Sexual communication is critical to establishing sexual encounters. Sexual script theory has been used to explore how individuals communicate sexual consent and perceive sexual consent cues. Gender differences appear to dictate how consent cues are expressed and interpreted. Using a sample of 309 U.S. heterosexual participants (Mage = 34.6 years, range = 19.3–72.2), we explore how single and partnered women and men interpret and perceive cues for consenting to sexual behaviors in a hypothetical situation. Results revealed that relationship length and sexual self-disclosure did not affect how individuals would communicate sexual consent; gender differences were identified as women reported being more likely to interpret their use of direct forms of communication as consent indications whereas men reported they were more likely to interpret their use of indirect communication strategies as consent indications. Within-subjects analyses suggest that some forms of communication would be interpreted differently depending on if they were to be used by the participant or used by the participant’s partner. Although there is considerable agreement across genders on what classes of behaviors are indicative of consent, differences in the sexual scripts of men and women may contribute to gender differences in consent. Given these gender and within-subjects’ differences, further research is needed to explore the nuances of sexual communication.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was funded by a dissertation award from the University of Minnesota Family Social Science Department and by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, grant UL1TR002494. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. Acknowledgements
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- Gender differences
- Sexual consent
- Sexual script theory