Relationships between college women's responses to the multidimensional sexuality questionnaire and the heterosexual contact scale.

Author:Anderson, Peter B.


Sexual aggression is a pervasive problem on college campuses. For example, in a large national study, Fisher, Cullen, and Turner (2000) reported that approximately 15-20 percent of college women have experienced forced intercourse. Most research has examined college men's sexual aggression toward women (e.g., Carr & VanDeusen, 2004; Romero, 2004). Sexually aggressive men have been described as being hypermasculine, angry, desiring power, and having negative relationship experiences (Browning, Kessler, Hatfield, & Choo, 1999; Christopher, Owens, & Stecker, 1993; Hogben, Byrne, & Hamburger, 1996).

In contrast, the notion of women's sexual aggression challenges long held theories about human sexual behavior (see Anderson & Struckman--Johnson, 1998). Several factors have been related to women's heterosexual aggression including: sexual behavior history and adolescent telephone calling patterns (Anderson, Kontos, Tanigoshi, & Struckman-Johnson 2005); hostility toward the other gender (Christopher, Madura, & Weaver, 1998); and a belief in non-traditional roles for women (Craig-Shea, 1998).

Researchers (Anderson, Kontos, Tanigoshi, & Struckman-Johnson 2005; Anderson & Melson, 2002) have reported that more than 90 percent of college women used sexual persuasion to obtain sex from a man. The same study reported that 40-50 percent of women used non-physical coercion, and 1-9 percent used physical force. However, previous research has not considered the underlying psychological factors supporting college women's sexual aggression. Linking aspects of measurable psychological factors to sexual aggression in women may help us predict and prevent its occurrence. Therefore, the present study was designed to provide an initial exploration of the relationships between measures of women's psychosexual tendencies and their use of sexually aggressive behaviors.

One self-report measure of psychological tendencies related to human sexuality is the Multidimensional Sexuality Questionnaire (MSQ: (Snell, Fisher, & Walters, 1993). The MSQ contains 12 factors related to sexuality: preoccupation, motivation, anxiety, assertiveness, depression, monitoring, self-esteem, internal control, external control, consciousness, satisfaction, and fear. The MSQ has demonstrated good concurrent, discriminant, and convergent validity (Snell, Fisher, & Walters, 1993). The MSQ was tested with three separate samples of heterosexual college students from three different types of universities, two located in the Midwest and one in the Southeast (n = 234 males and 423 females, M age of samples = 24.1, 20.4, and 21 years). Men, in general, reported higher scores on sexual e Esteem, preoccupation, motivation, assertiveness, and external sexual control. Women, in general, reported higher scores on fear of sexual relations.

Correlations were computed for MSQ scores and reports of sexual behaviors on two separate instruments, the Cowart-Steckler Scale of Sexual Experience (Cowart-Steckler & Pollack, 1988) and the Human Sexuality Questionnaire (Zuckerman, 1988). For both men and women, past sexual activity was positively related to their level of sexual esteem, motivation, and satisfaction and negatively related to their sexual anxiety, depression, and external control. Fear was negatively related, and assertiveness was positively related to the two measures of sexual behavior for women, but not for men. Correlations between the MSQ and sexual attitudes revealed that respondents with higher scores on preoccupation believed more strongly in casual, guilt free sex and manipulative self-centered sex (Hendrick & Hendrick, 1987). Those subjects who had higher scores on motivation mirrored those who scored high on preoccupation and also believed in responsible and nonjudgmental sex and idealized sex (e.g., the merging of two souls). External control was related to casual guilt-free and manipulative self-centered sex and internal control was related to responsible nonjudgmental sex. Finally, consciousness was related to responsible nonjudgmental sex and anxiety was related to manipulative self-centered sex.

Snell, Fisher, and Walters (1993) concluded that all but two (internal control and monitoring) of the twelve factors were predictive of people's likelihood of engaging in sexual relations. Moreover, those persons who reported greater sexual anxiety, depression, and external control were less likely to initiate sexual relations. Both men's and women's MSQ scores appear to be predictably related to their sexual behaviors.

One frequently used self-report measure of women's heterosexual strategies to obtain sexual contact is the Heterosexual Contact Scale (HSC) originally developed by Anderson (1988). Other measures that have shown promise in measuring women's use of sexual strategies include Krahe, Scheinberger-Olwig, and Bieneck (2003) and O'Sullivan and Byers (1993). Both these questionnaires have seen very limited use compared to the HSC.

In a study of women from an urban university in the south (n = 272, Mean age = 25.9 years) and a rural university in the midwest (n = 268, Mean age = 21.3 years), Anderson, Kontos, Tanigoshi, and Struckman-Johnson (2005) assessed demographics, geographical location, sexual behavior history, past abuse, and adolescent telephone calling patterns (e.g., how many boys they called and how often they called boys) in relation to self-reported use of sexually aggressive and non-aggressive strategies using the Heterosexual Contact Scale (HSC: Anderson, 1998) to obtain sex from men. The 45 questions contained in the HSC were modeled after the work of Koss and Oros (1982) and formatted in the same style, e.g.: "How many times have you had sexual contact with a man ...?". The items were intended to assess women's behaviors related to establishing sexual contact with men. Anderson et al. (2005) found no differences between the two geographical groups in the use of aggressive or non-aggressive sexual strategies. Within the groups, university women who used physical force strategies reported a younger age at first intercourse, more lifetime sexual partners, and made more telephone calls to more boys during adolescence. Women who used coercive strategies also reported more lifetime sexual partners. The authors concluded that the use of sexually aggressive strategies by women in this sample was related to their sexual behavior history and adolescent calling patterns rather than their geographical location or demographics. This was the first study to find a relationship between the rehearsal behavior of adolescent calling patterns and the adult use of aggressive sexual strategies. The relationships reported in the study linked the use of non-physical coercion and physical force strategies to possible indicators of the respondents' psychosexual preoccupation, motivation, and assertiveness.

A study by Christopher, Madura, and Weaver (1998) examined the responses of single college men and women to a modified version of the Koss and Oros (1985) survey about their sexually aggressive behaviors. They found initial support for a positive relationship between the use of sexual aggression and the following factors: associating with sexually aggressive individuals, relationship conflict, ambivalence (but not for commitment), the acceptance of rape myths, hostility toward the other gender, and being sexually aggressive in the past. Surprisingly, there was no support for a relationship between sexual aggression and gender. For women and men, relationship conflict and the past use of aggressive strategies were positively related to sexual aggression. Sexual aggression was also positively related to hostility toward men among women, and acceptance of rape myths among men. The researchers argued that women experience more success with the use of aggressive strategies to obtain sex than men. They believe that women are, therefore, more likely to experience their desired outcome, which will reinforce the use of these strategies in future relationships.

Craig-Shea (1998) examined sexual coercion toward men among 432 college women from a large southeastern college. She found that the coercive women were more likely than the non-coercive women to have sex...

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