Salience of rape affects self-esteem: The moderating role of gender and rape myth acceptance


  • Experiment 1 was conducted by Christina Weisbrod as part of her diploma thesis at the University of Heidelberg, under the supervision of Gerd Bohner and Stefan E. Hormuth, whose helpful advice are gratefully acknowledged.


In two experiments, conducted in Germany and the U.S.A., it was found that exposure to a rape report lowered self-esteem and positive affect in women who do not accept ‘rape myths’ (stereotypical beliefs which blame the victim and exonerate the rapist; Burt, 1980). Men high in rape myth acceptance (RMA) showed an increase in positive affect and self-esteem as a function of exposure to rape; men low in RMA and women high in RMA were largely unaffected. Both experiments demonstrated that these effects were specific to rape, as opposed to violence in general. These results support the feminist hypothesis that the threat of rape serves the function to exert social control over women and to sustain men's dominance. Potential cognitive mechanisms mediating the observed effects are discussed.