Document Type



This study focuses on the understanding of sexual consent in college-aged, young adults. Past research has investigated the different layers of consent, including affirmative, internal, and external consent and the role of sexual coercion in non-consensual, assault cases. These aspects of consent are not commonly discussed in high school level sexual education classes (Walsh et al. 2019). States also have differing laws and statutes when it comes to what does and does not constitute sexual consent (Decker & Baroni 2011:1084); these are referred to as the “grey areas” of consent. These elements can make the concept of sexual consent confusing to many, as consent is much more complex than “yes means yes” and “no means no.” This study was conducted using a survey to ask Bridgewater State University students, aged 18 years or older, about their personal understanding of consent. The purpose of the study was to see which aspects of sexual consent are commonly misunderstood by students and which social factors play a role in students’ understanding of consent. After analyzing data, it was apparent that Bridgewater State University students display the most confusion surrounding the topics of intoxication, non-verbal and general external consent, range of consent, and rape defense myths. Additionally, it is clear to see that relationship status, gender identity, and students’ college of their primary major are all social factors that influence students’ understanding of consent. The information gained from this research can be used to better educate students on sexual consent and make Bridgewater State University an overall safer community.



Thesis Comittee

Dr. Meghan Murphy, Thesis Advisor
Dr. Kimberly E. Fox, Committee Member
Dr. Kim MacInnis, Committee Member