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The madonna-whore dichotomy denotes polarized perceptions of women as either good and chaste or as bad and promiscuous. In the present research, we examined the correlates of madonna-whore dichotomy among samples of heterosexual Israeli, U.S., and German women and heterosexual U.S. and German men. Demonstrating cross-cultural generalizability, madonna-whore dichotomy endorsement correlated with endorsement of patriarchy-supporting ideologies across samples. U.S. (but not German) men's madonna-whore dichotomy endorsement negatively correlated with their sexual satisfaction in romantic relationships, which in turn predicted lower general relationship satisfaction. Among women, madonna-whore dichotomy endorsement did not correlate with sexual or general relationship satisfaction. These findings (a) support the feminist perspective on the madonna-whore dichotomy, which points to the role of the stereotype in policing women and limiting their sexual freedom, and (b) provide evidence that madonna-whore dichotomy endorsement can have personal costs for men. Increasing awareness to the motivations underlying the madonna-whore dichotomy endorsement and its costs can be beneficial at the social and personal levels for women and men, by providing knowledge that may help in developing focused interventions to change existing perceptions and scripts about sexuality, and perhaps foster more satisfying heterosexual relationships.
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Research Article
The Madonna-Whore Dichotomy
Is Associated With Patriarchy
Endorsement: Evidence From Israel,
the United States, and Germany
Rotem Kahalon
1
, Orly Bareket
1
, Andrea C. Vial
2
,
Nora Sassenhagen
3
, Julia C. Becker
3
, and Nurit Shnabel
1
Abstract
The madonna-whore dichotomy denotes polarized perceptions of women as either good and chaste or as bad and pro-
miscuous. In the present research, we examined the correlates of madonna-whore dichotomy among samples of heterosexual
Israeli, U.S., and German women and heterosexual U.S. and German men. Demonstrating cross-cultural generalizability,
madonna-whore dichotomy endorsement correlated with endorsement of patriarchy-supporting ideologies across samples.
U.S. (but not German) men’s madonna-whore dichotomy endorsement negatively correlated with their sexual satisfaction in
romantic relationships, which in turn predicted lower general relationship satisfaction. Among women, madonna-whore
dichotomy endorsement did not correlate with sexual or general relationship satisfaction. These findings (a) support the
feminist perspective on the madonna-whore dichotomy, which points to the role of the stereotype in policing women and
limiting their sexual freedom; and (b) provide evidence that madonna-whore dichotomy endorsement can have personal costs
for men. Increasing awareness to the motivations underlying the madonna-whore dichotomy endorsement and its costs can be
beneficial at the social and personal levels for women and men, by providing knowledge that may help in developing focused
interventions to change existing perceptions and scripts about sexuality, and perhaps foster more satisfying heterosexual
relationships.
Keywords
madonna-whore dichotomy, gender attitudes, sexual satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, sexism, patriarchy-supporting
ideologies
The madonna-whore dichotomy (MWD) denotes polarized
perceptions of women as either “good,” chaste, and pure
“madonnas” or as “bad,” promiscuous, and seductive
“whores” (Tanzer, 1985; Tavris & Wade, 1984). Diverse
representations and manifestations of this dichotomous per-
ception of women were prevalent in ancient cultures (e.g.,
Hellenistic Greece; Pomeroy, 1975), and are still prevalent
today (Faludi, 2009). Research on cultural representations of
women’s sexuality shows that this polarized perception of
women is evident in contemporary Western literature
(Delany, 2007; Gottschall, Allison, De Rosa, & Klockeman,
2006), art (Haxell, 2000), films (Paul, 2013), and television
(Tropp, 2006). In the current investigation, we examined the
MWD empirically, deriving our predictions from a feminist
perspective on this topic.
Whereas other theoretical perspectives on the MWD
focused on unresolved sexual complexes (Freud, 1905,
1912; Hartmann, 2009), evolutionary pressures (Buss &
Schmitt, 1993), socio-economic factors (Baumeister & Vohs,
2004), or efforts to cope with existential threats (Landau
et al., 2006), feminists have theorized that the MWD stems
from a desire to reinforce patriarchy (Conrad, 2006; De Beau-
voir, 1949; Forbes, 1996; Tanenbaum, 2000; Wolf, 1997;
Young, 1993). A recent study among heterosexual Israeli
men (Bareket, Kahalon, Shnabel, & Glick, 2018) found that
MWD endorsement correlated positively with patriarchy-
enhancing ideologies and negatively with relationship satis-
faction—in line with the feminist view that sexist attitudes
have negative consequences for heterosexual romantic rela-
tionships (e.g., Hammond & Overall, 2013).
1
The School of Psychological Sciences, Tel-Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
2
Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA
3
Institute of Psychology, Osnabru¨ck University, Osnabru¨ck, Germany
Corresponding Author:
Rotem Kahalon, The School of Psychological Sciences, Tel-Aviv University,
Ramat Aviv, Tel-Aviv 69978, Israel.
Email: rotemkah@mail.tau.ac.il
Psychology of Women Quarterly
2019, Vol. 43(3) 348-367
ªThe Author(s) 2019
Article reuse guidelines:
sagepub.com/journals-permissions
DOI: 10.1177/0361684319843298
journals.sagepub.com/home/pwq
The purpose of the current research was to extend Bareket,
Kahalon, and colleagues’ (2018) findings in three ways. First,
Bareket, Kahalon, and colleagues examined only heterosex-
ual men; we included both heterosexual men and women, and
tested whether the association between MWD endorsement
and patriarchy-enhancing ideology is gender specific. Sec-
ond, to test the cross-cultural generalizability of our conclu-
sions, we gathered further evidence for MWD endorsement
using samples from three Western countries—the United
States, Germany, and Israel. Third, Bareket, Kahalon, and
colleagues found that MWD endorsement negatively pre-
dicted men’s satisfaction in romantic relationships; we tested
whether this association would occur also among women, and
whether it could be explained by diminished sexual satisfac-
tion in those with high MWD beliefs.
MWD: Theoretical Perspectives and
Empirical Findings
The MWD was originally coined by Freud (1905, 1912) as
the madonna-whore complex. According to the psychoanaly-
tic perspective, the complex arises when men experience the
affection once felt for their mothers with women they now
sexually desire. In order to manage these anxiety-provoking
feelings, some men categorize women into two groups:
women they admire and women they find sexually attractive.
Because these men cannot view women’s sexuality as both
“tender” and “sensual” at the same time, their love is directed
toward admired women, but they despise and devalue sex-
ualized women to whom they are attracted. This complex was
assumed to be disturbing for adult heterosexual men and to
result in relationship dysfunctions (Josephs, 2006; Silver-
stein, 1998) and inability to maintain sexual arousal within
a committed, loving relationship (Kaplan, 1988). According
to Hartmann (2009), this complex is still prevalent today
among some patients who suffer from sexual dysfunction.
A psychoanalytic perspective focuses on men’s experi-
ences and fails to identify how this polarized perception of
women is related to gender inequality and how it affects
women’s self-perception and expression of their sexuality.
In the present study, we took a feminist perspective on the
MWD (e.g., Wolf, 1997; Young, 1993). Feminists assume
that conventional societal attitudes regarding women’s sexu-
ality (D’Emilio & Freedman, 1988; Tiefer, 2004) create a
binary model, which treats women as either virgins (madon-
nas) or whores based on their alleged or actual sexual beha-
vior. Women are pressured to follow the chaste path or else
risk being perceived as unsuitable for long-term relationships
(Fassinger & Arseneau, 2008). This causes women to be
concerned about getting a “bad” sexual reputation, which
leads some of them to feel shame about their sexual desires,
reducing their sexual agency (Tolman, 2002). This creates a
double bind for women (especially young women), as they
are expected to be desired, but not desiring or responsive
(Gavey, 2005; Tolman, 2002).
One way in which the MWD, as an ideology, is manifested
in heterosexual relationships is through common cultural sex-
ual scripts (i.e., cultural norms and expectations about sexu-
ality) which affect individuals’ behaviors and attitudes
(Seabrook et al., 2016; Simon & Gagnon, 1986). The sexual
scripts for women and men are different and complementary
(Tolman, 2006). For example, although the normative social
script expects men to always think about sex and try to get
sex, the normative script for women expects them to keep
their sexuality and number of sexual encounters at check.
These scripts portray men as active participants in their
expression of sexuality and women as passive. Women are
pressured to enact these scripts and be “good girls” (Epstein,
Calzo, Smiler, & Ward, 2009; Tolman & Porche, 2000);
women who do not endorse the scripts are judged against its
violation (i.e., slut shaming; Hamilton & Armstrong, 2009).
D’Emilio and Freedman (1988) conceptualized the MWD
as a continuum, anchored by the presence of partnered sexual
activity on one end and the absence thereof at the other end.
