PATRICIA L. N. DONAT AND JACQUELYN W. WHITE

Our understanding of all forms of violence against women, including sexual assault, is embedded in our culture (Koss, Goodman, Browne, Fitz­gerald, Keita, & Russo, 1994). Because cultural norms, sexual scripts, and gender roles play such a large role in defining these experiences, it is im­portant to examine not only the dominant voice in the social construction and maintenance of contemporary definitions, but also to the factors that are marginalized by traditional definitions and by institutionalized construc­tions. In this chapter, we will examine the social construction of women’s consent in sexual relations and challenge traditional conceptualizations of acquaintance rape based on the consent construct.1 It is our hope that this

‘Our discussion does not include cases of consensual but unwanted sex, that is, situations in which one partner overtly consents to unwanted sexual activity. For example, a partner may consent to sexual activity motivated by a desire to maintain the relationship although not desiring sexual activity at that time (perhaps because of other plans, being too tired, not being sexually aroused, or being concerned about pregnancy, etc.). For further discussion of the social construction of consent in noncoercive sexual relationships, see Muehlenhard, Powch, Phelps, <&. Giusti (1992) and a 1995 American Psychological Association symposium on “Consenting to unwanted sex” (O’Sullivan, 1995).

knowledge will empower us to acknowledge and reconstruct women’s ex­periences.