The belief that a woman has consented to sexual intercourse despite her objections rests on several assumptions. Martha Burt (1980, 1991) hypothesized that the status of women within American culture plays a significant role in the attitudes toward sexual violence held by persons, particularly rapists. These attitudes and beliefs may serve to facilitate sexually aggressive acts by reducing prohibitions against engaging in violent acts. Mary Koss and her colleagues (Koss, Leonard, Beezley, & Oros, 1985) proposed an early model of date rape, stating that
culturally transmitted assumptions about men, women, violence, sexuality, and myths about rape constitute a rape-supportive belief system. Furthermore, stratified systems such as the American dating situation may legitimate the use of force by those in power and weaken resistance of the less powerful. Finally acquisition of stereotyped myths about rape may result in a failure to label as rape sexual aggression that occurs in dating situations. (Koss et al., 1985, p. 982)
Recent research has found that underlying these rape-supportive attitudes appears to be a general hostility toward women (Lonsway & Fitzgerald,
1995) that influences the likelihood that nonconsensual sexual behavior will occur. Recent models of sexual aggression have found hostile masculinity to be predictive of sexually aggressive behavior (Malamuth, Linz, Heavey, Barnes, &. Acker, 1995; Malamuth, Sockloskie, Koss, & Tanaka, 1991). Hostile masculinity is defined as having two main components: (a) a hostile-distrustful orientation toward women, and (b) a motivational influence of dominance in sexual relationships.
Adversarial sexual beliefs are exemplified by some men’s view of male – female relationships as exploitive and of sex as a means of achieving personal enjoyment, satisfaction, and status. Manipulation may be accepted as a common interaction strategy between men and women. Therefore, when on a date, a man’s attitudes toward women and his motives for engaging in sexual behavior may influence how he perceives the woman, how he interprets her behavior, and how he chooses to behave during the date (Donat, 1995; Shotland, 1989). An underlying suspiciousness of women may prompt a sexually aggressive man to react in a hostile manner when he interprets a woman’s behavior as rejecting, yet overtly sexual (Malamuth & Brown, 1994). Indeed, researchers have found that these adversarial sexual beliefs are more likely to be endorsed by men who report engaging in sexually aggressive behavior (Burt, 1980; Donat, 1991, 1995; Koss et al., 1985). Men who report interacting with women in a sexually coercive or aggressive manner are the same men who are more likely to view interactions between men and women as primarily exploitative.
Within this adversarial context, an acceptance of interpersonal violence may be tolerated in interactions with others. This acceptance of interpersonal violence may permeate all relationships, including intimate ones. This view assumes that physical force may be necessary and perhaps desirable in sexual relationships. A man may believe that force can be an effective strategy to seduce a reluctant partner (Burt, 1980). As a result, a physical struggle may not be interpreted as problematic. In fact, it may even be interpreted as arousing. Media and pornographic images often reinforce this view, portraying men and women engaged in physical confrontations that ultimately end in mutually overwhelming sexual desire. Indeed, after viewing a sexually explicit scene of a woman enjoying a rape, men report a much higher likelihood of raping a woman if they knew they would not be caught (Briere & Malamuth, 1983). The message communicated is that love conquers all, even the resistance of one’s partner.