Sex Roles

, Volume 67, Issue 11–12, pp 646–658 | Cite as

Young Adults’ Perceptions of Non-Forcible Sexual Activity: The Effects of Participant Gender, Respondent Gender, and Sexual Act

Original Article


There is a gendered double standard for both sexual activity and criminal victimization, in that female sexual actors and victims are generally viewed more negatively than their male counterparts. In this study, 485 U.S. undergraduates at a large Northeastern university completed a questionnaire in which the gender of the victim and the nature of the non-forcible sexual act (sexual intercourse or oral sex) were experimentally manipulated. The provided scenarios depicted statutory rape situations, characterized by age discrepancies between the two parties. Respondents were asked to rate each of the parties on a series of questions to determine their level of condemnation for each of the parties involved. We hypothesized the existence of a sexual double standard, such that female actors would be more condemned than males. Repeated measures ANOVA indicated that respondents were more condemning of female than male victims, regardless of which act was depicted. Furthermore, male respondents were more condemning of a female perpetrator of statutory rape than of her male victim, and also more condemning of a female victim than of her male perpetrator, whereas female respondents did not differentiate between the victim and perpetrator, regardless of the depicted victim gender or sexual act. That is, whether she was depicted as the victim or perpetrator of the act, the female was more condemned than her male counterpart. Overall, female respondents were more condemning than male respondents, regardless of which act was depicted. These findings suggest the presence of a sexual double standard in perceptions of statutory rape.


Gender Sexual double standard Statutory rape 



We would like to thank Professor Irene Frieze for her comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. Those comments have helped to shape this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Criminal Justice and Political ScienceUniversity of South AlabamaMobileUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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