Alcohol and consent - The University of Tulsa
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Alcohol and consent

Alcohol is considered the #1 “date rape drug”. However, it is important to understand that the only person to blame for sexual violence is the perpetrator. Regardless of how drunk or incapacitated a person may be, it is never their fault that they were assaulted.


REMINDER: Consent means a person has given voluntary permission to participate in a particular activity. Consensual sexual activity means that everyone involved has actively agreed to what they are doing, without being forced, coerced, or under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Without this active, verbal agreement, any sexual activity is considered sexual assault. A few things to know:

  • Yes means yes. Consent is not the absence of a no. It is the presence of a clear, affirmative, expression of interest, desire, and wants. Consent involves all parties, with each person setting their boundaries or sharing their desires. Consent is respectful, mutual decision-making.
  • Drugs and alcohol impact decision-making and blur consent. When drugs and alcohol are involved, clear consent cannot be obtained. An intoxicated person cannot give consent.
  • Consent needs to be clear. Consent is more than not hearing the word “no.” A partner saying nothing is not the same as a partner saying “yes.” Don’t rely on body language, past sexual interactions, or any other nonverbal cues. Never assume you have consent. Always be sure you have consent by asking.
  • Consent can be fun. Consent does not have to be something that “ruins the mood.” In fact, clear and enthusiastic consent can enhance sexual interactions. Not only does it allow one to know that their partner is comfortable with the interaction, it also lets both partners clearly express what they want.
  • Consent is specific. Just because someone consents to one set of actions and activities does not mean consent has been given for other sexual acts. Similarly, if a partner has given consent to sexual activity in the past, this does not apply to current or future interactions. Consent can initially be given and later be withdrawn.

(content attributed to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center)

Impact of alcohol and other drugs on consent

Alcohol and other drugs complicate asking and giving consent. It is important to remember that alcohol is often used to commit sexual violence and is considered to be the most used date rape drug. However, remember that it is not alcohol that causes sexual violence; rather, it is the person perpetrating it.

A person cannot give consent if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This includes someone who is passed out. Engaging in sexual activities, including having sex, with a person who is heavily intoxicated is a violation of the TU Sexual Violence Policy and is illegal under Oklahoma law.

Remember, if you are unsure whether someone is sober enough to consent, it is best to “play it safe” and not engage in any sexual activity. It is your responsibility as the person initiating the sexual act to obtain consent, even if you are also drunk or under the influence of drugs. This means that you can and will be held responsible for any acts of sexual violence that may occur.

Healthy relationships are rooted in consent and respect

Ultimately, asking for and obtaining consent is part of what it means to be in a healthy relationship. Communication with your partner is key not only to a healthy emotional relationship, but is also key in a healthy and happy sexual relationship. Consent is part of effective communication within a relationship, because it is essentially sharing your own needs, desires, and level of comfort with each other, while also respecting your partner and their needs, interests and own boundaries. If asking for consent and discussing your sexual relationship with your partner seems too daunting or embarrassing, then you are not ready for sex.

(some content adapted from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, and the University of New Hampshire

This project was supported by Grant No. _2016-WA-AX-0007__ awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.