“You Are Not Your Own” Series: Religion and Rape Myth Acceptance

This post is part of a series called“You Are Not Your Own,” focusing on rape and sexual assault in Christian relationship/dating books

Trigger Warning for rape, sexual assault, victim blaming, and dehumanization

Note: this research mainly focused on female rape, so I am not sure if the same trends toward rape myth acceptance would apply in cases of male rape. If anyone wants to see if research has been done on that subject and report back, feel free. Though it is not the focus of my project, male rape is a huge problem as well–1 out of every 10 rape victims is male. I wanted to make it clear that, despite the focus of my study, it is not only women (and definitely not only cisgender women) who face sexual violence. 


It’s been awhile since I’ve updated my “You Are Not Your Own” series, so I figured it’s about time to jump back into it. Today, I’ll be finishing up talking about the information I learned while doing my literature review, and later this week I’ll start talking about what I actually found while analyzing Christian dating books.

I wrote in my last post that, according to research, when victims of rape or sexual assault transgress traditional gender roles, benevolent sexists are more likely to blame them. [1] This makes evangelical Christianity a place of concern when looking at issues of rape myth acceptance (RMA).

Many evangelical Christians will be quick to tell you that though they support traditional gender roles, they do not hate women. In fact, they only hold to these gender roles because they believe them to be good for women. Research backs them up, actually. Religious folks aren’t likely to score highly on tests for hostile sexism. [2]

Unfortunately, the more religious someone is, the more likely they are to be a benevolent sexist [2], and hostile sexism isn’t the only form that leads to rape myth acceptance.  With this in mind, it’s not surprising that religious men are more likely than non-religious men to accept rape myths (though, interestingly, the opposite is true of religious women, which suggests that there’s more to this than just religion). [3] Also, the more intolerant (of other races, religions, sexual orientations, etc.) one’s religious beliefs are, the more likely one is to accept rape myths. [4]

Often, I hear Christians claim that the church is the safest place for women–that women are only victimized by “the world.” But this research shows that, at least in the many congregations where intolerance and benevolent sexism abounds, this is simply not the case.

Even clergy members are likely to accept rape myths. In one study, researchers found that the majority of clergy members they interviewed showed attitudes of victim blaming and rape myth acceptance. [5]

Knowing that many religious people, including clergy members, accept both benevolent sexist attitudes and attitudes of rape myth acceptance, it’s important to look at the intersections between religion and ideas about rape and sexual assault. Studying Christian dating books is a good place to start looking at these intersections, and in my next post, we’ll start doing just that.


[1] Viki, G. Tendayi, and Dominic Abrams. 2002 “But She Was Unfaithful: Benevolent Sexism and Reactions to Rape Victims who Violate Traditional Gender Role Expectations.” Sex Roles 47(5-6):289-293.

[2] Burn, S. M., & Russo, J. (2005). “Ambivalent Sexism, Scriptural Literalism, and Religiosity.” Psychology of Women Quarterly. 29(4), 412-418.

[3] Freymeyer, R. H., (1997). Rape myths and religiosity. Sociological Spectrum, 17, 473–489.

[4] Abrams, D., Viki, G.T., Masser, B., & Bohner, G. (2003). Perceptions of stranger and acquaintance rape: The role of benevolent and hostile sexism in victim blame and rape proclivity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 84, 111–125.

[5] Sheldon, J., & Parent, S. (2002). Clergy’s attitudes and attributions of blame toward female rape victims. Violence Against Women 8, 233–256.

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