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Two-year panel data on a random sample of 54 college women were used to assess the link between rape supportive attitudes, prior experiences with sexual coercion, and vulnerability to sexual coercion while in college. Analysis showed that (1) rape supportive attitudes had no effect on vulnerability to physical coercion, rape, or alcohol/drug-related nonconsensual sex, (2) rape supportive attitudes were not changed by experiences with coercion, and (3) prior sexual coercion did not predict vulnerability over a two-year period. There was an increase in unwanted sex through nonviolent means (lies, threats to end the relationship) over the two-year period for women who held sex role stereotyped beliefs and a decrease in nonviolent unwanted sex for women who endorsed rape myths. Otherwise, these college women's attitudes and individual characteristics were generally not predictive of their risk for most sexual victimization.
Sexual coercion is a pervasive problem on American college campuses, and the incidence of date rape appears not to have changed much in the last 15 to 20 years (Johnson et al., 1992). In a national sample of American college women, Koss et al. (1987) found 54 percent had experienced some form of sexual victimization. Classifying those who had been sexually victimized into groups according to the severity of assault, 14.4 percent had experienced sexual contact (unwanted sex play), 11.9 percent had experienced sexual coercion (unwanted sexual intercourse), 12.1 percent were victims of attempted rape, and 15.4 percent were victims of rape (Koss, 1989). Garrett-Gooding and Senter (1987) reported that more than 75 percent of the college women in their study had experienced some form of sexual victimization while in college and 28 percent of the victimized women had experienced attempted rape. Himelein (1995) found that 52 percent of college women had, over their lifetimes, experienced some form of sexual victimiz ation while dating. Nineteen percent of the women had experienced sexual contact, 22 percent had experienced attempted rape or sexual coercion, and 11 percent had been raped (Himelein, 1995).
While much has been learned about the factors that predispose individuals to use sexual coercion in intimate relationships, recent research in the U.S. has focused on vulnerability or factors that may perpetuate sexual victimization. One of the major models of vulnerability that has guided the research on sexual victimization is the social-psychological characteristics model (Koss and Dinero, 1989). This model focuses on the personality, attitudes or values of individuals that may facilitate sexual victimization. Ageton (1988) has argued that the social-psychological characteristics model includes two contradictory assumptions about the connection between sex roles and victimization. On the one hand, the model posits a social control theory of sexual coercion, suggesting that traditional socialization puts women at greater risk because of passivity and the tendency to give in to male demands. But at the same time, nontraditional women may be at higher risk for victimization because of nonconformity and viola tion of traditional sex roles. A substantial body of research has focused on the link between women's sex roles and their experiences with sexual coercion (see for example Bernard et al., 1985; Himelein, 1995; Murnen and Byrne, 1991). However, the results of these research efforts are inconsistent and contradictory.
Some studies have found that nontraditional attitudes are associated with increased coercion among college women. Bernard et al. (1985) reported that women who were "more clearly traditionally feminine" reported less abuse in dating relationships than less clearly sex-typed women. In a widely cited study, Muehlenhard and Linton (1987) found that, compared to women who had not experienced sexual assault, victims had nontraditional sex role attitudes. In addition, victims had higher scores than nonvictims on two of three standard scales that measure attitudes related to sexual coercion, the acceptance of interpersonal violence and the belief that sexual relationships are adversarial (Muehlenhard and Linton, 1987).
On the other hand, some research has reported that traditional femininity has been related to increased sexual victimization among college women. In a study of the influence of attitudes on women's experiences with sexual coercion, Murnen and Byrne (1991) found that college women who had "hyperfeminine" attitudes (traditional attitudes regarding women's rights and roles) reported higher total victimization experiences than women who had nontraditional attitudes. Murnen et al. (1989) argue that traditionality encourages women to be passive victims and thereby reduces effective response to sexual aggression. In a study of sex roles and sexual abuse, Burke et al. (1988) reported that sustaining and inflicting sexual abuse was associated with a "more feminine identity" for both women and men.
When attitudes have …