There is a common belief that men are empowered sexually. Men know this is silly, of course. It is women who decide each day if they want to have sex or not, not men.  It's in college that young men learn this lesson.

This pressure to be both sexually dominant while recognizing it isn't possible can disempower both men and women, says a new paper. Gender roles and norms play a role in sexual behavior between men and women and it is often assumed that men dominate women sexually, according to psychologists who need to write papers saying such. This assumption may lead to loss of both power and the ability to control sexual behavior among women and men, as well as lead to increased sexual risk-taking, such as not using a female condom, according to a new paper based on surveys of, of course, college students.

Social dominance orientation is a measure of people's level of support for social power inequalities and hierarchy. The belief is linked to greater hostile sexism, more negative attitudes towards women's rights, a greater tolerance of sexual harassment and a greater preference for traditional gender roles. The authors examined whether the extent to which both women and men endorse social dominance orientation explains gender dominance and dynamics in heterosexual relationships. So they asked a total of 357 undergraduate women and 126 undergraduate men from a Northeastern US university to take a survey. Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire on a computer, next to which there was a bowl of female condoms. The researchers assessed the students' "social dominance orientation", the extent to which they believed that men should dominate sexually, how confident they felt in sexual situations, as well as the number of female condoms they took away with them. In other words, it was all pretty subjective.

Overall, they determined college age women were less likely than college age men to endorse the view that men should dominate sexually. The more these northeastern men and women believed that social power inequalities and hierarchy were valid, the more likely they were to endorse the belief that men should dominate sexually, and the less likely they were to feel confident in sexual situations and consider using female condoms.

The authors conclude: "These findings suggest that beliefs about power may play a key role in both women's and men's attitudes to sexual behavior, and potentially their decisions to protect themselves during sexual activity. Results highlight that social dominance orientation and dynamics in heterosexual relationships do not only hurt women, but also men because they potentially decrease their sexual self-efficacy and interest in female condoms as well."

Citation: Rosenthal L et al (2012). Social dominance orientation relates to believing men should dominate sexually, sexual efficacy, and taking free female condoms among undergraduate women and men. Sex Roles; DOI 10.1007/s11199-012-0207-6