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Sexual Consent


Sexual consent is obtaining permission before engaging in sexual activities.

According to UH’s Sexual Misconduct Policy

  • Consent is an informed and freely and affirmatively communicated willingness to participate in a particular sexual activity
  • Consent can be expressed either by words or by clear and unambiguous actions, as long as those words or actions create mutually understandable permission regarding the conditions of each instance of sexual assault
  • It is the responsibility of the person who wants to initiate a sexual activity to ensure that they have the consent of other(s) to initiate in each instance of sexual activity before they initiate the sexual activity
  • Consent is active, not passive, and cannot be inferred from the absence of a “no”
  • The existence of a dating relationship or previous sexual relationship between the persons involved does not provide the basis for an assumption of consent to future sexual activity.
  • At any time, a participant can communicate that they no longer consent to continuing sexual activity
  • If there is confusion as to whether an individual has consented or continues to consent to sexual activity, it is essential that the initiating person stops the sexual activity until the confusion is clearly resolved
  • Being under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is never a defense for not obtaining consent
  • A person cannot consent if physical force or violence is used or threatened

Important definitions

  • Force – forcible sexual assault occurs against the will of the victim. Physical force may be used, also threats, intimidation or coercion. A weapon may or may not be used
  • Consent – shared sexual permission, given by word or action, verbal consent preferred
  • Incapacitation -  unable to give consent due to mental or physical incapacitation, unable to understand the who, what, when, why, and how with respect to sexual activity, most often due to drug or alcohol use, but also to cognitive or developmental limitationsMajor shift in thinking:  From woman proving she resisted, to man proving he obtained consent.

Consent and Alcohol

  • Some people use alcohol or other drugs as deliberate tools in a strategy to rape.
  • Alcohol does not cause sexual assault, but mixing sexual decision-making with any substance is risky.
  • Unlike drunk driving, there is no blood alcohol level for sex.
  • Your “sex with a buzz” might be incapacitation for her due to different gender alcohol metabolism rates.
  • Two incapacitated people, by definition, cannot have sex with each other.
  • That he/she/they were drunk is not an excuse.
  • That you were drunk is not an excuse.


  • There is a range of alcohol use: under the Influence, Impairment, Intoxication, Inebriation, and Incapacitation
  • Incapacitation is beyond drunkenness or intoxication.
  • Incapacitation impacts a person’s ability to make decisions, be aware of consequences, and make fully-informed judgments.
  • It’s a subjective determination due to body weight, size, height, tolerance, type of drugs/alcohol, vomiting, food intake, genetics, and propensity for blacking out.
  • Some signs of incapacitation include: slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, smell of alcohol on breath, shaky balance, vomiting, outrageous or unusual behavior, and unconsciousness.
  • Take Away Message – Drunk sex is risky and should be avoided!

Consent is Necessary

  • Getting consent need not be awkward.
  • Make it fun and playful.
  • Communicate - ask what he/she/they like and tell them what you like.
  • Instead of using alcohol to lower inhibitions, use foreplay, just as good and more fun!
  • Consent can be sexy if there is no question about desire and consent and both people can be sexual and playful without worry of later repercussions.