They argued that this continuum corresponds with a gradual
acceptance of sexual behaviors, especially those occurring
within conventional (i.e., monogamous), long-term hetero-
sexual relationships. Bay-Cheng (2015a) endorsed MWD as
a continuum, and suggested a two-dimensional model, which
takes into account not only women’s alleged or actual sexual
behavior but also the degree of control they proclaim (i.e.,
sexual agency). Research shows a shift in the meaning of
“whore,” from being sexually active to being “sexually out
of control” (Bay-Cheng, 2015a). Women with high sexual
agency are in control over their sexuality and sexual interac-
tions and are portrayed as ambitious, independent, self-
serving, and unapologetic (e.g., Harris, 2004). These women
can be either sexually active or abstinent. Women with low
sexual agency are perceived as victims, whether they are
sexually active (i.e., sexually exploited by others) or not
(i.e., not sexually active because they are undesired or unat-
tractive). Both the agency and the virgin-slut continua are
used to judge, divide, and disparage women regardless of
what they do or feel (Bay-Cheng, 2015b). Whether viewing
the MWD from a binary, a continuum, or a two-dimensional
model, these different feminist frameworks converge to sug-
gest that the MWD serves primarily the function of control-
ling women as a group by penalizing individual women who
display “unacceptable” sexual behavior (Infanger, Rudman,
& Sczesny, 2014). To illustrate, women viewed as displaying
unapologetic sexuality may be presumed to be “up for any-
thing” and “asking for it” based on their physical presentation
or prior sexual experience (Edwards, Turchik, Dardis, Rey-
nolds, & Gidycz, 2011). This presumption is similar to the
penalties women incur when behaving unapologetically and
assertively in other domains (e.g., agentic women leaders;
Rudman, Moss-Racusin, Phelan, & Nauts, 2012) and may
reflect the wish to put “uppity” women “in their place.”
To empirically test the feminist argument about social
function of the MWD, Bareket, Kahalon, and colleagues
Kahalon et al. 349
(2018) developed a self-report measure to assess the MWD.
In a sample of Israeli men, a stronger endorsement of the
MWD was found to be associated with a host of patriarchy-
reinforcing ideologies (e.g., benevolent and hostile sexism;
Glick & Fiske, 2001) and decreased satisfaction in their
romantic relationships. These findings suggest that the MWD
stereotype works as a double-edged sword: On the one hand,
endorsement of MWD might be beneficial for men, as it
serves to keep them in their privileged social position, but
it also may lead men to feel dissatisfied in their romantic
relationships. Research, however, has been limited to men’s
MWD endorsement and its correlates. We sought to assess
whether MWD endorsement among women similarly corre-
lates with their support for patriarchal arrangements and rela-
tionship dissatisfaction.
Endorsement of MWD Among Women
Although the MWD serves to reinforce patriarchal arrange-
ments that put women at a disadvantage relative to men, we
expected that both men and women would endorse the MWD.
Jackman (1994) reported that women play an important part
in reinforcing patriarchal arrangements. Hierarchy-enhancing
ideologies have been found to be widely endorsed by mem-
bers of disadvantaged groups, which in turn lead people to
behave in self-debilitating ways that justify and reinforce the
existing social hierarchy (Jost & Banaji, 1994; Sidanius &
Pratto, 1999). Many women endorse sexist beliefs (e.g., Bar-
reto & Ellemers, 2005; Glick et al., 2000; Kilianski & Rud-
man, 1998; Swim, Mallett, Russo-Devosa, & Stangor,
2005)—especially in their more subtle, seemingly benevolent
forms (Glick & Fiske, 2001). For example, although feminist
theorists argue that viewing and treating women as if their
value is determined by their physical appearance degrades
and perpetuates their lower social status relative to men
(e.g., Jeffreys, 2005; Wolf, 1991), many women internalize
this view (Bartky, 1990) in a process called self-
objectification (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997). Women’s
self-objectification, in turn, leads them to justify the existing
gender system and to refrain from engaging in gender-based
social activism (Calogero, 2013).
Social psychological research on stereotypes and percep-
tions of women’s sexuality provide some evidence to suggest
that women might endorse the MWD. Earlier research by
Allport (1958) revealed that both men and women described
the sexual behavior characterizing women either as virginal,
sexually inexperienced, innocent, and directed to child-
rearing or as manipulative, seductive, and very sexually expe-
rienced. Friedman, Weinberg, and Pines (1998) found that the
more sexual a target woman was described, the less she was
perceived as a “good mother” (i.e., indicating that sexuality
and motherhood are viewed as mutually exclusive) by both
men and women. Although men in Friedman and colleagues’
(1998) study exhibited a greater motherhood-sexuality split
than women, the overall pattern of results was similar for both
men and women participants. A more recent study showed
that women with higher social dominance orientation scores
expressed more hostile attitudes toward a woman depicted as
promiscuous and more benevolent attitudes toward a woman
described as chaste (Fowers & Fowers, 2010). This finding
indicates that hostility toward women who do not comply
with the traditional prescribed role of women as chaste
reflects both women’s and men’s motivation to reinforce
hierarchical gender arrangements (Sibley & Wilson, 2004).
That women’s dominance motive predicts hostility toward
sexually agentic women may seem odd in light of our argu-
ment that such hostility reduces women’s social power. How-
ever, this finding (Fowers & Fowers, 2010) is consistent with
theory that posits women who accept patriarchal arrange-
ments believe they personally benefit from powerful men’s
protection and provision (Glick & Fiske, 2001). Moreover,
the MWD puts chaste women on a pedestal, promoting an
idealized view of them as pure and admirable. This seemingly
positive view of women perpetuates gender inequality
through “sweet persuasion” (Jackman, 1994), as women who
believe that they fall into the category of “madonnas” may
feel good about, and even empowered by, this idealization,
even though it carries a component of external and internal
policing. Previous social psychology research on sexism sug-
gests that, whereas manifestations of blatant hostile sexism
(overt misogyny) raise women’s resistance, manifestations of
benevolent sexism (chivalrousness) often make women
behave in ways that perpetuate patriarchal arrangements
(Becker & Wright, 2011).
Based on the above studies, we expected that men would
endorse MWD to a higher extent compared to women. This is
consistent with the notion that men have a greater interest to
maintain their group dominance (Sidanius, Pratto, & Bobo,
1994) and that women are more familiar with shifts between
the experiences of motherhood and women’s sexuality
(Friedman, Weinberg, & Pines, 1998). Nevertheless, we
expected that MWD endorsement among women would cor-
relate positively with ideologies that reinforce gender
inequality—just as it does for men.
The MWD and Relationship Satisfaction
Among Men and Women
Our feminist conceptualization of the MWD as a sexist ideol-
ogy implies that the MWD may relate to women’s relation-
ship dissatisfaction as well as men’s. Women endorsing the
MWD might encounter difficulties in expressing sexual pas-
sion within romantic relationships, either because they con-
demn themselves for feeling such passion or because they are
concerned about being negatively perceived by their partners.
This possibility is consistent with research showing that the
desire to live up to gender ideals negatively affects sexual and
relationship satisfaction for both (heterosexual) men and
women, in part due to reduced sexual autonomy (Sanchez,
Crocker, & Boike, 2005). By contrast, having a feminist
350 Psychology of Women Quarterly 43(3)
partner predicts healthy romantic heterosexual relationships
(greater stability, sexual satisfaction, etc.) for both men and
women (Rudman & Phelan, 2007).
Because sexism in general is negatively linked to sexual
satisfaction in heterosexual romantic relationships (Sanchez
et al., 2005), and because the view of women’s sexuality as
morally debased might inhibit sexual expression in such rela-
tionships, we expected both women’s and men’s MWD
endorsement to correlate negatively with sexual satisfaction
in their romantic relationships. Furthermore, because sexual
satisfaction is a key predictor of relationship satisfaction
(Butzer & Campbell, 2008; Byers, 2005; Heiman et al.,
2011; Sprecher, 2002; Sprecher & Cate, 2004), we expected
that reduced sexual satisfaction would be associated, in turn,
with lower relationship satisfaction. Moreover, we examined
whether reduced sexual satisfaction mediates the link
between MWD endorsement and relationship dissatisfaction;
to our knowledge, this is the first empirical test of this
relation.
Cross-Cultural Perspective on the MWD
We also tested the cross-cultural generalizability of the asso-
ciation between the MWD and patriarchy-supporting ideolo-
gies and reduced relationship satisfaction (previously tested
in Israel; Bareket, Kahalon, et al., 2018) in two additional
Western countries—namely, the United States and Germany.
These two countries were of interest because they score dif-
ferently on the Gender Inequality Index (GII). With a higher
rank indicating more gender inequality, the United States was
ranked as 43, Israel as 20, and Germany as 9 (United Nations
Development Programme, 2015).
