Controversial Study Suggests That a Large Portion of College Men Don’t Understand What Rape Is

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Researchers at the University of North Dakota have released a study that suggests a large portion of male college students don’t fully understand what constitutes rape. The study, conducted by Sarah R. Edwards, consists of a survey conducted with eighty-six male university students, none of whom attended UND. The students were almost exclusively all white male juniors who identified as heterosexual with prior sexual experience. The purpose of the survey was to delineate between students who would use force to have intercourse but did not identify their actions as rape and those who endorsed rape outright. The study found that 13.6 percent of those surveyed had full intention of committing rape.  Of those surveyed, 31.7 percent admitted that they would use force to coerce a woman into intercourse and did not view this as rape.

The study explains, “As hypothesized, a sizable number of participants indicated that they might use force to obtain intercourse, but would not rape a woman. Men who indicate intentions to use force but deny intentions to rape exhibit a unique disposition featuring an inverse construct of hostility toward women but high levels of callous sexual attitudes.” The study further suggests that educational programs aimed at educating would-be offenders fall short because offenders don’t see a connection between their actions and those that rape education programs work to prevent.

The study is the latest focal point for conversations about the epidemic of campus rape, which include debate over the statistic that one in five female college students has been sexually assaulted. The study has been reported on Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, and Think Progress.

There are some critics who contend that the small sample size invalidates the results of the study. In an article for American Enterprise Institute, University of Michigan economics professor Mark J. Perry states,”The biggest reason that this ‘study’ should be completely ignored and receive no media attention is that its results and conclusions are based on a sample size of only 73 male students at one of the North Dakota universities (it’s not clear from the ‘study’).” Perry further states, “73 male students were compensated with ‘extra credit for their participation,’ so were presumably all taking the same college class and were therefore not randomly selected from the male student population. More troubling is the fact that the ‘margin of sampling error’ for a tiny sample size of 73 is about+11.5%.”

Comment from Edwards was not available at the time of publication. The full study can be read here.

Image courtesy of Sean MacEntee

Shane Paul Neil

Shane is a freelance writer who has contributed to The Huffington Post, Technorati and Social Media Today. He is a regular on the Sportsball podcast and a frequent guest on #TWiBPrime.

View all contributions by Shane Paul Neil


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