Women collectively condemn sexually permissive behaviour

Updated: Apr 15

Women often get a lot of bad press for ‘perceived’ sexual promiscuity. Even wearing the wrong dress can get a woman labelled as licentious.

A study by Jessica Ayers and Aaron Goetz suggests that women collectively condemn sexually permissive behaviour in other women. In one experiment, women (N = 355) were asked to rate the same photo of a woman either showing obvious cleavage or no cleavage. Participants who saw the photo with cleavage rated the woman as more promiscuous - more likely to have one-night stands, cheat on her boyfriend, and cheat with someone else’s boyfriend. They also perceived her more negatively in domains unrelated to mating like intelligence, likelihood of cheating on tests, inclusion in a study group, and not “playing by the rules”.

In another experiment, participants were presented the photo of a woman and asked to imagine her in an animated discussion with their partner in a social situation. Women tended to think that other women would perceive the target as more promiscuous and less trustworthy than themselves. They also thought that men would view the target more favorably, suggesting that woman are aware of how other women perceive sexual permissiveness.

The authors concluded that “women seem to be aware of and are motivated to maintain their (collective or personal) bargaining power by punishing others who appear to be sexually permissive.”

Read more about the study here.