New psychology research sheds light on how different dimensions of grandiose narcissism are related to aggressive sexual behaviors. The findings have been published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.
“Societal archetypes often lead us to believe that there is only one type of person who fits the mold of being narcissistic and/or being sexually coercive, and of course, this is simply not the case,” explained study author Kennedy A. Millward, a PhD student at the University of Texas at Dallas.
“Given how complex both of these constructs can be, I was interested in seeing if certain features within narcissism relate differentially to different types of sexually coercive behaviors.”
The researchers were interested in two dimensions of narcissism: admiration and rivalry. Narcissistic admiration is characterized by exhibitionism and charmingness, while narcissistic rivalry is characterized by aggressiveness and defensiveness.
Millward and her co-author, assistant professor Michael D. Barnett, used an online survey to assess these narcissistic personality traits in 1,342 undergraduate students. The participants also completed a measure of aggressive sexual behaviors.
The researchers found that narcissistic admiration was associated with higher levels of seductive behavior. In other words, people who agreed with statements such as “I deserve to be seen as a great personality” were more likely to also agree with statements such as “When I want to have sex with someone, I tell them what a wonderful lover they are.”
Narcissistic rivalry, on the other hand, was associated with higher levels of both seduction and coercion. Those who agreed with statements such as “I can barely stand it if another person is at the center of events” were more likely to also agree with statements such as “I have gotten a little drunk and forced the person that I’m with to have sex with me.”
The findings indicate that “not all narcissistic traits inherently relate to dangerous or severely manipulative sexually coercive behaviors,” Millward explained to PsyPost. “Instead, whereas narcissistic rivalry (i.e., the darker side of narcissism) may relate to both mild and severe sexually coercive behaviors, narcissistic admiration (i.e., the brighter side of narcissism) may only relate to milder sexually coercive behaviors.”
Male participants tended to display higher levels of narcissistic rivalry compared to their female counterparts. Men with low levels of narcissism also engaged in more aggressive sexual behavior than women with low levels of narcissism. But narcissistic rivalry increased aggressive sexual behavior among both men and women.
“We did find that women with high levels of narcissistic rivalry showed slightly greater levels of sexual coercion tactics than men high in this trait — a finding that needs to be taken with a big grain of salt, given that it doesn’t necessarily align with the previous literature,” Millward said.
“However, some recent literature does suggest that there may be little to no gender differences in the perpetration of less violent forms of sexual coercion in some cases; thus, it is important to keep in mind that when a wide range of sexually coercive behaviors are taken into consideration, both men and women can be capable of engaging in such behaviors – at least when certain narcissistic traits are involved.”
The study, “Narcissistic admiration and rivalry in relation to aggressive sexual behavior among women and men“, was published online on November 20, 2020.