This study explored the relationship between sexual double standard and rape supportive attitudes in regard to an individual's likelihood to perpetrate sexual aggression. We examined an adolescent sample of 448 boys from Peru, of whom 148 (33.3%) reported to have committed sexual aggression. Sexual contact with an unwilling partner was perpetrated by 24.8% of the total sample, sexual coercion by 14.3%, attempted rape by 12.5%, and finally, rape was perpetrated by 10.3%. In all these types of aggression, the most frequent victim was a dating partner. Compared to non-aggressors, male aggressors reported more sexual double standard and supportive attitudes towards rape. Logistic regression analyses revealed that the most relevant variable in the prediction of sexual aggression was the subject having been a victim of sexual abuse during adolescence and having rape supportive attitudes. Our findings suggest that violent attitudes are more important than the endorsement of non-egalitarian beliefs (sexual double standard) in the perpetration of sexual violence. These findings provide data from Peru, which contribute to the worldwide data on risk factors for sexual aggression in adolescent males.
Este estudio explora la relación entre el doble estándar sexual y las actitudes favorables hacia la violación en el riesgo de llevar a cabo un acto de agresión sexual. Se examinó una muestra de adolescentes formada por 448 chicos de Perú, de los cuales 148 (33.3%) informaron haber perpetrado agresión sexual. En concreto, el 24.8% informó haber perpetrado contactos sexuales sin el consentimiento de la víctima, el 14.3% había cometido actos de coerción sexual, el 12.5% intentó llevar a cabo violación y el 10.3% perpetró violación. La víctima más común de este tipo de abusos fueron las parejas ocasionales. En comparación con el grupo que nunca había agredido, los varones agresores informaron de mayor doble moral sexual y actitudes más positivas hacia la violación. Un análisis de regresión logística reveló que la variable más importante en la predicción de la agresión sexual fue haber sido víctima de abuso sexual durante la adolescencia y tener una actitud positiva hacia la violación. Los resultados sugieren que las actitudes hacia la violencia son más importantes que las creencias no igualitarias (doble moral sexual) en la realización de conductas sexuales violentas. Este hallazgo, al ofrecer información de Perú, se añade a los datos existentes a nivel mundial sobre los factores de riesgo de la agresión sexual en adolescentes varones.
Sexual aggression is a widespread phenomenon in societies and cultures throughout the world. Prevalence rates, however, vary from country to country. According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) with data from ten countries, from 13% (Japan) to 62% (Peru) of women reported physical victimization in their lifetime (Garcia-Moreno, Jansen, Ellsberg, Heise, & Watts, 2006). These data highlight the striking prevalence rates of violence in Latin American countries, and particularly in Peru. Another study by Cáceres (2005) showed that 46% of Peruvian women aged 16–30 reported non-consensual sex by an opposite-sex perpetrator at least once in their lifetime.
These high rates of sexual aggression have been observed at younger ages. For example, research coordinated by the WHO found that 23% of women from Lima and 47% of women from Cuzco reported having suffered sexual victimization by age fifteen (Güezmes & Vargas, 2003). More recent data from the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations (Ministerio de la Mujer y Poblaciones Vulnerables, MIMP, 2015) showed that there had been 28,790 cases of family and sexual violence in Peru from January to June 2015. Therefore, research analyzing the risk factors associated with high prevalence rates of sexual aggression in countries such as Peru is both timely and necessary.
However, despite the fact that sexual violence prevention programs increasingly target younger ages, there has been little research with a sample population of adolescents. This is relevant because the endorsement of certain dominant attitudes, such as sexual double standard, which is often linked to dating violence, are developed and established at early ages (Gallagher & Parrott, 2011; Greene & Faulkner, 2005; Kreager & Staff, 2009; Lyons, Giordano, Manning, & Longmore, 2011; Marston & King, 2006; Sanchez, Fetterolf, & Rudman, 2012). In particular, teenage males are often exposed to peer pressure and thus tend to behave according to social and gender expectations, as they develop their “masculine identity” (Lees, 2002). This leads boys to be especially vulnerable to the development of certain forms of violent behaviors (Shen, Chiu, & Gao, 2012).