Country differences in gender equality may lead to differ-
ent levels of MWD between the three countries; the less
equal (more patriarchal) country should have higher MWD
endorsement, we nevertheless expected similar correlational
patterns in the three samples. This expectation was based on
previous social psychological research, which pointed to
cross-cultural similarities for the various constructs of inter-
est in the current investigation (e.g., Glick et al., 2000; Hei-
man et al., 2011; Jost, Kivetz, Rubini, Guermandi, & Mosso,
2005; Laumann et al., 2006; Levin & Sidanius, 1999; Shna-
bel, Bar-Anan, Kende, Bareket, & Lazar, 2016).
The Current Research
We hypothesized that (1) U.S. and German men’s madonna-
whore dichotomy endorsement would correlate positively
with ideologies that reinforce gender inequality, including
social dominance orientation (SDO; i.e., the preference for
hierarchical social structures), gender-specific system justifi-
cation (i.e., the legitimizing of the existing gender system),
benevolent sexism (i.e., a chivalrous view of women as pure
and moral but weak and passive, needing and deserving
men’s protection and provision), and hostile sexism (i.e., the
view of women as manipulative competitors who seek to gain
control over men), objectification of women (i.e., treating
women’s bodies as a commodity to serve men’s needs and
pleasure), and sexual double standards (i.e., having favorable
views of sexual activity for men but not for women).
Second, we hypothesized that (2) the same patterns would
emerge among women. That is, Israeli, U.S., and German
women’s MWD endorsement would correlate positively with
social dominance orientation, gender-specific system justifi-
cation, benevolent and hostile sexism, trait self-
objectification, and sexual double standards.
We also hypothesized that (3) among both women and
men, MWD would negatively correlate with satisfaction in
their romantic relationships, and this link would be mediated
by sexual satisfaction. And (4), among both U.S. and German
participants, men would endorse the MWD to a higher extent
compared to women.
We did not have any specific predictions for how partici-
pants’ country of origin might affect the strength of associa-
tions between the MWD and the constructs of interest.
Because scholars recommend (e.g., Schimmack, 2012; Sim-
mons, Nelson, & Simonsohn, 2011) avoiding false-positive
rates from comparisons that were not determined prior to data
collection, we avoided such comparisons. The data files of all
samples can be accessed through the Open Science Frame-
work (https://osf.io/rb435).
Method
Participants
An a-priori power analysis conducted using the G*Power
calculator (Faul, Erdfelder, Buchner, & Lang, 2009) revealed
that to detect medium effect sizes (r¼.30), the minimum
sample size required for a 5%significance level (one sided)
and power of 80%was 67. We aimed to exceed the minimal
sample size in all samples who completed our online ques-
tionnaire. The Israeli sample was a convenience sample of
123 Israeli heterosexual women volunteers who were
recruited via social media groups at a large Israeli university
and off campus. Of the participants, 95 (77%) were born in
Israel and 102 participants (83%) reported Hebrew as their
native tongue.
The U.S. sample consisted of 242 U.S. heterosexual
women (n¼119) and men (n¼123) who participated online
via Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk; Behrend, Sharek,
Meade, & Wiebe, 2011) and were compensated US$1.75.
Most of the participants (n¼235; 97%) were born in the
United States and 237 participants (98%) reported English as
their native tongue. The German sample included a conve-
nience sample of 351 German heterosexual women (n¼190)
and men (n¼161) volunteers who were recruited via social
media on and off a university campus. Most of the partici-
pants (n¼312; 96%) were born in Germany and 308 parti-
cipants (88%) reported German as their native tongue.
Kahalon et al. 351
Descriptive statistics for the three samples are presented
in Table 1.
Procedure and Measures
Participants were invited to take an online survey on
“attitudes regarding various social issues.” After providing
demographic information, participants completed the follow-
ing measures, which were presented in a randomized order
with the following exceptions: (1) To minimize missing val-
ues in MWD (our main variable) due to participants’ fatigue,
the MWD scale always appeared at the beginning of the
survey; and (2) for the Premarital Sexual Double Standards
scale, items referring to men and women targets appeared
separately (at the beginning and the end of the survey) to
reduce social desirability bias.
The versions of the survey for men and women were iden-
tical, except for the objectification measures. We measured
men’s sexual objectification of women using Curran’s (2004)
scale. This scale is designed to measure objectification
among heterosexual men because it taps into the prevalent
heteronormative culture (Gill, 2008; Herz & Johansson,
2015; Johnson, 2011), such as imagining how women they
meet on a daily basis would look like naked. Based on objec-
tification theory (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997), however, we
reasoned that for heterosexual women, the extent to which
they internalize and accept the objectification of women
wouldmanifestinhightraitself-objectification—namely,
adoption of an observer’s perspective on their own body and
treating their body as if it is capable of representing their self.
Thus, women completed the Self Objectification question-
naire (Noll & Fredrickson, 1998).
With the exception of the MWD questionnaire, which was
originally developed in Hebrew (and was translated to Eng-
lish in previous work; Bareket, Kahalon, et al., 2018), the
other scales were originally developed in English. German
translations were available for Social Dominance Orientation
scale, Benevolent and Hostile Sexism subscales, Gender-
Specific System Justification scale, and the Golombok Rust
Inventory of Sexual Satisfaction; all other measures (i.e.,
MWD, Self-Objectification questionnaire, Men’s Objectifi-
cation of Women measure, Premarital Sexual Double Stan-
dards scale, and Couple Satisfaction Inventory) were
translated into German by the fourth author and then retrans-
lated back to English by a third person. Comparisons were
made between the original and back-translated versions, and
where discrepancies existed, the authors worked to resolve
them. Questionnaires were available in Hebrew for all
measures.
Madonna-whore dichotomy. Participants completed the 9-
item MWD scale (Bareket, Kahalon, et al., 2018; see Table
4), which assesses the tendency to view women’s nurturance
and sexuality as mutually exclusive (e.g., “A sexy woman is
usually not a good mother”) and negative views toward pro-
miscuous women (e.g., “Women who are interested in and
very liberal about sex are often problematic in terms of their
personality”). The items were rated on a 7-point scale ranging
from 1 (strongly disagree)to7(strongly agree). Items were
averaged; higher scores indicated stronger MWD beliefs. Past
research among Israeli men (Bareket, Kahalon, et al., 2018)
found support for a unidimensional factorial structure of the
MWD scale via both exploratory and confirmatory factor
analyses. Validity of scores on the MWD was previously
supported by its positive correlations with ideologies that
Table 1. Demographic Information of Israeli, U.S., and German Participants.
Variables
Israel United States Germany
Women (n¼123) Women (n¼119) Men (n¼123) Women (n¼190) Men (n¼161)
Age
Range 18–70 19–70 18–72 18–65 17–70
M(SD) 27.47 (10.35) 35.73 (12.04) 32.03 (10.13) 25.46 (8.41) 29.24 (11.00)
<30 86% 39% 50% 88% 77%
30–39 3% 38% 32% 3% 9%
>40 11% 26% 18% 6% 18%
Relationship status
Single 34% 15% 41% 36% 46%
In a relationship 46% 28% 27% 52% 39%
Married 19% 50% 28% 9% 13%
Divorced 1% 5% 3% 1% 1%
Other 2% 1% 1% 1%
Had a serious relationship in the past 69% 90% 73% 53% 59%
Student 62% 12% 15% 77% 56%
Note. Religion was assessed differently between the samples as a factor ofthe common measurement in eachcountry. For Israelis, all participants were Jewish; 85
(69%) were identified as secular, 12 (10%) as atheist/other,9 (7%) as religious, and 17 (14%)did not report level of religiosity. For U.S. participants,117 participants
(48%) were identified as secular, 102 (42%) asreligious, and 23 (10%) as other; 109 (45%) identified with Christianity. Among the Germans, 153 participants (47%)
were identified as atheists/other, 63 (19%) as Catholic, 105 (32%) as Evangelical Lutheran, and 5 (2%) as Muslim. M ¼mean; SD ¼standard deviation.
352 Psychology of Women Quarterly 43(3)
reinforce patriarchal arrangements and reduced satisfaction
in romantic relationships, even when controlling for ambiva-
lent sexism; reported internal consistency in two samples of
Israeli men was a¼.80 and a¼.86 (Bareket, Kahalon, et al.,
2018). In the current research, the internal consistency relia-
bility was acceptable for the Israeli sample (a
women
¼.75),
the U.S. sample (a
men
¼.90, a
women
¼.85), and the German
sample (a
men
¼.86, a
women
¼.83).
Social dominance orientation. Participants in the U.S. sample
completed a 6-item Social Dominance Orientation (SDO)
scale (Pratto, Sidanius, Stallworth, & Malle, 1994), which
assesses their desire for social dominance and hierarchal
social structures (e.g., “In getting what you want, it is some-
times necessary to use force against other groups”). Partici-
pants in the Israeli sample completed the Hebrew version
(Levin & Sidanius, 1999), and participants in the German
sample completed a German version of the SDO (Ksenofon-
tov, 2016). In all samples, the items were rated on a 7-point
scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree)to7(strongly agree)
and were averaged; higher scores indicated stronger SDO.
