Knowledge Gaps, Perceived Barriers, and Perceived Rewards in Sexual Consent
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Sexual consent, or the communication of willingness to participate in sex, is crucial in all sexual interactions. Whereas educators and researchers emphasize an ideal of consent (i.e., “affirmative” consent; Muehlenhard et al., 2016), lay practices of consent rarely conform to this ideal. This research investigated participants’ (1) spontaneous conceptualizations of consent, (2) relations of those conceptualizations to traditional measures of sexual consent attitudes and behaviours, and (3) perceptions of challenges and benefits related to effective consent communication. In an online study, participants (N = 231) participants responded to open-ended items about their consent understandings and experiences, and completed quantitative measures of their consent attitudes and behaviours. In Part 1, I examined participants’ sexual consent definitions and their relation to measures of sexual consent attitudes and behaviour. There was considerable variation in the complexity of participants’ definitions, which reflected seven core behavioural themes. Certain themes (e.g., articulation of boundaries, consent as a process) were associated with more positive consent attitudes, but others (e.g., consent as internal desire, lack of coercion) were not. In Part 2, I identified perceived barriers and rewards to consent. Prevalent challenges included fear of negative emotions, partner’s disrespect of boundaries, difficulty understanding a partner, and difficulty rejecting a partner’s sexual initiation; the most common perceived rewards included a sense of safety, increased relationship/sexual quality, and clarity of expectations between partners. The results suggest that participants have a sophisticated understanding of consent with specific areas for growth, that some aspects of affirmative consent may not be relevant to all audiences, and that a number of barriers and potential incentives to consent exist which can be used to tailor interventions. Strengths and limitations of this work, implications for sexual health educators, and recommendations for future research are discussed.
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Jessica Edwards (2020). Knowledge Gaps, Perceived Barriers, and Perceived Rewards in Sexual Consent. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/16179
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