Saturday, April 14, 2012

Intoxication and Consent

                There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that sexual assault, or rape, is a very serious crime and the people responsible for these crimes should be punished. That said, there is some gray area to consider, and that is consent and the idea that one can not give consent to sex if one is intoxicated. This idea has always seemed a little strange to me because it is one of the very few instances when being intoxicated is a legitimate excuse for certain behavior. For example, if someone gets into a fight at a bar, being intoxicated is not a legitimate excuse for it. He or she will still be charged with battery whether intoxicated or not. To be clear, according to the website of the Illinois State Police, “…in cases where consent cannot be given because of impaired judgment due to alcohol or drug intoxication, it is RAPE”. This is, in fact, the law, but should it be?
                This law is based on the idea that alcohol impairs judgement, but according to David Hanson, that may not actually be true. Alcohol will do what we believe it will do. If we perceive that alcohol will impair our judgement, then it will. According to a study conducted by Young-Hee Cho and Sherry Span, the women who received alcohol or a placebo were equally likely to engage in sexual behavior, unlike the sober women who were, in general, less likely. This seems to show that drinking alcohol with the belief that alcohol increases sexual behavior is actually what causes an increase in sexual behavior, not the actual alcohol.
                Another argument is that alcohol causes people to make short-sighted and irrational decisions, but according to research this may not be true either. According to Hanson, this experiment divided college males into three groups: intoxicated, sober, and a control that was given drinks with a little alcohol, but not enough effect them. They were all offered $15 immediately, or $30 at a later time. It was thought that the intoxicated group would not delay gratification and take the $15, but this was not the case. This would seem to point to the idea that people under the influence of alcohol do not experience an increase in impulsivity or a decrease in rationality.
                Though there is much evidence that alcohol alone does not necessarily impair judgement, alcohol does have physiological effects on the body such as slowing reaction time, changes in heart rate and blood pressure, and impaired ability to judge distances and time. It is important to keep these points in mind when consuming any amount of alcohol because though it may not affect decision making, it still does affect other things.
                Most people would probably agree that being intoxicated and losing control is not and should not be a legal excuse for committing rape, but I would also argue that we should not accept an alleged victim’s excuse that, though he or she agreed at the time, he or she was not able to give consent for sex due to the consumption of alcohol and was, therefore, sexually assaulted. As much research shows, being intoxicated does not necessarily impair judgement or decision-making skills, so people should be held accountable for their decisions even if intoxicated. With that in mind, this law seems like a double standard, and should be changed accordingly.

Young-Hee Cho, (., & Sherry A., S. (2010). The effect of alcohol on sexual risk-taking among young men and women. Addictive Behaviors, 35779-785. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2010.03.007


  1. Alcohol is not a valid reason to make decisions that you would not agree with if you are sober, if someone thinks they cannot make smart decisions while intoxicated, then they simply should not drink.

  2. Drinking is a choice just like sexual intercourse. If you go out with the mentality of trying to find a partner, then deep down in your mind your thinking sex. Your hoping someone "hot" is gonna find you and make your night, Now just because you drink too much, doesn't justify the fact that if you get too messed up and can't remember saying do me, then you have whole different problem at hand. I mean if you went out with the mindset of trying to find somebody or if your going to try to assume that because you were too intoxicated, or didn't consent then it must be rape...

    I really like this article, and never thought about the impulsiveness, or the idea of thinking about intercourse prior to going out. This research has much potential, but I still don't like the idea of the impaired consent of alcohol. It is a very interesting thing, but just because your intoxicated should not be a valid excuse for saying you were raped, when most likely you were looking for a "good time". I also would like to say can we really prove the story of a person being impaired, and saying "i was raped"? Like you said, its an area of gray were once accused by using the word rape, do you ultimately become screwed?

  3. Before I start here, I just want to make it clear that I am not trying to come off as a chauvinist, this is only my opinion on the interpretation of the law. In IL, Criminal Sexual Abuse is stated as such: 1. Commit sexual conduct by force or threat of force. 2. Unable to give knowing consent. 3. Defendant under 17 commits sexual conduct or sexual penetration and victim 9-17 years of age. 4. Defendant more than 5 years older than victim, and victim between the ages of 13-17.
    For the sake of this argument, I am going to use #2, unable to give knowing consent. This is a law set up to crucify men and save women the embarrassment of being called a slut or getting caught cheating on their husbands. How is this a chauvinistic law? It is impossible for a woman to have sex with a man without consent because his penis would be flaccid. Nothing is stopping a woman from having sex with a man and then crying rape after the fact. And although there are many cases in which the woman was raped, there are still some cases in which drunk men have been hung out to dry by drunk women, when the sex was consensual. Bottom line: MEN, DON'T HAVE SEX WITH A WOMAN IF YOU OR SHE HAVE BEEN DRINKING.

  4. I dont feel that being intoxicated is an complete excuse for being raped. i do feel that in some extreme cases someone can be passed out drunk and then taking advantage of then. but i dont think that is always the case. i think alot of time girls are crying for rape just because they made a bad decision. there are times where drugs are involved to have them pass out and unaware of whats going on but i dont feel these are a majority of the cases.

  5. It can happen to anyone anywhere anytime. If you get drunk and take a girl home or something... the next day your whole life may be ruined. It is a one sided thing in my opinion because it is SOOO easy for a girl to say this guy took advantage of me even though the night before she was all for it. I have seen it happen to a friend where the girl was all over him the night before and she had a boyfriend but went home with my friend. She got scared cuz she had cheated on her boyfriend and he found out so she claimed that he forced himself on her. It is a scary and serious thing you have to be careful what u do and when you do it.

  6. If a person is intoxicated they can not legally give consent. You can not get behind the wheel when you are drunk so why would this be any different. There are allegations that may not be true but we can not group all of these cases together. In the criminal justice we have today we are supposed to advocate for the victims first. If a person obviously knows that another individaul is intoxicated it is not a smart idea to engage in sexual activity with a person who is obviously drunk. Does a person have to out of their mind, passed out drunk for this to apply? I don't think so. I totally agree with the statement that you should not have sex with someone if they have been drinking. If you are drunk you are unable to give consent whether you are a man or a woman. Men might have been taken advantage of while they were drunk but you are not going to get a lot of men who would report that to the police.