Predictive and discriminant validity of the SDO was sup-
ported in 13 samples of U.S. college students (Pratto et al.,
1994) by showing its ability to predict prejudice over and
above other attitudinal measures (e.g., Right-Wing Authori-
tarianism scale; Altemeyer, 1981). Reported internal consis-
tency was a¼.92 (using a 16-item version; Shook, Hopkins,
& Koech, 2016) in a U.S. student sample and a¼.66–.83 in
Israeli student samples (using an 8-item version; Shnabel,
Dovidio, & Levin, 2016). In the current study, internal con-
sistency reliability of the SDO scale was acceptable among
Israeli (a
women
¼.70), U.S. (a
men
¼.79, a
women
¼.80), and
German (a
men
¼.78, a
women
¼.80) participants.
Gender-specific system justification. Participants completed a
5-item Gender-Specific System Justification scale (Jost &
Kay, 2005, translated to Hebrew by Ha¨ssler, Shnabel, Ullrich,
Arditti-Vogel, & SimanTov-Nachlieli, 2018; translated to
German by Becker & Wright, 2011), which assesses the per-
ceived legitimacy of the existing gender arrangements (e.g.,
“The division of labor in families between men and women
generally operates as it should”). The items were rated on a 7-
point scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree)to7(strongly
agree) and were averaged; higher scores indicated stronger
gender-specific system justification. The Gender-Specific
System Justification scale represents a gender-focused
rewording of the System Justification scale. Support of its
convergent validity with conceptually related measures has
been shown in previous research (e.g., Belief in a Just World
scale; Kay & Jost, 2003). Internal consistency reliability
obtained in the present study was acceptable for both the
Israeli sample (a
women
¼.78),U.S.sample(a
men
¼.79,
a
women
¼.86), and the German sample (a
men
¼.75, a
women
¼.77), and it was similar to recent studies using U.S. com-
munity and student samples (e.g., a¼.85 using an 8-item
version; Calogero, 2013).
Benevolent and hostile sexism. Participants completed a
shortened 10-item version of the Ambivalent Sexism Inven-
tory (Glick & Fiske, 1996; translated to Hebrew by Shnabel,
Bar-Anan, et al., 2016; translated to German by Eckes &
Six-Materna, 1999), which is composed of two subscales—
Benevolent Sexism (e.g., “In a disaster, women ought to be
rescued before men”) and Hostile Sexism (e.g., “Feminists
are seeking for women to have more power than men”). The
items were rated on a 6-point scale ranging from 1 (strongly
disagree)to6(strongly agree) and were averaged; higher
scores indicated stronger sexism. In past work, the Ambiva-
lent Sexism Inventory (ASI) has shown a consistent factor
structure across cultures, with distinct but correlated hostile
and benevolent sexism factors, and its predictive validity was
supported by correlations with structural inequality indices
across nations (Glick et al., 2000). Although the original ASI
uses 22 items, support for predictive validity of shorter ver-
sions of the scale was similar to that obtained for the full scale
(e.g., Rollero, Glick, & Tartaglia, 2014).
Previous research using shorter versions of the ASI
reported good reliability (e.g., a¼.80 for a 6-item Benevo-
lent Sexism scale and a¼.85 for a 6-item Hostile Sexism
scale in an Italian community sample; Rollero et al., 2014;
a¼.85 for a 7-item Benevolent Sexism scale and a¼.81 for
7-item Hostile Sexism scale in Israeli student samples; Shna-
bel, Bar-Anan, et al., 2016). In the present study, the internal
consistency reliability was acceptable for the Benevolent
Sexism scale in the Israeli sample (a
women
¼.80), U.S.
sample (a
men
¼.84, a
women
¼.87), and German sample
(a
men
¼.77, a
women
¼.81) as well as for the Hostile Sexism
scale in the Israeli sample (a
women
¼.77), U.S. sample
(a
men
¼.85, a
women
¼.86), and German sample (a
men
¼
.78, a
women
¼.80).
Self-objectification. We used Noll and Fredrickson’s (1998)
Self-Objectification questionnaire (SOQ; translated to
Hebrew by Kahalon, Shnabel, & Becker, 2018), a commonly
used measure in the objectification literature (Calogero,
2011), to assess women participants’ tendency to self-
objectify. Participants were asked to rank the importance for
their physical self-concept of 10 body attributes ranging from
1(has the least impact on my physical self)to10(has the
greatest impact on my physical self). Half of the items were
related to observable physical attributes (e.g., weight), and
half were related to non-observable physical attributes (e.g.,
strength). When calculating the SOQ score, the sum of the
non-observable attributes is subtracted from the sum of obser-
vable attributes; higher scores indicate higher self-
objectification. The score can range from 25 to 25. As for
construct validity, in a sample of U.S. women college stu-
dents (Noll & Fredrickson, 1998), this measure was shown to
be positively correlated with appearance anxiety (r¼.52)
and body-size dissatisfaction (r¼.46), indicating that, as
intended, these constructs are related yet not overlapping. A
limitation of the SOQ is that its rank-order format yields
Kahalon et al. 353
ipsative data for which measures of internal consistency can-
not be calculated.
Men’s objectification of women. Men participants answered
the 13-item Men’s Objectification of Women measure (e.g.,
“I enjoy pornography”; Curran, 2004; translated to Hebrew
by Bareket, Shnabel, Abeles, Gervais, & Yuval-Greenberg,
2018). The items were rated on a 5-point scale, ranging from
1(strongly disagree)to5(strongly agree). Items were aver-
aged; overall higher scores indicated a stronger tendency to
sexually objectify women. Curran (2004) reported high inter-
nal consistencies in U.S. student samples using both longer (a
¼.92 when using a 22-item) and shorter (a¼.86 when using
a 12-item) versions of the scale and good 2-week test-retest
reliability (r¼.88). Bareket, Kahalon, and colleagues (2018)
reported good reliability using a short, 13-item version of the
scale (a¼.82), among Israeli men. The internal consistency
reliability obtained in the present study was acceptable for
both U.S. (a¼.80) and German (a¼.78) men. Construct
validity was supported by showing positive correlations with
objectifying gazing behavior (Bareket, Shnabel, et al., 2018).
Sexual double standards. Participants completed the Pre-
marital Sexual Double Standards subscale (Sprecher & Hat-
field, 1996; translated to Hebrew by Bareket, Kahalon, et al.,
2018) of the Premarital Sexual Permissiveness scale (Spre-
cher, McKinney, Walsh, & Anderson, 1988). Because pre-
marital sex is widely accepted nowadays for Western women
(Bordini & Sperb, 2013), we assessed the acceptability of
sexual intercourse only at two early dating stages for which
double standards still exist in Western society (Crawford &
Popp, 2003; Sprecher & Hatfield, 1996). Using a 6-point
scale ranging from 1 (utterly unacceptable)to6(utterly
acceptable), participants indicated their agreement with the
following 4 items: “I believe that sexual intercourse is accep-
table for a [woman/man] on a first date” and “I believe that
sexual intercourse is acceptable for a [woman/man] when
casually dating someone (for less than 1 month).” Partici-
pants’ Premarital Sexual Double Standards score was calcu-
lated as the averaged agreement with the two men-target
items minus averaged agreement with the women-target
items; higher scores indicated finding casual sex to be more
acceptable for men than for women.
A prior U.S. study using the same items to measure gen-
eral premarital sexual permissiveness, reported high internal
consistency reliability (r¼.85 for the 2-item version; Spre-
cher, 2011, 2013). Construct validity of these items was sup-
ported by correlations with another established sexual
permissiveness scale (Sprecher, 2011). For sample of Israeli
women, the women-target items correlated strongly (r¼.62,
p< .001), as did the men-target items (r¼.72, p< .001). For
U.S. participants, the men-target items correlated strongly in
the samples of men (r¼.76, p< .001) and women (r¼.81,
p< .001), as did the respective women-target items (r¼.79,
p< .001; r¼.84, p< .001). Similarly, for German partici-
pants, the men-target items correlated strongly in the samples
of men (r¼.85, p< .001) and women (r¼.87, p< .001), as
did the respective women-target items (r¼.79, p< .001; r¼
.85, p< .001).
