Sexual violence against sexual minority women in STEM: Compound backlash

Dennis E. Reidy, Elizabeth R. Baumler, Jeff R. Temple

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Recent research has found that gender parity (i.e., the ratio of women to men) in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) disciplines is associated with sexual violence (SV) victimization for women. This finding may reflect a type of backlash wherein SV is a means of punishing women who are perceived to be violating their gender roles and threatening the male hegemony. Sexual minorities, who are likewise disproportionately victims of SV, report experiencing heterosexist hostility and harassment in STEM disciplines. There is reason to suspect that the combination of these marginalized identity positions (e.g., a sexual minority woman in gender-balanced STEM) may amplify perceived gender role violations and exacerbate the risk of SV victimization. Methods: Data were collected from undergraduate women at five institutions of higher education in the United States. Sampling was stratified by STEM vs. non-STEM majors and male-dominated vs. gender-balanced majors. Sexual violence was measured via the revised Sexual Experiences Survey. We tested the interaction of sexual minority status and gender parity in STEM on SV via fixed effects OLS regression. Results: Sexual minority women in gender-balanced STEM were most frequently victims of SV. Women in male-dominated STEM majors were at no greater risk of SV victimization, regardless of sexual minority status, than their peers in non-STEM majors. Implications: These findings suggest the possibility of a compound form of backlash, wherein women are exponentially victimized because their sexual identity and their membership in these STEM fields are seen as dual challenges to the male hegemony. If true, this could exacerbate health disparities rather than promote health equity for these sexual minority women. Findings point to the ongoing need to challenge hegemonic gender norms, focus prevention programs on populations most at risk, and ensure they are provided the appropriate resources for support.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number116366
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Gender-based violence
  • STEM
  • Sexual minority
  • Sexual violence
  • Women in STEM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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