Examining Perceptions of Sex Offenders as Influenced by Gender Variations and Rape Myth Acceptance
While there is a good amount of research focused on sex offenders as a whole, only a limited number of studies examine variations within these offenders, how people view the variations, and why their opinions may differ. This study focuses on the interconnections among gender norms, rape myth acceptance, and the perception of sex offenders by administering an online student survey. The survey measured rape myth acceptance and adherence to traditional gender roles to see how they affected perceptions of sex offenders. Perceptions were measured using vignettes that were varied by gender and the situation described. Results showed that higher rape myth acceptance would decrease the blameworthiness of the offender, that the offender was seen as more blameworthy when the offender was a male, and that women tended to see the offender as more blameworthy than men did. The type of sexual situation did not have an impact on blameworthiness, nor did adherence to gender roles. The findings support past research that suggests that rape myth acceptance can impact people’s opinions about offenders in sexual situations and specifically that these opinions differ depending on the gender of the offender. With some offenders being viewed as more blameworthy than others, it is necessary to examine sex offense laws to see how they may disproportionately affect some offenders and implement harsher punishments than the public may deem necessary.