“You Are Not Your Own” Series: On Traditional Gender Roles and Dehumanization

“You Are Not Your Own” Series: On Traditional Gender Roles and Dehumanization June 5, 2013

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. 


I left off my previous post in this series talking about how sexism can come in different forms. It can be hostile (more blatantly misogynist), or benevolent (more subtle–presenting patriarchy as good for women). But whether hostile or benevolent, sexism leads to a tendency to blame rape victims–in cases of benevolent sexism, especially when a woman steps outside of a benevolent sexist’s idea of how women should act.

Today, I want to talk about two ways that sexism manifests itself: traditional gender roles and dehumanization. Both of these manifestations of sexism lead to rape myth acceptance [1] [2].

First, let’s talk about traditional gender roles. 

Gender roles differ from culture to culture, but in much of the Western world, traditional gender roles rely on strict differentiation between what is appropriate for men and what is appropriate for women [3]. Women are homemakers, men are breadwinners [3]. Women ought to remain chaste, while men are praised for their sexual exploits [1]. (Note that the problem does not lie in what roles people of either gender decide to fulfill, but in the idea that because one is a certain gender/sex one must fulfill certain roles)

Even benevolent sexists who believe in traditional gender roles are likely to accept rape myths as true. Those who would normally be benevolent toward most women display more hostile behaviors toward “bad” women–those who transgress “appropriate” roles for women [4]. This leads to the creation/perpetuation of rape myths that blame victims who have perceived “bad” reputations [5].

Then, there’s dehumanization.

Dehumanization is a manifestation of sexism that denies women agency and autonomy [6], and is expressed in one of two forms: animalization or objectification [7].

Animalization is a form of dehumanization that refers to the tendency to view a person/group of people as unevolved, or as having the property/characteristics of animals [7] (this happens not only to women, but from what I’ve seen, especially to women of color/people of color in general, and any group of people that has been “Othered”).

Click for source
Click for source

Objectification is a form of dehumanization that refers to viewing women as objects or machines, or as lacking the characteristics of living things [7].

Click for source

Both animalization and objectification not only correlate with rape myth acceptance, but with higher rape proclivity in men [7]. A man who dehumanizes women is not only more likely to blame victims, but to commit acts of sexual violence himself. 

Unfortunately, as I read the Christian relationship books that I focused my research on, I found sexism throughout all of the books. All promoted traditional gender roles, and three out of four of the books promoted dehumanization. 



[1]  Abrams, Dominic, G. Tendayi Viki, Barbara Masser, and Gerd Bohner. 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

[2] Rudman, Laurie A., and Kris Mescher. 2012. “Of Animals and Objects: Men’s Implicit Dehumanization of Women and Male Sexual Aggression.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 38:734-746.

[3]  Corrigal, Elizabeth A. and Allison Konrad. 2007 “Gender Role Attitudes and Careers: A Longitudinal Study.” Sex Roles 56(11-12):847-855.

[4] Glick, Peter, and Susan Fiske. 1996 “The Ambivalent Sexism Inventory: Differentiating Hostile and Benevolent Sexism.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 70(3):491-512.

[5]   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.

[6]  Nussbaum, Martha C. 1999. Sex & Social Justice. New York: Oxford University Press.

[7]  Rudman, Laurie A., and Kris Mescher. 2012. “Of Animals and Objects: Men’s Implicit Dehumanization of Women and Male Sexual Aggression.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 38:734-746.

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  • RtRDH

    I also find it interesting and highly problematic the rise of commercials on television that feature “the fembot” or women as robots and in domestic servitude. It’s quite disconcerting.

  • the peta advertisement. i doubt it does any good for animals… ugh.

    • Do not get me started on those terrorist-supporting, objectifying hypocrites.

  • No-one wins here, women nor men.
    Isn’t pushing men and boys into the idea that they are beasts that cannot control themselves (something which becomes true when people hear it enough and the mantra becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, long live neuroplasticity…) a form of dehumanisation and a very different sort of animalisation, to use your terms?

    • sarahoverthemoon

      Yes, I think it is. In fact, planning on getting into that more later on!

  • Y. A. Warren

    When we start identifying “human” as having the capacity to choose responsibly compassionate actions over simply acting on animal instinct, maybe we will actually be the highest form of animal on earth. Until then, it seems that we are, as a species, regressing farther and farther into our most base animal selves