hostile sexism had more negative perceptions of their partner’s behavior on average. These negative perceptions were in turn associated with lower relationship satisfaction, and more negative behavior directed toward their partner. Men who endorsed hostile sexism were also more likely to believe their partner was trying to manipulate them.

“These results highlight that the negative characterization of women contained within [hostile sexism]is restricted not only to women outside the relationship domain who challenge men’s societal power but also to color perceptions of intimate partners,” the researchers said. “The findings also suggest that more negatively biased perceptions of intimate partner’s behavior foster negative behavior and dissatisfaction within close relationships, limiting the degree to which men who endorse [hostile sexism] will experience fulfilling, rewarding relationships.”