Beliefs about gender roles and stereotypes of sexuality predict men’s engagement in consensual but unwanted sexual activity

A new study provides evidence that men who more strongly endorse stereotypes of male sexuality and traditional beliefs about gender roles are more likely to consent to unwanted sexual activity. The findings have been published in the journal Psychology and Sexuality.

Previous research has indicated that engaging in unwanted but consensual sexual activity is relatively common. But most of the research has focused on women’s experiences. The authors of the new study sought to better understand predictors of engaging in sexually compliant behaviors among heterosexual men.

“This project grew out of Devinder Khera’s undergraduate honors thesis at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Dave was intrigued by research investigating various aspects of masculinity (for example, gender roles, stereotypes of male sexuality, and the precarious state of masculinity) and how these ideologies and beliefs influence sexual behaviors.” said Khera and his co-author Cory Pedersen.

“Men are stereotypically painted as hypersexual beings with insatiable sexual urges; always ready to initiate and engage in sexual activity, whenever and wherever. However, research has suggested similar prevalence rates of sexual compliance (i.e., consensual but unwanted sexual activity) in both men and women, providing conflicting research evidence for these hypersexual stereotypes.”

In the study, 426 heterosexual men (ages 16 to 80) completed an anonymous and confidential online survey in which they reported their reasons for engaging in consensual but unwanted sexual activity. For example, participants indicated whether they had kissed, touched, or had unwanted sexual intercourse to satisfy the other person’s needs.

“The reported incidence of sexual compliance among men was 61% in the past 12 months, a surprising majority,” the researchers told PsyPost. “Our findings suggest that sexual fulfillment in heterosexual men is predicted by their support for both traditional gender role beliefs (of hegemonic masculinity) and stereotypes of male sexuality (of insatiability).”

Men who more strongly supported traditional beliefs about gender roles (such as the belief that women should be concerned primarily with their duties to procreate and take care of the home) were more likely to report sexually accommodating behavior for reasons of gender. altruism (I didn’t want them to feel rejected), poisoning (another person encouraged alcohol/drug use to change their feelings), inexperience (I wanted an experience to talk with friends), group pressure (friends hinted that they would think less of you for not doing it), popularity (I thought it would make you more popular), and sexual role concerns (fear of looking gay).

Men who more strongly supported stereotypes of male sexuality were more likely to report sexually gratifying behaviors related to inexperience and popularity, while younger men were more likely to report sexually gratifying behaviors related to inexperience and popularity. group pressure.

But the research authors believe their study may have underestimated how often men consent to unwanted sexual activity.

“A very astute reviewer pointed out to us an unexpected limitation that arose from our research. Men in this sample were not asked if they had been sexually active in the past year; therefore, it may be that some of our participants did not have the opportunity to be sexually compatible during the course of our data collection (i.e., they were single or not sexually active),” Khera and Pedersen explained.

“In addition, our study did not include a baseline measure of sexual compliance that is not tied to any motive (eg, intoxication, inexperience, altruism, etc.). The omission of these considerations may have resulted in underreporting sexual compliance on the part of our participants, which means that heterosexual men can be even more sexually compatible than our results suggest. These limitations are important considerations that need to be addressed in future research to determine accurate prevalence rates.”

“Our results suggest that men are held to particularly strict standards for appearing ‘masculine’ in our Western culture, which in turn may contribute to their involvement in sexual fulfillment,” the researchers added. “This is unfortunate, and clearly educational efforts must be directed at men to help them bring their sexual health and well-being within our culturally restrictive norms. We also believe it is important to continue researching sexual compliance from diverse perspectives and experiences, including those of men, women, and sexual and gender minorities.”

The study, “Why Men Don’t Say No: Sexual Compliance and Gender Socialization in Heterosexual Men,” was authored by Devinder Khera, Amanda Champion, Kari Walton, and Cory Pedersen.

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