Parenting Quality, Entitlement and Male Sexual Coercion

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Updated: Apr 27, 2021
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Sexual coercion has become recognized as a widespread problem in the United States. Significant changes in social norms, legal approaches, and political sensitivity have occurred. This has made sexual coercion a frequent subject of research in recent years. The geographical focus of this problem has been on college campuses, and within that location, the main subject of study has been on men. Attempts have been made to both identify key predictors and causes of the behavior. This has resulted in a large number of mostly correlative studies aimed primarily at men. However, the same changing attitudes and intense legal pressures have created significant problems for researchers and policy makers.

Pugh and Becker (2018) observed that sexual coercion has many forms. It is normally brought on by the refusal of sex and the unwillingness of the other partner to take no for an answer. Sexual coercion can take the form of verbal coercion, normally accompanied by touching in the hope of arousing the person who is refusing the sex. When that does not work, it can escalate to threats to end the relationship or to obtain sex with someone else if the partner does not want to comply. In some situations, drugs and alcohol with the intention of making the other person more complaint, accompany sexual coercion. Complete refusal can lead to the use of physical force resulting in rape.

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These varying forms, methods, and outcomes have created definitional and conceptual problems for researchers. Given the rapidly changing legal and societal standards, as well as the private and dynamic situations in which sexual coercion may occur, researchers face challenges in properly measuring sexual coercion as a phenomenon and thus making difficult the identification of discreet factors associated with it. Ambiguity or argument over definitions can invalidate assumptions and models that form the basis of understanding the subject. For instance, Bouffard and Goodson (2017) noted the problems with definitions of rape and sexual coercion and warned that the validity of various predictors could depend on how broad a definition was used. Similarly, Pugh and Becker (2018) cited the problem of defining of sexual coercion as distinct from rape versus part of a continuum, as well as trying to discern (mild seduction techniques) “benign seduction tactics” from more coercive sexual behaviors. Such a variance in fundamental definitions would obviously create measurement problems for researchers. Pugh and Becker’s (2018) study attempted to bypass this issue by focusing on the opportunity for and perceived validity of female consent in the model. Coercive behaviors that extract consent where it previously did not exist, the authors argued, rendered the consent invalid. Even if the coercive behaviors are verbal or could be viewed in older standards as harmless or benign, they could be considered sexually coercive today. This analysis points to men’s persistence in coercive behaviors in the face of lack of consent as a key to understanding the problem.

Despite the definitional problems, multiple predictive factors for sexual coercion have been identified and researched. They are not however, well organized around a functional model. Indeed, some studies focus on factors or attitudes without analyzing their relationship to sexual coercion. Grubbs, Exline and Twenge (2014) studied the relationship between entitlement, one facet of narcissistic personalities, and ambivalent sexism. NOTE: expand. 19b for sexual coercion in different forms. Grubbs et al, (2014) address the relationship between entitlement and sexual coercion. They argue that psychological entitlement has a direct relationship to ambivalent sexism, which in turn can be a precursor to sexual coercion.

Entitlement is, however, a worthy subject of study. Some researchers define entitlement as an unrealistic expectation of deserving more privileges or special considerations without justification. Entitlement and sexual coercion are both hotly debated topics on college campuses. Making the leap between a sense of academic entitlement to a sense of sexual entitlement seems intuitive to many. More than one researcher has approached the correlations between various definitions of entitlement and various definitions of sexual coercion. However, as noted below, its role may be overstated.

Richardson, Simons and Futris (2017) studied how family background, the quality of parenting, and family life experienced during childhood can relate to sexual coercion. Their study addressesed the sense of entitlement that some adults develop by tracing it back to their family background, which in turn can be connected to sexual coercion. They identified three main possibilities for this personality trait:

  1. Children brought up with inconsistent parenting. This normally happens in divorce situations or parents in hostile relationships. Parents in these situations do not often agree on child-rearing rules. Parental inconsistency can lead to sexual coercion. Children grow up taking advantage of this parental inconsistency learning that “no rarely means no” (Richardson et al, 2017).
  2. Children who grow up with overindulgent parents. This type of parenting is popularly known as helicopter parenting because they hover over every aspect of their children’s life, helping them get out of difficult situations rather than letting them learn through their own mistakes.
  3. Children whose parents have had a hostile relationship, showing little empathy to one another. Children raised in this kind of household lack empathy towards others due to lack of good role models. They feel resentment towards others because of what they perceived they missed in childhood, and it can sometimes lead to feelings of deservingness.

Morin (2018) observes that entitlement in the form of academic entitlement has created a pervasive problem in colleges across the United States. Whether students grew up with a sense of entitlement due to inconsistent, indulgent, or hostile parenting (Richardson et al, 2016), professors in colleges and universities find themselves being confronted by students who expect to be aided in their educational pursuits putting forth a minimal effort and who have grown up never getting no for an answer.

Richardson et al. 2016 show a direct relationship between inconsistent, overindulgent. or hostile parenting and a sense of entitlement, but entitlement alone does not seem to be fully correlated with sexual coercion. Their findings suggest that only when entitlement is combined with a bad parental relationship could a significant correlation with sexual coercion be found. Description of study (Richardson et al, 2017) noting definitional and study design approaches use of established instruments that sought no line of demarcation, just a scoreable range of attitudes.

Description of results, and the entitled that do not act so. Attitudes of men: most of these studies rely on statements of men self-reported standards of behavior (what I would do) or reports of “What I have done?” how reliable is stated attitudes of men compared to how they behave in the moment of sexual encounters or their reports of past behavior that are becoming increasingly controversial and taboo.

Women: left mostly unsaid in these studies the problems faced by women in communicating and enforcing consent. Here entitlement felt by women may serve a countering role to sexual coercion. As noted though by Pugh and Becker (2018), if the validity of a woman’s consent is not mutually agreed upon, then sexual coercion seems inevitable.


By linking to sexual coercion rather than other secondary measures, (Richardson et al, 2017) built a foundation that may survive future changes in definitions and models of sexual coercion. By teasing out the lack of influence of entitlement on men with positive parental role models, the study may have identified entitlement as an impetus to sexual coercion subject to a braking effect present in men with positive parental family experiences, and absent in men lacking those experiences. This observation suggests a model that could lead to better interventional strategies.

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Parenting Quality, Entitlement and Male Sexual Coercion. (2021, Apr 27). Retrieved from