A common metaphor used to describe heterosexual relationships frames men as predators and women as prey. The present work assessed potential consequences of these metaphoric portrayals. Participants read a heterosexual dating scenario that did or did not metaphorically frame the situation in predator and prey terms. Using a U.S. college undergraduate sample of 120 women and 82 men in Study 1, exposure to these metaphors led to greater rape myth acceptance among men (but not among women). Using a broader sample of 76 women and 72 men via MTurk, Study 2 replicated these results and also found metaphor exposure led to greater rape myth acceptance and rape proclivity. Furthermore, a mediation analysis indicated that men exposed to these metaphors were more likely to accept rape myths, which in turn predicted their self-reported greater rape proclivity. Such results demonstrate the harmful outcomes that can result from describing romantic interactions where men are the predators and women are the prey.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Abrams, D., Viki, G. T., Masser, B., & Bohner, G. (2003). Perceptions of stranger and acquaintance rape: The role of benevolent and hostile sexism in victim blame and rape proclivity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(1), 111–125. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3522.214.171.124.
Baker, R. (1981). “Pricks” and “chicks”: A plea for “persons.” In R. Baker & F. Elliston (Eds.), Philosophy and sex (pp. 45–64). New York: Prometheus Books.
Bandura, A., Underwood, B., & Fromson, M. E. (1975). Disinhibition of aggression through diffusion of responsibility and dehumanization of victims. Journal of Research in Personality, 9(4), 253–269. https://doi.org/10.1016/0092-6566(75)90001-X.
Bar-Tal, D., & Hammack, P. L. (2012). Conflict, delegitimization, and violence. In L. R. Tropp & L. R. Tropp (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of intergroup conflict. New York: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199747672.013.0003.
Bartneck, C., Duenser, A., Moltchanova, E., & Zawieska, K. (2015). Comparing the similarity of responses received from studies in Amazon’s mechanical Turk to studies conducted online and with direct recruitment. PLoS One, 10(4), e0121595. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0121595.
Berinsky, A. J., Huber, G. A., & Lenz, G. S. (2012). Evaluating online labor markets for experimental research: Amazon.com’s mechanical Turk. Political Analysis, 20(3), 351–368. https://doi.org/10.1093/pan/mpr057.
Bock, J., Burkley, M., & Byrd-Craven, J. (2017). Hunting for you: Examining individual differences in implicit associations of women as prey and men as predators (Unpublished master’s thesis). Department of Psychology, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK.
Bohner, G., Reinhard, M.-A., Rutz, S., Sturm, S., Kerschbaum, B., & Effler, D. (1998). Rape myths as neutralizing cognitions: Evidence for a causal impact of anti-victim attitudes on men's self-reported likelihood of raping. European Journal of Social Psychology, 28(2), 257–268. https://doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1099-0992(199803/04)28:2<257::AID-EJSP871>3.0.CO;2-1.
Burt, M. R. (1978). Attitudes supportive of rape in American culture. In House Committee on Science and Technology; Subcommittee on Domestic and International Scientific Planning, Analysis and Cooperation; Research Into Violent Behavior: Sexual Assaults (Eds.), Hearing, 95 th Congress, 2nd session, January 10–12, 1978 (pp. 277–322). Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.
Castano, E., & Giner-Sorolla, R. (2006). Not quite human: Infrahumanization in response to collective responsibility for intergroup killing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90(5), 804–818. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.1994.
Cikara, M., Eberhardt, J. L., & Fiske, S. T. (2011). From agents to objects: Sexist attitudes and neural responses to sexualized targets. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23(3), 540–551. https://doi.org/10.1162/jocn.2010.21497.
Clifford, S., Jewell, R. M., & Waggoner, P. D. (2015). Are samples drawn from Mechanical Turk valid for research on political ideology? Research & Politics, 2(4), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1177/2053168015622072.
Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Crump, M. J., McDonnell, J. V., & Gureckis, T. M. (2013). Evaluating Amazon's mechanical Turk as a tool for experimental behavioral research. PLoS One, 8(3), e57410. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0057410.
Faul, F., Erdfelder, E., Lang, A. G., & Buchner, A. (2007). G* Power 3: A flexible statistical power analysis program for the social, behavioral, and biomedical sciences. Behavior Research Methods, 39(2), 175–191. https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03193146.
