Study Finds Both Men and Women Perceive Women Who Drink as Less Human and More Sexually Available

According to a new study from researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the University of Nebraska, and Iowa State University, both men and women view women who drink alcohol in a social setting to be “less human” and more sexually available.

For their study, the research team conducted a series of three experiments depicting either a young man or woman at a generic-looking bar holding either a bottle of beer or a bottle of water. Across all of the experiments, participants, who had an average age of 34, were asked to evaluate how drunk they thought the person pictured was and how human the person appeared to be. For instance, participants indicated on a 7-point scale how “intoxicated,” “tipsy,” “buzzed,” or “drunk” they thought the person was. They also rated whether the person appeared “mechanical,” “cold like a robot,” or to “lack self-restraint like an animal.”

The results showed that, on average, when participants saw a woman holding a beer bottle, they believed she possessed less human characteristics than participants who saw a woman holding a water bottle. However, this disparity was not seen among participants who viewed a man holding a beer bottle and those who saw a man holding a water bottle.

“While we predicted that women drinking alcohol would be dehumanized more than women drinking water or men drinking alcohol, it was still surprising to see it emerge,” said co-author Jeanine Skorinko, a professor of social science and policy studies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. “This is especially shocking because just holding a beer bottle increased perceptions of intoxication and perceptions of sexual availability for women, but not for men. Moreover, it didn’t matter who the perceiver was — male and female perceivers dehumanized women drinking alcohol similarly.”

The research team believes that these findings may help clinicians and researchers better understand a range of negative health-related behaviors that occur in social situations.

“This research allows us to better understand how women who drink alcohol are perceived, and while these perceptions are quite negative, they give insights into how to move forward,” said Dr. Skorinko. “By having this deeper understanding, hopefully we can start to increase awareness of these issues and reduce the victimization of women — whether they are drinking or not.”

Dr. Skorinko has been a faculty member at Worcester Polytechnic Institute since 2007. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Rice University in Houston, where she double majored in psychology and anthropology. She holds a master’s degree and Ph.D. both in social psychology from the University of Virginia.

The full study, “She Looks like She’d Be an Animal in Bed: Dehumanization of Drinking Women in Social Contexts,” was published in the journal Sex Roles. It may be accessed here.

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