Background: Very little is known about how cisgender and nonbinary LGBQ+ young people communicate sexual consent and what factors influence these behaviors. Existing research suggests that using direct verbal (or affirmative) consent is optimal in reducing miscommunication and preventing sexual assault. While research with cisgender heterosexual young people indicates traditional sexual scripts guide consent behaviors, there I some evidence to suggest this emphasis on traditional masculinity vs. femininity may not be as important for sexual minority young people. Sexual assertiveness (the ability to confidently initiate/refuse sexual activity), which is not as heavily embedded in traditional gender role self- concept may be a better predictor of sexual minorities’ consent processes.
Methods: Data was collected from 228 cisgender and nonbinary sexual minority young adults. Participants were asked to think about the most recent, first-time penetrative sexual experience with a new partner before answering questions about how they communicated consent during that encounter (direct verbal, direct nonverbal, indirect verbal, indirect nonverbal, and passivity). Participants also responded to questionnaires assessing traditional gender role self-concept and sexual assertiveness.
Results: Logistic regression analyses revealed that sexual assertiveness was associated with more use of affirmative, direct verbal communication (B = .57, p = .003) and less use of indirect and passive forms of consent signaling (B = -.66, p < .001). Identifying as nonbinary also predicted the use for more direct verbal communication (B = .79, p = .045). Interestingly, traditional gender role self-concept did not significantly predict any consent communication strategy.
Conclusions: Sexual assertiveness is related to using more affirmative (direct verbal consent) less passive consent communication during a recent penetrative encounter with a new person. This suggests that targeting this skill in sexual consent campaigns may improve outcomes of negotiations especially for cisgender and nonbinary sexual minority young people.
John L. McKenna, MS, Susan M. Orsillo, PhD