MISPERCEPTIONS OF FRIENDLY BEHAVIOR AS SEXUAL INTEREST: A SURVEY OF NATURALLY OCCURRING INCIDENTS

Authors

  • Antonia Abbey

    1. Pennsylvania State University
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    • Requests for reprints should be sent to Antonia Abbey, Department of Community Medicine, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48201


  • Note: Sexual coercion is defined as any level of forced sexual activity. Means are reported on the top line; standard deviations are in parentheses below.

  • I would like to thank Jennifer Logan and Jon Frank for their assistance with data collection and coding. Thoughtful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript from Mel Mark and two anonymous reviewers are gratefully acknowledged.

Abstract

The studies described in this article examine retrospective reports of naturally occurring misperceptions of friendliness as sexual interest. Previous research has demonstrated that men perceive other people and situations more sexually than women do. The purpose of this research was to examine how this gender difference in perceptions of sexuality is exhibited in actual interactions between women and men. Two surveys of undergraduates were conducted. The results indicated that a large percentage of both women and men had experienced such misperceptions, although more women had than men. Most of these incidents were quickly resolved without problems; however, others involved some degree of forced sexual activity and left the individual feeling angry, humiliated, and depressed. Gender differences in the characteristics of these incidents and reactions to them are described. The implications of these findings for future research on gender differences in perceptions of sexual intent are discussed.

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