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Individual Differences in the Propensity for Partner Sexual Coercion

Individual Differences in the Propensity for Partner Sexual Coercion

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124 Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatmentrisk of recidivism, and psychopathy than rapists is consistent with what we know ofthese groups (e.g., Baxter, Marshall, Barbaree, Davidson, & Malcolm, 1984; Cantor,Blanchard, Robichaud, & Christenson, 2005; Rice & Harris, 1997), ensuring confidencein the validity of our comparison groups. Because the present study is the firstto publish these characteristics of partner rapists, we cannot be sure if they are representativeof all partner rapists or at least partner rapists in forensic psychiatricsettings. Subsequent research with larger samples is therefore required. Althoughconstraints on collecting a representative sample of partner rapists also exist for ourother offender groups, there is an obvious issue surrounding the low number of convictedpartner rapists. Victimization data we reviewed earlier suggest that there aremany partner rapes that do not reach the criminal justice system. The causes of suchlow base rates may be due, in part, to official rap sheets misclassifying sexualoffenses as physical violence (Rice, Harris, Lang, & Cormier, 2006) or to underreportingof partner sexual assaults. It is for this latter reason that our sample may beoverrepresented with psychopaths or antisocial men if only the most dangerous andviolent partner rapists are charged and convicted. But again, we are unsure whethernonpartner sexual assault is underreported more than partner sexual assault. Onesolution to this problem is to sample the general population, as we did in Study 1,for converging evidence.General DiscussionMen who rape their romantic partner can be placed in one of two offender groups:partner offenders because of their relationship to the victim and sexual offendersbecause of the sexual act. In two studies, we found that partner rapists share a fewcharacteristics with these groups, the most notable being psychopathy. Despite thevast research on psychopathy (see Patrick, 2008, for a current review), the presentpair of studies is the first to implicate psychopathy as a determinant of sexual offendingin relationships. This finding is consistent with our understanding of psychopathsas being parasitic, having many short-term marital relationships, and usingsexually coercive behaviors. Psychopathic men appear to direct these parasitic andcoercive behaviors toward in-pair mates (“romantic” or “committed” relationshipsmay be a poor characterization as applied to psychopaths). Still, two thirds of partnerrapists were not psychopaths, and psychopathy does not account for the less extensivecriminal history of partner rapists. A possible explanation for these latter findingsis that among nonpsychopaths, intrasexual competition lessens when pair bondsare formed 4 and the primary source of competition is presented by female partner,extra-pair copulations. If true, any additional characteristics or predictors of partnersexual coercion should focus on circumstances and characteristics related toincreased partner infidelity, not just measures of male competition.In both our community and forensic samples, competitive disadvantage did notemerge as a predictor of partner sexual coercion, suggesting that partner rape is aDownloaded from http://sax.sagepub.com at Queen's University on March 16, 2009

Camilleri, Quinsey / Partner Sexual Coercion 125nonpathological behavior (for a discussion of the relationship between pathology,sexual deviance, and sexual offending, see Camilleri & Quinsey, 2008a). One reasonfor this finding is that competitive disadvantage accounts for men who are disadvantagedin ways that would make acquiring a mate more difficult, and men in relationshipsdo not have this problem. A problem with this explanation is that it assumesthere are no competitively disadvantaged men in relationships, and we have yet toaccount for other measures of competitive disadvantage, such as social adversity orneurodevelopmental incidents among convicted men. The hypothesis that competitivelydisadvantaged men are more likely to sexually coerce a romantic partnerbecause they are at greater risk of being cuckolded therefore requires a more extensiveinvestigation.Youthfulness did not emerge as a primary characteristic of partner rapists. Therewas no relationship between age and self-reported interest in partner sexual coercion,and although there were no age differences between partner rapists and othersexual offender groups, most partner rapists did not fall within the late adolescent toearly adult age group that typifies the young male syndrome. Observing the frequencydistribution of partner rapists and rapists on age, however, suggests that theprotective effects of age on sexual offending cannot be ruled out entirely amongpartner rapists. The age–crime curve (i.e., higher frequency of offenders amongyounger males) was observed in both groups, but partner rapists had a later onsetthan nonpartner rapists, probably because of the time it takes to establish relationships.5 This effect requires validation by comparing the age–crime curve from largersamples of partner rapists and rapists in general.In Study 2, partner rapists were also compared to partner assaulters. The findingthat partner rapists were different from partner assaulters on static risk factors (i.e.,psychopathy and VRAG scores) is very interesting in light of our recent observationthat partner rapists experienced more cuckoldry risk events than partner assaultersdid (Camilleri & Quinsey, 2008b); this finding suggests that psychopathy and cuckoldryrisk are better predictors of partner sexual assault than partner assault.Our results also inform other intimate partner violence classifications. For example,Monson and Langhinrichsen-Rohling’s (1998) batterer typology includes menwho are generally violent and antisocial. Our findings not only imply that a significantproportion of these men are psychopathic but also that psychopathy is morediagnostic of men who sexually assault a partner than men who physically assault apartner. This finding is also consistent with Monson and Langhinrichsen-Rohling’ssuggestion that the generally violent and antisocial batterer type commits bothphysical and sexual violence within and outside relationships.Our set of studies provide a first glimpse of individual difference characteristicsof men who are interested in or commit sexually coercive acts with their romanticpartner. Unfortunately, low base rates of partner rape convictions limits the comparisonsand analyses required to test more complex models of partner rape etiology(i.e., to identify mutually exclusive paths and interactions). Although usingDownloaded from http://sax.sagepub.com at Queen's University on March 16, 2009

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