Date of Award

8-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

Todd M. Moore

Committee Members

Kristina C. Gordon, Derek R. Hopko, Spencer B. Olmstead

Abstract

Understanding sexual assault hinges on a firm conceptualization of sexual consent; however, few studies have investigated sexual consent, and much research related to sexual consent relies on traditional sexual script theory rather than a communicative model of sexual consent. The current study addressed gaps in the literature by employing a vignette technique to examine effects of vignette character gender and alcohol use and observer gender on observers’ perceptions of sexual consent for characters presented in a nonconsensual sexual scenario. Participants (N=387) were recruited via MTurk and were administered 1 of 4 randomly assigned vignettes. Participants then responded to items related to the vignette, demographics, alcohol use, and past sexual experiences. Hypotheses proposed female participants would rate victim consent lower than would male participants, victim consent would be rated significantly higher for the alcohol condition than the condition with no alcohol, and participants would rate victim consent higher for the female perpetrator condition than the male perpetrator condition. It was also hypothesized that character gender and alcohol use would significantly interact such that participants would rate victim consent as particularly high for the alcohol/female perpetrator condition, and that participant gender would interact with character gender and alcohol use such that women, relative to men, would rate the encounter as less consensual for the male perpetrator/no alcohol condition. Beyond the stated hypotheses, the effects of participant alcohol use, past sexual experiences, age, and perceptions of character intoxication were explored. Results indicated a significant interaction such that men (but not women) rated the female perpetrator condition as more consensual than the male perpetrator condition. Further, participants’ age and ratings of victim intoxication were significantly associated with ratings of sexual consent. Implications and limitations of these findings are discussed.

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