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How do college women decide whether to have sex on a hookup? We illuminate this question here by an analysis of transcripts of qualitative interviews that one of us Ford conducted in and with women students at an elite private university. The study from which we drew these interviews was focused on unwanted sex—everything from sex that students consented to but felt ambivalent about, to sex involving physical coercion. Our interest in this blog post is what we learned from women whose experiences were not physically coercive, but were nonetheless difficult because of their awareness of their vulnerability to these three labels.
Participants were recruited by a screening survey in two introductory sociology courses and by recruitment flyers placed around campus. The screening survey asked questions to ascertain if the person had experienced unwanted sex. Interviews were conducted in person with 44 women and lasted between 45 minutes and 2 hours.
The quotes that follow below are verbatim from these interviews. Respondent 2: If I had sex with him maybe he would think I was a whore or easy. I think more so, if I had sex with him I thought he would think I was easier for him [to sleep with] and stuff like that.
Respondent 3: I felt like really — a lot of shame. Not something I would have done normally. Just like, I felt kinda dirty. I remember showering continuously. Like, that whole label. Respondent 5: Like women are made to serve men or something. Respondent 6: Yeah I was worried about him telling everyone I was a prude — leading him on and playing games. Respondent 7: Yea. Respondent 7: Maybe. It would be like… like when he was trying to get me to lay down in bed. I thought it might make things more hostile.
Respondent 9: Oh another gray area. I kinda wanted to date my best friend Mike. I wanted to try dating. We did a lot of communicating. He really wanted to get physical.