Sexual Permissiveness, Sex-Role Rigidity, and Violence across Cultures


Institute of Policy Science and Public Affairs, Duke University, Durham, N.C. 27706


The possible relationships between sexual permissiveness, sex-role rigidity, and violence at the societal level are examined. Two judges independently rank ordered the levels of sexual permissiveness of a random sample of 17 cultures chosen from the Human Relations Area Files. A second set of two judges rank ordered the rigidity of these cultures' sex roles, and a third set of judges rank ordered the cultures on their levels of intra- and extra-communal violence. An attempt to rank order the degree of achieved masculinity content of the cultures' sex stereotypes failed because judges could not rank them reliably. Sexual permissiveness was uncorrelated with either sex-role rigidity or violence, but sex-role rigidity was highly correlated with violence. The results are interpreted as being incompatible with theories of sex and violence that stress a single physiological or instinctual factor. The results supported two-factor theories which gave more emphasis to social learning principles than to physiological determinants.