How Does Alcohol Consumption Affect Perceptions of One's Own and a Drinking Partner's Ability to Consent to Sexual Activity?


In this naturalistic study, our aim was to examine the extent to which alcohol consumption affected perceptions of one's own and one's friend's ability to consent to sexual activity. We surveyed 160 adult bargoers in pairs about their own and their friends' alcohol consumption, intoxication symptoms, and ability to consent to sexual activity. On average, participants reported consuming 4.97 drinks, rated themselves at the legal limit for driving, reported one intoxication symptom, and had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) just over .08. However, few thought they or their friend had diminished cognitive function. Accordingly, most indicated that they could consent to sex (93%) and their friend could consent to sex (87%). Number of drinks people reported consuming, self-reported intoxication levels and symptoms, and BACs were significantly correlated; however, none of these measures was significantly related to individuals' perceptions of their own or their friends' ability to consent to sexual activity. Finally, those in man-man pairs were significantly more likely than those in woman-woman pairs to indicate they would allow their friend to have sex if approached by an interested party. These findings have potential implications for prevention programming and for legal cases involving individuals who engage in sexual activity while intoxicated.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of sex research

First Page


Last Page