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At a time when sexual harassment scandals are hitting headlines on almost a daily basis, a team of researchers conducted a study on non-consensual sex and to determine the prevalence of sexual misconduct in universities: Sexual victimisation of women by men on college campuses is a growing societal concern. The study suggests men often confuse sexual interest with the consent.

Researchers at Binghamton University and Rush University in Chicago sought to identify a host of "situational and dispositional factors" that may predict men's likelihood to engage in sexual misconduct.

The response of 145 heterosexual male student participants to a series of hypothetical sexual scenarios was analysed and it was found that most men confused sexual interest with consent to sex.

Their perceptions of consent are largely dependent on the way a woman communicates her sexual intentions.

"We found that the way in which the woman communicated her sexual intentions, that is verbal refusal versus passive responding, had the largest effect of men's perceptions," researcher Richard Mattson from Binghamton University was quoted by The Independent as saying.

The precedence effect also occurs when men equate the occurrence of some past sexual behaviour with future consent to high levels of intimacy, in some cases even when there's direct refusal by the woman, and also by acceptance of "rape myths and hypermasculine ideology" where they believe a woman saying no actually means yes.

"However, our findings also suggest that some men were earnestly attempting to determine whether consent was given, but was nevertheless relying on questionable sexual scripts to disambiguate the situation," said Mattson.

The study, titled "Situational and Dispositional Determinants of College Men's Perception of Women's Sexual Desire and Consent to Sex: A Factorial Vignette Analysis", was published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.