College men at bars, parties are more likely to be sexually aggressive

Testing an indirect effects model whereby college men’s impersonal sex orientation and heavy episodic drinking (HED).


According to a new study by scientists at Washington State University, college men’s alcohol consumption is positively associated with sexual aggression perpetration. The reason is not alcohol consumption, but the combination of alcohol and the setting that the drinking takes place.

The study was conducted on more than 1,000 school guys over and again for five semesters at a large Northeastern college, inquired as to whether they had utilized explicitly forceful strategies.

Michael Cleveland, an associate professor in WSU’s Department of Human Development said, “We asked them how often they drank and if and how often they went to bars or parties. Then we asked if they used any specific tactics to convince, or even pressure, women to have the sex with them.”

“Those tactics ranged from threatening to break up with her to getting her drunk and harming her physically.”

During the study, scientists also looked for personality traits of each participant. They found that the men who went to bars or parties tended to have higher levels of Impersonal Sexual Orientation.

Cleveland said, “Men with that orientation have a proclivity towards more casual sex. And it’s been associated with a higher level of sexual aggression. So this study shows that men with those personality traits are going to parties – perhaps in order to find sex partners –and acting more sexually aggressive.”

Scientists also started the survey by contacting every male in the freshman class at a large university in the northeastern U.S. in 2012. Over 1,000 took part through their first five semesters.

The survey was conducted by email or online, with participants compensated with money deposited in their student accounts. Participants were guaranteed confidentiality in the hopes of getting more truthful results.

Cleveland said, “The study states that the more the students reported drinking as freshmen, the more likely they were to commit a sexually aggressive act by the end of the survey period. The results are very cumulative. If a student reported drinking as a freshman, then he would be more likely to report going to parties or bars the next year as a sophomore. And then the men who were most likely to drink at these types of settings were the ones that most likely were sexually aggressive during their junior year.”

“The study also showed how much room there is to educate men on their role in reducing and eventually eliminating aggressive sexual behaviors.”

“Prevention of sexual assault should target men’s behaviors and attitudes. There are hot spots, like bars and parties, where aggressive behavior happens more often. Having bystander intervention, where someone intervenes on behalf of the victim, is really important in these situations.”

The results were published April 25 in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

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