Fredrickson, B. L., & Roberts, T. A. (1997). Objectification theory: Toward understanding women's lived experiences and mental health risks. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21(2), 173–206. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-6402.1997.tb00108.x.
Gentner, D., Bowdle, B., Wolff, P., & Boronat, C. (2001). Metaphor is like analogy. In D. Gentner, K. J. Holyoak, & B. N. Kokinov (Eds.), The analogical mind: Perspectives from cognitive science (pp. 199–253). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Gilbert, M. (1987). The holocaust: A history of the Jews of Europe during the second world war. New York: Macmillan.
Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (1996). The ambivalent sexism inventory: Differentiating hostile and benevolent sexism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70(3), 491–512. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.521.
Glucksberg, S., Newsome, M. R., & Goldvarg, Y. (2001). Inhibition of the literal: Filtering metaphor-irrelevant information during metaphor comprehension. Metaphor and Symbol, 16(3–4), 277–298. https://doi.org/10.1080/10926488.2001.9678898.
Goff, P. A., Eberhardt, J. L., Williams, M. J., & Jackson, M. C. (2008). Not yet human: Implicit knowledge, historical dehumanization, and contemporary consequences. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94(2), 292–316. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35184.108.40.2062.
Goldenberg, J. L., Heflick, N., Vaes, J., Motyl, M., & Greenberg, J. (2009). Of mice and men, and objectified women: A terror management account of infrahumanization. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 12(6), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1177/1368430209340569.
Greenwald, A. G., McGhee, D. E., & Schwartz, J. L. (1998). Measuring individual differences in implicit cognition: The implicit association test. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(6), 1464–1480. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.114.
Halliday, M. (1985). An introduction to functional grammar. London: Edward Arnold.
Haslam, N. (2006). Dehumanization: An integrative review. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10(3), 252–264. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327957pspr1003_4.
Haslam, N., Loughnan, S., & Sun, P. (2011). Beastly: What makes animal metaphors offensive? Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 30(3), 311–325. https://doi.org/10.1177/0261927X11407168.
Hayes, A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: A regression-based approach. New York: The Guilford Press.
Heflick, N. A., & Goldenberg, J. L. (2014). Seeing eye to body: The literal objectification of women. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23(3), 225–229. https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721414531599.
Jackson, L. E., & Gaertner, L. (2010). Mechanisms of moral disengagement and their differential use by right-wing authoritarianism and social dominance orientation in support of war. Aggressive Behavior, 36(4), 238–250. https://doi.org/10.1002/ab.20344.
Kang, M. E. (1997). The portrayal of women’s images in magazine advertisements: Goffman’s gender analysis revisited. Sex Roles, 37(11–12), 979–996. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02936350.
Kövecses, Z. (2002). Metaphor: A practical introduction. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1980). The metaphorical structure of the human conceptual system. Cognitive Science, 4(2), 195–208.
Landau, M. J., Sullivan, D., & Greenberg, J. (2009). Evidence that self-relevant motives and metaphoric framing interact to influence political and social attitudes. Psychological Science, 20(11), 1421–1427. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02462.x.
Landau, M. J., Meier, B. P., & Keefer, L. A. (2010). A metaphor-enriched social cognition. Psychological Bulletin, 136(6), 1045–1067. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0020970.
Lonsway, K. A., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (1994). Rape myths. In review. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 18(2), 133–164. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-6402.1994.tb00448.x.
Maass, M., Arcuri, L., & Suitner, C. (2014). Shaping intergroup relations through language. In T. Holtgraves (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of language and social psychology (pp. 157–176). New York: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199838639.013.036.
Malamuth, N. M. (1981). Rape proclivity among males. Journal of Social Issues, 37(4), 138–157. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4560.1981.tb01075.x.
Malamuth, N. M. (1989). The attraction to sexual aggression scale: Part one. Journal of Sex Research, 26(1), 26–49. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224498909551491.
Maroon 5. (2014). Animals. On V [CD]. Santa Monica, CA: Interscope Records.
McMahon, S., & Farmer, G. L. (2011). An updated measure for assessing subtle rape myths. Social Work Research, 35(2), 71–81. https://doi.org/10.1093/swr/35.2.71.
Miller, G. A., & Chapman, J. P. (2001). Misunderstanding analysis of covariance. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 110(1), 40–48. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-843X.110.1.40.
