Why Some Women Consent to Unwanted Sex With a Dating Partner: Insights from Attachment Theory



Several studies have shown that many college women engage in unwanted sexual activity with a dating partner. However, little research has examined the differences between women who comply with requests for unwanted sexual activity and women who do not. This study utilized an attachment theory framework to investigate individual differences in women’s compliant sexual behavior. An ethnically diverse sample of 125 college women who had consented to unwanted sex with a current dating partner completed measures of their attachment style, commitment to their current relationship, perceptions of their partner’s commitment, and willingness to consent to unwanted sex in a hypothetical scenario. Results showed that attachment style and commitment perceptions were associated with women’s willingness to consent to unwanted sex with a dating partner in the hypothetical scenario and their reasons for this decision. As predicted, anxiously attached women were the most willing to consent to unwanted sex, and they often cited fears that their partner would lose interest in them as reasons for their compliance. Contrary to hypotheses, avoidantly attached women were not the least willing to consent to unwanted sex. They often reported passively complying with a partner’s sexual request in order to fulfill relationship obligations. The importance of sexuality to attachment formation in dating relationships and the potential consequences of consenting to unwanted sex are discussed.