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Charlene L. Muehlenhard

Clinical Psychology

Ph.D., 1981, University of Wisconsin
Research Areas: Clinical Psychology

Related Links
Clinical Psychology Program
Muehlenhard Research GroupIndependent Study Information and Application Form for Spring 2015

Research Interests

My research Areas include Rape and other forms of sexual coercion, sexual consent, communication and miscommunication about sex.

I am interested in the social construction of sex, gender, consent, and coercion, and how these concepts intersect. My research, which focuses on rape and other forms of sexual coercion, is informed by the social constructionist perspective. For example, what does it mean to a woman if she is sexually coerced? What does it mean to a man if he is sexually coerced? How are these meanings influenced by the way we understand gender, sexuality, consent, and coercion? How do people's understandings about gender and sexuality affect their attitudes and behavior related to sex and sexual coercion? Some examples of my publications are "Is rape sex or violence? Conceptual issues and implications"; "College women's fears and precautionary behaviors relating to acquaintance rape and stranger rape"; "The importance and danger of studying sexually aggressive women"; and "Token resistance' to sex: New perspectives on old stereotypes." I am also active in the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, an interdisciplinary organization of researchers, educators, and therapists. I serve on the Boards of Rape Victim/Survivor Service, the local rape crisis center, and the Freedom Coalition, a group promoting civil rights for people of all sexual orientations.

My research informs my teaching. My courses include, among others, Psychology of Women and Women and Violence. In my Psychology of Women course we cover conceptualizations of gender, relevant issues in research methodology, biological and cultural influences on gender, examinations of gender similarities and differences, and women's issues. My Women and Violence course deals with rape, sexual harassment, domestic violence, and child sexual abuse. I also teach Psychological Clinic I, which deals with intelligence testing: conceptualizing intelligence; administering, scoring, and interpreting intelligence tests; and critiquing the science and politics of intelligence. In all these classes, I stress critical thinking, questioning how we define concepts and our underlying assumptions abut the topics. I try to emphasize multiple perspectives, not using White heterosexual men--or White heterosexual women--as prototypes.

Teaching Area

Psychology of women and gender, women and violence, and intelligence testing.

Selected Publications


Muehlenhard, Charlene L. (2011). Examining stereotypes about token resistance to sex. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 35(4) , 676-683.

Peterson, Zoë D., & Muehlenhard, Charlene L. & (2011). A match-and-motivation model of how women label their nonconsensual sexual experiences. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 35(4) 558-570.

Muehlenhard, Charlene L., & Peterson, Zoë D. (2011). Distinguishing between sex and gender: History, current conceptualizations, and implications. Sex Roles, 64(11-12), 791-803.

Muehlenhard, Charlene L., & Shippee, Sheena K. (2010). Men's and women's reports of pretending orgasm. Journal of Sex Research, 47(6), 552-567.

Peterson, Zoë D., & Muehlenhard, Charlene L. (2007). What is sex and why does it matter? A motivational approach to exploring individuals’ definitions of sex. Journal of Sex Research, 44(3), 256-268.

Peterson, Zoë D., & Muehlenhard, Charlene L. (2007). Conceptualizing the wantedness of women's consensual and nonconsensual sexual experiences. Journal of Sex Research, 44(1), 72-88.
               This article won the Beigel Award for the best paper in JSR for the year, and it was a Finalist for  the Reiss Theory Award.

              Reprinted as Peterson, Z. D., & Muehlenhard, Charlene L. (2010). Conceptualizing the            “wantedness” of women's consensual and nonconsensual sexual experiences. In N. B. Moore, J. K. Davidson, Sr., & T. D. Fisher (Eds.), Speaking of sexuality (pp. 525-540). New York: Oxford University Press.

Muehlenhard, Charlene L., & Peterson, Zoë D. (2005). Wanting and not wanting sex: The missing discourse of ambivalence. Feminism and Psychology, 15, 15-20.

Peterson, Zoë D., & Muehlenhard, Charlene L. (2004). Was it rape? The function of women's rape myth acceptance and definitions of sex in labeling their own experiences. Sex Roles, 51, 129-144.

Muehlenhard, Charlene L. (2000). Categories and sexuality. Journal of Sex Research, 37, 101-107.

Hickman, S. E., & Muehlenhard, Charlene L. (1999). "By the semi-mystical appearance of a condom": How young women and men communicate sexual consent in heterosexual situations. Journal of Sex Research, 36, 258-272.

Muehlenhard, Charlene L., & Kimes, L. A. (1999). The social construction of violence: The case of sexual and domestic violence. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 3, 234-245.

Muehlenhard, Charlene L., & Rodgers, C. S. (1998). Token resistance to sex: New perspectives on old stereotypes. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 22, 443-463.

Muehlenhard, Charlene L., Highby, B. J., Lee, R. S., Bryan, T. S., & Dodrill, W. A. (1998). The sexual revictimization of women and men sexually abused as children: A review of the literature. Annual Review of Sex Research, 9, 1-47.

Muehlenhard, Charlene L. (1998). The importance and danger of studying sexually aggressive women. In P. B. Anderson & C. Struckman-Johnson (Eds.), Sexually aggressive women: Current perspectives and controversies (pp. 19-48). New York: Guilford.

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