Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Joseph Vandello, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jennifer Bosson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kristen Salomon, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Diana Rancourt, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brent Small, Ph.D.


pluralistic ignorance, sexual behavior, Sexual attitudes, sexual scripts


Most young adults report a discomfort with verbally and explicitly asking for sexual consent from a partner. Social scientists have theorized this discomfort is driven by conformity to rigid gender roles, sexual scripts, and peer norms, although little research has directly examined the relationship between these barriers and consent behaviors. Most consent research has focused on heterosexual individuals, and even fewer studies have compared the sexual consent attitudes and behaviors of heterosexual and sexual minority individuals. Through a series of three studies, I examined the reasons heterosexual and sexual minority young adults hesitate to ask a new partner for sexual consent. In Study 1, heterosexual men and women, gay men, and lesbian women responded to an exhaustive list of reasons for discomfort with asking for sexual consent. Results suggested a multitude of reasons that young adults are reluctant to ask for sexual consent, including beliefs that doing so ruins the flow of sex, concerns about peer and partner perceptions, and – for heterosexual and gay men – violations of masculine gender roles and sexual scripts. In Study 2, heterosexual and gay/lesbian young adults predicted their peers and prospective partners hold more negative attitudes about consent than they hold themselves. In Study 3, heterosexual men’s and women’s endorsement of the traditional heterosexual initiator/gatekeeper sexual script negatively predicted likelihood of asking for consent. For men, but not women, this relationship was mediated by the belief that asking for consent made them appear feminine. Additionally, results further corroborated the finding that both men and women misperceive how their partners would view them if they asked for consent. Together, this research suggests that gender roles, sexual scripts, and particularly misperceptions of peer norms play a considerable role in obstructing sexual consent behavior among young adults. Implications, limitations and future directions are discussed.