The Sexually Assertive Behavior Scale

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Handbook of Sexuality-Related Measures (3rd ed.)


The purpose of the Sexually Assertive Behavior Scale (SABS) is to assess women’s behaviors and motives relative to initiating sexual contact with men.


The SABS is a 19-item scale composed of six factors—Sexual Arousal, Hidden Motives, Verbal Pressure, Retaliation or Gain, Physical Force, and Exploitation. Factor 1 (Sexual Arousal) relates to mutually consenting sexual contact and attempts to arouse a partner. Factor 2 (Hidden Motives) items relate to a woman initiating a sexual relationship with a man other than her partner to make her partner jealous, to hurt him, or to terminate their relationship. Factor 3 (Verbal Pressure) items relate to verbally persuasive tactics. Factor 4 (Retaliation or Gain) items relate to initiating sexual contact with a partner out of anger, to retaliate, or to gain favor. Factor 5 (Physical Force) items specify the threat and use of physical force. Factor 6 (Exploitation) items relate to initiating sexual contact while the partner is vulnerable. The SABS was developed to assess a wide range of behaviors and motives relative to women initiating sexual contact. Thirteen of the items in the SABS were adapted from the Sexual Experiences Survey (SES) developed by Koss and Oros (1982). The SES is a self-report instrument using dichotomous (yes-no) responses to 13 questions that reflect various degrees of male sexual aggression and female victimization. For example, women responding to the SES were asked, “Have you had sexual intercourse when you didn’t want to because a man used his position of authority (boss, teacher, camp counselor, supervisor) to make you?” This work was chosen for adaptation because it was previously tested and shown to have good internal consistency reliability (Cronbach’s alpha = .74 for women, .89 for men), test-retest reliability of .93, and external validity established through face-to-face interview (Pearson r = .61, p < .001) (Koss & Gidycz, 1985). In addition to the 13 items adapted from the SES for inclusion in the SABS, 6 more items were generated from a review of the literature on male sexual aggression and item suggestions by a panel of experts in sexual aggression. For example, “How many times have you attempted to have sexual contact with a man by taking advantage of a compromising position he was in (being where he did not belong or breaking some rule)?” or “How many times have you attempted to have sexual contact with a man to get even with or hurt another man?” All items were worded to conform to the interviewing style used by Kinsey, Pomeroy, and Martin (1948), who assumed all respondents had engaged in each behavior mentioned and allowed for specific numerical responses (i.e., “How many times have you . . . ?” rather than “Have you ever . . . ?”). Also, we attempted to arrange the order of items in the SABS to ask what we judged to be the more comfortable questions first. Additional material pertaining to this scale, including information about format, scoring, reliability, and validity is available in Fisher, Davis, Yarber, and Davis (2010).

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