While some men admitted that they would use force to obtain intercourse, they denied rape, according to the study. The numbers dropped significantly when the question was framed using the word “rape.”
The authors of the study say while federal data points to the rising number of college sexual assault cases many in the media and social network users have begun to question what constitutes rape. The confusion surrounding its definition led researchers to investigate whether there are underlying factors behind the respondents’ answers.
An estimated 31.7 % indicated that they would act on “intentions” to force a woman, if they knew they could get away with it. When the same question was phrased on “intentions to rape a woman,” the percentage was much lower with 13.6%.
Because the definition of rape differs in different states, the researchers of the study used a common definition of rape as “intercourse by use of force or threat of force against a victim’s wishes.”
“The No. 1 point is there are people that will say they would force a woman to have sex but would deny they would rape a woman,” Sarah R. Edwards, an assistant professor of counseling psychology at the University of North Dakota and the lead researcher for the study, told Newsweek.
The authors of the study also wanted to understand college men’s attitudes toward rape. Men who displayed more hostility toward women were more likely to admit their intentions to rape. While the men who rejected the term, but would still use force, did not display the same hostility.
Experts believe the study might help researchers ask more effective questions when investigating campus rape, according to Newsweek.
“When you assess male college students, you will find some very, very troubling attitudes and beliefs,” Psychologist David Lisak told Newsweek. “Regardless of whether or not these contribute directly to sexual coercion…challenging them and addressing them and educating students about them is absolutely critical.”
Edwards notes that the study is preliminary and says she hopes to conduct more research on a larger scale.
The survey analyzed 86 male college students over the age of 18, but only 73 participants were analyzed because of missing data. The majority of the participants were also Caucasian suggesting there was a demographic limit to the study.