Sexual double standard has been defined as the appropriateness of certain sexual behaviors when they are performed by men, than when they are performed by women (Fasula, Carry, & Miller, 2014; Milhausen & Herold, 2002). In other words, although women are stigmatized for engaged in explicit sexual behaviors, these behaviors are encouraged in men in similar sexual situations. The conceptualization of certain sexual behaviors as appropriate or inappropriate is often guided by cultural expectations (see Byers, 1996; Emmers-Sommer et al., 2010). In this regard, Latin American countries are a special case, as they often endorse relatively more rigid gender roles (Gutiérrez-Quintanilla, Rojas-García, & Sierra, 2010; Raffaelli & Ontai, 2001).
Various studies have shown that rape attitudes play an important role in sexual violence (see Sierra, Bermúdez, Buela-Casal, & Salinas, 2014), as they “serve to deny and justify male sexual aggression against women” (Lonsway & Fitzgerald, 1994, p. 134). Research on sexual offenders has conceptualized rape attitudes in terms of the cognitions that justify why women become victims of rape. According to Johnson, Kuck, and Schander (1997), most rape myths and rape-accepting attitudes fit into one of three categories: (1) blaming the victim, (2) excusing the perpetrator of responsibility for the assault, and (3) justification for the assault. The association between supportive rape attitudes and the perpetration of sexual aggression, through self-reported measures, has been demonstrated in college students and community samples of male adults (i.e., DeGue, DeLillo, & Scalora, 2010; Helmus, Hanson, Thornton, Babchishin, & Harris, 2012). Furthermore, adolescents are a vulnerable population, as rape is often experienced for the first time in these years (Jewkes & Sikweyiya, 2013).
A direct positive relationship was found between victimization and relational violence behavior in adolescents (Povedano, Cava, Monreal, Varela, & Musitu, 2015). Research indicates that previous experiences of sexual victimization are often associated with the subsequent perpetration of sexual violence, as shown in college men (e.g., Russell & Oswald, 2002) and college women (Russell & Oswald, 2001; Shea, 1998). This is known as the cycle of sexual coercion (Gannon, Rose, & Ward, 2008; Moyano & Sierra, 2015; Ward & Beech, 2006). Findings from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health reflect that victimization in adolescents is predictive of later perpetration of violence in adulthood (Gomez, Speizer, & Moracco, 2011).
The present study investigated the sexual double standard and rape supportive attitudes, factors that may contribute to an increased risk of the perpetration of sexual aggression in a sample of adolescent males from Peru. In addition, the role of self-reported adolescent sexual victimization was explored. The consideration of these variables is fundamental for promoting sexual health programs targeting this population. Cultural values shape conceptions of healthy sexuality, and cultural practices promote these ideals in development (Manago, Greenfield, Kim, & Ward, 2014).
Therefore, this study had the following objectives: (1) to compare boys who reported to have perpetrated sexual aggression with boys who reported to have not, based on their endorsement of sexual double standard and supportive attitudes towards rape; (2) to determine which of these factors (sexual double standard or supportive attitudes towards rape) best predicts sexual aggression in boys.
Previous research on the adult population has shown that, compared to other men, those who report more traditional masculinity ideologies are more likely to report having perpetrated violence or sexual coercion (Marín, Gómez, Tschann, & Gregorich, 1997; Santana, Raj, Decker, La Marche, & Silverman, 2006; Sierra, Gutiérrez-Quintanilla, Bermúdez, & Buela-Casal, 2009). Conversely, in comparison to less egalitarian men, men with more egalitarian gender role ideologies report fewer instances of physical aggression against their intimate partners (Fitzpatrick, Salgado, Suvak, King, & King, 2004). Therefore, the following hypotheses were proposed and tested:H1 Boys who report sexual aggression will report more sexual double standard and a more supportive attitude towards rape than non-aggressors. Self-reported sexual aggression will be predicted by sexual double standard and supportive attitude towards rape.
Boys who report sexual aggression will report more sexual double standard and a more supportive attitude towards rape than non-aggressors.H2
Self-reported sexual aggression will be predicted by sexual double standard and supportive attitude towards rape.
