Sexual communication skills are needed to create healthy romantic relationships. Arguably, these skills also can be used to prevent some instances of unwanted sex. This study presents a qualitative analysis of adolescents’ comments after reading a teen-friendly article on sexual consent as part of a web-based sexual health promotion intervention. The sample was comprised predominantly of female adolescents recruited from a Midwest urban region in the United States. Adolescents varied with respect to self-efficacy to request, provide, and deny consent, as well as the perceived need to ask for consent in the context of established relationships. Many adolescents perceived that nonverbal methods of communication were sufficient to request, provide, or deny sexual consent. Factors that make it difficult to discuss sexual boundaries and say “no” to unwanted sex included low self-efficacy and an underlying desire to nurture or preserve a relationship. Cultural norms must be changed to support verbal, affirmative sexual consent. In addition, adolescents must be aided in the development of skills to request sexual consent, say “yes” to specific activities, and say “no” to others. Without supportive norms and skills to enhance self-efficacy, adolescents may be unwilling to engage in verbal communication about sexual consent and boundaries.
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- qualitative research
- sexual boundaries
- sexual consent