Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Community Health Promotion (MS)

Degree Level



Health, Human Performance and Recreation


Kristen N. Jozkowski

Committee Member

Leah J. Henry

Second Committee Member

Jacquelyn D. Mosley


College Students, Communication, Consent, Sexual Assault, Sexuality, Social Situations


The majority of research examining sexual consent among college students focuses on how young adults communicate sexual consent during interactions immediately preceding a sexual encounter. However, preliminary research suggests that college students perceive that individuals begin to communicate sexual consent within social settings (e.g., at a bar) and through nonsexual interactions (e.g., text messaging); this has been labeled “outside the bedroom” consent. In order to further explore “outside the bedroom” consent, college students (n= 789) were randomly assigned to read four of sixteen vignettes. Within each vignette, four variables were manipulated: gender of the initiator (male or female), the social setting in which the characters met (bar or library), the communication style used to transition to the home of the initiator (walking home together or exchanging text messages), and the final cue communicated by the characters (nonverbal or verbal) in the moments immediately preceding the sexual encounter. Participants were asked open-ended questions about when they believed the characters first consented to intercourse. Data were coded by two researchers using an inductive approach. Interrater reliability was analyzed via Kappa’s Light; coders were extremely reliable (α > 0.90).

Nearly 81 percent of responses (n = 4,602) stated the characters consented “inside the bedroom” (i.e., at the home of the initiator). Regardless of the gender of the character, students most frequently stated that the character communicated consent through the use of an explicit verbal cue. Approximately three percent of responses (n = 182) were coded as cues occurring “outside the bedroom,” indicating that that participants perceived characters consenting at the bar, library, while walking home, or exchanging text messages. The results are inconsistent with previous literature stating that college students most often use implicit nonverbal cues to communicate consent and that consent negotiations are perceived to begin “outside the bedroom.” Participants’ responses may reflect an exposure to contemporary consent education programs that endorse explicit verbal consent. The potential impacts of consent education programs on college student’s perceptions of consent and the methodological implications for future research will be discussed.