A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Perceptions of Sexual Consent in Nicaragua and the United States

Open Access
Duiker, Lina Ruth
Area of Honors:
Interdisciplinary in Philosophy, Women's Studies, and Latin American Studies
Bachelor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Sarah Clark Miller, Thesis Supervisor
  • Brady Lee Bowman, Honors Advisor
  • Matthew Restall, Honors Advisor
  • Dr. Jennifer Ann Wagner-Lawlor, Honors Advisor
  • Sexual violence
  • Consent
  • Empathy
  • Ethics
  • Care Ethics
  • Gender violence
Globally there is not a consensus on the moral acceptability of sexual violence. The purpose of this thesis is to examine how culture, gender, and empathy can impact perceptions of sexual violence and consent. The first chapter introduces some of the many complications of sexual violence. The second chapter defines sexual violence and the different types of sexual violence. Chapters three and four examine the cultural contexts of Nicaragua and the United States, with a special focus on attitudes towards sexual violence, and responses to sexual violence. Chapters five and six explore consent and empathy, and their relation to sexual violence. In chapter seven, I present a study that I conducted in Nicaragua and the United States to investigate the connections between gender, cultural influences, consent and empathy, and I offer primary results from the study. In chapter eight I consider some primary psychological conclusions, and in chapter nine, I examine philosophical conclusions based on a care ethical framework. The study results show that people from Nicaragua are more likely to have less empathy, and higher perceptions that consent was given than people in the United States. This thesis argues that the cultural context of machismo and marianismo in Nicaragua might be driving factors in this difference. This thesis also argues that Michael Slote’s care ethics finds sexual violence to be unacceptable and concludes with a call to action; societies must inculcate empathy in children, and must teach consent in order to combat the high rates of sexual violence apparent.