Some men don’t know the difference between sexual interest and consent, according to a new study.
Researchers from Binghampton University and Rush University in Chicago investigated 145 straight male students who attend a large university in the south-east of America. The participants were presented with a series of hypothetical sexual scenarios.
They found that most men confused sexual interest with consent to sex, thinking that having sex with a woman would imply consent. Results varied more depending on situational factors rather than the personal characteristics of the participants.
“We found that the way in which the woman communicated her sexual intention, that is verbal refusal versus passive responding, had the largest effect of men’s perceptions,” said Dr. Richard Mattson, a Binghamton University Associate Professor of Psychology.
The study, which was published in the journal, Interpersonal Violence, found that men equate the occurrence of some past sexual behavior with future consent to high levels of intimacy. Otherwise known as “the precedence effect” this can also apply to cases in which the woman outright refuses a man’s sexual advances.
Men who believed in rape myths such as “no means yes” found it harder to identify consent when the woman gave passive signals rather than direct communication. Researchers found that men’s perception of consent mostly depended on “the way in which the woman communicated her sexual intentions”.
In the case of students, Mattson acknowledges there are some exclusive factors that would influence male mentalities such as decreased parental supervision and high consumption of alcohol.
The study also highlighted the benefits of risk reduction programs that enable women to effectively communicate their sexual desires and educate men on the difference between consent and ambiguous responses.
Researchers noted that men are likelier to infer consent regardless of the situation, as specific scenarios can muddy a man’s interpretation of consent.
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