Rape myths are common misconceptions about sexual assault that undermine victims and downplay the responsibility of assaulters. Both rape myths and victim blaming tend to occur simultaneously, negatively effecting victims and perpetuating rape culture. Two potential correlates of victim blaming are masculine honor beliefs, an ideology justifying violence when in response to a threat to one’s masculinity, and just world beliefs, which justify bad things that happen to people under the idea that the world is just. Prior research has found positive correlations between masculine honor beliefs and victim blaming, as well as just world beliefs and victim blaming, but the two belief systems have yet to be analyzed together.
Given how common rape, rape myths, and victim blaming are in the U.S., and among college students in particular, the current study examined how both masculine honor beliefs and just world beliefs impact victim blaming of men and women who had been sexually assaulted. To do so, we designed a news story depicting the sexual assault of a first year college student. Some participants received the version with the female victim while others received the version with the male victim, responding also to scales measuring masculine honor beliefs and just world beliefs, as well as items we developed to assess perceptions of the victim as weak, promiscuous, and as failing to engage in proper safety behaviors. We predicted that participants higher in both masculine honor and just world ideologies would have greater victim blaming than those lower in these belief systems. Furthermore, we hypothesized that the male victim would be blamed more based on being perceived as weak and acting like he desired sex, while the female victim would be blamed more based on being perceived as promiscuous in appearance and behavior, and acting like she desired sex. Consistent with our hypothesis, masculine honor beliefs and just world beliefs predicted victim blaming across all dimensions assessed. Honor ideology was most strongly related to perceptions of blame for the male victim as weak but perceptions of the female victim as promiscuous in appearance. We hope that this research can be used to educate against victim blaming and perpetuation of rape myths, as well as to continue research on the effects of masculine honor beliefs and just world beliefs on social issues