A recent study from “Violence and Gender” found that nearly 32 percent of college male participants said they would “force a woman to [have] sexual intercourse.” When asked if they would “rape a woman,” that number dwindled to 14 percent.
To be clear, the wording is different, but the two questions are meant to ask the same thing. So why is there a discrepancy in answers?
According to the study, published in November by researchers at the University of North Dakota:
“Behaviorally descriptive survey items (i.e.,‘‘Have you ever coerced somebody to intercourse by holding them down?’’) versus labeling survey items (i.e., ‘‘Have you ever raped somebody?’’) will yield different responses, in that more men will admit to sexually coercive behaviors and more women will self-report victimization when behavioral descriptions are used instead of labels.”
This isn’t a new finding. The study cites a report from 1998 that corroborates that statement. Misunderstanding aside, what do the answers reveal about the participants?
Of the 86 male college students polled, those who admitted to the intention of “rape” — when the word was used in its clearest form — were hostile, believing women to be deceitful. While this study was not a nationally representative sample, the study’s main researcher Sarah Edwards told Newsweek that “the team hopes to conduct this research on a larger scale.”
Those that said “yes” when asked if they would coerce a woman into sex had “callous sexual attitudes” connected with female objectification.
“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to sexual assault prevention,” the study concludes. But identifying those who “harbor different motivations” pertaining to sexual assault ahead of time could lead to better individual-based prevention programs.