Flirting With Disaster: Short-Term Mating Orientation and Hostile Sexism Predict Different Types of Sexual Harassment


  • Contract grant sponsor: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG); Contract grant number: BO 1248/9-1; Contract grant sponsor: DFG Interdisciplinary Graduate School; Contract grant number: GRK 884/3.

Correspondence to: Charlotte Diehl, Department of Psychology, 05 Social Psychology, University of Bielefeld, Postfach 100131, 33501 Bielefeld, Germany. E-mail:


We combine evolutionary and sociocultural accounts of sexual harassment, proposing that sexuality-related and hostility-related motives lead to different types of harassment. Specifically, men's short-term mating orientation (STMO) was hypothesized to predict only unwanted sexual attention but not gender harassment, whereas men's hostile sexism (HS) was hypothesized to predict both unwanted sexual attention and gender harassment. As part of an alleged computer-chat task, 100 male students could send sexualized personal remarks (representing unwanted sexual attention), sexist jokes (representing gender harassment), or nonharassing material to an attractive female target. Independently, participants’ STMO, HS, and sexual harassment myth acceptance (SHMA) were assessed. Correlational and path analyses revealed that STMO specifically predicted unwanted sexual attention, whereas HS predicted both unwanted sexual attention and gender harassment. Furthermore, SHMA fully mediated the effect of HS on gender harassment, but did not mediate effects of STMO or HS on unwanted sexual attention. Results are discussed in relation to motivational explanations for sexual harassment and antiharassment interventions. Aggr. Behav. 38:521-531, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.