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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
DOMALEWSKI, S. M. (1999). Rape Myth Acceptance: Changing Attitudes Through the Use of Popular Movies. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 2. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved December 9, 2023 .

Rape Myth Acceptance: Changing Attitudes Through the Use of Popular Movies

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (cronk@missouriwestern.edu)
The purpose of this study was to determine if there was a relationship concerning rape myth acceptance and watching scenes from popular movies starring. The movies used all starred Jodie Foster. They were The Accused, Contact and Summerby. Each movie represent a different male/female interaction. The Accused represent a rape scenario. Contact represent interaction between a male and female in a confrontational court scene. Summersby represented an adult consensual sex scene. Rape myth acceptance was assessed before and after each movie scene. A one-way ANOVA was use to determine if a relationship existed. No significant difference was found (F(2,65)=.353, p>.05.) between the movies. An independent t test was performed comparing subjects gender and rape myth acceptance before watching a movie scene. Significance was found between the two genders (t(66)= -2.701, p>.05).

Burt (1980) defined rape myths as prejudicial, stereotyped, or false beliefs about rape, rape victims, and rapists. Lonsway and Fitzgerald (1994) expanded on the concept of rape myths and defined them as "attitudes and beliefs that are generally false but are widely and persistently held, and that serve to deny and justify male sexual aggression against women" (p. 134). Lonsway and Fitzgerald (1994) says there are three characteristics of myths. The first characteristic of myths is that they are highly held false beliefs. The second characteristic of myths is that they explain culture phenomenon that are considered important. The third characteristic of myths is that existing cultural arrangements are justified. These three characteristics of myths can help us understand rape myths. Burt (1980) believes that three concepts effect the acceptance of rape myths. These are sexual conservation, adversarial sexual beliefs and interpersonal violence. These three things interact with each other to determine a person`s rape myth acceptance. Sexual conservation refers to the appropriateness of sexual behavior. People with these attitudes believe that there is a certain place and way in which sexual relations should occur. These sexual ideas are held in traditional thoughts. Adversarial sexual beliefs are beliefs that relationships, especially sexual ones, are based on the exploitation of each partner. It is believe by each participant of a relationship that the other is out to get what they want from each other through lies, cheating and manipulation. Acceptance of interpersonal violence is the belief that force and coercion are appropriate ways to gain compliance from a person. Rape myths have been describe as belonging to the just-world theory (Lonsway 1994). This idea is that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. People have the need to believe this concept to rationalize why a woman got raped. They believe that the woman must have done something to bring the rape upon herself, such as the type of clothes the woman was wearing at the time of the attack (Workman, 1996). Burt (1991) "suggested that rape myths are the mechanism that people use to justify dismissing an incident of sexual assault from the category of `real` rape…such beliefs deny the reality of many actual rapes" (p 27). Rape myths are highly accepted in the general population. They are effected by social, religious factors as well as ethnic, age, and education, etc. that may make a person more prone to have a higher rape myth acceptance. Most people with high rape myth acceptance do not identify rape properly such as by its legal definition. "Forcible rape as defined in the Uniformed Crime Reporting Program, is the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will" (FBI, 1998). This definition includes assaults or attempts to commit rape by force or threat of force but excludes statutory rape and other sex offenses. In all of the literature reviewed there was one main idea that they all held. Rape myth acceptance attitudes need to be changed. In Burt`s (1980) research her data supported that changing attitudes on rape will not be easy. There are many factors that interact and affects a person`s overall acceptance of rape myths, such as interpersonal violence, sexual conservation, and adversarial sexual beliefs. Even though there are many factors, Burt (1980) says that changing attitudes on rape can be done. It is a long and timely process. We need to start teaching our children at a young age that sex is a freely chosen act between two people and not an exploitation of one`s sexual partner or of oneself. The media has a major effect on rape myth acceptance. One popular form of media that is believed to affect rape myth acceptance is television and movies portrayal of violence towards woman. Pornography is a huge concern. Allen (1995) says that if a person adopts the beliefs and views that are depicted in pornography then that person is accepting antisocial beliefs toward woman. Research has shown that violent pornography may not directly contribute to a person to act out what is seen in pornography. It ultimately may affect their personal attitudes. Such attitudes can effect a male juror. The juror may be less tolerant to a rape victim and not give a conviction to a rapist. If a woman has these beliefs, it may prevent her from reporting a rape. Television and movies play a major role in the American way of life. It informs us of ideas and concepts that may not have been seen or talked about a century ago. It can have a positive effect on a person by making them more knowledge about a topic, but it can also have a negative effect. Many people are influenced by what they see even if it is not true. These influenced areas are strong and hard to change. Through the use of television and movies we can change once negative attitudes to positive and vice-versa. The purpose of this present study is to see if there is an effect between a person`s rape myth acceptance score before watching one of the three scenes from a movie starring Jodie Foster and the person`s rape myth acceptance score after watching the movie scenes. These scenes will include a rape, consensual sex and no sex.


