Please join us for a talk being given by Jessie Ford from Columbia University.
Unwanted Sex on Campus: The Overlooked Role of Interactional Pressures and Sexual Scripts
Existing research has identified risk factors for unwanted sex on campus, but has missed important social interactional pressures. This talk examines 110 heterosexual and LGBQ college students’ accounts of unwanted sex. My analysis shows how interactional dynamics combine with sexual scripts (or their absence) to facilitate unwanted sex with same-sex and other-sex partners. Accounts reveal that, as a sexual encounter proceeds, students monitor what is happening, and decide how to act in ways that are socially legible. I show that unwanted sex arises from interactional work as well as from sexual scripts, which provide the content for what allows a person to behave in socially acceptable and intelligible ways. I integrate interactional theory with a sexual scripting approach to explore, for instance, how heterosexual men consent to unwanted sex because accepting all opportunities for sex is a widely accepted way to perform masculinity. I show how the possibility of sexual violence is a familiar narrative and realistic outcome for women; thus, fear of violence discourages some women from leaving quickly, even in cases when the woman knows the man, and when he has reportedly done nothing to indicate that he would use force. For gay and bisexual men, I find it is not so much sexual scripts, but their ambiguity that leads men into encounters or places where they are rendered most vulnerable to unwanted sex.