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Do scientific theories affect men's evaluations of sex crimes?



Evolutionary psychology accounts of gender differences in sexual behaviors in general and men's sexual aggression, in particular, has been criticized for legitimizing males' sexual misconduct. To empirically assess such critiques, two studies examined how men's judgments of male sex crimes (solicitation of sex from a prostitute; rape) are influenced by exposure to (a) evolutionary psychological theories and (b) social-constructivist theories. Across two studies, a consistent pattern emerged compared with a control condition (a) exposure to evolutionary psychology theories had no observable impact on male judgments of men's criminal sexual behavior, whereas (b) exposure to social-constructivist theories did affect judgments, leading men to evaluate sex crimes more harshly. Additional results (from Study 2) indicate that this effect is mediated by perceptions of male control over sexual urges. These results have implications for journalists, educators, and scientists. Aggr. Behav. 37:440–449, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.