Relationship satisfaction. Participants filled out a 14-item
version of the Couple Satisfaction Inventory (Funk & Rogge,
2007; translated to Hebrew by Bareket, Kahalon, et al.,
2018). The items were rated on a 6-point scale ranging from
0(never)to5(all the time). Participants currently in a serious
relationship (i.e., indicated that they were currently in a rela-
tionship or married; see Table 1) were asked about their
present relationships (e.g., “Do you enjoy your partner’s
company?”). Participants who reported no current relation-
ship but a serious relationship in the past (including divorced)
were asked about their past relationships (e.g., “Did you
enjoy your partner’s company?”). Participants who never had
a serious relationship were not asked about relationship satis-
faction. Items were averaged; higher scores indicated stron-
ger relationship satisfaction. Previous research demonstrated
high internal consistency reliability (a¼.89 in a U.S. com-
munity sample; Cacioppo, Cacioppo, Gonzaga, Ogburn, &
Vander Weele, 2013; a¼.94 in an Israeli sample; Bareket,
Kahalon, et al., 2018), as did the present study among Israeli
(a
women
¼.95), U.S. (a
men
¼.94, a
women
¼.97), and German
(a
men
¼.91, a
women
¼.94) participants. Previous research
demonstrated strong convergent validity of the Couple Satis-
faction Inventory with other measures of satisfaction (Funk &
Rogge, 2007).
Sexual satisfaction in relationships. For the U.S. and German
samples, participants filled out an 11-item English version of
the Golombok Rust Inventory of Sexual Satisfaction (GRISS;
Rust & Golombok, 1986). The German version of the GRISS
was requested from the original GRISS web page (https://
www.psychometrics.cam.ac.uk/services/psychometric-tests/
GRISS). The measure was built to assess the extent to which a
person is satisfied with their sexual partner. The exact word-
ing of items depended on participants’ relationship status.
Participants currently in a serious relationship were asked
about their present relationships (e.g., “Do you find your
sexual relationship with your partner satisfactory?”). Partici-
pants who reported a serious relationship in the past were
asked about their past relationships (e.g., “Did you find your
sexual relationship with your partner satisfactory?”). Partici-
pants who never had a serious relationship were not asked
about sexual satisfaction. Items were rated on a 5-point scale
ranging from 1 (never)to5(always) and were averaged to
form a single measure so that higher scores indicated stronger
sexual satisfaction in relationships. A review study by Rizvi,
Yeung, and Kennedy (2011) reported low to acceptable inter-
nal reliabilities for the subscales in community and psychia-
tric populations (a¼.61–.83). In addition, evidence of the
scale’s inter-rater reliability comes from studies which exam-
ined change scores before and after therapy in 30 couples and
found moderate correlations with therapists’ blind ratings
(r¼.54 for men and r¼.43 for women). In the present
354 Psychology of Women Quarterly 43(3)
research, the internal consistency was good for U.S. partici-
pants (a
men
¼.80, a
women
¼.90) and Germans (a
men
¼.80,
a
women
¼.84).
For the Israeli women sample, we used the Israeli Sexual
Behavior Inventory (Kravetz, Drory, & Shaked, 1999), which
was developed in Hebrew and is widely used in Israel. Parti-
cipants filled out the 5-point scale, ranging from 1 (not at all)
to 5 (very much). The exact wording of items depended on
participants’ relationship status (e.g., “In general, how satis-
fied are you from your sex life within your current
relationship?” for participants currently in a serious relation-
ship vs. “In general, how satisfied were you from your sex life
within your previous relationship?” for participants who
reported a serious relationship in the past). Participants who
never had a serious relationship were not asked about sexual
satisfaction. Items were averaged to form a single measure so
that higher scores indicated stronger sexual satisfaction in
relationships. The internal consistency reliability of this scale
was acceptable (a¼.76).
Results
Preliminary Analyses
Descriptive statistics for the three samples are presented in
Table 2. For the U.S. sample, there were no missing data in
the data set. We conducted analyses of the patterns of missing
data separately for the German and Israeli samples because
the sexual satisfaction measure differed between these sam-
ples. We analyzed the missing data at the level of variables
and not items because a score was not given to participants if
they did not fill out the entire scale. For the German sample,
the analysis revealed that less than 3.93%of all variables for
all cases were missing and 96.07%of the variables were not
missing data for any case. Considering individual cases,
93.16%of participants had no missing data. Finally, no vari-
ables had 6.80%or more of missing values. For the Israeli
sample, the analysis revealed that less than 7.80%of all vari-
ables for all cases were missing, and 92.20%of the variables
were not missing data for any case. Considering individual
cases, 85.48%of participants had no missing data. Finally, no
variables had 14.50%or more of missing values. We used
pairwise inclusion to deal with missing data in subsequent
analyses (see Parent, 2013).
Testing the Cultural Invariance of the MWD Scale
Prior to hypotheses testing, we conducted a test of measure-
ment invariance of the MWD scale across all the Israeli, U.S.,
and German samples, using multiple-group confirmatory fac-
tor analysis (CFA). A test of measurement invariance would
support our assumption that the MWD measure has the same
factorial structure (unidimensional; Bareket, Kahalon, et al.,
2018) in the Israeli, U.S., and German samples.
We conducted a series of CFAs with the generalized least
square method via AMOS Version 4.0. We used four
goodness of fit indices to evaluate the fit of the models: In
addition to the chi-square (w
2
) statistic, which can be inflated
due to large sample sizes (Cheung & Rensvold, 2002), we
used the w
2
to degrees-of-freedom ratio (w
2
/df; recommended
to be less than 3; Kline, 2011), the Comparative Fit Index
(CFI), the Tucker-Lewis Index (TLI; both CFI and TLI are
recommended to be close to .95), and the Root-Mean-Square
Error of Approximation (RMSEA) Index (recommended to
be .06; Hu & Bentler, 1999).
Byrne (2001) suggested assessing model fit separately for
each group as a first step before proceeding to a test of multi-
group invariance. Thus, we first examined the fit of a uni-
dimensional model (i.e., a one-factor model in which all
items assigned to a single MWD factor) for the Israeli,
U.S., and German samples separately. Examination of the fit
indices of the model for U.S. and German participants sug-
gested an excellent fit for both samples (see Table 3). Spe-
cifically, although the w
2
value for both models was
significant, the other fit indices (which are more robust with
large sample sizes) indicated that the unidimensional model
fits the data well. All factor loadings, presented in Table 4,
were significant at p< .001. For the Israeli sample, however,
the w
2
to degrees-of-freedom ratio and CFI indicated an
acceptable fit, yet TLI and RMSEA were below the recom-
mended values. All factor loadings for the Israeli sample
were significant at p< .01 (see Table 4). Table 4 also presents
the means, standard deviations, and item-total correlations for
all MWD items for the three countries.
Next, we performed a multiple-group model analysis in
which the coefficients were constrained to be equal across the
three countries. In the first model, all the paths were allowed
to be free across U.S., German, and Israeli samples. In the
second model, the measurement paths were constrained to be
equal across the samples. Then, we compared the uncon-
strained and constrained models by the w
2
difference test,
which was non-significant (Dw
2
¼22.21, Ddf ¼16, p¼
.136), suggesting that imposing equality constraints across
the three countries did not result in a significant reduction
of overall model fit. Thus, we have no evidence that the
model does not apply across the three countries. To make a
more stringent test of invariance across groups, we also eval-
uated the decrement in CFI and RMSEA across the two mod-
els. A difference in CFI less than or equal to .010, and a
difference in RMSEA less than or equal to .015, should be
concluded to be invariant (Chen, 2007; Cheung & Rensvold,
2002). Further supporting measurement invariance across
countries, the difference between the two models in CFI was
.003 and in RMSEA was .003, D90%CI ¼[.002, .004].
MWD and Hierarchy-Supporting Ideologies
As can be seen in Table 5, for Israeli women, MWD endorse-
ment was significantly and positively correlated with social
dominance orientation, gender-specific system justification,
and benevolent and hostile sexism. The correlation between
Kahalon et al. 355
Table 2. Descriptive Statistics for Israeli, U.S., and German Participants.
Variables
Israel United States Germany
Women (n¼123) Women (n¼119) Men (n¼123) Women (n¼190) Men (n¼161)
Range M(SD) Range M(SD) Range M(SD) Range M(SD) Range M(SD)
Madonna-whore dichotomy 1.00–3.33 1.43 (0.51) 1.00–4.78 1.89 (0.87) 1.00–6.11 2.57 (1.16) 1.00–4.56 1.64 (0.72) 1.00–5.56 2.01 (0.97)
Social dominance orientation 1.00–5.00 2.46 (0.97) 1.00–4.83 2.32 (1.07) 1.00–5.83 2.89 (1.13) 1.00–5 2.27 (0.97) 1.00–6 2.50 (1.04)
Gender-specific system justification 1.00–5.60 2.25 (0.97) 1.00–7 3.84 (1.48) 1.00–7 4.39 (1.16) 1.20–6.60 3.88 (1.09) 1.00–6.60 3.91 (1.20)
Benevolent sexism 1.00–5.33 2.17 (0.91) 1.00–5.83 2.64 (1.31) 1.00–5.83 3.32 (1.14) 1.00–5.33 3.01 (1.05) 1.00–5.50 3.62 (1.00)
Hostile sexism 1.00–5.75 2.41 (1.07) 1.00–5.75 2.61 (1.23) 1.00–5.75 3.12 (1.24) 1.00–5.50 2.78 (1.10) 1.00–6 3.07 (1.09)
Self-objectification 25–25 –4.86 (11.67) 25–25 0.24 (13.47) 25–25 2.09 (12.90)
Objectification of women — — — 1.00–4.46 2.83 (0.60) 1.08–4.15 2.76 (0.56)
Sexual double standards 3.00–2.00 0.10 (0.77) 3–3.5 0.13 (0.76) 2.5–5 0.16 (0.87) 1.50–5 0.26 (0.88) 1.5–4 0.45 (1.00)
Relationship satisfaction 2.43–6.00 4.92 (0.88) 1.43–6 4.42 (1.24) 1.93–6 4.62 (0.94) 2.29–6 4.79 (0.86) 2.29–5.93 4.72 (0.81)
Sexual satisfaction 1.60–5.00 3.96 (0.69) 1.55–4.91 3.51 (0.80) 2.55–4.82 3.74 (0.58) 2.18–4.91 3.91 (0.58) 2–5 3.90 (0.56)
Note. M¼mean; SD ¼standard deviation.
