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'You couldn't say "No", Could you?': Young men's understandings of sexual refusal

O'Byrne, R., Rapley, M. and Hansen, S. (2006) 'You couldn't say "No", Could you?': Young men's understandings of sexual refusal. Feminism & Psychology, 16 (2). pp. 133-154.

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While several psychological theories of rape have been developed, Tannen's ‘ miscommunication’ model is dominant, informing ‘expert’ and popular accounts alike. Rape is constructed as an extreme example of miscommunication – whereby women's ‘failure’ to say ‘no’ is interpreted by men as sexual consent. Kitzinger and Frith have demonstrated that young women have an implicit understanding of the normative interactional structure of refusal, and it is this that explains their difficulty in ‘just saying no’ to unwanted sex. However, Kitzinger and Frith's study could not demonstrate, but only argue, that young men share this sophisticated understanding, such that women saying ‘no’ should not be necessary to refuse sexual intimacy. Here we extend Kitzinger and Frith's study, via the analysis of data from two focus groups held with young men. We demonstrate that, as Kitzinger and Frith suggested, men not only do have a refined ability to hear verbal refusals that do not contain the word ‘no’, but also – and importantly – an equally refined ability to ‘hear’ the subtlest of non-verbal sexual refusals.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Psychology
Publisher: Sage
Copyright: © 2006 SAGE
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