Benevolent Sexism and Support of Romantic Partner's Goals: Undermining Women's Competence While Fulfilling Men's Intimacy Needs

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2015 Sep;41(9):1180-94. doi: 10.1177/0146167215593492. Epub 2015 Jul 9.


The current research demonstrates how benevolent sexism functions to undermine women's competence while facilitating men's access to heterosexual intimacy by prompting different support behaviors by men and women. Objective coders rated the support provision exhibited during heterosexual couples' (N = 100) video-recorded discussions of each other's personal goals. Men who endorsed benevolent sexism provided more dependency-oriented support, including directly providing plans and solutions and neglecting the recipient's own abilities, which led to their female partners feeling less competent and less positively regarded. In contrast, women who endorsed benevolent sexism provided greater relationship-oriented support, characterized by affection and emphasizing the positive relationship outcomes associated with their partner's goals, which led their male partners to perceive greater regard and intimacy in their relationship. This study is the first to investigate how benevolent sexism prompts naturalistic support behaviors that can impede women's capacity for independent success while supporting the fulfillment of men's intimacy needs.

Keywords: ambivalent sexism; benevolent sexism; close relationships; competence; support provision.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Beneficence
  • Female
  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Sexism*
  • Sexual Partners / psychology*
  • Young Adult