News, Culture & Society

Women are dehumanized and seen as more ‘sexually available’ just for HOLDING an alcoholic drink

Women are dehumanized and seen as more ‘sexually available’ just for HOLDING an alcoholic drink, shocking study finds

  • Researchers say findings have ‘troubling implications’ for perception of women
  • They found both men and women viewed female drinkers as ‘less human’
  • Women were also perceived as more ‘sexually available’ simply for holding beer 

A troubling new study has highlighted the harmful stereotypes targeting women who drink alcohol, regardless of their actual behavior.

In a series of experiments involving nearly 400 participants, both men and women, researchers found that simply holding an alcoholic beverage is enough for people to view a woman in a negative light.

Women seen holding a beer bottle as opposed to a bottle of water were perceived as more intoxicated, ‘less human,’ and more ‘sexually available.’

For men doing the same, however, this was not the case.

The researchers behind the study say the findings have ‘troubling implications’ for the perception and treatment of women in social settings, suggesting people may be less likely to intervene in situations where a woman may be at risk.

A troubling new study has highlighted the harmful stereotypes targeting women who drink alcohol, which they’re often subjected to regardless of their actual behavior. Stock image


Victims of rape and sexual assault are less likely to report the incident to the police if they were drunk at the time, according to a recent study led by researchers from the University of Birmingham.

Scientists found that survivors of sexual assault are also more likely to blame themselves for the crime if they were intoxicated. 

This self-blame, the researchers argue, is often the reason serious incidents of sexual assault and rape go unreported.

Study lead author Dr Heather Flowe said: ‘It’s concerning that women in the study were more likely to blame the hypothetical rape on their behaviour and character if they believed that they had consumed alcohol.

‘Even more concerning is that the effects of alcohol on rape reporting in the real world might be even stronger than that found in the present research, given the intense levels of scrutiny that survivors are under in real world cases.

‘Further research is needed to better understand the role of alcohol in how victims attribute responsibility for rape, and the implications this has for rape prosecution and survivor recovery.’

‘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 Jeanine Skorinko, 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.’

In the study, the team set up three experiments in which participants were shown an image of a young person (male or female) standing at a bar holding either a bottle of beer or a bottle of water.

A total of 398 participants were involved – 207 men and 191 women, at an average age of 34.

Each participant was asked to evaluate how drunk they thought the person in the image was using a 7-point scale that included ‘intoxicated,’ ‘tipsy,’ ‘buzzed,’ and ‘drunk.’

They were also asked to rate how ‘human’ the person appeared, with options including ‘mechanical,’ ‘cold like a robot,’ or ‘lack self-restraint like an animal.’

In the final experiment, they were given additional information as might be seen in a social media post, such as ‘4 drinks in! ha ha keep it coming! Hooray for the weekend!’

While the stereotypes surrounding women who consume alcohol are well known, the researchers say the findings uncovered in the study were ‘shocking.’

Both men and women dehumanized the women they’d seen holding an alcoholic beverage, and had a tendency to perceive female drinkers are more sexually available.

While the study didn’t directly examine sexual aggression, the researchers say the findings point to the worrying implication that those who perceive women this way may also be more aggressive toward them.

And, by assuming women who drink are more open to sexual encounters, others may be less likely to intervene if she is sexually victimized.

‘Nowadays, a low of social interactions happen in the presence of alcohol and it is important to understand how this may influence the development of healthy relationships,’ said undergraduate co-author Anastasia Karapanagou.

‘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,’ Skorinko said.

‘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.’