356
MWD and trait self-objectification was in the expected direc-
tion but not significant (p¼.071), and the correlation with
sexual double standards was also not significant (p¼.183).
As can be seen in Table 6, the results obtained for the U.S.
sample partially supported our hypotheses; for both men and
women, MWD endorsement was significantly, positively
Table 3. Goodness of Fit Indices for the Tested Confirmatory Factor Analysis Models.
w
2
df w
2
/df CFI TLI RMSEA (90% CIs)
Model for Israeli women participants 38.25** 18 2.13 .90 .80 .10 [.05, .14]
Model for U.S. women and men participants 33.14* 18 1.84 .99 .97 .06 [.03, .09]
Model for German women and men participants 37.01** 18 2.06 .98 .96 .06 [.03, .08]
Unconstrained multi-group model 108.51** 54 2.01 .98 .95 .04 [.03, .05]
Constrained multi-group model 130.72** 70 1.87 .97 .96 .04 [.03, .04]
Note.N¼716. CFI ¼Comparative Fit Index; TLI ¼Tucker-Lewis Index; RMSEA ¼Root-Mean-Square Error of Approximation; CI ¼confidence interval.
*p< .05. **p< .01.
Table 4. Descriptive Statistics, Correlations, and Factor Loadings of Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) for the Madonna-Whore
Dichotomy Items for the Israeli, U.S., and German Samples.
Item
Israel United States Germany
M(SD)
Item-Total
Correlations
Factor
Loading M(SD)
Item-Total
Correlations
Factor
Loading M(SD)
Item-Total
Correlations
Factor
Loading
When a man truly loves a
woman, his sexual passion
toward her fades away.
1.33 (0.75) .32 .41 1.90 (1.29) .60 .61 1.83 (1.31) .37 .40
A sexy woman is usually not a
good mother.
1.11 (0.44) .25 .36 1.65 (1.14) .64 .64 1.43 (0.96) .52 .51
A woman with whom you
can establish a long-term
relationship (like marriage)
usually does not have
much sexual experience.
1.21 (0.81) .46 .55 2.17 (1.52) .72 .74 1.64 (1.14) .65 .65
A sexually modest woman is
usually a woman with good
values.
1.67 (1.01) .45 .54 3.48 (1.81) .46 .53 2.04 (1.42) .57 .59
Women are typically either
very liberal or very
conservative sexually, but
not in the middle.
1.41 (0.88) .33 .37 2.21 (1.52) .62 .62 1.71 (1.21) .53 .59
A woman suitable for a
short-term relationship is
typically not suitable for a
long-term relationship and
vice versa.
1.72 (1.11) .39 .48 2.27 (1.57) .72 .78 2.44 (1.67) .55 .65
Women who are interested
in and very liberal about
sex are often problematic
in terms of their
personality.
1.48 (0.86) .61 .65 2.45 (1.57) .73 .85 1.86 (1.36) .66 .79
A woman who has been
sexually free in the past
would never be faithful in
marriage.
1.45 (0.86) .56 .62 1.88 (1.24) .73 .81 1.64 (1.15) .63 .73
Women who indulge their
sexual desires are
generally manipulative and
out for themselves.
1.52 (0.97) .55 .67 2.10 (1.47) .76 .82 1.68 (1.17) .72 .80
Note.n
United States
¼242, n
Germany
¼351, and n
Israeli
¼123. Standardized factor loadings of CFA are reported. German and Hebrew versions are available
through the Open Science Framework: https://osf.io/rb435. M ¼mean; SD ¼standard deviation.
Kahalon et al. 357
correlated with social dominance orientation, gender-specific
system justification, and benevolent and hostile sexism. For
U.S. men, MWD was also significantly positively correlated
with sexual objectification of women, whereas for U.S.
women, MWD was also significantly positively correlated
with sexual double standards. The correlation between MWD
and sexual double standards for U.S. men and the correlation
between MWD and trait self-objectification for U.S. women
failed to reach significance. In addition, in line with our
hypothesis, men’s MWD endorsement was significantly
higher than women’s, t(226) ¼5.23, p< .001, Cohen’s d¼
.66 (means are presented in Table 2).
As can be seen in Table 7, the results obtained for German
participants partially supported our hypotheses; for both men
and women, MWD endorsement was significantly, positively
correlated with social dominance orientation, gender-specific
system justification, benevolent and hostile sexism, and sex-
ual double standards. For German men, MWD endorsement
was significantly positively correlated with sexual objectifi-
cation of women, but for German women, the correlation
between MWD endorsement and trait self-objectification was
not significant, p¼.084. Finally, as expected, German men’s
MWD endorsement was significantly higher than women’s,
t(291) ¼4.02, p< .001, Cohen’s d¼.44.
1
Gender differences were also obtained on other measures,
except the MWD; U.S. men had significantly higher scores
on all the measures compared to women (ts > 2.47, ps < .014),
besides sexual double standards and relationship satisfaction
(ts < 0.13, ps > .182). German men had significantly higher
scores compared to women on all the measures (ts > 2.10, ps
< .036), aside from gender-specific system justification, sex-
ual double standards, relationship satisfaction, and sexual
satisfaction (ts > 1.74, ps > .083). Means and standard devia-
tions are displayed in Table 2.
MWD and Sexual and Relationship Satisfaction
As seen in Table 6, in line with predictions, the associations
between the MWD and U.S. men’s sexual satisfaction, as
well as overall relationship satisfaction in their romantic rela-
tionships, were significant and negative. Unexpectedly, as
also seen in Tables 5–7, no correlations were found between
the MWD, on the one hand, and sexual satisfaction and rela-
tionship satisfaction, on the other hand, for Israeli and U.S.
women and for German men and women. These results pre-
cluded the possibility of mediation in these four samples (see
Yzerbyt, Muller, Batailler, & Judd, 2018). Therefore, we
decided to test the mediation hypothesis only in the sample
Table 5. Correlations for Israeli Women.
Variables 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.
1. Madonna-whore dichotomy
2. Social dominance orientation .19*
3. Gender-specific system justification .41** .22*
4. Benevolent sexism .46* .18 .33**
5. Hostile sexism .20* .43** .16 .56**
6. Self-objectification .17 .11 .15 .08 .04
7. Sexual double standards .13 .22* .01 .18 .07 .25** —
8. Relationship satisfaction .08 .10 .05 .08 .15 .04 .17
9. Sexual satisfaction .04 .27** .11 .03 .15 .01 .17 .50** —
Note.n¼123. Missing cases were excluded pairwise.
*p< .05. **p< .01.
Table 6. Correlations for U.S. Women and Men.
Variables 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
1. Madonna-whore dichotomy .36** .24** .50** .44** .02 .20* .02 .01
2. Social dominance orientation .45** — .31** .34** .53** .02 — .01 .05 .02
3. Gender-specific system justification .31** .46** .44** .57** .04 .18* .06 .19*
4. Benevolent sexism .39** .30** .374* .56** .13 .23* .06 .01
5. Hostile sexism .66** .51** .39** .30** .06 — .17 .01 .04
6. Self-objectification (W) — — — — — .02 .07 .16
7. Objectification of women (M) .50** .32** .23* .21* .41** —
8. Sexual double standards .07 .16 .19* .14 .15 .20* .21* .11
9. Relationship satisfaction .20* .14 .07 .14 .17 .08 .03 — .75**
10. Sexual satisfaction .41** .13 .03 .04 .29** — .20** .10 .56**
Note.n
women
¼119 and n
men
¼123. Correlations for the women sample are presented above the diagonal and for the men sample below the diagonal. There
were no missing cases. W ¼women; M ¼men.
*p< .05. **p< .01.
