PATRICIA J. MOROKOFF

The purpose of this chapter is to explore issues of sexual assertiveness and sexual decision-making for women. I will begin by presenting evidence for gender-based differences in sexual behavior followed by a discussion of how such differences are culturally assumed to derive from a biological basis. What I will refer to as the biological explanation of sexuality is consistent with the theoretical position proposed by evolutionary psychol­ogists and recently examined by Eagly and Wood (1999). This position suggests that women and men possess sex-specific evolved mechanisms based on adaptations to “the pressures of differing physical and social en­vironments that impinged on females and males during primeval times.” (p. 410). An alternative to this assumption is a relational sexuality based on socially constructed gender roles. I will discuss the consequences of a belief in biologically derived gender differences in sexuality, including the justification of rape, impaired understanding of women’s sexuality, and im­paired sexual functioning for women. I will then present the difficulties in a culturally defined concept of sexual assertiveness for women, and discuss

Thank you Bernice Lett and Sheryl Gollet for your generous and helpful suggestions.

the factors that impede women’s expression of sexual assertiveness, includ­ing social control of female sexuality, sexual victimization of women, and women’s dependence on men. Cultural definitions of sexuality that deter sexual assertiveness of women present implications for women’s satisfaction within relationships, and for women’s ability to protect themselves from sexually transmitted disease.