Sexual victimization is one way of achieving social control of sexu­ality in women. Rape is often used in societies as a means of controlling women’s sexuality. Sanday (1981) describes the Kikuyu, where “a band of boys belonging to a guild roamed the countryside in search of a woman to gang rape as a means of proving their manhood and as a prelude to mar­riage” (p. 20). Sanday concludes, based on a data set of 156 standard sam­ple societies, that rape-prone societies generally condone violence and are characterized by male dominance; that is, in a society where women do not have power and authority. Clearly, the United States is a rape-prone society. More recently, Sanday elaborated on rape as a means of social control in fraternities (Sanday, 1990). The theory that rape is a means by which men control women was eloquently advanced by Brownmiller (1975). According to Brownmiller, “From prehistoric times to the present, I believe, rape has played a critical function. It is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear” (p. 15). One result of that state of fear is the sexual accommodation of the individual’s male partner.

Sexual victimization is more insidious when it begins in childhood.

A recent review article by Polusny and Follette (1995) documented the long-term correlates of child sexual abuse (CSA). It is now established that CSA is related to adult sexual functioning. Women with sexual abuse his­tories change partners more frequently, engage in sexual activities with casual acquaintances more, have more short-term sexual relationships, en­gage in voluntary sexual intercourse at an earlier age, and have more sexual partners than nonsexually abused women (Polusny & Follette, 1995). Fi­nally, CSA has been shown to be related to revictimization experiences. According to Polusny and Follette (1995), “Overall, sexually abused fe­males reported significantly more negative adult experiences, including sex­ual assault, physical assault, and force used in adult relationships than did nonabused women.” Wyatt, Guthrie, & Notgrass (1992) found that almost half of women who had been sexually victimized before the age of 18 reported abuse in adulthood. Women who were sexually abused during childhood were 2.4 times more likely to be revictimized as adults. Other data indicate that women with CSA histories demonstrated less sexual assertiveness for refusing unwanted sexual activities (Morokoff et al., 1997). These data suggest that sexual victimization prepares the child for sexual availability and submission as an adult.

In addition to effects on sexuality, CSA can produce “intense and pervasive negative internal experiences” (Polusny & Follette, 1995, p. 157). These experiences are characterized by feelings of negative affect such as guilt, shame, fear, and rage. Strategies to avoid painful memories and emotions are reported to be used by abuse survivors. For example, emo­tional avoidance behaviors such as dissociation, substance abuse, and self­mutilation are thought to be reinforced by avoidance of intense affect. Emotional suppression and denial are common coping strategies used by abuse survivors (Leitenberg, Greenwald, & Cado, 1992). A wide variety of other negative sequelae to CSA have been reported including general psy­chological distress, depression, self-harming behaviors, anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders, somatization, personality disorders, and impairment of interpersonal functioning (Polusny & Follette, 1995). Thus, although CSA increases women’s sexual vulnerability as adults, it also leads to vul­nerability in more general aspects of functioning.

Sexual victimization is unfortunately quite prevalent in American so­ciety. A national random telephone sample revealed that 27% of women and 16% of men reported having experienced sexual victimization under the age of 18 (Finkelhor, Hotaling, Lewis, & Smith, 1990). Sexual victim­ization of adult women is also very common, frequently reported by 1 in 4 women. If these experiences serve to intimidate women and decrease their sexual assertiveness, it can be expected that such effects occur for a substantial segment of the population.

A woman may be reluctant to place sexual demands on her male partner (e. g., to use condoms, to have sex when he doesn’t want to, to engage in nonpreferred sexual activities) or to refuse sex requested by her male partner (e. g., decline intercourse, refuse to perform oral sex, refuse to watch or act out scenes from pornographic videos) for fear of losing him. Commonly, male partners may threaten to seek sexual gratification else­where if female partners are not willing to supply sex, representing a sig­nificant threat to the relationship. Women fear losing a male partner be­cause they fear the loss of his economic support. Many women would not be able to maintain their economic lifestyle if they were abandoned by a male partner. For some women, this may represent the difference between being able to feed their children or not. For other women, it may simply represent the difference between maintaining a lifestyle or social standing they prefer and are motivated to retain.

Women fear losing a male partner because they do not want to risk alienating their children’s father, especially when society makes it clear who should accede to whose requests concerning sex. More profoundly, women are dependent on men to make them mothers in the first place. Although it is true that women can seek out an anonymous sexual encounter to become pregnant or opt for artificial insemination, thus avoiding having to please a man in order to become a mother, most women want their children to know their fathers. To achieve this goal, some accommodation of men’s sexuality may be required. It may be argued that since men also are dependent on women to make them fathers, neither party has the edge in sexual bargaining. However, the argument has been made by many that women are more interested in being mothers than men are in being fathers. Chodorow (1978) offers a nonbio logical explanation for this phenomenon. She argues that girls have a very close relationship with their mothers, unimpeded by a boy’s need to separate in order to achieve gender identity. Thus the focus developmentally for girls is on relationships, accommoda­tion, and caregiving, whereas for boys it is on separation, independence, and autonomy. To Chodorow, adult women seek intense relationships that replicate the psychic landscape of their childhoods. Such relationships can­not easily be achieved with men who are raised in the culture of individ­uation. Thus such relationships are only attained with their children, meaning that women have a greater psychological investment in having children than men do.

A third reason women fear losing a male partner is because men have traditionally served as protectors to women. According to Gates (1978), rape can be a method by which women are encouraged to remain depen­dent on men. Women’s susceptibility to sexual or otherwise violent attack, as well as to problems in the areas that gender roles prescribe as the male

domain (e. g., auto repair, appliance and household repair, finances), leave women vulnerable to feelings of dependency on men.