358 Psychology of Women Quarterly 43(3)
of U.S. men for whom the basic conditions for mediation
were met.
The mediated relation illustrated in Figure 1 was tested
using Hayes’s (2013) PROCESS macro (version 3.1.9.2). A
bootstrapping analysis (sample size ¼1,000) revealed that
the MWD’s indirect effect on relationship satisfaction
through sexual satisfaction was significant (zero was not
included in the 95%confidence interval [.27, .02]). Thus,
in line with our hypothesis, U.S. men high on the MWD feel
less sexually satisfied in their romantic relationships, which is
in turn associated with less general satisfaction from these
relationships.
MWD Correlations Controlling for Country
To examine whether the correlations remain significant
across the three countries, we computed partial correlations
separately for men (U.S. and German) and women (Israeli,
U.S., and German) while controlling for country. As for
women, the associations of MWD with SDO, gender-
specific system justification, and benevolent and hostile sex-
ism were significant (partial rs > .23, ps < .001). The associa-
tions of MWD with trait self-objectification, sexual double
standards, sexual satisfaction, and relationship satisfaction
were non-significant (rs < |.08|, ps > .122). Among men, the
associations of MWD with SDO, gender-specific system jus-
tification, benevolent and hostile sexism, objectification of
women, and sexual satisfaction were significant (partial rs
< |.25|, ps > .001); and the associations with sexual double
standards and relationship satisfaction were non-significant
(rs < |.10|, ps > .134).
Discussion
The present research provides evidence that the madonna-
whore dichotomy (MWD), a polarized view of women as
either chaste and pure or promiscuous and morally degraded,
functions as an ideology designed to reinforce patriarchy. By
showing that MWD correlates positively with a variety of
sexist and derogatory ideologies among both women and men
in three Western countries, the present research provides sup-
port for the feminist account of the MWD (e.g., Conrad,
2006; De Beauvoir, 1949). Specifically, the positive correla-
tions found between Israeli, U.S., and German women’s
MWD and endorsement of social dominance orientation,
gender-specific system justification, benevolent sexism, and
hostile sexism are consistent with the findings that members
of subordinated groups (in this case, women) play an active
role in perpetuating the status quo that disadvantages them
(Jost & Banaji, 1994). Second, among men too, MWD cor-
related with ideologies that reinforce gender inequality; that
is, social dominance orientation, gender-specific system jus-
tification, benevolent sexism, hostile sexism, and the sexual
objectification of women, replicating previous findings in a
sample of Israelis (Bareket, Kahalon, et al., 2018) in two
other Western samples, namely, U.S. and Germany. Third,
that men endorsed the MWD to a greater extent than women
Table 7. Correlations for German Men and Women Participants.
Variables 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
1. Madonna-whore dichotomy .20** .17* .50** .39** .13
a
.15 * .04 .08
2. Social dominance orientation .38** .26** .30** .40** .18* .11 .06 .06
3. Gender-specific system justification .31** .29** .26** .30** .12 .05 .17* .14
4. Benevolent sexism .26** .05 .26** .66** .05 .02 .07 .02
5. Hostile sexism .58** .38** .53** .36** .01 .07 .06 .15
6. Self-objectification (W) — — — — .05 .07 .10
7. Objectification of women (M) .25** .07 .18* .01 .26** —
8. Sexual double standards .07 .07 .08 .18* .17* .07 .07 .12
9. Relationship satisfaction .01 .12 .02 .18* .01 .14 .01 — .52**
10. Sexual satisfaction .06 .01 .14 .06 .08 .04 .11 .53**
Note.n
women
¼190 and n
men
¼161. Correlations for the women sample are presented above the diagonal and for the men sample below the diagonal. Missing
cases were excluded pairwise. W ¼women; M ¼men.
a
Marginal significance (p¼.08).
*p< .05. **p< .01.
Sexual Satisfaction in
Relationships
MWD Relationship Satisfaction
-.21**
-.16* (-.03)
+.89**
Figure 1. The proposed model of an indirect effect for U.S. men.
N¼109 (only participants who completed the three measures were
included in the analysis). Mediation model with the madonna-whore
dichotomy (MWD) as the independent variable, sexual satisfaction
in relationships as the mediator, and relationship satisfaction as the
dependent variable. Standardized regression coefficients (bs) are
presented. For the path between MWD and relationship satisfac-
tion, the coefficients shown outside versus inside the parentheses
represent the total and direct effects, respectively.
*p< .05. **p< .01.
Kahalon et al. 359
is consistent with previous research showing that, in general,
although members of subordinate groups endorse ideologies
that keep them down, they still do it to a lesser extent than
members of dominant groups (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999).
Finally, we demonstrated that the MWD accounts for var-
iance in the endorsement of a host of ideologies that reinforce
patriarchal arrangements for both men and women as well as
reduced sexual and relationship satisfaction (among U.S.
men) that is not accounted for by country of origin.
The negative relation that we found between U.S. men’s
MWD endorsement and their satisfaction in romantic rela-
tionships supports the feminist notion that patriarchal
arrangements have negative implications for both women and
men (e.g., Dworkin, 1981). These results add to previous
findings, extending them beyond Israel to the United States
and suggesting that the association between men’s MWD and
their relationship satisfaction is explained by diminished sex-
ual satisfaction.
Although the social ideology reflected in the MWD rein-
forces men’s privileged social position (e.g., by constraining
women’s sexuality), the present findings strongly suggest that
it might also impair men’s ability to be fully satisfied in their
romantic relationships; MWD endorsement might negatively
be related to the way men see their own partner. It would be a
valuable contribution to test these ideas in the future.
Inconsistent with our hypothesis, the correlations between
MWD and trait self-objectification among women were not
significant. In hindsight, although both MWD and trait self-
objectification reinforce patriarchal arrangements, they might
be incompatible with one another. Specifically, contrary to
the MWD which attributes negative valence to sexual
women, trait self-objectification has been related to the per-
ception that being sexy is important and even enjoyable (Liss,
Erchull, & Ramsey, 2011). Thus, women high on trait self-
objectification may not associate sexual women with nega-
tive traits and may not see a contradiction between being sexy
and being good wives/mothers (as both may be viewed as
manifestations of being a “good” woman, who conforms to
social expectations).
Our results also suggest that women’s relationship and
sexual satisfaction are not related to MWD. Although surpris-
ing, this result might stem from different reference groups
when thinking about women as a target group (i.e., “women
are ...”) compared to thinking about oneself (i.e., “I
am ...”). Previous research found that viewing the self as
“collective” versus viewing the self as “private” involves
different affective and cognitive categorization processes
(Greenwald & Breckler, 1985; Triandis, 1989). It might be
that women’s personal experiences allowed both compo-
nents, the sexual component and the nurturing, motherly
component, to coexist.
Some differences that we found across samples are also
worth mentioning. First, the correlation between MWD and
sexual double standards was significant for U.S. and German
women, but not for Israeli women and U.S. and German men.
The sexual double standards measure used in the present
study assessed only a singular social script, acceptance of
premarital sex during early dating stages. However, research-
ers have noted that perceptions of sexually active women and
men are more equitable nowadays (Marks & Fraley, 2005).
Researchers might examine additional contexts in which the
relation between MWD and double standards might emerge
(e.g., having many sexual partners; Sakaluk, Todd, Milhau-
sen, Lachowsky, & Undergraduate Research Group in Sexu-
ality, 2014).
Second, the results across U.S. and German samples sug-
gest the possibility that the strength of the association
between men’s MWD and their relationship satisfaction may
vary cross-culturally. German men did not show the same
patterns of relations for relationship and sexual satisfaction
than was found for U.S. men. This difference might stem
from more tolerant attitudes toward sexuality in Germany
compared to the United States (Widmer, Treas, & Newcomb,
1998) and Israel, where results similar to our U.S. men sam-
ple were obtained (Bereket, Kahalon, et al., 2018).
Limitations and Future Directions
An important limitation of the present investigation is that its
correlational nature limits causal inference. Although we the-
orized that MWD beliefs stem from people’s broader motives
to maintain patriarchal arrangements (e.g., SDO, gender-
specific system justification), future research using longitu-
dinal or experimental designs is necessary in order to fully
test this prediction. Specifically, the motivation to reinforce
the gender hierarchy could be measured in advance or
manipulated experimentally (by threatening the existing gen-
der arrangements) to test whether it would lead to increased
MWD endorsement.
Future research is also needed to test the causal effects of
MWD endorsement on sexual and relationship dissatisfaction
among men using a longitudinal design. Rather than reducing
sexual and relationship satisfaction in men, MWD endorse-
ment may develop over time in men who experience dissa-
tisfying sexual relations with women to whom they feel
committed. Also, based on previous research showing that
unsatisfying marital sex influences divorce (Dzara, 2010), it
would be interesting to examine whether MWD will posi-
tively predict higher rates of relationship dissolution and/or
divorce.
