The role of rejection in women's sexual decision making: An experimental vignette study
With the Rejection Sensitivity Model (RSM; Downey and Feldman, 1996) as a theoretical base, this study examined the role of rejection in women's risky sexual decision-making. Using an experimental vignette paradigm, we investigated the relationships between women's experiences of rejection and intentions to engage in unprotected sex as a function of their rejection sensitivity. One hundred and thirty-three female students (M age = 19.17, SD = 1.22) projected themselves into a vignette depicting a hypothetical dating scenario between a man and a woman after completing a background measure of rejection sensitivity. The male character's behavioral cues (accepting, ambiguous or rejecting) were manipulated within the vignette. Participants' perceptions of rejection, angry affective reactions and unprotected sex intentions were assessed as dependent variables during five stopping-points built into the vignette. We used multistage regression analysis to test the direct and indirect effects of rejection sensitivity and rejection cue set on perceived rejection, angry affective reactions, and unprotected sex intentions. Both rejection sensitivity and rejection cue set had a significant, positive influence on women's perceptions of rejection within the vignette. Increased perceptions of rejection lead to increased angry affective reactions, which decreased intentions to engage in unprotected sex. Additionally, rejection sensitivity had a direct, positive effect on unprotected sex intentions, but only among women who were exposed to rejecting cues. This experimental study provides support for the RSM, and contributes to the literature focusing on the influences of intrapersonal and interpersonal factors on women's sexually risky behaviors.