Norm Discrepancies and Gender Differences: Why Unacceptable Sexual Behaviours Occur in Australian Nightlife Settings

Ms Aimee-Rose Wrightson-Hester1, Dr Maria Allan1, Professor Alfred Allan1

1Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, Australia

Some nightlife setting patrons’ behavior would be unacceptable in workplaces or other public settings and could cause distress to other patrons. Theorists postulate that people’s descriptive norm of behavior (i.e., their perception of how people typically behave in a situation) and the injunctive norm (i.e., their perception of what others think is acceptable behavior in the situation) govern their behavior in social contexts.  People therefore engage in, or tolerate behaviors contrary to their personal norms.  This quantitative study examined 197 young Australian’s social and personal norms regarding three types of sexual behavior thought to be common in nightlife settings. Mixed model analyses of variance were used to analyse the data that was gathered using an anonymous online survey.  The results show there is a discrepancy between the different norms of young Australian nightlife patrons, along with several gender differences. Overall, all behaviours were rated as unacceptable by both men and women. The descriptive norm findings indicate that nightlife patrons perceive that these behaviours are more typical of men than women. Although nightlife patrons believe these behaviours are more acceptable when performed by women (personal norm), and they believe their peers share this belief although are more accepting of these behaviours overall than themselves (injunctive norm). These gender differences could have important implications for any interventions used in the context and should be explored further. Overall, the discrepancy between the norms indicates that a social normative approach to reducing unacceptable sexual behaviours in nightlife settings could be appropriate.


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