Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Sharon Lamb

Second Advisor

Laura Hayden

Third Advisor

Rhiana Wegner


Among college students, sexual engagement and alcohol consumption are considered common behaviors, with many students reporting drinking prior to sexual experiences. Given the prevalence of sexual assault on campuses and connection between nonconsensual sex and drinking, colleges have adopted policies and programs with the intention of reducing risky drinking behaviors and sexual practices. The majority of these policies stipulate that students cannot give sexual consent under the influence of alcohol, but students find these policies unrealistic. Further, these policies fail to consider the larger context of traditional heteronormative gender scripts that influence sexual behavior, setting narrow expectations, especially for women’s sexuality. This study integrates sexual agency into the study of sexual consent and alcohol consumption as a way of recognizing gender inequality and providing an alternative to risk-focused approaches that perpetuate the policing of female sexuality.

This study explored the relationship among sexual agency, attitudes about the ability to give consent, and drinking prior to sex on the extent to which college women’s alcohol-involved sexual experiences felt consensual. The findings highlight the importance of sexual agency as a predictor of women’s feelings that their sex felt consensual and explains the interaction between attitudes and drinking and its influence on these feelings. The results built upon previous research about the impact of relationship status on consent and the influence of drinking prior to sex on consent. Strengths and limitations of the study are outlined as well as areas for future research. Implications for college campus policy, education and outreach, and clinical practice in the areas of sexual consent and drinking prior to sex are discussed.