When is it rape? The role of rape and seduction scripts

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Virginia Tech

Accompanying the high prevalence of rape among college women is a high prevalence of unacknowledged rape, or women who have been raped who do not label it as such. The current studies explore one theory which may help account for unacknowledged rape, script theory. Specifically, it may be that individuals have scripts for rape and seduction which overlap on a number dimensions, which may lead certain incidents of rape to be labeled seduction. Three studies were conducted to test the possible role of scripts in labeling an incident rape or not. In study 1, unique and overlapping elements of undergraduates' rape and seduction scripts were identified using a free-writing task and a questionnaire. In study 2, an ambiguous sexual scenario was developed. In study 3, script salience was manipulated by labeling the ambiguous scenario as either rape or seduction. This manipulation had little effect on participants' characterization of the scenario. However, results of internal analyses suggested that what script was activated affected participants' beliefs about the outcome of the scenario for the woman as well as their recall for the elements of the scenario. Implications of the results for the phenomenon of unacknowledged rape are discussed.

script theory, unacknowledged rape, rape, seduction