Can feminism help your love life?

That's what a new study suggests. Also, apparently not all feminists are lesbians.

Published October 16, 2007 5:18PM (EDT)

If the words of some of our more, er, enthusiastic commenters are to be believed, women who identify themselves as feminists must have pretty crappy romantic lives. I mean, aren't we all ugly, unshaven man-haters, the sorts of women who would spit on a guy if he so much as opened a door for us?

The simple response to that question would just be "No." But today, dear readers, I can actually offer you scientific proof that not all self-proclaimed feminists are lonely, man-hating trolls! A study that's to be published in Springer's Sex Roles says that "feminism may actually improve the quality of heterosexual relationships," according to this press release. They've got to be kidding, right?

Nope. Rutgers researchers Laurie Rudman and Julie Phelan surveyed 242 American undergraduates and 289 older adults and looked at men's and women's "perception of their own feminism and its link to relationship health, measured by a combination of overall relationship quality, agreement about gender equality, relationship stability and sexual satisfaction" (to quote the press release). And guess what they found? Women who said their guys had feminist beliefs had "healthier" relationships. Men who had feminist partners reported "more stable relationships and greater sexual satisfaction."

I know what you're thinking: How can a man report sexual satisfaction with an ugly, man-hating lesbian? To answer this question, Rudman and Phelan decided to examine stereotypes of feminists, too, to see how well they matched up with reality. Were the stereotypes to be true, Rudman and Phelan asserted that feminists would be more likely to report themselves as being single, lesbian or sexually unattractive. But guess what? They didn't. In fact, women describing themselves as feminists were actually more likely to report being in heterosexual relationships than those who didn't identify with the "f" word.

So it looks like we've got it all wrong, folks. Feminists don't actually hate men -- they just have a sense of self-worth and a desire for equality in their relationships. When the heterosexual ones are paired up with guys who also believe that women and men are equal, their relationships work better. Who'd have thunk. Let's hope that Rudman and Phelan can help answer other pressing questions, like whether feminists really do buy bras just to burn them, and whether these feminist-loving men are actually gay.

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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