Methods: We surveyed 307 U.S. white, cisgender, heterosexual women (Mage = 49), recruited through the online research platform Prolific, about their perceptions of four marginalized groups: ID-labeled women; low-income women; adolescent women; and lesbians. For reach group, participants rated: women’s warmth and competence, support for women’s sexual rights, and endorsement of policies to enable sexual rights. We conducted t-tests and repeated measures ANOVA with Bonferroni-corrected post-hoc tests to test RQ 1 and hierarchical linear regression models with covariates to test RQ 2.
Results: For RQ 1, results suggested that ID-labeled women are regarded with greater pity than the other marginalized groups. Confirming that ID-labeled women are pitied more often than others, participants attributed significantly more warmth (M = 3.87, SE = .04) than competence (M = 2.81, SE = .05) to ID-labeled women, t(306) = 24.31, p < .001, and viewed them as significantly more warm and less competent than all other marginalized groups; F(2.72, 832.02) = 121.55, p < .001 and F(2.91, 889.56) = 122.40, p < .001, respectively. Of all cases in which participants pitied any marginalized group of women (as determined by rating a group of women with high warmth and low competence), about two-thirds (64%) involved ID-labeled women. For RQ 2, regression analyses showed that perceived competence was related to sexual rights support only when participants considered ID-labeled women (β = .15, p = .03). Second, while perceived warmth was positively associated with sexuality policy support for all marginalized groups, perceived competence affected policy support only in relation to ID-labeled women (β = .16, p < .01).
Conclusions and Implications: Analyses confirm that ID-labeled women are often regarded with pity and that pity may reduce others’ support for their sexual rights and related policies. Particularly influential are perceptions of women’s competence. Social work scholars and practitioners can play a valuable role in advocating for policies, trainings, and standards of practice that uphold the inalienability of sexual rights. Toward this end, we draw on Nussbaum’s Capability Approach (2011) to argue that diversity among women’s abilities must be used as the basis for additional and accessible resources to ensure that all individuals with disabilities have opportunities to exercise their sexual rights and experience sexual wellbeing.