Most women who have used a public, workplace or school restroom likely will affirm that pamphlets on sexual and domestic violence, like sinks and paper towel dispensers, are familiar wall fixtures.
St. Thomas senior Kylee Joosten, 21, noticed, and subsequently she felt compelled to explore the subject by adding male victims to the equation. A sociology major, she took her observation one step further in a summer research project, “Analyzing the Use of Heterosexual Perpetration Tactics in Sexually Coercive Undergraduates.”
“Last year I asked my male friends if they had information on sexual assault in men’s restrooms on campus, and they said they did not (though now they do),” she said. ”We have a social perception that women are always the victims and men are always the perpetrators in sexual assaults. So I wanted to look at sexual coercion perpetration among both men and women.”
She also spent one month gathering background information and discovered that most research focused on male or female sexual coercion, but rarely did she find comparative studies of tactics employed by both genders in coercing unwilling partners to have sex.
Joosten analyzed a data set provided by her project adviser, Dr. Lisa Waldner, Sociology and Criminal Justice Department, who conducted a survey on “intimate relationship issues” at an urban, southwestern U.S. university. Waldner’s sample size consisted of 411 heterosexual undergraduates (265 females, 146 males) with an average age of 26.35 years.
“Very little sexual coercion research has examined the attitudes and experiences of those who actually pressure their partners,” Waldner said. Finding a link between those who see themselves as controlling and their own self-report of initiating unwanted sexual contact is interesting and deserves more investigation.”
In Joosten’s study, which was funded by a Young Scholars Grant from St. Thomas’ Grants and Research Office, she defined sexual coercion as “the use of either physical or verbal tactics to force or persuade an unwilling person into performing sexual acts to which they would not have otherwise consented.”
She defined a perpetrator of sexual coercion as “any respondent who reported using one of the 14 listed tactics (intoxication, threats to stop seeing, making date feel guilty, persistent begging, threatening to tell lies, telling lies, threatening to blackmail, detaining one’s date, attempting to spark interest by touching, making false promises, physical restraint, using or threatening to use a weapon, threatening to use force and using physical force) to coerce a partner into an unwanted sexual act.”
Here are some of the highlights of Joosten’s study of Waldner’s survey:
In her analysis, Joosten focused on four items, scored from mild to severe:
Editor’s note: Kylee Joosten’s research was funded in part by a Young Scholars grant.