Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

David W. Pantalone

Second Advisor

Paul Nestor

Third Advisor

Sarah Valentine


Background: To date, there is no universally agreed-upon academic definition of sexual consent (SC; Beres, 2007). However, the conceptualization of SC is rooted in the definition of sexual violence, with SC considered to be the boundary violated in experiences of sexual assault (SA; Fenner, 2017). Individuals with a plurisexual (e.g., bisexual, pansexual, or queer) identity report a SA prevalence greater than individuals with any monosexual identity (i.e., gay, lesbian, or heterosexual). To date, the SC literature is overwhelmingly focused on heterosexual norms, with few studies specifically aimed at understanding SM individuals’ experiences. Taken together, the literature appears to indicate that plurisexual individuals are at greater risk for SA than monosexual individuals. Part of this increased risk for SA may be due to the strain of having to navigate SC with both same-gender and different-gender partners. To investigate this research question, I conducted a mixed-methods study to understand how plurisexual individuals describe navigating SC with same- and different-gender partners. Methods: I recruited 289 individuals aged 18-40 years old. All participants identified with a plurisexual identity and endorsed sexual experiences with, and attraction to, both masculine and feminine partners. Participants were recruited from college campus emails, social media, and email solicitations after finishing similar studies. All participants completed an anonymous cross-sectional online survey with a focus on identity, SC experiences, and SA history. A subset of eight individuals were interviewed to explore their experiences navigating sexual consent with both masculine and feminine partners. Qualitative analyses were conducted using a team-based approach and guided by the theory and methods of conventional content analysis. Results: Quantitative explorations were generally consistent with qualitative findings. For example, non-verbal SC communication was more common than verbal communication. When participants endorsed different behaviors with same-gender partners than different gendered partners, it was coded as a “script-shift.” For women, script-shifts were associated with lower reports of SA. In a final hierarchical regression, initiating non-verbal script-shift (b = -.204, t = -2.67, p = < .01) was found to be associated with SA above and beyond gender, age, and number of male sexual partners predicting sexual assault, F(1,157) = 5.74, p = < .001, R2 = .11. Qualitative interviews resulted in six themes, including the idea that mutuality communicates consent and interest, and nonverbal communication is more common in sexual encounters, but verbal SC communication is particularly valuable. Discussion: This study is a first step in understanding both the experiences of plurisexual SC, along with exploring the ways in which plurisexual individuals may navigate between queer and heteronormative sexual spaces. Finally, this study explored whether there were increased SA risks associated with different SC behaviors for plurisexual individuals.


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