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Consent Ethics


Discuss the following scenario:

There’s a party off campus and a few people hook up.


If everybody understands what’s happening, and each person consents to sex, then this is not rape — even if everyone has been drinking. But how much drinking is too much? How are you assessing consent? How much consent does there need to be? Does drinking impact these assessment measures? Talk about these issues in terms of both ethics and the law.


As witnesses or bystanders, what is our ethical responsibility to intervene if we see possible assault unfolding? How should we intervene in potentially dangerous or risky scenarios?  What are examples of actions or language we might use?


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Ethical Issues In Sexual Pleasure and Sexual Safety


•Approximately 50 percent of all sexual assaults are committed by men who have been drinking alcohol.


•Consensual sexual activity means that everyone involved actively agrees to what they are doing. Drugs and alcohol impact decision-making and blur consent. Consent cannot be given by someone who is incapacitated.


•Some signs of incapacitation include an inability to speak coherently, confusion about basic facts like what day it is, inability to walk without someone helping, or passing out.


•Rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment are on a continuum of sexual and gender-based violence. However, these are not the same thing. The legal definitions for these terms vary from state to state.


•States set their own definitions of consent. There are three main ways that states analyze consent in relation to sexual acts:

Affirmative consent:

Did the person express overt actions or words indicating agreement for sexual acts?

Freely given consent: 

Was the consent offered of the person’s own free will, without being induced by fraud, coercion, violence, or threat of violence?

Capacity to consent: 

Was the individual of legal age to consent?


Were they incapacitated by drugs or alcohol?

Do they have a developmental disability or condition that interferes with cognitive ability?

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