• Tue, 10, Apr, 2018 - 5:00:AM

Does yes mean yes when you're drunk or high?

New Zealand has a party culture. Whether you like that culture or not, it undeniably exists. Binge drinking is a rite of passage and for a lot of Kiwis, and smoking a first joint can be just as notable as drinking a first beer. Getting drunk and high at parties is pretty common. But it creates a massive grey area when it comes to sexual consent. 

Navigating sexual consent while drunk or high is pretty damn tricky. In all honesty, the simplest option is to avoid sex while intoxicated. Because you can’t legally consent if you’re drunk or high. Here are a few things to think about – while you’re sober – about sex, drugs and alcohol.

Don’t assume anything

The combination of intoxication and consent is studied in criminal law. That’s a strong warning sign that it is legally and morally complicated. You definitely cannot assume someone is consenting when they’re drunk or high. Just because someone messaged you at 2am does not mean they want to have sex with you. Seeking affirmative consent regularly to make sure that you’re both on board with what you’re doing is essential. 

No is always no

No means no. No response means no. A mixed response means no. But yes isn’t always yes either. If someone is stumbling, unable to focus, sleepy, slurring their words, or otherwise looking like they are too intoxicated, even an affirmative yes is not consent. Likewise, if someone seems to contradict themselves and gives consent after a refusal, step back and clarify what they really want. If they can’t tell you, that’s a no. 

Think about how drunk you are

Alcohol does not enhance your ability to interpret what others are saying. Neither do drugs. Though your inhibitions are removed and you feel more confident, consent is actually much more difficult when intoxication is involved. Keep this in mind as you interact with your partner when alcohol or drugs are in the picture.

Communicate clearly

As always with consent, clear communication on both sides is vital. If one of you cannot voice your consent clearly, stop immediately. If you have doubts about whether the other person is still into it, stop and ask them. 

Consider your ability to be safe

Waking up the morning after and thinking “did we use protection?” is not a fun experience. When you’re not in a state to think ahead about what you’re doing, consider whether you should be having sex. It’s far better to say, “I’m too drunk, let’s do this another time” than to risk your sexual health. 

Being drunk or high doesn’t change the fact that sexual encounters should involve free and enthusiastic consent from both sides. If someone is unable to reach that level of consent due to intoxication, or you’re unsure whether they’re happy with what you’re doing, stop. Sex, drugs, and alcohol create a complicated situation. Consider the impact alcohol and drugs is having on your partner before deciding to have sex – a yes while intoxicated may not be a yes in the eyes of the law.


  • Consent /
  • Sex /
  • Alcohol /
  • Drugs /
  • The REAL Sex Talk /
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