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“What's the worst thing...?” gender-directed insults

Abstract

College students, 107 females and 57 males, were asked to give single-word or phrase responses to four questions about the “worst thing” a member of each sex can call a member of the same or the opposite sex. The resulting 134 different words and phrases were sorted into seven categories by peer raters and a series of chi-square analyses were performed. With minor exceptions, no sex differences in responses were found, but highly significant differences were found in insults attributed to and by the two sexes. For example, insults referring to sexual looseness were said to be directed almost exclusively toward women, and those referring to homosexuality almost exclusively toward men, but only by other men. Results suggest that male and female college students agree on some stereotypic differences between men and women in the giving and receiving of verbal attack.

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We wish to thank those who assisted in various ways: Ric Dias, Cynara Doe, Michael Levine, Rochelle Dias, Steve Penning, Debbie Carrier, Deanne Anderson, Peter Buss, Dave Carter, Mike Penley, Nancy Soncrant, Cindy Stout, and especially Debbie Harrison.

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Preston, K., Stanley, K. “What's the worst thing...?” gender-directed insults. Sex Roles 17, 209–219 (1987). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00287626

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00287626

Keywords

  • College Student
  • Social Psychology
  • Female College
  • Female College Student
  • Minor Exception