Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version

May 2005


Published in Aggression and Violent Behavior, Volume 10, Issue 4 (May-June 2005), pp. 513-532. Copyright © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. Used by permission.


This paper reviews current research regarding the prevalence and possible etiological factors associated with male sexual coercion, defined here as a class of inappropriate male behaviors in which nonphysical tactics (e.g., verbal pressure, lying, deceit, and continual arguments) are utilized to obtain sexual contact with an unwilling adult female. This form of sexual misconduct is contrasted with sexual aggression (i.e., forcible rape), in which the threat or use of physical force is utilized to gain sexual contact. A conceptual framework for understanding and examining sexual coercion within the broader context of male sexual misconduct is offered. This model consists of two primary dimensions: (1) types of sexual contact and (2) tactics for obtaining sexual contact, which intersect to form quadrants representing distinct categories of sexual misconduct. The broader sexual misconduct literature is utilized to shed light on possible predictors and etiological factors associated specifically with sexual coercion. These factors fall into four categories: (1) attitudinal or belief systems, (2) behavioral tendencies, (3) personality characteristics, and (4) childhood abuse experiences. Literature in each of these areas is reviewed and discussed. Finally, methodological and conceptual considerations for sexual misconduct research are presented.