Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


47th Annual Convention; Online; 2021

All times listed are Eastern time (GMT-4 at the time of the convention in May).

Event Details

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Symposium #461
CE Offered: BACB — 
Diversity submission Yes Means Yes: A Behavioral Conceptualization of Sexual Consent
Monday, May 31, 2021
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
Area: CSS; Domain: Theory
Chair: Rebecca Copell (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)
Discussant: Janani Vaidya (Louisiana Contextual Science Research Group )
CE Instructor: Janani Vaidya, M.S.

Research about sexual consent is sparse compared to research about situations where consent is expressly not given, like rape and sexual assault (Beres, 2007). The language and communication around consent has been examined, as are how these negotiations of sexual consent occur. Not only is sexual consent communicated through verbal behavior, but consent is often negotiated through body language, facial expressions, and other non-verbal behaviors. The assumption around sexual consent is often that consent is given unless it is revoked, as conveyed in the saying “no means no”. Instead, this symposium will examine the complexities around behaviors involved in giving and receiving consent. With the nuances of communicating sexual consent, interpreting the contingencies in play, and understanding learning histories surrounding consent, the authors propose that consent, as a response class, is both more complicated, and potentially more impactful than many other behaviors. We will address the current body of work around sexual consent and its background in psychological research, as well as the contexts in which sexual consent is examined. The authors will also take steps to describe sexual consent in behavioral terms, outline the ethical considerations for behavior analysts with respect to promoting self-advocacy and harm reduction, and make recommendations for future research on consent from a behavior analytic perspective.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): Conceptualization, Inclusivity, Sexual behavior, Sexual consent
Target Audience:

Practitioners working with a variety of folks

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: 1. Define consent, 2. Identify consent within multiple demographics, 3. Describe at least one target behavior in training consent
Diversity submission 

Giving and Receiving: Sexual Consent Through a Behavior Analytic Lens

EVA LIEBERMAN (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana Lafayette)

Data indicate that 1 in 6 American cis women and 1 in 33 cis men experience being raped in their lifetimes (RAINN, 2020). In these instances, evidence of the absence of consent is crucial to how these crimes are prosecuted by the criminal justice system, and perceived by the general public. A traditional analysis of sexual consent across a variety of domains like law, psychology, and sociology relies on the assumption that consent is given unless it is revoked overtly. Sexual consent is often studied in social psychology, and investigated in ways that look at the communication between two parties as they navigate a sexual situation. This paper will not only propose that consent is a vastly complex behavior, but that both giving and receiving consent are behaviors in and of themselves. The authors will map out the behavior of sexual consent using a behavior analytic framework, and discuss the importance of shifting the lens through which psychologists and behavior analysts alike study this phenomenon.

Diversity submission 

Inclusive Narratives of Sexual Consent: Behavior, Limitations, and Practical Implications

PATRICK WADE RICHARDSON (University of Louisiana Lafayette), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana Lafayette)

Conceptualizing sexual consent from a behavior analytic perspective is a complex task. Capturing the nuances and intricacies around consent as a behavior requires an understanding of how consent is traditionally negotiated, and under what contexts sexual consent is discussed, or not discussed. Not only does decades of research on sexual violence primarily focus on heterosexual cisgender female victims, but the “traditional” ways in which non-consent is discussed is exclusionary. This paper will review our colleagues’ conceptualization and refine the behavioral conceptualization. It will discuss limitations of examining consent from a cisgender, heterosexual narrative and the scripts that are associated with, and expected in those specific situations. Further, it will demonstrate the limitations of existing psychological literature, such as how sexual consent research often excludes the experiences of LGBTQIAP+, BIPOC, and disabled/neurodivergent communities, and their intersections. This group of authors hopes to encourage peers and colleagues to continue to investigate the phenomena of interest with inclusivity and compassion.




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