Young Men's Likelihood Ratings to Be Sexually Aggressive as a Function of Norms and Perceived Sexual Interest

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Abstract

This study experimentally investigated the influence of different norms regarding the acceptability of sexual coercion and overperception of sexual intentions in casual interactions with women, as well as an interaction of these factors on self-reported likelihood to engage in sexual assault by male college students. Results of a logistic regression showed a significant interaction of men's perceptions of sexual intentions of women and exposure to norms regarding the acceptability of sexual coercion. Even after very brief exposures to rape-conducive norms, men who tended to perceive women as having more sexual intentions had significantly larger odds of rating themselves as likely to use coercion to obtain engagement in sexual activities compared with those who perceived lower sexual intentions in women or were exposed to antirape norms. This pattern of results suggests that interventions targeting peer pressure and adjustment of social norms might be particularly beneficial for those men who tend to overestimate how much interest in sexual interactions a woman might have.

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