Women who prefer physically formidable and dominant mates (PPFDM) are more likely to believe they are at greater risk of crime regardless of the situation or risk factors present, according to a new study at the University of Leicester in England.
Prior research suggests that women who grew up in high-crime areas and perceive being at risk of criminal victimization tend to prefer more dominant men as partners, perhaps because of the protection they can offer. However, the new study suggests that women who are attracted to dominant men generally feel more at risk of victimization, whether or not they actually are.
“PPFDM appears to be associated with women’s self-assessed vulnerability. Women with strong PPFDM feel relatively more at risk, fearful, and vulnerable to criminal victimisation compared to their counterparts, regardless of whether there are situational risk factors present,” said Ph.D. researcher Hannah Ryder from the University of Leicester’s Department of Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour.
“Our research suggests that the relationship between feelings of vulnerability, as measured by fear of crime, and women’s preference for physically formidable and dominant mates is stable, and does not update according to environmental circumstances or relative level of protection needed.”
For the research, the investigators assessed whether the link between fear of crime and PPFDM was higher for crimes that cause stronger physical and psychological pain, such as sexual assault.
During two studies in the lab and field, women observed images and real life situations that varied in the risk of crime, including crime hotspots and safespots. In each situation, the participants were asked to rate their perceived risk of victimization — a measure of fear of crime — regarding various crimes. This included male- and female-perpetrated physical assault and robbery and male-perpetrated rape.
In both studies, the researchers administered a scale that measured women’s PPFDM and then evaluated the link between women’s PPFDM score and their risk perception scores.
The findings show that women’s fear of crime significantly differed in response to crime cues — for example, location and time of day — and that overall fear of crime was related to PPFDM.
However, the connection between PPFDM and fear did not vary in relation to risk situation, perpetrator gender, or crime type, suggesting that the psychological mechanisms underlying the relationship between perceived risk of victimization and PPFDM are general human nature.
The study is published in the journal Evolution and Human Behaviour.