246329 An assessment of heterosexual college students' conceptualizations of sexual consent as a mechanism to reduce rates of sexual assault

Wednesday, November 2, 2011: 11:30 AM

Kristen Jozkowski, MS , Department of Applied Health Science, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
Zoe Peterson, PhD , Department of Psychology, University of Missouri-St. Louis, St. Louis, MO
Stephanie Sanders, PhD , The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
Michael Reece, PhD , Dept of Applied Health Science, Indiana University-Bloomington, Bloomington, IN
BACKGROUND: Sexual assault continues to be a salient public health concern, especially for young women. Sexual assault is linked to negative physical, psychological and sexual health outcomes and repeat victimization is common among college women. Because assault is often defined in terms of consent, prevention efforts hinge on promoting consent as a means of reducing assault. Despite the focus on consent promotion, little research has focused specifically on how sexual consent is being conceptualized by heterosexual college students. METHODS: 204 participants were recruited from health courses at a large, Mid-west university. Thematic analysis was used to qualitatively analyze college students' conceptualizations of sexual consent, as well as how they indicate and interpret consent behaviorally and verbally. RESULTS: Results indicate gender differences in conceptualizations and indicators of consent. Women tended to conceptualize consent as a mutual decision or agreement between individuals whereas men indicated consent was something they had to obtain. Women were more likely to indicate that consent is expressed verbally and expected to be directly asked for their consent. Conversely, men were more likely to state that consent is indicated via non-verbal cues and is implied without having to verbalize intention or ask partners if they are interested in engaging in sexual activity. CONCLUSIONS: Such gender differences may explain misunderstandings or misinterpretations of sexual intent which could contribute to the occurrence of acquaintance rape. A better understanding of consent has important implications for developing better sexual assault prevention initiatives that are gender-specific and focused on specific conceptualizations of consent.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. To identify the most common indicators of sexual consent reported from college students 2. To identify gender differences in college studentsí indicators of sexual consent and to describe the importance such differences have on implications related to sexual assault 3. To identify how college students define and conceptualize sexual consent and how their conceptualizations may better inform sexual assault prevention education initiatives

Keywords: Sexual Assault, Prevention

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am currently a doctoral candidate in Health Behavior at Indiana Universtiy. I am also the Research Coordinator at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion and Coordinator for Research and Evaluation at the IU Health Center, both at Indiana Universtiy. I have worked in the field of sexual assault prevention for many years and have conducted various research projects on this topic.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.