Study Shows That Men Still Don't Understand Consent

by Christine Burke
Originally Published: 
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We are in the midst of a reckoning.

Women are pissed and we will no longer be silent when it comes to sexual assault and misogyny.

If we’ve learned anything from the last few months, as high profile men are falling from grace left and right, it’s that women have forced the dialogue about what’s appropriate in the workplace, on dates and in our relationships.

We have demanded that the discussion about consent and sexual interest be pushed to the forefront of pretty much every interaction we have with men these days.

We give zero fucks and, now, science is backing up what women have known since… I don’t know, forever.

In a recent study, published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, researchers from Binghamton University found that men do not understand the difference between consent and sexual interest.

Let me say that again for people in the back: researchers have found that the men in their study tended to confuse perceived sexual interest with being given the green light to have sex.

The researchers conducted a study on 145 mostly white, heterosexual men from a college in the southeastern U.S. (more on that in a minute) and they collected data on the men as they reacted to various hypothetical sexual scenarios. The men were told that they were on a hypothetical date with “a girl the participant finds very attractive” and with whom they’d like to have sex.

And the results surprised no one. Well, except for the guys in the study, I’d imagine.

The study found that men tend to confuse sexual interest with consent, regardless of the situation. Even if a woman has said no, whether verbally or with a physical action indicating that she was not interested in engaging in sex.

The study goes on to point out that there are two specific instances when men are even more likely to assume that a woman has consented — previous sexual activity between the man and the woman or if the woman’s consent is ambiguous. In these situations, men just can’t seem to grasp right from wrong.

So, pretty much, this study is saying that if you’ve had sex with a guy and you didn’t yell “I DON’T WANT TO FUCK YOU” very loudly, men are still confused about consent.

Seriously, men, get your shit together. For reals.

We are tired of spelling this out for you, guys.

It’s. Not. That. Hard. To. Grasp.

And don’t give me that “women need to speak up” nonsense. Because no. Victims are never at fault for being sexually attacked. Never.

You can miss me with that bullshit.

Now, is this study flawed?

You bet it is. Because the participant pool is made up of 145 Brock Turner types: white, college-aged men in the southeastern U.S. Does it represent minority men? No. Is it a wide enough cross-section of the men in our country? Not by a long shot.

But, it’s something. It’s evidence-based research that points to a larger issue: rape culture is alive and well in our country. And it’s up to us women to change men’s perception.


Come on, guys. We are tired. Meet us halfway here, would you?

The results of this study are telling us what women have been saying for years: men need to be taught about consent early and, seemingly, we need to use very small words for them to understand when we want to have sex.

It’s infuriating.

I have a 15-year-old son and a friend recently asked me if I was worried about sending him off to college in a few years. She postulated that college campuses are hard for young men these days, because college campuses have seemingly put white men on notice for their sexual behavior. And, in her mind, it’s not fair because girls are teases and fickle.

No, Felicia, I’m not worried about sending my son to a campus where he lives and parties in close proximity to women.

Because I’ve taught him to keep his dick in his pants and to not touch anyone without permission. #ByeFelicia

I am working every day to clear my son’s brain of the rape myths that are deeply embedded in our society. Phrases like “when a girl says no, she really means yes” and the absurd notion that a girl is turned on when she’s force to have sex. I take every opportunity to talk to him openly about sexual contact and appropriate behavior when he’s alone with his partner.

These conversations are necessary and it’s my job as a parent to make sure that his future partners are protected. I would be failing not only him, but anyone he has sex with if I didn’t take the time to clearly and openly discuss rape culture with him.

And I started talking to him about consent years ago.

My message is simple, too: if you’d like to touch your partner in a sexual way, you ask with words that are clear and leave no room for error.

It’s. Just. That. Simple.

Think before you ask.

Ask before you touch.

I can’t use smaller words than those, guys.

Come on, now.

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