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Is Romantic Love Rooted in Sexism?

Sexism in its most literal form is just prejudice based on gender. Look at it that way and prepubescent kids — with their single-gender cliques — are some of the most sexist beings around. But as they become older and more interested in the opposite sex, they become more open minded. Except a new study found one group actually becomes more sexist, and it's not who you'd expect. Romantic teens, of both sexes, cling to gender stereotypes the most.

What's most disconcerting is that when you look at sexism through this lens, girls contribute just as much as boys. The study's author breaks it down into two categories: hostile and benevolent sexism. Hostile is what you'd expect, but benevolent sexism is more complex, something like chivalry. It may seem nice or polite, but is actually patronizing. Benevolently sexist ideals are expectations like women should be cherished and protected by men; women are pure; and men should put women on a pedestal.

That sounds a lot like the Disneyfied version of love that's perpetuated in romantic comedies and is commonplace not just among teenage girls but adult women. An adoring man is a gentleman — the man we expect in the early stage of relationships, otherwise known as romantic love.

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