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Previous research has sought to understand how individuals use or prefer to use sexual consent, what children learn about consent, and if parents teach sexual consent to their children (Cavazos-Rehg et al., 2009; Jozkowski et al., 2013; Padilla-Walker et al., 2020). While research aims to comprehend how people involved in sexual intimacy use sexual consent, literature excludes non-heterosexual couples and non-binary folks’ consent experiences (Beres et al., 2004; Sternin et al., 2021). This exclusion hinders society’s knowledge about sexual consent education, consent use, and interpretation. Therefore, although the understanding of sexual consent has grown, we do not have ample knowledge of how gender norms shape the teaching, interpretation, and use of consent. The purpose of this study is to understand gendered experiences in learning, interpreting, and using sexual consent. This study explores how male, female, and non-binary identifying participants learn about consent, what gender norms existed in those experiences, and how those experiences shape their interpretations and use of sexual consent. Ultimately, this study reveals gender differences and similarities in how male, female, and non-binary individuals learn, understand, and apply sexual consent. Data were collected from 11 in-depth, qualitative interviews with individuals who identify as male, female, and non-binary between the ages 18 and 23. This study applies the Information-Motivation-Behavior Model to illustrate how gendered experiences in learning about consent impact individuals’ consent motivation and use (Shumlich & Fisher, 2019). This study addresses gaps in the existing literature by including non-binary individuals and people in non-heterosexual relationships. Additionally, this study furthers empirical evidence on how various identities learn, interpret, and use sexual consent. To further our understanding of consent for all identities, future research should confront nonbinary individual’s experiences with consent education and identify impactful ways to teach consent to nonbinary folks.

Available for download on Thursday, August 07, 2025