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Hook-ups where one partner is drunker more likely to be seen as assault

Romantic rendezvous were seen most positively when couples drank the same low level of alcohol. And encounters where one partner was drunk and the other was sober were more likely to be seen as non-consensual, coercive, and dangerous.

Photo by Vinicius "amnx" Amano from Unsplash.com

Hook-ups where one partner is drunker than the other are more likely to be seen as assault.

This is according to a study – “Just One Shot? The Contextual Effects of Matched and Unmatched Intoxication on Perceptions of Consent in Ambiguous Alcohol-fueled Sexual Encounters” by Ellen Laughlin, Molly Pettitt, Veronica M. Lamarche, and Laurie James-Hawkins – published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

More than 500 British people participated in the research that unfolded across four studies. They were presented with a variety of scenarios and given details of how many shots had been consumed before sex.  They were then asked to judge levels of coercion, sexual assault, perceived responsibility and if the encounter was likely sexual assault.

In all four studies, the participants consistently evaluated the scenarios with mismatched alcohol consumption as more problematic (less consensual, more coercive, and more likely an assault) than the scenarios in which alcohol consumption was matched.

This was true even relative to the condition in which both partners in the scenario consumed the same large quantity of alcohol (15 shots each), which differed from the other scenarios (matched 1 shot each, unmatched shots 15:1).

According to co-author Lamarche, romantic rendezvous were seen most positively when couples drank the same low level of alcohol. And encounters where one partner was drunk and the other was sober were more likely to be seen as non-consensual, coercive, and dangerous.

“We’re finding that people rely heavily on contextual information to decide whether they believe non-violent sexual experiences are consensual or not,” Lamarche said.   
“People understand alcohol is a risk factor for non-consensual sex, but both partners being similarly drunk seems to challenge their assumptions about assault.”

It is hoped the study will help shine a light on perceptions of sexual assault and show how alcohol influences how people support victims of assault by reducing barriers to reporting and prosecution.  
  
Lamarche added: “People not only rely on how much alcohol someone consumed prior to a sexual encounter, but more importantly whether partners were equally drunk.   
  
“We want victims to feel empowered to come forward, and this research can help us identify important barriers and biases that keep victims of sexual assault from getting the support they need.” 

Alcoholism is a big issue in the LGBTQIA community, at times causing nonconsensual sex to happen.

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