Newswise — Despite longstanding and intense consent training, many straight men on college campuses still aren’t doing well in gaining the explicit consent of their female sexual partners. Absent a clear and spoken, “No!” or demand to stop, young men are using non-verbal cues and presumed behaviors to assure themselves that their partner is willfully participating.
In her paper, “Moaning and Eye Contact: College Men's Negotiations of Sexual Consent in Theory and in Practice” University of Michigan doctoral student, Nicole Bedera, found that too often men don’t obtain verbal consent during sexual encounters. They use behavioral cues and signals as all the consent they need as they begin and continue sex with a female partner.
“A lot of the guys will say, “I knew sex would happen because, well we made eye contact. Or I knew sex would happen because she came to my room and she wasn’t wearing a bra,” Bedera explained. “It’s not that these signals and behaviors are isolated, the men were looking at the behaviors to support their belief that a woman wanted to have a sexual encounter.”
An unnerving finding Bedera uncovered is that the college men she interviewed believe that they are encouraged to continue by a woman’s moans. “Some men told me that when they heard a woman moaning, that was clear indication that she was aroused and enjoying herself. But moaning only happens after sexual contact has begun. And moaning can also indicate pain. The men didn’t consider that.”
Bedera also found that many of the men who were interviewed simply couldn’t articulate a definition of consent. And of those who tried, it was evident that some offered changes to their definition so as to excuse their own behavior which would prove they had not explicitly gotten a partner’s consent.
Bedera’s findings make it clear that even among men who have been taught how to obtain sexual consent, the message still isn’t clear to them.
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The paper, “Moaning and Eye Contact: College Men's Negotiations of Sexual Consent in Theory and in Practice,” will be presented on Tuesday, Aug. 15 in Montréal at the American Sociological Association’s 112th Annual Meeting.
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Papers presented at the ASA Annual Meeting are typically working papers that have not yet been published in peer-reviewed journals.