Do Men Use More Sexually Aggressive Tactics When Intoxicated? A Within-Person Examination of Naturally Occurring Episodes of Sex

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Objective: Men’s alcohol use has been linked to sexual assault perpetration. Yet, it is unknown whether within naturally occurring sexual encounters men use more sexually aggressive tactics when they are intoxicated. The present study considered whether college men’s perceived intoxication at the time of sex increased their self-reported use of verbal persuasion, physical force, and encouraged intoxication of partner as tactics to convince a woman to have sex. Method: As part of a 56-day daily report study, 298 college freshman males reported 1,832 episodes of sexual activity with female partners. Using multilevel modeling, we considered the within-person effects of subjective intoxication, sexual precedence (new vs. previous partner), and perceived partner sexual interest on male use of sexually aggressive strategies within each sexual encounter. We also considered whether the impact of event-specific intoxication was moderated by individual differences in hostility toward women, delinquency, and impersonal sex. Results: Greater subjective intoxication at the time of sex predicted greater use of verbal persuasion and encouraging intoxication of partner. Although intoxication did not predict physical force directly, there were indirect effects via greater verbal persuasion and encouraging partner intoxication. Event-specific intoxication did not interact with any of the individual difference variables, and only hostility toward women contributed positively to use of event-specific sexual aggression. Conclusions: Men’s intoxication at the time of sexual activity increases their use of sexually aggressive strategies within naturally occurring sexual encounters. Findings help to explain the robust relationship between alcohol use and sexual assault found in college populations.

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