Study Examines Why College Men Engage in Unwanted Sex With Women

Jessie Ford, a doctoral candidate in sociology at New York University, has published a new study that found that men enrolled in college at times have unwanted sex with women in order to conform to gender expectations and to avoid uncomfortable interactions with women and their peers.

Ford says that “men are motivated to have unwanted sex through a process where they try to avoid embarrassing themselves or their partner and seek to behave in interpretable ways. In particular, men consent to unwanted sex because accepting all opportunities for sexual activity is a widely accepted way to perform masculinity.”

In interviews with college men, Ford found that their explanations for having unwanted sex centered on their broader ideas about gender, which revealed the following: how men were expected to act; what men were expected to want; and what actions might make men lose face with their partner or others. “I think it’s an undercurrent to my thought-making that guys are supposed to enjoy sexual intercourse under any circumstances,” said one male student interviewed in the study.

Ford concludes that “men conduct their sex lives in the shadow of presumed gendered reputational consequences. They fear ridicule if stories are told portraying them as the kind of man who declines sex with an attractive woman.”

The full study, “Going With the Flow”: How College Men’s Experiences of Unwanted Sex Are Produced by Gendered Interactional Pressures,” was published in the journal Social Forces. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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