Sex Roles, Vol. 42, Nos. 5/6, 2000
Ambiguous Communication of Sexual Intentions as
a Risk Marker of Sexual Aggression
Renate Scheinberger-Olwig, and Susanne Kolpin
University of Potsdam, Germany
Three studies are reported that explored the role of ambiguous communica-
tion of sexual intentions as a risk factor for sexual aggression and victimiza-
tion. Two main forms of ambiguous communication were distinguished:
token resistance (saying ‘‘no’’ when you mean ‘‘yes’’) and compliance (say-
ing ‘‘yes’’ when you mean ‘‘no’’). Two samples of heterosexual men and
women and a sample of homosexual men with a total N of 1284 completed
a measure of sexual victimization or aggression and indicated whether or
not they had ever shown token resistance or compliance in a sexual encounter.
Moreover, the heterosexual male respondents indicated whether they had
ever perceived token resistance or compliance in a female partner. Logistic
regression analyses revealed that the risk of experiencing sexual victimization
was signiﬁcantly increased as a function of token resistance. Two of the three
studies also showed compliance to be a risk factor for sexual victimization.
For the male respondents, token resistance was consistently linked to a higher
likelihood of perpetrating sexually aggressive acts in the three studies. Per-
ceived compliance was also found to increase the risk of sexual aggression
in three of four analyses. Support for a link between perceived token resistance
and sexual aggression was found in the ﬁrst study only. Overall, the ﬁndings
suggest that the use of ambiguous communication in negotiating sexual en-
counters is associated with an increased risk of sexual victimization as well as
perpetration of sexually aggressive acts in both heterosexual and homosexual
contacts. The implications of the ﬁndings are discussed with respect to the
issue of rape prevention.
Sexual interactions are guided to a large extent by ‘‘sexual scripts,’’ i.e.,
cognitive representations of the typical sequence of events in a sexual
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Department of Psychology, University of
Potsdam, Postfach 601553, D-14415 Potsdam, Germany; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
0360-0025/00/0300-0313$18.00/0 2000 Plenum Publishing Corporation