• Open Access

A Decision Science–Informed Approach to Sexual Risk and Nonconsent


C. Farris (cfarris@rand.org)


Sexual risk reduction programs often assume that adolescents and young women care only about the minimization of their risks when making decisions about sexual encounters. As a result, these programs teach only the most effective strategies to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections or sexual victimization. We propose a translational decision science approach that addresses the other outcomes that adolescents and young women might consider. In this study, young women reported their sexual nonconsent goals in response to hypothetical encounters in which their partner wished to have sex when they did not. We found that young women highly valued communicating their intent clearly as an end in itself, as well as a means to avoid unwanted sex. However, they also cited other, potentially conflicting, goals such as maintaining relationship stability and protecting their partner. These other goals were associated with participants’ self-reported histories of sexual victimization. Young women who had been sexually coerced or raped attached greater importance to protecting their partner's feelings, preserving sexual relationships, and avoiding awkwardness or embarrassment, compared to young women without such experiences. We discuss the implications for creating sexual risk reduction programming relevant to young women with competing sexual nonconsent goals. Clin Trans Sci 2012; Volume 5: 482–485