68 subjects were use from General Psychology and Intermediate Psychology class at Missouri Western State College, Saint Joseph, Missouri. Subjects were given extra credit for participation.

Burt`s (1980) Rape Myth Acceptance Scale and the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale (Fitzgerald, 1994) were use to assess the subjects rape myth acceptance. Scenes from The Accused (1988), Summersby (1993) and Contact (1997) staring Jodie Foster will be used for treatment conditions.

In all three groups, Burt`s Rape Myth Acceptance Scale was given to assess the subjects rape myth acceptance before watching one of three movie scenes. Each group watched one of three movie scenes, either a rape scene from The Accused, a consensual sex scene from Summersby or a non-sex scene from Contact. After viewing movie scene each group was then given The Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale, to assess rape myth acceptance after viewing the movie scene, was given to each group and a demographic sheet.

Subjects rape myth acceptance scores were compare before and after viewing one of the following three movies, The Accused, Summersby and Contact, using a one-way ANOVA. No significant difference was found (F(2,65)= .353, p> .05. The subjects rape myth acceptance score did not differ significantly after watching one of the three movie scenes. An independent t test comparing rape myth acceptance score and the subjects gender found a significant difference between genders (t(66)= -2.701, p>.05). The mean of the female subjects was significantly higher (m=5.6576, sd=.7534) than the mean of the male subjects (m=5.1005, sd=.7880).

Allen, M., Emmers, T., Gebhardt, L. & Giery, M. A. (1995). Exposure to pornography and acceptance of rape myths. Journal of Communication, 45, 5-24.

Burt, M. R. (1980). Cultural myths and supports for rape. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,38, 217-230.

Burt, M. R. (1991). Rape myths and acquaintance rape. In A. Parrot & L. Bechhofer (Eds.), Acquaintance rape: The hidden crime (pp. 26-40). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

FBI internet site: http://.fbi.gov/ucr/cius_98/99crime/98cius01.pdf October 23, 1999

Lonsway, K. A. & Fitzgerald, L. F. Rape myths: In review. Psychology of Woman Quarterly,18, 133-164.

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, 27-68.

Sinclair, H. C. & Bourne L. E. Jr. (1998). Cycle of blame or just world: Effects of legal verdicts on gender patterns. Psychology of Women Quarterly,22, 575-588.

Workman, J. E. & Orr, R. L. (1996). Clothing, sex of subject, and rape myth acceptance as factors affecting attributions about and incident of acquaintance rape. Clothing and Textile Research Journal,14, 276-284.

Lonsway and Fitzgerald (1994) define rape myths as personal attitudes or beliefs that are generally false, but a person or a society holds to be true of a rape victim and/or a rapist. This study was designed to find if watching movies affected whether a person`s rape myth acceptance can be change. There was no significance found between watching any of the three movies and a subjects rape myth acceptance score. Subjects` scores did change after watching one of the three movies but it did not matter which movie they watched. There was significance found between a subject`s rape myth acceptance score and their gender. Females had a higher rape myth acceptance compared to males who had lower rape myth acceptance. Other items were looked in this study. These items included the subject`s age, Grade point average, martial status, if the subject had been affected by rape in any way. Follow up research needs to be conducted on these topics. Why was there no significance found between watching movie scenes and a subjects rape myth acceptance score. The lengths of the scenes were rather short and may not have had a time to affect rape myth acceptance. In future research the length of the movies should be longer. Did the type of movie use affect the rape myth acceptance. What if movies that were designed for police training programs on rape were used, would that have an effect on rape myth acceptance? Could time be the culprit? The Burt`s rape myth acceptance scale was directly before and Illinois Rape myth acceptance scale given directly after the movie scene. The length of time between the first scale and second scale could have produced non-significant results. Future research should look into these different factors that may have had an impact on this study.

Submitted 12/2/99 11:01:01 PM
Last Edited 3/18/00 2:15:06 PM
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