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Document Type

Dissertation - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Rural Sociology

First Advisor

Robert Mendelsohn


This study was an exploratory study investigating how and under what circumstances college students defined situations as sexually coercive. The sample was drawn from f our universities in the United States. Five hundred and forty male and female college students were given twenty[1]five scenarios depicting heterosexual sexual relations. The scenarios described sexual relations representing different points along a coercive continuum and different types of relationships. The study specifically explored the differences among gender, types of relationships, and behavioral strategies used in the process of students' situational definitions of acquaintance rape. Coercive sexual behavior exists at extraordinary rates on college campuses (Koss et al. 1987). Many studies have investigated the coercing behaviors of college males on college females. The present study explored the process leading not only to physical coercion, but also verbal coercion. The results of this research revealed that participants defined situations that used the behavioral strategy of verbal persuasion as consensual 64.1 percent of the time when they reported involvement in that type of coercion. An examination of the influence that gender and the experiences that particular incidences had on the respondents were also studied. Furthermore, the study provided attitudinal and behavioral profiles of the differences among coercive and non-coercive males, as well as victimized and non-victimized females. Women were more likely than men to report involvement in sexual coercion. Results showed that thirty-seven (37.3) percent of the women and twenty (20) percent of the men had been involved in sexual coercion. Women, more than men, defined scenarios as coercive. The use of a verbalized no for university students' perception of rape is not consistent with current legal definitions. Findings suggest that when a woman engaged in foreplay, males were more likely to view the behavior as consensual. Discussion focused on the implications of these results for understanding and changing perceptions about sexual coercion.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Acquaintance rape
College students -- Attitudes
College students -- Sexual behavior
Sex (Psychology)




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