Researchers might also test whether men’s low sexual and
relationship satisfaction, as a result of their MWD ideology,
might in turn affect their partner’s satisfaction. Even though
no correlations were found between women’s relationship
satisfaction and their levels of MWD endorsement, men’s
high levels of MWD might predict their partner’s relationship
satisfaction. Within intimate heterosexual relationships, the
more individuals objectify their partners, the less positively
the partners rate the quality of their relationship (Strelan &
Pagoudis, 2018). Future research taking a dyadic approach
360 Psychology of Women Quarterly 43(3)
(e.g., Gonzalez & Griffin, 2012) could examine whether
men’s MWD would negatively predict women’s relationship
and sexual satisfaction in romantic heterosexual couples.
Another direction would be to identify the conditions
under which the endorsement of the MWD intensifies or
weakens. For examples, individuals who hold more tradi-
tional attitudes toward gender equality, such as religious
(Bettencourt, Vacha-Haase, & Byrne, 2011; Seguino, 2011)
or less educated individuals (Inglehart & Norris, 2003; Win-
ter, 2002), may endorse strong prohibitions against women’s
sexual expression (e.g., placement of restrictions on women’s
sexual behavior during courtship; Sakalh-Ug
˘urlu & Glick,
2003; Viki, Abrams, & Hutchison, 2003), and men who
self-identify as feminists may endorse more liberal attitudes
toward women’s sexuality, aligned with their egalitarian val-
ues (e.g., Boulton, 2008). Thus, because one’s endorsement
of feminist ideologies may be negatively related to their
MWD endorsement, it is worth examining this relation in
future research.
In addition, the strength of MWD endorsement may vary
between heterosexual individuals and other populations. Our
self-report measure of MWD was tailored to measure this
construct in heterosexual samples; it taps into the prevalent
heteronormative culture (e.g., the institution of heterosexual
marriage; Herz & Johansson, 2015; Martin, 2009). This mea-
sure might be less suitable to assess polarized perceptions of
women among other groups such as gay or bisexual women
and men. Researchers should examine whether the MWD
(assessed using a measure that suits other groups of
participants besides heterosexuals) and its relations to
patriarchal-enforcing ideologies are less pronounced among
non-heterosexual individuals (but cf. e.g., J. Ward, 2000, for
queer sexism).
Moreover, the average MWD scores in all samples were
rather low. This might stem from the fact that MWD was
assessed using a self-reported measure and may be subject
to social desirability effects, which might result in under-
reporting of prejudice and negative social attitudes (Crandall,
Eshleman, & O’Brien, 2002). Future research might study the
MWD using implicit measures, such as the Implicit Associ-
ation Test (Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998), in order
to get a more accurate indicator for people’s MWD belief
endorsement. Future research may also examine the MWD
in non-Western cultures, such as Latin and South America
(Stevens, 1973) and the Middle East and East Asia (Sev’er &
Yurdakul, 2001; Wright, 2010). Possibly, MWD scores are
higher in these cultures, and it may be useful to explore
whether our findings generalize to additional cultural
contexts.
Finally, the results of the test of measurement invariance
of the MWD showed that the model for the Israeli sample
indicated an acceptable fit, which was not as good as the other
two samples. In retrospect, the size of this sample (which was
substantially smaller than the U.S. and German samples as
well as below recommendations regarding minimum sample
sizes; see Comrey & Lee, 1992; MacCallum, Widaman,
Zhang, & Hong, 1999) might have had a negative effect on
the model fit.
Practice Implications
Deeper knowledge of the MWD could help parents and those
who work with young adults (e.g., teachers and sex educa-
tors) encourage a more complex discussion about sexuality.
Age-appropriate curricula could be developed, taking into
account how social scripts and social constructs, such as the
MWD, shape perceptions about sex and sexuality as well as
how these scripts and ideologies develop (Kim et al., 2007).
Moreover, understanding the social psychological motiva-
tions underlying the MWD could help address social phe-
nomena, such as people’s tendency to accept the public
display of women’s breasts when used in a sexualized manner
(e.g., through media representations) but not maternal beha-
viors (such as breastfeeding [Ward, Merriwether, & Car-
uthers, 2006], which is sometimes perceived as disgusting
and disrespectful [Cox, Goldenberg, Arndt, & Pyszczynski,
2007]). A more sophisticated knowledge of the MWD and its
underlying motivation to control women’s role in society
may inform public policy regulating the use of women’s
sexuality in media and mothers’ rights to breastfeed in public.
Knowledge of the social construction of the MWD may
reduce women’s feelings of guilt or shame about their bodies
and sexuality, particularly those feelings that stem from cul-
tural expectations regarding maternal modesty (Taylor &
Wallace, 2012). A fuller understanding of the inner workings
of the MWD and its consequences would also encourage both
men and women to hold more complex and realistic beliefs
about sexuality, which may allow them to experience more
sexual freedom and more satisfying romantic relationships.
Understanding the psychological motivations behind these
beliefs, as well as their negative consequences for relation-
ship satisfaction, could be beneficial in psychotherapy. Sex
therapists and clinicians who work with couples or men who
experience difficulties in their romantic relationships could
use the knowledge gained in the current investigation in
developing focused and, we hope, helpful interventions to
change existing beliefs about sexuality.
Conclusions
Providing support for the feminist account of the MWD and
demonstrating its cross-cultural generalizability, our findings
suggest that women’s and men’s perceptions about women’s
sexuality and motherhood are strongly related to gender
power structures. In addition, the negative consequences for
the well-being of men who highly endorse the MWD add to
previous claims that reducing gender inequality, and the
ideologies that support it, can be in the best interests of both
women and men.
Kahalon et al. 361
Authors’ Note
Rotem Kahalon and Orly Bareket contributed equally to this article.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect
to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Funding
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for
the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: U.S. data
collection was funded by a Geis Memorial Dissertation Award
granted to the third author by the American Psychological Associ-
ation (Division 35, Society for the Psychology of Women).
ORCID iD
Rotem Kahalon https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4718-6119
Orly Bareket https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3464-0893
Note
1. Given that age may covary with relationship status, we computed
partial correlations controlling for age and relationship status.
Results are available through the Open Science Framework
(https://osf.io/rb435).
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Kahalon et al. 367
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... 22). When rape or sexual assault cases are reported, there is always the tendency to sensationalize the abuse and situate the victim within the virgin-whore dichotomy (Kahalon et al., 2019). Such an approach not only disempowers the victim, but it also risks misinforming the public about the true nature of the crime itself. ...
... Furthermore, the emphasis on how, as a daughter, she was wronged reinstates the 'virgin' version of rape narratives, which suggests that she did not 'deserve' the assault unlike other women who are deemed 'loose' (Gavey, 2005). This highlights the polarized perception of women being considered within the societal binaries of virgin/whore (Kahalon et al., 2019;Krishnan, 2015). Such presumptions add to the penalties women incur when behaving unapologetically and assertively (Infanger et al., 2016;Kahalon et al., 2019). ...
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... The sentiments Daniels and Zurbriggen captured with their interviews regarding social media posts nearly match exactly those that Herold et al.'s (1994) noted among the minority of Australian women who expressed opposition to women's legal right to public toplessness. Moreover, these sorts of attributions are predicted by the policing role of other women in objectification theory (Riley et al., 2016;Szymanski et al., 2011) and the Madonna-whore dichotomy (e.g., Hartmann, 2009;Kahalon et al., 2019). ...
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Multiple United States federal courts have recently drawn inferences regarding community sentiment as it pertains to public female toplessness. Despite citing common social factors in their rulings, the courts have rendered conflicting decisions to uphold (Ocean City, MD) or to overturn (Fort Collins, CO) female-specific bans. Regional differences in attitudes toward toplessness may in part explain these discrepant legal outcomes. Participants (n = 326) were asked to rate their general impressions of photos depicting topless women in three different public settings. Geographic region was unrelated to reactions toward toplessness, however, participants from states with prohibitive or ambiguous statutes rated the photos differently. Consistent with a body of theoretical and empirical work on cultural objectification of women, female participants, on average, were more critical of the photos of other topless women. Other demographic and attitudinal predictors showed a pattern that suggests moral objections as a likely source of unfavorable reactions. Ascribing morality with the practice of toplessness echoed some of the commentary that surrounded the above legal cases and further substantiates prior objectification research (i.e., Madonna-whore dichotomy). Overall, attitudes toward public female toplessness appear to be driven more by individual opinions than by context (e.g., beach, park) or structural factors (e.g., region or state-legality).
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... She is presented as a new technology, but she also adheres to a traditional patriarchal sexual fantasy. By contrast, in compliance with the other side of the biblically based Madonna-whore dichotomy [46][47][48], Roxxxy is given the role of whore. In keeping with this, she is dressed in leopard-print underwear, long red nails, leather, and thighhigh sultry sheer black pantyhose. ...
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