Attitudes Toward Acquaintance Rape: The Impact of Social Context & Feminist Consciousness

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This study examined relationships between a non-linear measure of feminism, the Feminist Identity Development Scale (FIDS), and responses to two rape vignettes one depicting a clear rape scenario and the other an ambiguous rape scenario. Dependent measures assessed perceptions of the female?s desire for sex, the male?s intentions, and ideal outcomes for each condition. Two hundred and one female college students completed the FIDS, filler personality inventories, and responded to one rape scenario. ANOVAs revealed main effects for condition and feminist identity, as well as an interaction. Participants in the clear rape condition were more likely to define the scenario as rape than those in the ambiguous condition. Participants who scored higher at Stage 1 of the FIDS model, which assesses passive acceptance of sexist values, were significantly more likely to perceive both the female and male as desiring sex than those who scored lower. Alternately, respondents with higher scores at Stage 5 of the FIDS model, which measures the extent to which individuals are actively committed to social justice, were less likely to report that the female should have behave differently and more likely to report that the male should have behaved differently than low scorers. Feminist Identity also interacted with condition. Individuals who scored high in Stage 5 were less likely to victim blame in the ambiguous rape situation than those who scored low. No differences were evident in the clear rape scenario for high and low scorers at Stage 5. These results suggest that feminist identity influences responses to rape scenarios, both clear and ambiguous, in complicated ways. Rape conditions continue to pose attribution challenges. Future research should explore a broader sample, including males, additional conditions impacting attributions of responsibility, and educational steps to correct misconceptions regarding rape.


Jaclyn Rodriguez




Howard A. and Shirley V. Jones Family Foundation Summer Research Fellowship

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