We recruited an initial sample composed of 500 Peruvian male adolescents, aged between 14 and 17 years. Data from 52 participants were excluded because of missing values (i.e., when the questionnaire was incomplete or more than 75% of the items had not been answered). This left a final sample of 448. Participants were recruited by incidental sampling from one public secondary school in Cusco, Peru. School was only for boys from a low to medium socioeconomic level families. Of the sample, 33% of participants (n=148) reported having engaged in sexual aggression at least once (i.e., sexual aggressors). As shown in Table 1, there were no significant differences between sexual aggressors and individuals who reported to have never perpetrated sexual aggression (i.e., non-aggressors) in age, residence area (urban or rural), or religious attendance (from never to everyday).
Sociodemographic Characteristics of Adolescent Sexual Aggressors and Non-Aggressors.
|Non sexual aggressors|
|M (SD)||M (SD)|
|Age||16.05 (0.82)||16.10 (0.81)||-.03|
|n (%)||n (%)|
|Urban||129 (87.2)||258 (86)|
|Rural||14 (9.5)||36 (12)|
|Never||12 (8.1)||21 (7)|
|Yearly||42 (28.4)||79 (26.3)|
|Monthly||38 (25.7)||71 (23.7)|
|Weekly||51 (34.5)||123 (41)|
|Everyday||2 (1.4)||2 (0.7)|
We used a Socio-demographic Questionnaire that collected data about sex, age, residence area, religious attendance, who they live with, and parents’ job.
The Sexual Double Standard (SDS; Caron, Davis, Halteman, & Stickle, 1993). This scale is composed of 10 items answered on a five-point Likert-type scale, which ranges from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). It assesses the endorsement of traditional sexual gender standards. Higher scores indicate higher endorsement of SDS. The authors report Cronbach's alpha equal to .72. The Spanish adaptation found a Cronbach's alpha value of .76 in a sample of men. This study used an adaptation of this measure administered in Peru by Monge, Sierra, and Salinas (2013). These authors proposed a reduced 9-item, with reliability values of .78. Scores have also shown to be invariant across men and women. In the present study, Cronbach's alpha was .63.
The Rape Supportive Attitudes Scale (RSAS; Lottes, 1991). We used an adaptation administered to Peruvian women by Sierra, Monge, Santos-Iglesias, Rodriguez, and Aparicio (2010). It consists of 20 items answered on a five-point Likert type scale, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). The global score is the sum of all the items. Scores range from 1 to 100. Higher scores indicate a supportive attitude toward rape. Cronbach's alpha value of the original version was .91, and for the Spanish version administered to Peruvian women was .88 (Sierra, Monge et al., 2010). Cronbach's alpha value when applied to male university students from Spain was .92 (Sierra, Rojas, Ortega, & Martín-Ortiz, 2007). In the present study, Cronbach's alpha was .72.
The Sexual Experiences Survey (SES) (Koss et al., 2007) is comprised of 10 items and contains two subscales. One subscale assesses the commission of sexual aggression after the age of 14. The other subscale assesses having experienced sexual victimization after the age of 14. An example of an item for the sexual aggressiveness subscale is “Have you had sex acts with someone (fondling, kisses) when he/she didn’t want to, because he/she felt overwhelmed by your arguments and pressure?” An example of the sexual victimization subscale is “Have you had sex acts (anal or oral intercourse or penetration by objects other than the penis) when you didn’t want to because someone threatened you or used some degree of physical force (twisting your arm, holding you down, etc.).” Each item is answered on a six-point Likert type scale ranging from 0 (never), 1 (1 time) and so on to 5 (5 or more times). This instrument considers four subtypes of sexual aggression, which were used for the present study: sexual contact, sexual coercion, attempted rape, and rape. In addition, a global score is computed by adding up the frequency of each item. Koss and Oros (1982) found a Cronbach's reliability equal to .79 and good test-retest reliability after one-week. In the present study, Cronbach's alpha was .91 for the aggression version and .86 for the victimization version.Procedure
Between 2011 and 2012, male adolescents were recruited to participate in a study of sexual attitudes. An authorization and consent form was previously given to parents and schoolteachers. Students who agreed to participate completed a paper and pencil version of the questionnaire in groups of 30 or fewer in an available classroom. Participants were sitting sufficiently far apart to ensure privacy. Once the participants completed the booklet, the survey was returned to the experimenter in a sealed envelope. Anonymity, confidentiality, and freedom to withdraw from the study were guaranteed. Estimated completion time of the questionnaires was 30 to 45minutes. Participants received no compensation for their participation in the study.Results
For the subsequent statistical analyses, the variable sexual aggression was dichotomized as yes/no. “Yes” was selected when the participant reported to have perpetrated some type of sexual aggression (i.e., sexual contact, sexual coercion, attempted rape, or rape) at least once in his/her life and was assigned the value 1, whereas “no” was selected when the participant reported to have never perpetrated sexual aggression and was assigned the value 0. The same procedure was conducted for the variable “sexual victimization”.
