How Alcohol Affects Consent

Hope Stamp and Ashley Stepstyk

Sexual assault is a horrible event, but is far from rare. In the United States, one in six women and one in thirty three men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. It can be hard to know where the line between consensual sex and sexual assault is, especially when drugs or alcohol are involved. However, legal consent has a very clear definition. In order for consent to be given everyone involved must:

  • Give affirmative consent.
    • Affirmative consent means giving a clear and honest yes. Affirmative consent is not the absence of a no, but a clear yes.
  • Give voluntary consent
    • Voluntary consent means that there were no threats or pressure that is forcing someone into consenting. Everyone must consent because they want to, not because anyone is threatening, harassing, or attempting to harm them in any way.
  • Give conscious consent:
    • Conscious consent means that everyone knows what they are doing. In order for conscious consent to be given, everyone must be in a clear mental state, and cannot be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Agreeing to have sex can only happen when it everyone is free of pressure and no one is under the influence. If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, there are resources available like RAINN, which specializes in information, and can provide free anonymous counseling. The National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-4673) provides anonymous support for those who have been sexually assaulted.