Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 220–235 | Cite as

Sexual Compliance: Examining the Relationships Among Sexual Want, Sexual Consent, and Sexual Assertiveness

  • Marie C. Darden
  • Anandi C. Ehman
  • Elicia C. Lair
  • Alan M. GrossEmail author
Original Paper


Unwanted sexual encounters include a broad spectrum of behaviors that may include everything from regretted or coerced sex to sexual assault and rape. Sadly, experience with unwanted sex is all too common among college aged women. A number of factors have been examined in the context of sexual interactions in this population including relationship status, sexual want, sexual assertiveness, and sexual consent. However, research to date lacks analyses which consider the potentially interactive nature of the aforementioned variables in sexual decision making. To that end, the present study examined the role of relationship status, sexual want, and sexual assertiveness on self-report consent in a sexual encounter. Female undergraduate students (N = 319) self-reported on their relationship status, as well as their sexual want (desire to engage in sexual activity), sexual assertiveness, and sexual consent behaviors within the context of their most recent sexual experience. A moderated multiple regression was conducted to determine whether sexual assertiveness moderated self-reported sexual want and consent. Relationship status was included as the primary predictor in the aforementioned model. The overall model was significant, indicating an interaction model of sexual decision-making. Generally, women displayed increased sexual consent behavior as sexual want increased across levels of sexual assertiveness, regardless of relationship status. Importantly, women low in sexual assertiveness were high in sexual compliance (i.e. consenting to/engaging in sexual activity even when self-reported sexual want was low).


Sexual assertiveness Sexual compliance Sexual want Sexual consent Unwanted sex Sexual decision-making 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animals Rights

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MississippiUniversityUSA

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