Saturday, September 3, 2016

Religiosity Linked to Acceptance of Rape Myths, According to New Study

A new study found a correlation between Christian religious devotion and belief in rape myths. "Religious Affiliation, Religiosity, Gender, and Rape Myth Acceptance: Feminist Theory and Rape Culture", published online in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, looked at the relationship between religious devotion and embrace of rape myths among college students in the U.S.

In a study of 653 university students ages 18-30, most students identified as Christian, with 52.2% identifying as Protestant and 23.9% identifying as Roman Catholic. A smaller percentage identified as atheist (10.4%) or agnostic (13.5%). Students completed surveys gauging their religiosity as well as their political ideology on social and economic issues. The students' rape my acceptance was measured by the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale–Short Form, which involved students rating statements on a scale such as "If a woman is raped while she is drunk, she is at least somewhat responsible for letting things get out of control", and "Although most women wouldn’t admit it, they generally find being physically forced into sex a real ‘turn-on'".

Researchers found that after controlling for political ideology, Protestants and Catholics demonstrated higher acceptance of rape myths than their atheist and agnostic counterparts. Higher religiosity was correlated with greater acceptance of rape myths. The authors speculate that people who are more involved in Christian church activities are exposed to patriarchal teachings more often, which may reinforce toxic attitudes about sexual violence.

Studies like these remind us how patriarchy poisons Christian communities. Misogynist attitudes and teachings in Christian churches are just as poisonous to clergy as they are to congregants. Two studies of American Christian clergy found that sexism was associated with negative attitudes toward rape victims.

While some Christian denominations respect women, many more still need to jettison their misogynist attitudes and doctrines. Too many faith communities still believe that men should have authority over women, that husbands are entitled to their wives' bodies, that female bodies exude temptation, and that rape victims are culpable for their victimization.*  Communities that espouse Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull tenets are especially egregious.

This is unacceptable. Rape culture (and its sibling, purity culture) are reprehensible. We must challenge them wherever we find them, be it in secular society on religious settings.

* = As if attitudes condoning violence against women weren't bad enough, sexual violence against male victims isn't even on the radar of many churches. Men who have been victimizated find themselves out in the cold, hushed into silence or shamed.

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