The Costs and Benefits of Perceived Sexual Agency for Men and Women

Janell C. Fetterolf, Diana T. Sanchez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Women are less likely than men to engage in sexually agentic behavior (e.g., initiating sexual encounters), despite the benefits associated with sexual agency (Kiefer & Sanchez, 2007). Two studies examined possible explanations, related to person perception, for gender differences in sexually agentic behavior. In Study 1, participants viewed the dating profiles of targets who were either high or low on sexual agency and rated sexually agentic targets as more desirable but also riskier sexual partners (i.e., having more previous sexual partners), as well as more selfish partners overall. Participants believed the agentic female targets to be the most desirable but also to have the highest number of previous sexual partners. In Study 2, female participants weighed the importance and consequences of sexual agency differently than male participants. Based on the two studies, we suggest that although men and women are judged similarly for sexual agency, women may refrain from sexual agency because they view the traits and characteristics that are perceived to go hand in hand with sexual agency more negatively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)961-970
Number of pages10
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


  • Gender differences
  • Sexual agency
  • Sexual assertiveness
  • Sexual behavior
  • Sexual norms

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