Montemurro, B., & Siefken, J. M. (2014). Cougars on the prowl? New perceptions of older women's sexuality. Journal of Aging Studies, 28, 35–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaging.2013.11.004.
Nilsen, A. P. (1996). Of ladybugs and billygoats: What animal species tell about human perceptions of gender. Metaphor and Symbolic Activity, 11(4), 257–271. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327868ms1104_2.
Ortner, S. (1974). Is female to male as nature is to culture? In M. Z. Rosaldo & L. Lamphere (Eds.), Woman, culture, and society (pp. 68–87). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Payne, D. L., Lonsway, K. A., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (1999). Rape myth acceptance: Exploration of its structure and its measurement using the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale. Journal of Research in Personality, 33(1), 27–68. https://doi.org/10.1006/jrpe.1998.2238.
Payne, B. K., Cheng, C. M., Govorun, O., & Stewart, B. D. (2005). An inkblot for attitudes: Affect misattribution as implicit measurement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89(3), 277–293. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.1687.
Reilly, M. E., Lott, B., Caldwell, D., & DeLuca, L. (1992). Tolerance for sexual harassment related to self-reported sexual victimization. Gender and Society, 6(1), 122–138. https://doi.org/10.1177/089124392006001008.
Reynolds, C., & Haslam, N. (2011). Evidence for an association between women and nature: An analysis of media images and mental representations. Ecopsychology, 3(1), 59–64. https://doi.org/10.1089/eco.2010.0014.
Robinson, M. D., Bair, J. L., Liu, T., Scott, M. J., & Penzel, I. B. (2017). Of tooth and claw: Predator self-identifications mediate gender differences in interpersonal arrogance. Sex Roles, 77(3–4), 272–286. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-016-0706-y.
Rodríguez, I. L. (2009). Of women, bitches, chickens and vixens: Animal metaphors for women in English and Spanish. Cultura, Lenguaje y Representación/Culture, Language and Representation, 7, 77–100.
Rose, S., & Frieze, I. H. (1993). Young singles' contemporary dating scripts. Sex Roles, 28(9–10), 499–509. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00289677.
Rouse, S. V. (2015). A reliability analysis of mechanical Turk data. Computers in Human Behavior, 43, 304–307. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.11.004.
Rudman, L. A., & Borgida, E. (1995). The afterglow of construct accessibility: The behavioral consequences of priming men to view women as sexual objects. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 31(6), 493–517. https://doi.org/10.1006/jesp.1995.1022.
Rudman, L. A., & Mescher, K. (2012). Of animals and objects men’s implicit dehumanization of women and likelihood of sexual aggression. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(6), 734–746. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167212436401.
Sanghani, R. (2014). Maroon 5, stop trivializing stalking. Women aren’t “prey.” Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11138129/Maroon-5-stop-trivialising-stalking.-Women-arent-prey.html.
Talebinejad, M. R., & Dastjerdi, H. V. (2005). A cross-cultural study of animal metaphors: When owls are not wise! Metaphor and Symbol, 20(2), 133–150. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327868ms2002_3.
Thibodeau, P. H., & Boroditsky, L. (2011). Metaphors we think with: The role of metaphor in reasoning. PLoS One, 6(2), e16782. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0016782.
Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (1998). Prevalence, incidence, and consequences of violence against women: Findings from the National Violence against Women Survey. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED434980.pdf.
Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (2006). Extent, nature, and consequences of rape victimization: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice & Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Vaes, J., Paladino, P., & Puvia, E. (2011). Are sexualized women complete human beings? Why men and women dehumanize sexually objectified women. European Journal of Social Psychology, 41(6), 774–785. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.824.
Weinberg, J. D., Freese, J., & McElhattan, D. (2014). Comparing data characteristics and results of an online factorial survey between a population-based and crowdsource-recruited sample. Sociological Science, 1, 292–310. https://doi.org/10.15195/v1.a19.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare no conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise, in any part of the research process.
Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
Electronic supplementary material
About this article
Cite this article
Bock, J., Burkley, M. On the Prowl: Examining the Impact of Men-as-Predators and Women-as-Prey Metaphors on Attitudes that Perpetuate Sexual Violence. Sex Roles 80, 262–276 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-018-0929-1
- Sexual aggression
- Rape myth acceptance