How Do Age, Sex, Political Orientation, Religiosity, and Sexism Affect Perceptions of Sex Assault/Harassment Allegations?


Abstract: The recent #MeToo movement empowered female sexual harassment and assault victims to publicly share their stories, using social media as the primary platform. Though the goals of the movement included de-stigmatization and support for victims, the discourse that followed often resulted in highly varied responses to reported incidents. In this study, we examined American adult (n = 512) perceptions about #MeToo and whether gender and ideological beliefs, including sexism, religiosity, and political affiliation, as well as pre-allegation likability of the alleged perpetrator, influenced respondents' assessments of the incidents. We focused our examination on two very different, high-profile examples of sexual misconduct allegations, specifically against film producer Harvey Weinstein and comedian Aziz Ansari. We found that personal characteristics of respondents related to individuals' negative assessments of alleged sexual assault perpetrators. Regression analyses showed that higher age and stronger beliefs that sexism exists in our culture predicted harsher judgments of Weinstein, but stronger beliefs that sexism exists in our culture, male gender, lower levels of pre-allegation favorability for Ansari, and higher levels of social religiosity predicted harsher judgments of Ansari. Practical implications of these disparate findings are discussed.

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Sexuality & Culture

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