Abstract: Female Emerging Adults in College: Perspectives on Sexual Consent (Society for Prevention Research 27th Annual Meeting)

100 Female Emerging Adults in College: Perspectives on Sexual Consent

Tuesday, May 28, 2019
Pacific D/L (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Katherine M. Dorman, MS, Graduate Assistant, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Rosemary V. Barnett, PhD, Professor, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Kate Fogarty, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Marit Ostebo, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Introduction: The purpose of this study was to examine the beliefs and behaviors of female Emerging Adults in college relating to sexual consent, and how these ideas relate to an individual’s well-being. With the #MeToo campaign, the Bill Cosby trial and national attention on Ford and Kavanaugh, there is an increased need for research to be conducted on sexual consent and prevention programs aimed at reducing instances of rape and sexual violence.

Methods: This study used a survey that combined multiple questionnaires that were developed by the research team as well as an existing measure of consent: Sexual Consent Scale- Revised. These questionnaires were used to answer the two questions that are the focus of this poster and are of great importance to schools, universities and prevention program developers: How does an individual’s sexual behavior, beliefs or attitudes relate to individual wellbeing? and How does an individual’s sexual behavior relate to sexual consent?

Results: This study was a preliminary look into sexual consent in emerging adulthood with a focus on wellbeing. The study included a total of 74 females enrolled in college. The range of ages was from 18 to 28, with a mean age of 19.88 years (SD 2.091). Half of the students indicated they were single (n=37, 50%). The two most salient findings for this presentation are: There is an “Idealized” idea of sexual consent, disconnected from behavior, highlighted by the cognitive dissonance shown in responses to two items— 93% of individuals believed they should always get consent before sexual activity, yet only 11% responded that they always get verbal consent before the start of any sexual activity. The second most important finding is that lack of perceived behavioral control has a significant, positive relationship with assuming consent (r=.504, p=.000). These findings indicate that there is a relationship between behavioral control and the tricky subject of assuming consent.

Conclusions: This research is especially important in the current political/cultural climate—promoting positivity, health and sexual knowledge is becoming increasingly imperative. The baseball model of getting to “bases” and “scoring” dominates US culture and may lead to ideas of competition versus ideas of enthusiastic consent. This study has implications for current and future initiatives targeting increasing knowledge of sexual consent and reducing instances of rape and sexual violence, especially on campuses. If individuals are not confident with giving or asking for consent, this can lead to misunderstandings. Prevention programs need to teach individuals how to confidently discuss sexual consent with all partners—this can lead to an increase in perceived behavioral control and self-efficacy.