Reasons for Consenting to Unwanted Sex Scale

Reasons for Consenting to Unwanted Sex Scale


The purpose of the Reasons for Consenting to Unwanted Sex Scale (RCUSS; Humphreys & Kennett, 2008; Kennett, Humphreys, & Patchell, 2009) is to assess the amount of endorsement women give to a variety of reasons for why they have voluntarily consented to engage in sexual activity they did not desire. This scale was normed on hetero- sexual undergraduate females.


The RCUSS was developed on the basis of past research that suggested women voluntarily give in to sexual activity, even though they may have little or no sexual desire or would rather not engage in sexual activity (Meston & Buss, 2007; O’Sullivan & Allgeier, 1998). For example, Zimmerman, Sprecher, Langer, and Holloway (1995) found that, when asked how sure they were that they could say “no” if a boyfriend was trying to talk them into having sex, only 61% of females reported that they could definitely say no to unwanted sex. In a diary study, O’Sullivan and Allgeier (1998) found that 50% of the undergraduate women sampled wrote that they had consented to unwanted sexual activity, ranging from kissing to sexual intercourse, during a 2-week period.

The items of the RCUSS were chosen on the basis of past literature, suggesting that women consent to unwanted sexual activity for a variety of reasons, including to satisfy their partner’s needs, promote intimacy, avoid tension, pre- vent a partner from losing interest in the relationship and/or fulfill perceived relationship obligations (Impett & Peplau, 2002; O’Sullivan & Allgeier, 1998; Shotland & Hunter, 1995). Items of the RCUSS reflect how characteristic it is for a woman to voluntarily consent to unwanted sexual activity for these reasons.

The RCUSS is an 18-item, self-report questionnaire. Factor analysis with varimax rotation revealed a unidimensional scale that included all 18 items (no factor loadings below .30) accounting for 59.2% of the variance.

Response Mode and Timing

Two alternative modes are possible. When it is a pencil- and-paper survey, respondents circle a number from 0 to 8 corresponding to the degree to which they feel the state- ment is characteristic of themselves. When it is an online survey (using an internal or external service), respondents click on the bullet response from 0 to 8 corresponding to the degree to which they feel the statement is characteristic of themselves. The scale takes approximately 10 minutes to complete.


Items are scored 0 for Not at all Characteristic of Me to 8 for Very Characteristic of Me. There are not any reverse- scored items. Scores are summed. Total scores can range from 0 to 144. The mean scores on this inventory for our two samples were = 41.2, SD = 33.5 (Kennett et al., 2009) and = 35.9, SD = 32.5 (Humphreys & Kennett, 2008), respectively.


Based on two female undergraduate datasets, the reliability for the whole RCUSS was .96 (= 150), with an average inter-item correlation of .75 (ranging from .46 to .85; Kennett et al., 2009) and .96 (= 152), with an aver- age inter-item correlation of .55 (ranging from .18 to .85; Humphreys & Kennett, 2008), respectively. Over a 6-week period, test-retest reliability in a female student sample (= 63) was .85 (Humphreys & Kennett, 2008).


Construct validity was examined by comparing the RCUSS to a number of relationship variables: a previously established scale, the Sexual Experiences Survey (SES; Koss & Oros, 1982); and two newly designed scales, Sexual Self- Efficacy and Sexual Giving-in Experiences (Kennett et al., 2009).

The RCUSS is positively correlated with both number of dating partners, r(152 ) = .23, = .004, and number of steady partners, r(152) = .19, = .017. The greater the number of relationship partners, the more likely a woman will be endorsing a greater number of reasons for consenting to unwanted sex. This makes intuitive sense given that more relationship experience will inevitably lead to discrepancies in sexual desires that need to be negotiated. Some are resolved through relationship maintenance behaviors, such as pleasing the partner. The RCUSS is also correlated positively with two individual questions asking about the extent to which women have experienced unwanted sexual advances from men, r(152 ) = .25, = .002, and the percentage of relationships in which women have experienced unwanted sexual advances, r(152) = .26, = .001. Therefore, the greater the amount of reported unwanted sexual advances from men, the greater the endorsement of various reasons for consenting to these behaviors was observed.

