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Sexual coercion proclivity : effect on appeal of sexual aggression and behaviour in response to environmental cues Thomas, Lindsey Anne

Abstract

The present research endeavors to predict prospectively sexually aggressive behaviours among heterosexual university males, while manipulating attitudes and emotions conducive to such behaviour. In both studies described below, questionnaires were used to assess risk for sexual aggression. For the first study (n = 65), participants were assigned to conditions: (1) insult/non-sexually coercive fantasy material; (2) no insult/sexually coercive fantasy material; and, (3) insult/sexually coercive fantasy material. Those deemed high risk for sexual coercion were more easily frustrated than the low group, especially when exposed to Condition 3. Changes in negative affect predicted likelihood of engaging in sexual aggression for the low but not the high risk group and anticipated enjoyment of sexual coercion in the high but not the low group. Controlling for degree of acculturation eliminated any differences between Chinese and Caucasian males. The results suggest that the appeal of sexually aggressive thoughts/fantasies is largely influenced by emotional reactivity in response to environmental stimuli. In the second study (n = 142), participants were assigned to conditions involving either an innocuous or a sexually aggressive cognitive priming task. Regardless of condition, high risk males were more likely to engage in sexual aggression in the laboratory than those deemed low risk. When the effects of discomfort were controlled, a significant interaction between risk and condition on sexual aggression was observed. While engaging in significantly less sexual aggression than the high group when assigned to the innocuous cognitive priming task, the low risk group assigned to the sexually aggressive cognitive priming task was indistinguishable from the high group. Chinese men were significantly more likely than Caucasian men to be deemed high risk and yet, this did not result in differential rates of sexual aggression in the laboratory. Discomfort in response to the sexually aggressive cognitive priming task did, however, result in Chinese men engaging in more sexual aggression than those assigned to the innocuous task. These findings suggest that even those not previously inclined towards sexual aggression can do so under opportunistic circumstances, following an increase in discomfort associated with exposure to and involvement with sexually coercive material.

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