Just Say No: Japanese and American Styles of Refusing Unwanted Sexual Advances1


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    The authors wish to thank the NCN Institute for its help in participant recruitment. Also, our appreciation is extended to Carol Reisen for her assistance with the data analysis.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Paul J. Poppen, Department of Psychology, The George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052.


To determine whether cultural and gender differences in directness of communication are reflected in styles of refusing unwanted sexual advances, we surveyed American college students and Japanese international college students about direct and indirect ways of saying “no” in dating relationships. While both American and Japanese students said they would rather use indirect refusal tactics than direct ones, Americans rated direct strategies as more likely to be effective than did Japanese participants. Further, American students interpreted direct strategies as clearer refusals than indirect strategies, whereas Japanese respondents did not make this distinction. Men and women responded similarly in both cultural groups, so the findings point primarily to possible cultural differences in the meaning of direct refusals of sexual advances.