Sexting, Catcalls, and Butt Slaps: How Gender Stereotypes and Perceived Group Norms Predict Sexualized Behavior
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The current study examined the role of endorsed stereotypes about men and women and perceived peer norms in predicting three distinct types of stereotypical sexualized behaviors (verbal, physical, and indirect) among late adolescents. Two hundred and fifty U.S. college students from the mid-South (178 females, 72 males) between the ages of 17 and 19 completed a number of surveys regarding sexual gender stereotypes (e.g., men are sex-focused and women are sexual objects), perceived peer norms about the acceptability of stereotypical sexualized behaviors (SSB), and their own SSBs. Results revealed that most college students have perpetrated these SSBs at least once, and that the most common form of sexualized behavior was verbal SSB, such as rating someone’s body. Results also showed that, although the young men and women did not differ in their perpetration of indirect SSBs (e.g., sending pictures via text), young men perpetrated more verbal and physical SSB than women. For young women, endorsing the idea that men are sex-focused predicted all three types of SSB. For young men, endorsing the stereotype that men are sex-focused predicted verbal and physical SSB, and endorsing the stereotype that women are sex objects predicted physical SSB. Importantly, perceived peer group norms were a significant predictor of all three types of SSB for both women and men. Thus, the current study suggests that distinct types of stereotypical sexualized behaviors are common among college students, and are predicted by an individual’s stereotypes about men and women and perceived peer norms.