Understanding why people commit sexually aggressive acts is imperative in order to decrease this type of behavior. Men who engage in sexual aggression do so for a variety of reasons, and in a variety of settings. Sexual aggression is also a broad term and can refer to verbal aggression or physical aggression. The label covers all aspects of sexual contact, including unwanted touching, molestation, abuse, and rape.
There are currently several different tools used to assess sexually aggressive behavior. However, the responses to these scales differ significantly from one to another. To test how reliable and consistent these measures are, Emily Strang of the Department of Psychology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis recently led two studies using three different sexual aggression scales. The first study involved 398 male college students, while the second included 198 college aged men and young adult men outside of college.
The results revealed that the responses the men gave varied widely from tool to tool. In other words, men who responded to having highly aggressive sexual behavior on one tool did not report the same behavior on the other. Specifically, almost 25% of the men in the first study reported an aggressive sex act on one scale, but only 6.7% reported a sexually aggressive act on more than one scale.
This suggests that the wording between the scales was so different that it did not elicit the same response. Types of sexual aggression were also mixed from scale to scale. For instance, one scale worded the sexual acts in specific detail while another referred to sex acts as being oral, anal, or vaginal. Further, sexual coercion was described differently on each scale, which could lead to confusion for the respondents. Alcohol and drug use was also termed differently, distorting the consistency of the responses and more.
Strang believes the inconsistencies in the wording from scale to scale leads to discrepancies in responses. She added, “Reliable and valid measurement is an essential step in identifying the correlates of men’s sexual aggression, which, in turn, is necessary for developing effective rape prevention efforts aimed at men.”
Strang, Emily, et al. (2013).Discrepant Responding across Self-Report Measures of Men’s Coercive and Aggressive Sexual Strategies. Journal of Sex Research. Vol. 50 Issue 5, p458-469. 12p. DOI: 10.1080/00224499.2011.646393.
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