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The Kinsey Institute Student Research Grant Program

About the KI Student Research Grants

2011 Grant Recipients

Yvette Hill, Indiana University, Psychological and Brain Sciences
Kristen Jozkowski, Indiana University, Applied Health Science
Maren Scull, Indiana University, Sociology

Sabra Katz-Wise, University of Wisconsin at Madison
Maxwell Moholy, Idaho State University
Matthew Stief, Cornell University

Student Research Abstracts

Yvette Hill, Indiana University, Psychological and Brain Sciences
Topic: The Interaction of Sexual Interest, Motivation, and Testosterone in Sexually Coercive Men

Literature suggests that sexually coercive men may be deficient in reading women’s sexual cues. It is possible that during sexual interactions, sexually coercive men may ignore, misread, or fail to perceive women's reluctance or ambivalence about sex, and thus, they may continue to push or force the women to engage in unwanted sex. Furthermore, sexually coercive men may be less empathetic to women's emotional state during sexual situations, and therefore, unlike non-sexually coercive men, their level of sexual arousal and desire may not be diminished when the women express disinterest or lack of enjoyment. It is also possible that differences in hormones and attention to different aspects of the same visual sexual stimuli could reflect pre-existing cognitive biases that possibly contribute to specific behaviors involved in the perpetration of sexual coercion or aggression. By understanding what factors reliably predict sexual coercion or aggression, researchers can develop better prevention and treatment strategies in an effort to reduce such negative behavior. The current study will explore using an eye-tracking task: a) whether attention patterns to sexual stimuli and testosterone interact to predict the degree to which men report engaging in sexually coercive behavior, and b) whether attention patterns to sexual stimuli and sexual arousal interact to predict the degree of self-reported sexually coercive behavior.

Kristen Jozkowski, Indiana University, Applied Health Science
Topic: Feeling Yes and Saying Yes may Not be the Same: Measuring Internal and External Conceptualizations of Sexual Consent

Sexual assault is a salient public health issue in the US, particularly among college women. Women with a history of sexual assault experience more negative physical, psychological, and sexual health outcomes when compared to women who have not experienced assault. At the crux of sexual assault is the concept of sexual consent. Although, extensive research examining sexual assault exists, there is limited research which examines consent. In a 1995/1996 SIECUS report, Muehlenhard theorized that consent could be defined as a mental act (feelings of willingness to engage in sexual activity) or a verbal act (behavioral/verbal indicators of willingness to engage in sexual activity); yet her conceptualizations of consent have not been empirically studied. The proposed study will assess her theorized conceptualizations of consent by examining how college students define consent both in terms of their internal feelings of willingness to engage in sexual activity and the behavioral indicators they use to communicate their willingness to engage in sexual activity. A systematic approach including two phases of data collection will be implemented in order to develop, design and assess internal (mental) and external (behavioral/verbal) measures of consent. A finalized version of the measures will be administered to a large sample of college students and will be assessed for their psychometric properties using exploratory factor analysis. The design of specific measures which assess students’ internal and external conceptualizations of consent will be an important contribution to the field of public and sexual health given the dearth of research available on consent.

Maren Scull, Indiana University, Sociology
Topic: Embodiment, Gender, and Relationships among Male Strippers

The way we view ourselves is, in part, rooted in the perceptions we believe others have of us. Therefore, the audiences that witness us enact our social roles have the capacity to affect our self-concept and self-definitions. One of the main areas in which this occurs is in our occupational roles. In this research, I examine the ways in which occupying the role of an exotic dancer influences the self-concepts of male strippers. Specifically, I draw from Cooley’s (1902) idea of the self-concept, which refers to the way individuals perceive themselves when they view themselves from the perspective of others. Although some researchers have concentrated on the relationship between exotic dance and the self-concept, much of the literature focuses on females who strip for males (FSM), or males who strip for males (MSM). How the occupation of stripping influences the self-conceptions of males who strip for females (MSF) has received only little attention from academics. To understand this relationship, I have begun to conduct field work and in-depth interviews with male dancers who perform at venues with female patrons. In analyzing my data, I will focus on three specific areas that play a significant role in shaping how individuals think about themselves. First, I will focus on issues of embodiment by looking at how strippers use their body to create a sexual atmosphere during their performances. Second, I will explore the idea of gender by looking at the ways in which exotic dance is intertwined with notions of masculinity and femininity. Third, I will examine strippers’ relationships to significant others such as friends, family members, and sexual partners.

Sabra Katz-Wise - University of Wisconsin at Madison
Topic: Sexual Fluidity and Identity Development in Sexual Minority Young Adults

My dissertation investigates sexual identity development, the process of sexual questioning, and change in sexual identity over time in sexual minority young adult women and men. A specific goal is to investigate how sexual identity, sexual and romantic attraction, and sexual behavior, play a role in these processes. Another goal is to identify similarities and differences in these processes based on gender and sexual identity label. This research will test whether existing theory on sexual fluidity applies to a new sample of women, and whether this theory also extends to sexual minority men. Through completion of a survey, and qualitative interviews with sexual minority young adults in Wisconsin, this study will shed light on the complexities of sexual identity development, and change in sexual identity over time.

Maxwell Moholy, Idaho State University
Topic: Specific Impact of Sexual Arousal on Risky Decisions on the Iowa Gambling Task

Higher levels of sexual arousal predict increases in intentions to take sexual risks. However, the specific cognitive changes that predict the risk increase in decision-making during sexual arousal are unclear. This study examines these decision processes in depth. Rather than studying gross “risky shift” in sexual decision-making, general decision-making processes are studied under different conditions of arousal. Specifically, the widely used Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) is completed when participants are sexually aroused, generally aroused, or under two control conditions. In this task, participants select cards from one of four decks, where each deck has a different payoff scheme. As individuals engage in the task, their pattern of responses changes as they gain experience with the decks. This allows a trial-by-trial mathematical model of performance quantifying parameters that lead to changes in overall risk proneness or aversion. For example, an individual might take more risks when they are sexually aroused because all rewards become more reinforcing. On the other hand, the increase in risk during sexual arousal might be better explained as people worrying less about losses. Performance on the IGT under different conditions of arousal will be modeled to determine if changes in riskiness are better attributed to changes in reward or loss sensitivity. A better understanding of the cognitive processes underlying decision-making and sexual arousal may lead to more effective methods of reducing risky sexual behavior.

Matthew Stief, Cornell University
Topic: Sexual Orientation and Early Attention Allocation to Sexual Stimuli

What exactly does sexual orientation "orient?" One way to answer that question is to look at the time course of the response to sexual stimuli. Conceptually, the first process that could be "oriented" toward either males or females is the automatic capture of attention toward sexual stimuli appearing in peripheral vision. The attention capture is "covert" in that it precedes eye movement toward the stimulus. This process is fast (less than 200ms), automatic, and is rooted in phylogenetically old mechanisms that prioritize information processing resources toward biologically relevant parts of the environment and prepare the body for action. This study will examine whether this process is indeed "oriented." To do this, we will use electroencephalography (EEG) to directly measure the neurological response to sexual stimuli. We will take advantage of the well characterized modulation of EEG recordings by attention to detect whether or not an individuals attention has been captured by either male or female sexual stimuli. This will provide a new tool to address outstanding questions in sex research regarding a lack of a bisexual pattern of response to sexual stimuli among bisexually identified men, as well as the nonspecific pattern of response to sexual stimuli among women regardless of sexual orientation. Most importantly, the proposed study will provide a new objective measure of a totally involuntary process intrinsic to sexual orientation.

Previous Winners

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