The matter of consent
A message that can be harder to deliver
when alcohol and drugs are in the mix
No always means no when it comes toconsenting to sex. Period.
But the message can be harder to getacross when people mix alcohol or drugsand sex.
Being impaired can affect the choiceswe make and the actions we take,including those around sexual activity.A University of Alberta survey foundthat half of all sexual assaults amongstudents involved alcohol or drugs.
Heather Cobb is a sexual health
promotion specialist with Alberta Health
Services. She says using alcohol and
drugs “blurs the lines somewhat
People need to understand what
sexual consent means, she says. To
give consent, a person must somehow
show—by their actions or words—that
they want to engage in sexual activity.
Consent is a two-way street: it must be
both given and received.
Sexual assault is a one-way street. It’s
any sexual contact with another person
without that person’s consent. It doesn’t
matter what type of relationship you are
in, you still need consent. Because in the
eyes of the law, that’s what it’s about:
Little legal evidence or precedence
exists around cannabis use and sexual
consent, says Cobb. But it’s well known
that drug and alcohol use complicates
“A person using cannabis may feel
mellow and laid back, but that doesn’t
mean they are thinking through a
situation clearly,” Cobb says. “It changes
their ability to make the decisions they
would if they were sober.”
And she adds: “Just because someone
accepted a drink from you [or a joint]
and gave you the impression that they
were up for [sex] at one point—they get
to change their mind.”
Each situation is different because
each person has different values
and beliefs. And your ideals and
decisions can change with drug
and alcohol use.
Cobb says using alcohol and drugs,
including cannabis, can also lead to
behaviours such as forgetting to use birth
control or protection during sex. In
turn, this increases the risk of an
unintended pregnancy or sexually
transmitted infection. |a
CAN’T BE GIVEN
By law in Canada, a person who ispassed out cannot agree to sexualactivity. Neither can someone whois so intoxicated that they cannotconsent. Canada has an “affirmativeconsent” standard. This means aperson must somehow show—by theiractions—or say with their words thatthey want to engage in sexual activity.
“It’s super important to rememberthat consent is not just about a clearyes and no,” says Heather Cobb, asexual health promotion specialist withAlberta Health Services.
Non-verbal clues are importanttoo, such as tone of voice andbody language. “Someone whois using drugs or alcohol may besleepy or dozy, or unable to controltheir actions.” It’s your right towithhold consent—whatever thesituation.