Table 2 shows that perpetrators reported the following prevalence by subtype of aggression: 24.8% sexual contact (i.e., non-penetrative sexual contact, such as kissing, fondling, etc., with an unwilling partner); 14.3% sexual coercion (i.e., sexual intercourse without an individual's consent by means of verbal pressure or use of authority); 12.5% attempted rape; and 10.3% rape. Regarding the number of times sexual aggression was perpetrated, 52% of the participants reported perpetrating aggressive sexual behavior only once, whereas 48% reported engaging in sexual aggression more than once. On average, aggressors reported perpetrating sexual aggression 3.02 times (SD=2.99). In addition, the victim perpetrated by subtype of aggression was indicated, considering the distinction from the SES: stranger, acquaintance, dating partner (casual partner), and ex/current partner (involved in a stable relationship).
Frequency and Percentage of Each Subtype of Sexual Aggression and Victim Perpetrated.
T-tests for independent samples were conducted to explore differences between sexual aggressors and non-aggressors in sexual double standard and attitudes towards rape. We found significant differences in both sexual double standard, t (446) = -3.72, p = .000, Cohen's d=0.18, and attitude towards rape, t (446) = -2.64, p = .000, Cohen's d=0.13. That is, compared to the non-aggressor group, the sexual aggressor group reported a significantly higher sexual double standard (non aggressors M=25.87, SD=5.22; aggressors M=27.88, SD=5.69) and more supportive attitudes towards rape (non aggressors M=59.23, SD=9.20; aggressors M=61.66, SD=9.14).
In addition, the Pearson correlation between sexual double standard and rape supportive attitudes showed a significant association (r=.46, p=.000).Predictor Variables of Sexual Aggression
We conducted a logistic regression analysis to explore the predictor variables of sexual aggression. The following variables were entered as predictors: adolescent sexual victimization, sexual double standard, and supportive rape attitudes. We used the backward conditional elimination method to reduce the number of Type II errors associated with forward methods. The final regression model was significant (p<.001, df=2) and correctly classified 67% of the sample. Results revealed that the perpetration of sexual aggression by adolescent males was best predicted by have been sexual victim of abuse during adolescence and supportive attitudes towards rape (see Table 3).Discussion
The aim of this study was to explore the variables that are associated with and which best predict self-reported sexual aggression in a sample of Peruvian adolescent males. Our results revealed that 33.3% of the sample reported having perpetrated sexual aggression at least once. Of the total sample, according to the subtype of sexual aggression, prevalence ranged from 10.3% for rape to 24.8% for sexual contact with an unwilling partner. The most frequent victim of any type of sexual aggression was a dating partner (casual partner), whereas the least frequent was a stranger or an ex/current partner (for rape). These results are comparable to other prevalence rates of victimization for samples in Spain (Moyano & Sierra, 2015; Santos-Iglesias & Sierra, 2012; Vega-Gea, Ortega-Ruiz, & Sánchez, 2016), the United States (Breiding et al., 2015), and various Latin American countries such as Chile (Lehrer, Lehrer, Lehrer, & Oyarzún, 2007), Mexico (Cortés-Ayala et al., 2014), and Brazil (D’Abreu, Krahé, & Bazon, 2013). Our findings indicate high prevalence rates, taking into account that participants–whose ages ranged from 14 to 17–were asked about aggressions committed since the age of 14.
