Date of Award

August 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Shawn Cahill

Committee Members

Christine Larson, Krista Lisdahl, Ryan Shorey, Stacey Nye


external consent, sexual consent


Objective: The study assessed how sexual consent varied from imaginary ideal scenarios and actual sexual experience while taking into consideration gender and relationship status. Methods: College students completed an online survey in which they were randomized to one of two imaginary scenarios in which they were about to have sex in an ideal setting with either their most recent sexual partner or a new sexual partner. Participants were asked what external consent behavior they would use to indicate their consent and to rank which consent behaviors they considered the most important for indicating their consent. They were also asked to report on their most recent sexual encounter. Results: Findings indicated that a) participants currently in a relationship were more likely to engage in passive behaviors and initiate the sexual activity compared to participants not currently in a relationship; b) participants preferred to use a greater frequency of sexual consent behaviors in ideal situation compared to reality while thinking of the same sexual partner; c) female participants trend towards using indirect verbal behaviors more than men; and d) participants highly ranked the usage of direct nonverbal behaviors, passive behaviors, and direct verbal behavior for indicating consent to sexual activity. Conclusion: Suggestions for future research and implications for policies related to sexual assault reduction programming are discussed.