$287,967 Fed Study Developing 'Virtual Woman' Who 'Will Agree to Some Sexual Activities and Refuse Others' with Drunk Men

May 22, 2013 - 1:00 PM

Woman Drinking

Woman Drinking (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has awarded $287,967 to a study that will develop a virtual woman who will agree to some sexual activities and refuse others requested by "intoxicated" men.

The grant was awarded in July of last year for the project “Alcohol's Role in Sexual Assault: Development of Virtual Reality Simulation Proxy”. The project is funded through June of 2014.

“The Specific Aims of the proposed research involve developing a virtual reality simulation with a virtual woman (an embodied female agent) that male participants rate as realistic and involving,” the National Institutes of Health project description says.

Project Leader Professor Antonia Abbey of Wayne State University tells CNSNews.com, “Male participants will have the opportunity to select a variety of actions, some of which are sexual.  The female agent will agree to some sexual activities and refuse others.  Sexual aggression will be defined as repeated attempts (close together in time) despite the female agent's refusals.”

Abbey says the project is to enhance involvement through suggestions in the simulation’s literature to make the responses from the subjects more natural.

“Researchers often have people read a story about a situation and ask them to put themselves in the place of one of the characters in the story.  I would never claim that any laboratory study is the same as real life, but I am hoping that responses will be more natural in the simulation than when we ask people to read a story and fill out a questionnaire.”

According to the grant description, an evaluation of the simulation's usefulness in alcohol administration research “will be conducted by comparing the responses and actions of intoxicated and sober participants during the simulation.”

“The goal of the proposed research is to develop a virtual reality simulation of a potential sexual assault situation that can be used in experimental research. This will allow the effects of alcohol consumption on sexual aggression to be examined under controlled conditions, thereby increasing confidence that differences found between drinkers and nondrinkers are due to alcohol, not other factors.”