Date of Award

Summer 2007

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Oswald, Debra

Second Advisor

Franzoi, Stephen

Third Advisor

Grych, John


The phenomenon of consenting to unwanted sexual activity in heterosexual relationships has made a recent appearance in the empirical literature. However, studies have found that it is a relatively common occurrence. The present study reviews a definition of the concept and the reasons given for consenting to unwanted sexual activity. Three specific theories are outlined that could potentially explain the behavior: attachment theory, evolutionary theory, and the Traditional Sexual Script (TSS). Additionally, the role of sexual communication is explored. A proposed model is presented that focuses on adherence to the TSS and ability to communicate sexual preferences. This model takes into account both individual and dyadic factors, and therefore, provides a strong framework for understanding consenting to unwanted sexual activity. This model was tested in a sample of 77 heterosexual couples of college-age. In the present sample, men were more likely than women to consent to unwanted sex in order to avoid negative consequences, such as conflict within the relationship. The individual and dyadic implications of this are explored. The results also suggest that the woman's level of adherence to the TSS predicts her own, as well as her partner's, consenting to unwanted sex. The ability to communicate sexual preferences moderated the association between adherence to the TSS and consenting to unwanted sex, suggesting that communication is extremely important in predicting the behavior. When an individual was able to communicate his or her sexual desires, adherence to the TSS no longer predicted consenting to unwanted sex. These data suggest that"couples should work to foster strong communication skills in order to reduce the likelihood that consenting to unwanted sex will occur.



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