“If you’ve been drinking, you can’t consent”: Exploring rape myths and students’ understanding of non-consensual sexual activity

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Background: Sexual consent is a defining characteristic of sexual violence (or, nonconsensual sexual activity) and, thus, key in differentiating between a consensual (or, nonconsensual) sexual activity. Yet, how sexual consent is understood, and the application of this understanding has been identified as an area requiring further research. University students are globally recognized as a population at risk of sexual victimization, therefore, it
would seem appropriate to specifically explore sexual consent understanding within this population. This study aimed to explore the relationship between students’ consent understanding and their endorsement of rape myths. Methods: The present analysis utilizes data collected from a focus group study involving students attending either of Northern Ireland's universities. In the current study, participants read four scenarios that focused on
nuanced areas of sexual consent understanding (e.g., alcohol and sexual activity); participants responded to statements that assessed their ability to identify indicators of (non)consent, consent understanding and rape myth acceptance. Results: A total of 25 university students (17 women, 8 men) took part in this study. In line with current research, participants’ mean scores for the rape myth questionnaires were low suggesting that the
students did not accept the rape myths presented. However, whilst the students generally rejected rape myths, there was some acceptance of problematic consent behaviour. Moreover, a review of participants’ open-text commentary and evaluation of the scenarios indicated that consent understanding might be hindered by gendered and heteronormative beliefs. Conclusions and implications: The results of this study would suggest that there is some merit in mixed-methodological research when exploring consent understanding, particularly if interested in how rape myths may contribute to consent understanding. As bystander intervention programs are an increasingly popular prevention measure, future research should further explore students’ consent understanding.
Period13 Sept 2023
Event titleEuropean Conference on Domestic Violence: Domestic Violence and Precarity
Event typeConference
Conference number5
LocationReykjavík, IcelandShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • sexual consentt
  • rape myth acceptance
  • university students
  • Northern Ireland
  • unwanted/non-consensual sexual experiences
  • mixed-methodology