When comparing sexual aggressors and non-aggressors, we found that sexual aggressors reported having fewer egalitarian gender beliefs and more supportive attitudes towards rape. However, Cohen's d was not very robust. Moreover, sexual double standard was found to be associated with rape supportive attitudes (r=46). This is consistent with previous studies in which the endorsement of traditional gender roles was associated with the justification of forceful actions (Shen et al., 2012; Sierra, Monge et al., 2010; Sierra, Santos-Iglesias, Gutiérrez-Quintanilla, Bermúdez, & Buela-Casal, 2010).
In the logistic regression analysis, data revealed that the best predictors of sexual aggression were self-reported abuse during adolescence and rape supportive attitudes. This was the case for 67% of the sample. These findings support, on the one hand the cycle of sexual coercion (Ward & Beech, 2006), that is, individuals who have been victimized are more likely to become aggressors. On the other hand, males who tend to perpetrate such violence are more likely to accept justifications for rape. As previously shown by Maxwell, Robinson, and Post (2002), attitudes towards violence predicted male dating aggression in a sample of adolescents. Consistently, Sierra et al. (2009) concluded that rape supportive attitudes predicted sexual coercion in a sample of university students from Salvador. Thus, violence might be justified by blaming the victim. Therefore, justification of violence is a relevant variable for aggression (Ruiz-Hernández, García-Jiménez, Llor-Esteban, & Godoy-Fernández, 2015), which has often been associated with hostile sexism (Lila, Oliver, Catalá-Miñana, Galiana, & Gracia, 2014).
Previous research has revealed an association between being a sexual victim and later perpetrating sexual coercion in men (e.g., Moyano & Sierra, 2015; Russell & Oswald, 2002). Prevalence of victimization in Peru is among the highest from Latin America (61%) (Garcia-Moreno et al., 2006). In addition, 40% of Peruvian adolescents and youngsters initiate their sex life by forced intercourse (Cáceres, Marin, & Hudes, 2000). Although in the present study we did not analyze who were the perpetrators of boys’ victimization, data from the National Action Plan for Childhood and Adolescence (2012-2021) from Peru indicate that sexual abuse at these ages tend to be perpetrated by a closely-related individual. In this sense, the use of parents’ violence in Latin America is high, being boys those more highly affected (Gage & Silvestre, 2010). Other data, from Guatemala and Salvador, indicate that 46% and 42% of men respectively, reported being beaten as punishment at younger ages (Speizer, Goodwin, Samandari, Kim, & Clyde, 2008).
In our study, the most reported victim perpetrated was a dating partner (casual partner). It is likely that these participants are frequently involved in violent relationships in which they are victims and aggressors at the same time. Although previous research show that aggression is more frequently presented in committed dating relationships (e.g., Hanley & O’Neill, 1997), research with college students (Klipfel, Claxton, & van Dulmen, 2014) and with adolescents suggests the co-occurrence of sexual risk-taking, such as having casual partners and sexual dating aggression (Gover, Kaukinen, & Fox, 2008).
Contrary to expectations, and in contrast with the study conducted by Sierra et al. (2009), sexual double standard was not found to be relevant to the prediction of sexual aggression. Our findings rather indicate that attitudes that support and justify certain aggressive behaviors are more important than beliefs on the dominance of males over females, at least in adolescence. This is consistent with a review of the dynamic risk factors of dating violence from continental Europe, and from the United States and Canada (Leen et al., 2013). The authors suggest that attitudes towards violence, such as the acceptance of rape myths, tolerance of violence, and justification of the use of violence, were reported as risk factors for dating violence perpetration.
The endorsement of sexual double standard attitudes in itself may not be sufficient to perpetrate aggression. As it is well known, sexual double standard entails the dominance of one group (men) over another (women), which is aligned with the construct of social dominance orientation, defined as the degree to which a person holds anti-egalitarian values and a preference for group-based hierarchies (Sidanius & Pratto, 2004). Similar to sexual double standard, men tend to exhibit more social dominance orientation. In a study of adolescents, Mayeux (2014) found that social dominance orientation did not predict aggression. Another study of Chinese adolescents showed that the strongest predictor of sexual aggression was the boys’ attitudes towards dating violence rather than their traditional gender beliefs (Shen et al., 2012). Taken together, sexual double standard might be more relevant (at least during adolescence) to the prediction of prejudice attitudes, but not to the perpetration of violence.
