The psychology of partner sexual coercion
Camilleri, Joseph Anthony
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There have been few investigations of sexual coercion in relationships. I conducted several studies to develop a measure of partner sexual coercion and to identify its proximate causes and the relevant personal characteristics of male perpetrators. Community participants’ self-reported propensity to engage in various tactics to obtain sex from a reluctant partner clustered into a subscale relating to sexual coercion and a subscale pertaining to sexual coaxing. These subscales had excellent internal reliability, construct validity, criterion validity, and were used to test predictions in subsequent studies. I tested the application of Lalumière et al.’s (2005) three-path model for the development of sexually coercive behavior in general to sexual coercion in relationships. Self-reported interest in partner sexual coercion in a community sample was significantly related to psychopathy, but not age or neurodeveopmental insults. I confirmed the importance of psychopathy in this model by comparing men who raped their partner to other sex offender groups. Another characteristic of sex offenders, sexual deviance, was tested for its application to partner rapists. Unlike non-partner rapists, men who raped their partner exhibited low sexual arousal to rape scenarios, similar to community controls. Cuckoldry risk, a hypothesized proximate cause of partner sexual coercion, was also tested. Direct cues to cuckoldry risk were related to self-reported propensity for partner sexual coercion, whereas indirect cues of cuckoldry risk were related to sexual coaxing. In a forensic sample, most partner rapists had experienced cuckoldry risk prior to committing their offense, and they experienced more cuckoldry risk events than partner assaulters. A necessary condition of the cuckoldry risk hypothesis is that men should exhibit sexual arousal to cues signaling cuckoldry risk. Men in a community sample exhibited as much sexual arousal to stories depicting partner infidelity as they did to stories depicting consenting sex with their partners, and men who were currently in relationships showed greater arousal to stories of infidelity than consenting sex. Taken together, my results suggest psychopathy and cuckoldry risk are important contributors to partner sexual coercion.