Perceptions of Consent in Male-Initiated Versus Female-initiated Ambiguous Sexual Interactions
Sexual script theory explains that there are socially learnt gendered roles in sex which play an important part in the research of sexual consent. According to these scripts, it can be assumed that men prefer implicit consent, women prefer explicit consent, men’s consent can generally be assumed, and males will downplay theirs and other’s victimisation of unwanted sex. These assumptions are often supported by consent research which use methods relating to traditional scripts, such as vignettes depicting males initiating sex. It is unknown if the same expectations of sexual consent are present in a situation in which a female initiates sexual advances instead. The current study examines if there is a difference in how male sexual consent is perceived compared to female sexual consent by utilising two vignettes, one which depicted a male initiating sex with a female and one which depicted a female initiating sex with a male. Perceptions of consent by 127 participants were measured using a vignette and scale based on a those used in a previous study on sexual consent by Humphreys (2007). The vignette was adapted to create a variation where a female initiates sex with a male. When introducing a vignette depicting a female initiator, some findings still align with sexual scripts such as gendered implicit and explicit consensual preferences. However, the assumption that men generally always consent to sex due to an innate desire was not supported and the feminine role of ‘victim’ is also put into question. The findings highlight a need for modern revision of traditional sexual script theory as the basis of understanding consent.