In a similar vein, a review by Flood and Pease (2009) on the factors that influence attitudes towards violence against women, suggested that general gender attitudes cannot be taken as a simple proxy for attitudes to violence against women. As emphasized by Murnen, Wright, and Kaluzny (2002), measures of general gender-role attitudes have less power to predict male sexual aggression than other measures of patriarchal masculine beliefs in particular.
Another line of interpretations regarding non-significant association of non-egalitarian beliefs with violence is that male's perceptions of the attitudes of the female partner may be important when considering the use of violence as a way for the male to recover dominance. More specifically, some women might endorse similar non-egalitarian attitudes, and thus not provide any resistance to men's attitudes. Based on the confluence model (Malamuth, 2003), one of the most comprehensive explanatory models of male sexual aggression, gratification from dominating women is a predictor of sexual aggression (within the “hostile masculinity” factor). In other words, male sexual aggression may be motivated by dominance and power, as previously suggested (Russell & Oswald, 2001; Zurbriggen, 2000). In a similar vein, male sexual attitudes are often normalized. Consequently, there is also a certain level of constant pressure among boys to behave in sexually aggressive ways, and girls are sometimes likely to accommodate male needs and desires in negotiating their sexual relations (Hird & Jackson, 2001; Tolman, Spencer, Rosen-Reynoso, & Porche, 2003).
This study obtained self-reported data from an adolescent sample of Peruvian boys. To date, little research has approached the study of both gender-attitudes and rape-attitudes in adolescent samples. Therefore, this study provides valuable data for young boys in this age group. Overall, we found that key factors in the prediction of sexual aggression were: (1) having been a victim of sexual aggression and (2) the endorsement of supportive attitudes towards rape. Prevention programs with aggressors and psychosocial interventions should address these factors, in particular, those related to violence-supportive attitudes and to the justification of violence. This is important because until now most interventions have mainly focused on gender inequality, which is often seen as the sole explanatory factor for gender violence (Carbajosa & Boira, 2013). Therefore, there is a special need for multimodal interventions (see Arce & Fariña, 2010), which integrate attitudes towards violence and its justification.
Beyond interventions, these findings should be integrated into legal and political strategies proposed by the Peruvian government. For the last decade, several legal proceedings have been developed for the prevention of sexual abuse in children and adolescents and the promotion of gender equality in Peru. Some of these proposals are materialized in the National Action Plan for Childhood and Adolescence (2012-2021) and the National Plan for Gender Equality (2012-2017). Both programs establish strategies with the priority to reduce sexual violence among children and adolescents, through the promotion of research about the risk factors of sexual abuse and education campaigns based on a gender equality approach.
This study had certain limitations. First at all, the adolescent sample covered a narrow age range (from 14 to 17). A broader picture would have been obtained if younger boys had also been incorporated. Secondly, given that this research has a cross-sectional, correlational design, no causal effects can be established. In this sense, a longitudinal study would have allowed us to better track individuals during their adolescence and even on to their adult transition. This would have undoubtedly enriched the understanding of sexual aggression. Thirdly, it is likely that sexual double standard may not only be related to sexual aggression, but also to psychological or verbal aggression (i.e., disagreements with the partner about role expectations). Fourthly, considering that all information obtained in this study was based on self-reports, social desirability should have been measured and controlled. “Macho” scripts are still robust in Peru, thus males may be exaggerating or minimizing their report of their aggressiveness. Finally, regarding victimization information, more data about the characteristics of the perpetrator of those who report to have committed aggression, should be of interest (being victimized by adults versus peers).
The aforementioned means that other measurements of sexual aggression, which encompass a broader spectrum of violence and perpetrator's characteristics, should be considered for further research. Finally, future studies should consider either male's perception of his partner's endorsement of the same sexual standards or beliefs (as aggression most likely stems from disagreement between both perspectives) or data collection from the partner. This type of dyadic analysis would provide knowledge about whether both partners share the same gender beliefs.
Nonetheless, the results of this study provide valuable information for education and intervention programs with male adolescents, who are a vulnerable target for prevention purposes. Educational programs should pay special attention to and focus on the awareness of rape supportive attitudes.Conflict of Interest
The authors of this article declare no conflict of interest.
This work was funded by the Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (Research Project A/030018/10).