As predicted, the RCUSS scale was also positively correlated with forced sex play (Koss & Oros, 1982, Items 1–3), r(152) = .541, < .001, and attempted or completed forced intercourse (Koss & Oros, 1982, Items 4–10), r(152 ) = .502, < .001, in the SES. We found that the greater the experience with nonconsensual sexual behavior, at any level, the greater the endorsement of reasons for consenting to unwanted sexual activity. This could be due to the fact that women with higher levels of nonconsensual sex are involved in more ambiguously consensual situations in total or that many nonconsensual sexual situations are later justified as consensual but not desired.

The Sexual Self-Efficacy (Kennett et al., 2009) scale assesses women’s belief that they have what it takes to deal with or prevent unwanted sexual advances. As expected, this 5-item scale was negatively correlated with RCUSS, r(152) = −.49, < .001. Clearly, believing that you have the ability to deal with unwanted sexual advances should lead to less need to endorse reasons for consenting to unwanted sexual activities. The results described in this section were reported from Humphreys and Kennett (2008); however, they were replicated in Kennett et al. (2009).

Other Information

Permission to use the RCUSS may be obtained from either T. Humphreys or D. Kennett.

Address correspondence to either Terry P. Humphreys or Deborah J. Kennett, Psychology Department, Trent University, 1600 West Bank Drive, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, K9J 7B8; e-mail: [email protected] or [email protected]


Reasons for Consenting to Unwanted Sex Scale

Instructions: When answering these questions, please think of all the times in which you have consented to unwanted sexual activity. Rate each statement as to how characteristic it is of you as your reason for consenting to unwanted sexual activity using the scale provided.










Not at all Characteristic of Me

Somewhat Characteristic of Me

Very Characteristic of Me

  1. I felt that I would be jeopardizing our relationship if I did not engage in the unwanted sexual activity

  2. As his girlfriend, I am obligated to engage in the unwanted sexual activity

  3. He verbally pressured me to participate in the unwanted sexual behavior

  4. He begged me to engage in the unwanted sexual activity until I could not argue anymore

  5. I had been drinking or had consumed other types of drugs

  6. I felt guilty for not participating in the unwanted sexual activity

  7. I feared that I would lose my boyfriend if I did not consent to the unwanted sexual activity

  8. I wanted to avoid tension in our relationship

  9. I wanted to prevent my partner from losing interest in our relationship

  10. I consented to the unwanted sexual activity to promote intimacy

  11. I felt it was necessary to satisfy my partner’s needs

  12. I felt that I needed to because I consented to the sexual activity before

  13. I didn’t want to hurt my partner’s feelings

  14. He physically would not let me leave

  15. I didn’t want him to feel rejected

  16. I felt that, if I consented to the unwanted sexual activity, he would like/love me

  17. I wanted to feel accepted by my partner

  18. He sweet talked me into it


Humphreys, T. P., & Kennett, D. J. (2008) [The reliability and validity of the Sexual Resourcefulness and Reasons for Consenting to Unwanted Sex Scales]. Unpublished raw data.

Impett, E. A. & Peplau, L. A. (2002). Why some women consent to unwanted sex with a dating partner: Insights from attachment theory. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 26, 360–370.

Kennett, D. J., Humphreys, T. P., & Patchell, M. (2009). The role of learned resourcefulness in helping female undergraduates deal with unwanted sexual activity. Sex Education, 9, 341–353.

Koss, M. P., & Oros, C. J. (1982). Sexual experiences survey: A research instrument investigating sexual aggression and victimizationJournal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 50, 455–457.

Meston, C. M., & Buss, D. M. (2007). Why humans have sex. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 477–507.

O’Sullivan, L. F., & Allgeier, E. R. (1998). Feigning sexual desire: Consenting to unwanted sexual activity in heterosexual dating relationships. The Journal of Sex Research, 35, 234–243.

Shotland, R. L., & Hunter, B. A. (1995). Women’s “token resistant” and compliant sexual behaviors are related to uncertain sexual intentions and rape. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21, 226–236.

Zimmerman, R. S., Sprecher, S., Langer, L. M., & Holloway, C. D. (1995). Adolescents’ perceived ability to say “no” to unwanted sex. Journal of Adolescent Research, 10, 383–399.