Women Prefer Men Who Exhibit Benevolent Sexism


I am staunchly in favor of traditional courtship, but in modern times, the idea of it seems to confuse or anger people. For instance, I spoke with a recent single, female, college graduate who was smart, had a good job, and was very pretty. I asked her about her dating life, and she described how bad it was. Guys she met online would ask her for a date that night, and she'd meet up at a casual dive bar and sometimes the guys would pay. Sometimes they wouldn't. But each date, she found okay, but not necessarily romantic.

Things seemed to be looking up when she met a guy in his 30s who was handsome, had a good job, and shared numerous interests. I figured since this guy was older, he would know how to take her on a nice date and make her feel special, but to my dismay, she told me that she allowed him to just come over and they'd hook up. Sometimes he spent the night. Sometimes he didn't. She was overjoyed when he once bought her McDonalds. I pretty much died inside when she told me he started to tell her about his other friends-with-benefits, but she didn't tell him this bothered her because she wanted him to think she was a cool girl.

This girl's acceptance of bad behavior fascinated me even more because she grew up in a functional two-parent household, where she spent her life viewing a loving relationship. I asked this girl why she didn't make guys take her on real dates or why she didn't set any ground rules for what she wanted, and she said that she was a feminist and didn't expect guys to pay, take the lead, or have any restrictions. I asked her if she believed that guys biologically enjoyed the chase, and she said yes. So I asked her why she didn't make guys chase after her, and she got mad at me.

I don't blame her for getting upset. The rules of dating seem complicated because society appears to have progressed so much. However, I firmly believe that when it comes to relationships you have to be honest about what you like. And for many straight women, they enjoy masculine men who treat them like stereotypical women, even if that undermines their feminist beliefs.

Pelin Gul from Iowa State University and Tom Kupfer from the University of Kent published a study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin that found women were most attracted to men who exhibited benevolent sexism over men who believed in equality between the sexes. The study found that both feminists and non-feminists preferred benevolent sexist men. 

When most people hear the word "sexism," they immediately think of toxic macho guys who hate women and treat women badly based on gender stereotypes. That type of behavior is known as hostile sexism, and people who are hostile sexists should be avoided because they are super, duper scary. 

Benevolent sexism, on the other hand, puts men and women into gender-role boxes that affect their behaviors. For instance, in benevolent sexism, women are thought of as nurturing and in need of protection, and men believe they must take care of the females around them for this reason. 

Gul and Kupfer said that females looking to partner up were more attracted to benevolent sexist men because they believed these men were more likely to invest in the relationship and were more willing to provide, protect, and commit. The researchers acknowledged that benevolent sexism could undermine women, but that women were okay with this because the other benefits outweighed the bad. 

In the study, benevolent sexist men were more likely to do things such as give their coats to the woman if it was cold or help a woman first in an emergency situation. Egalitarian men believed women shouldn't be put on a pedestal and should've got their own damn coats in the cold weather. 

“Women are attracted to men with benevolent sexist attitudes and behaviors because benevolent sexism signals that a potential mate is willing to invest (i.e., protect, provide, and commit), which is an important mate preference for women,” Gul told PsyPost. "“Because of this, even though benevolence can be undermining to women at times, they generally still prefer men who show they are benevolent. This may apply to any women, regardless of their level of feminism and gender egalitarian views."

This study has some critics upset that women would choose a benevolent sexist man over one that believes in equality, but their disapproval only strengthens the need for more people to come forward and let others know it is okay to like traditional gender roles in relationships. It is also okay to not like them. What is most important is evaluating yourself and what you need to feel loved and going out and seeking that. 

For feminists, the idea of liking a quote-unquote man's man may seem to go against the idea that women should be equal to men, but perhaps feminism should also be re-evaluated. Men and women are not biologically the same, but they should be given equal opportunities in the public sphere and the right to choose how they live their personal lives. Then they can decide on their own what to pursue or not based on their individual goals and personalities.