Friday, March 4, 2016

Verbal Sexual Coercion Experiences, Sexual Risk, and Substance Use in Women

Research has linked sexual assault, substance use, and sexually transmitted infection (STI) risk in women. Sexual assault by means of verbal sexual coercion (VSC) is more common than sexual assault by means of physical tactics, but VSC is rarely assessed independently. In addition, past work has established global connections among substance use, sexual assault history, and STI risk; however, assessing substance use during sexual behavior is less common. This study examined the relations among VSC, STI risk behavior, and substance use and attitudes. We hypothesized that women with larger numbers of VSC experiences would report more frequent sexual risk behaviors and substance use and attitudes. Participants with larger numbers of VSC experiences reported larger numbers of anal sex partners, more frequent penile–vaginal sex and sexual activity after substance use, and stronger sex-related alcohol expectancies. These findings suggest that VSC is associated with higher levels of STI risk in women.

The findings that larger numbers of VSC events are associated with higher numbers of lifetime vaginal and anal sexual partners are consistent with past research (; ), and suggest that women with a history of VSC are at higher risk of contracting STIs than women with no VSC history. Results from this research extend previous knowledge by adding a contextual examination of substance use during sexual behaviors, such that women with more VSC experiences reported more frequent sexual activity after marijuana use (Hypothesis 8) and after combined alcohol and marijuana use (Hypothesis 9). Marijuana use is related to sexual risk behaviors (; ; ), as is alcohol use (; ; ; ). Studies have yet to examine how combined alcohol and marijuana use affects sexual risk. It is possible that alcohol and marijuana potentiate each other, such that the combination exponentially increases both STI and sexual risk, perhaps through impaired cognitive function and capacity for risk perception. However, we only assessed for sexual behavior and did not assess if event-level STI risk or sexual assault risk increased when individuals used substances during sexual behavior. Future work should assess this possibility.

The findings reported here cannot speak to why women with a history of VSC reported higher concomitant marijuana use and sexual activity. Thus, future research should evaluate women's motives and expectancies () for using marijuana prior to sexual activity to evaluate possible differences based on VSC history. Women with larger numbers of VSC experiences reported stronger sex-related alcohol expectancies, which is also consistent with past research (Hypothesis 4; ). Alcohol expectancy theory posits that individuals are more likely to behave in a manner consistent with their view of how alcohol affects them (). Therefore, if an individual has stronger sexual risk alcohol expectancies, he or she might engage in riskier sexual behavior while intoxicated than when sober…

Full article at:

Amanda k. Gilmore, Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA;
Address correspondence to Amanda K. Gilmore, Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Box 351525, Seattle, WA 98195. ude.wu@gkadnama

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