The sexual scripts women and men learn shape the dynamics that operate in social interaction episodes and social relationships. A woman may view repeated unsolicited sexual overtures by a man as harassing, whereas the man initiating the advances believes his behavior to be within appropriate boundaries, with his belief actually fostering escalation of such behavior (Pryor & Day, 1988).
Individuals have to negotiate with their interaction partners what aspects of their sexual scripts are appropriate in a particular encounter. The choice of scripts is based on what the person wants to achieve in the interaction, for example, approval, acceptance, a certain identity, or to shape the other’s behavior (Rose & Frieze 1989). In this sense, situation or context is important in choosing and implementing sexual scripts. Aspects of sexual scripts may either be triggered by situational cues (context) or purposefully used to create impressions (Gardner et al., 1994).
Purposeful behavior enacted to create a particular impression is the basis for impression management theory. Two interpersonal strategies are ingratiation and intimidation. Ingratiation may be used by a person for the purpose of looking attractive or being well liked by someone in power. Women may be encouraged to engage in ingratiating types of behavior because men are often in positions of power over them. Therefore, women may choose to compliment others, be agreeable, and emphasize their own physical appearance for the purpose of gaining acceptance or approval (Gardner et al., 1994).
To intimidate or coerce, people must convince target others that the initiator can make them experience negative consequences, be they physical, emotional, or professional. Men use this strategy more readily than women, perhaps because men have more power and this type of behavior is more congruent with societal expectations of men. Women are more likely to rely on other scripted behavior such as an assertive self-presentation style (Gardner et al., 1994).
Contexts or definitions of situations also play a role in the negotiation of scripts that shape interpretations of behavior and the opportunities to negotiate the interpretations. In American culture, men have a prerogative to introduce sex into an interaction regardless of context. Lack of situational variation may be evidence of the strength of certain sexual scripts. Some gender typed cultural scripts are more rigidly held and considered stronger than alternative scripts (Rose & Frieze, 1989). Another possible reason for the disregard of context in certain sexual scripts concerns the illegitimate use of power in the negotiation or lack of negotiation of sexual scripts.
More powerful people may impose their definitions on others. And people may misinterpret others’ gestures to conform to what they want from the other. Nonverbal communication (e. g., smiles) may be particularly problematic, for the ambiguity of various nonverbal gestures may make it easier to assign gender stereotyped expectations to them than to verbal gestures (Johnson, 1994).