Men’s Perception of Raped Women: Test of the Sexually Transmitted Disease Hypothesis and the Cuckoldry Hypothesis

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Abstract

Rape is a recurrent adaptive problem of female humans and females of a number of non-human animals. Rape has various physiological and reproductive costs to the victim. The costs of rape are furthermore exaggerated by social rejection and blaming of a victim, particularly by men. The negative perception of raped women by men has received little attention from an evolutionary perspective. Across two independent studies, we investigated whether the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (the STD hypothesis, Hypothesis 1) or paternity uncertainty (the cuckoldry hypothesis, Hypothesis 2) influence the negative perception of raped women by men. Raped women received lower attractiveness score than non-raped women, especially in long-term mate attractiveness score. The perceived attractiveness of raped women was not influenced by the presence of experimentally manipulated STD cues on faces of putative rapists. Women raped by three men received lower attractiveness score than women raped by one man. These results provide stronger support for the cuckoldry hypothesis (Hypothesis 2) than for the STD hypothesis (Hypothesis 1). Single men perceived raped women as more attractive than men in a committed relationship (Hypothesis 3), suggesting that the mating opportunities mediate men’s perception of victims of rape. Overall, our results suggest that the risk of cuckoldry underlie the negative perception of victims of rape by men rather than the fear of disease transmission.

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