UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Negotiating sexual consent among heterosexual students on a university campus Bruen, Merike


Sexual assault among university students is a well-documented and studied area of research. Sexual assault hinges on the lack of sexual consent, however, few studies have focused on investigating the normative negotiation of sexual consent particularly from the perspective of students themselves. This study explored in depth the meaning and the negotiation of sexual consent from the perspective of heterosexual university students. To acknowledge the exploratory and nascent area of study, a qualitative research design was employed incorporating the ethnographic interview. Two data sources were used in this study including; 10 individual interviews and a single all women’s focus group. Participants were heterosexually identified students between the ages of 18-24. How participants understood sexual consent was found to be shaped by a number of variables including participants’ (1) social world consisting of how they defined sexual consent, their sources of knowledge, their spatial location, their exposure to: media portrayals, gender roles and expectations and sexual messaging, (2) relationship type with role expectations varying if the partnership was new, long-term or casual, and (3) personal identity including their levels of self-confidence as well as their cultural identity. The negotiation of sexual consent was described as (1) a process occurring over time, (2) entailing the implementation of behavioural strategies to manage risks and fears, (3) involving both complex communication methods, and (4) after the fact justifications and explanations to make sense of transpired events. This study contributes a deeper and more nuanced understanding of sexual consent processes. Implications for future research are discussed.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada