Thu 19 Oct 23
Hook-ups where one partner is drunker than the other are more likely to be seen as assault, new research has revealed.
A study by Dr Veronica Lamarche, from the Department of Psychology, discovered equal consumption was more important than levels of drunkenness.
This was the case even when couples had drunk to excess and was the same across sexualities and genders.
Dr Lamarche discovered that 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.
Dr Lamarche said: “I am interested in understanding the consequences of existing in a sexual world where our lived experiences with sex don’t always match legal definitions.
“We’re finding that people rely heavily on contextual information to decide whether they believe non-violent sexual experiences are consensual or not.
“People understand alcohol is a risk factor for non-consensual sex, but both partners being similarly drunk seems to challenge their assumptions about assault.”
More than 500 British people participated in the research that unfolded across four studies and was published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.
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.
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.
Dr 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.”
Dr Lamarche worked with two undergraduates on the study Ellen Laughlin, Molly Pettitt and Dr Laurie James-Hawkins from the Department of Sociology.