, Volume 42, Issue 5-6, pp 313-337

Ambiguous Communication of Sexual Intentions as a Risk Marker of Sexual Aggression

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Three studies are reported that explored the role of ambiguous communication of sexual intentions as a risk factor for sexual aggression and victimization. Two main forms of ambiguous communication were distinguished: token resistance (saying “no” when you mean “yes”) and compliance (saying “yes” when you mean “no”). Two samples of heterosexual men and women and a sample of homosexual men with a total N of 1284 completed a measure of sexual victimization or aggression and indicated whether or not they had ever shown token resistance or compliance in a sexual encounter. Moreover, the heterosexual male respondents indicated whether they had ever perceived token resistance or compliance in a female partner. Logistic regression analyses revealed that the risk of experiencing sexual victimization was significantly increased as a function of token resistance. Two of the three studies also showed compliance to be a risk factor for sexual victimization. For the male respondents, token resistance was consistently linked to a higher likelihood of perpetrating sexually aggressive acts in the three studies. Perceived compliance was also found to increase the risk of sexual aggression in three of four analyses. Support for a link between perceived token resistance and sexual aggression was found in the first study only. Overall, the findings suggest that the use of ambiguous communication in negotiating sexual encounters is associated with an increased risk of sexual victimization as well as perpetration of sexually aggressive acts in both heterosexual and homosexual contacts. The implications of the findings are discussed with respect to the issue of rape prevention.