Academic journal article Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality

Predicting the Use of Sexual Initiation Tactics in a Sample of College Women

Academic journal article Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality

Predicting the Use of Sexual Initiation Tactics in a Sample of College Women

Article excerpt


Significant attention has been focused on women's initiation of sexual contact with men and the point at which this initiation becomes sexual aggression. The purpose of this study was to examine possible predictors of the use of three conceptually distinct sets of sexual initiation tactics: seduction, coercion, and force. Relationships between women's personal characteristics, future expectancies about sex and relationships, the 'rehearsal behavior' of telephone calling patterns in adolescence, sexual self-esteem, past abuse, and past sexual abuse were related to measures of women's sexual initiation and aggression. Survey respondents were 272, mostly white women students with a mean age of 26 years. A complex relationship emerged between predictor and outcome variables. Social learning theory is utilized to interpret the findings and recommend future research directions.


Women's sexual initiation

Sexual initiation is defined as any acknowledged attempt on the part of the respondent to establish sexual contact. For more than a decade significant attention has been focused on the phenomenon of women's initiation of sexual contact with men. Studies conducted in the 1980's focused on the incidence and prevalence of women's sexual initiation, the impact it had on the male receivers, and women's reasons for initiating sexual contact (Anderson, 1990; calderwood*, 1987; Muehlenhard & Cook, 1988; Muehlenhard & Long, 1988; Sarrel & Masters, 1982; Struckman-Johnson, 1988). Findings from these studies indicatedthat women participate in a broad range of behaviors, including attempts at arousing a partner, threats to end a relationship, force, and taking advantage of someone who is too intoxicated to resist, to accomplish sexual contact with men. Also, women were reported to initiate sexual contact for a wide variety of reasons, including arousal, a need to have power and control, and as a reaction to past abuse. Finally, prior research supports the contention that nonaggressive and aggressive sexual initiation tactics differ in prevalence, motive, and impact. While research has established the prevalence of a variety of initiatory behavior, less is known regarding the predictors of such behavior. To further our understanding of female's sexual behavior; the purpose of this study was to test the ability of selected variables to predict college women's use of seduction and/or aggression tactics to obtain sexual contact with a man.

Seductive (i.e., nonaggressive) tactics include behaviors such as dancing seductively, wearing specific clothes or perfume, or giving massages. Aggressive tactics include coercive behaviors such as threats to end a relationship, lies, or psychological manipulation and physical force tactics such as hitting, holding someone down, or the threat or use of a weapon.

Researchers have attempted to broaden their understanding of women's use of initiation tactics and specifically the use of aggressive tactics by considering the role of cultural norms and expectations, and the psychological characteristics of individuals that promote differences in aggressive and nonaggressive initiation tactics (Anderson & Sorenson, 1999; Anderson & Aymami, 1993; O'Sullivan & Byers, 1993). The authors of these studies have reported that among college women in the US, women living in the South are less aggressive than women in the East and that women who believe in rape myths and/or hold adversarial beliefs about relationships are more likely to use aggressive tactics. Researchers have also made comparisons between the experiences of women and men as initiators and receivers (Bauserman & Rind, 1997; Greer & Buss, 1994; McConaghy & Zamir, 1995; Struckman-Johnson & Struckman-Johnson, 1994) concluding that women are more negatively affected by receiving sexual aggression. The experiences of men who were sexually 'assaulted' (King & Woollett, 1997), or sexually 'pressured and forced' (Struckman-Johnson & Struckman-Johnson, 1994) by women have been examined. …

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