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Perceived and Collective Norms Associated with Sexual Violence among Male Soldiers

Abstract

The present study explores perceived and collective social norms pertaining to consent for sexual activity, comfort with sexism, stereotypes about rape, attitudes regarding relationships, and the use of dating apps. Data were collected via an anonymous online questionnaire administered to 338 active duty male soldiers between the ages of 18 and 24 at an Army post in the mid-South region of the United States. Analyses examined the extent soldiers accurately perceived the collective norms of their peers. Men were inaccurate in their estimation of the extent to which other male soldiers followed principles of consent in their sexual behaviors, such as stopping the first time a woman says “no” to sexual activity, stopping sexual activity even if aroused, and garnering a verbal affirmation for sex. Soldiers were inaccurate in their perception of peer norms regarding indicators of sexual interest and consent, including the belief that when a woman lets a man kiss her she wants to have sex, and if a woman wears a sexy dress she’s asking for sex. Soldiers were also inaccurate in their estimations of other male soldier’s comfort with sexism including feeling uncomfortable with sexist comments or sexual jokes that put down women. In addition, soldiers underestimated men’s preference for a good relationship with one woman rather than many sexual partners and overestimated their peers’ use of dating sites to locate sexual partners. These findings highlight the need to correct misperceived norms regarding dating and sexual activity among soldiers.

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Acknowledgements

Grateful acknowledgements are made to Bryce Meerhaeghe for his involvement in study administration.

Funding

This study is supported by a grant from the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (W81XWH-15-2-0055).

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Correspondence to Cristóbal S. Berry-Cabán.

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Berry-Cabán, C.S., Orchowski, L.M., Wimsatt, M. et al. Perceived and Collective Norms Associated with Sexual Violence among Male Soldiers. J Fam Viol 35, 339–347 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-019-00096-6

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Keywords

  • Military
  • Dating
  • Sexual assault
  • Attitudes towards women
  • Social norms