Making consent perceptions: do sexual double standards and consent misperceptions that transpire in person replicate in digital sexual interactions?
Funk, Holly P. A.
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While recent research has expanded understandings of how people communicate consent and rejection to sexual initiations in person, less is known about digital consent negotiations. Sexual double standards and consent misperceptions shown to operate during in person consent negotiations are relatable to culturally reinforced gender-based social norms, and there is potential for those same double standards and misperceptions to impact digital interactions. To explore this, participants (n = 6) were presented with four vignettes involving two heterosexual, cisgender characters; in three an unsolicited “dick pic” was sent, and in one a dick pic was sent consensually. Participants then responded to semi-structured interview questions about each vignette. The interviews were recorded and transcribed, and were then analyzed thematically in reference to the research questions: do the same double-standards and misperceptions regarding consent in person also operate in the digital context, and how do participants' understandings of consent compare to the Canadian Criminal Code's legal definitions? Participants’ responses reflected similar sexual double standards and consent misperceptions as found in previous research (Amundsen, 2020; Jozkowski et al., 2017; Williamson et al., unpublished manuscript). In addition, participants relayed that consent communication is impacted by the digital context. Findings suggest that without standard consent communication methods like body language or tone of voice (Griner et al., 2021), coercive and consent violating acts can occur more easily digitally, yet heteronormative gender roles can still be employed to brush them off as misunderstandings.