A new survey of students has found that 8% of females and 3% of males were certain someone had sexual contact with them when they were unable to provide consent because they were drunk, passed out or otherwise incapacitated in the past year.
The survey of young people aged 18 to 29 also found that a similar percentage of women and men over the previous year were not certain, but still suspected that someone else had sexual contact with them when they could not give consent for the same reasons of being asleep, drunk or otherwise incapacitated.
The results of the survey, published by the School of Psychology at NUI Galway, is based on work conducted in 2015 and explored attitudes to sex and consent.
Some of the findings were revealed in October at a conference in University College Cork on reforming the law and reforming attitudes in relation to sexual offences, in addition to other findings from a related study which indicated that female students’ experiences of sexist hostility, sexual hostility, unwanted sexual attention, online sexual harassment, and sexual coercion increased each year as they passed from first year to third year.
The Sexual Health and Attitudes, Galway (SHAG) Report was carried out by Elaine Byrnes, doctoral researcher, and Dr Padraig MacNeela of the School of Psychology at NUIG.
Data from 1,691 participants was analysed for the report, with women accounting for more than two-thirds of the respondents, while 53% were single, 46% were in a relationship, and 1% were married or divorced.
One aspect covered in the survey was the role of alcohol — 76% of females and 69% of males agreed they are less nervous about sex after drinking, while 35% of females and 58% of males agreed they had sex with people with whom they wouldn’t if sober. It also found that 31.5% of females and 57% of males find it harder to say “no” to sexual advances after drinking.
The extent of alcohol consumption also influenced some results: 43% of female and 39% of male frequent binge drinkers reported regretted sexual experiences, compared to 25% of female and 31% of male infrequent binge drinkers, 12% of female and 13% of male rare binge drinkers, and just 3% of both females and males who never engaged in binge drinking.
Among issues relating to consent, the report found that 50% of females and 58% of males agreed or strongly agreed that they would just keep moving forward in sexual behaviours or actions unless their partner stopped them. It also found that 12.5% of females and 2.5% of males reported ever having experienced sexual contact where physical force or threats to physically harm them were used, while 20% of females and 5% of males reported ever having experienced sexual contact being attempted using physical force, or threatening to cause physical harm that was not successful.
According to the report, 23% of females and 37% of males agreed with the statement: “If a girl acts like a slut, eventually she is going to get into trouble”, and similar percentages agreed that “guys don’t usually intend to force sex on a girl, but sometimes they get too sexually carried away”. Just 7% of women agreed that: “Once a rape is reported to gardaí there is a good chance the rapist will go to prison”.
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