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The Relationship Between Heteronormative Beliefs and Verbal Sexual Coercion in College Students

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Abstract

Heteronormative standards for sex and romance situate men and women in a hierarchical relationship that characterizes masculinity as active and persistent and femininity as passive and responsive to male sexuality. Individuals who endorse heteronormative beliefs, such as the belief that men should dominate women sexually or that men are always ready for sex, may therefore be more approving of and experienced with behaviors that involve one partner exerting sexual pressure on the other. In the present study, we investigated the relationship between the endorsement of heteronormative beliefs and men’s and women’s approval of and experience with verbal sexual coercion (both as a perpetrator and as a victim). We first established a gender-neutral higher-order construct representing heteronormative beliefs consisting of multiple measures of gender norms for sexuality and relationships in a sample of 555 heterosexual college students (292 women, 263 men) primarily of Hispanic origin. We next found that endorsement of heteronormative beliefs was positively correlated with personal acceptance of verbal sexual coercion strategies and personal experience as the victim and perpetrator of verbal sexual coercion for both men and women. While men reported more overall support for heteronormative beliefs and more experience as a victim and perpetrator of verbal sexual coercion, there were minimal gender differences in how heteronormative beliefs related to verbal sexual coercion variables. The positive association found between heteronormative beliefs and sexual coercion in young men’s and women’s relationships represents an important step towards better understanding the antecedents and consequences of intimate partner violence.

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Notes

  1. A measure of heteronormativity as referring to privileging and presuming heterosexuality does exist (Tolley & Ranzijn, 2006), but this is not the aspect of heteronormativity we investigated and the reliability of that scale was low.

  2. While the ITS has six different tactic categories, each indicated by 3–4 items, we were interested only in verbal tactics. This reduction resulted in some categories containing only 1 item (with an average of 2.5 items per category). This was not enough to obtain the reliability required for an examination of individual tactic categories.

  3. These fit statistics represent different ways of testing “…whether the covariance matrix implied by the researcher’s model is close enough to the sample covariance matric that the differences might reasonably be considered as being due to sampling error” (Kline, 2011, p. 193). The values used to indicate good model fit (i.e., when the model is consistent with the covariance data) are as follows: a non-significant χ 2 value, a RMSEA value between .05 and .08, a non-significant p value for the test of close fit, a CFI value greater than or equal to .90, and a TLI value greater than or equal to .90 (Schumacker & Lomax, 2010).

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Acknowledgments

We thank Dr. Dionne Stephens at Florida International University and Dr. Penny Visser at the University of Chicago for their insight and assistance with this project.

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Correspondence to Asia A. Eaton.

Appendix

Appendix

Fourteen items describing specific instances of verbal sexual coercion from pretesting

  1. 1.

    Threaten to blackmail him/her by exposing private information

  2. 2.

    Threaten to break up with him/her

  3. 3.

    Tell him/her that you will find someone else to do this activity if he/she won’t

  4. 4.

    Threaten to tell others that you did engage in that activity anyway

  5. 5.

    Say “this will make us feel more connected” or “take our relationship to the next level”

  6. 6.

    Remind the partner that you bought him/her dinner or other things

  7. 7.

    Beg him/her

  8. 8.

    Say that it’s unfair to leave you horny and without sexual satisfaction

  9. 9.

    Say that your ex would have done it

  10. 10.

    Say that if your partner loved you he/she would do this

  11. 11.

    Tell your partner that if he/she did this you will love him/her forever

  12. 12.

    Say that everyone is doing it

  13. 13.

    Sweet talk your partner; say how attractive they are

  14. 14.

    Tell your partner to stop “playing hard to get”

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Eaton, A.A., Matamala, A. The Relationship Between Heteronormative Beliefs and Verbal Sexual Coercion in College Students. Arch Sex Behav 43, 1443–1457 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-014-0284-4

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