Factors influencing labeling of nonconsensual sex as sexual assault

Date

2013

Authors

Yndo, Monica C.

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Abstract

The current study examined the effects of physical attractiveness and sexual interest cues on men's sexual perceptions of women and if increases in sexual perceptions of a woman would lead to decreases in labeling of subsequent nonconsensual sex as sexual assault. Two hundred and thirty-three male college students (M = 19.17, SD = 1.22) read a vignette describing a hypothetical social interaction between a man and a woman. Within the vignette, the female character's physical attractiveness (Average vs. Attractive) and the degree to which the female character behaves interested in the male character (Uninterested vs. Ambiguous) was manipulated. The vignette ends with the male character physically forcing sexual intercourse with the female character. After reading the vignette, participants' labeling of the nonconsensual sex as sexual assault was assessed. Participants' perceptions of the female character's sexual interest in the male character prior to the nonconsensual sex, was assessed as a dependent variable during stopping points in the vignette, prior to the sexual assault. Path analysis was used to test the direct and indirect effects of the manipulated variables (physical attractiveness and interest cues) and men's perception of the female character's sexual interest on subsequent labeling of the scenario as sexual assault. Both physical attractiveness and interest cues had a significant positive influence on men's perception of the female character as sexually interested. Additionally, perceptions of sexual interest had a direct negative effect on sexual assault labeling. These results indicate that increases in physical attractiveness and interest cues increase perceptions of sexual interest, in turn decreasing the labeling of nonconsensual sex as sexual assault. This experimental research contributes to the literature focusing on misinterpretation of sexual interest and the role of perception in sexual assault labeling.

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Keywords

interest cues, labeling, misperception, physical attractiveness, sexual assault, sexual interest perceptions

Citation

Department

Psychology