Do 'sexual consent workshops' work? A randomised control investigation

  • K. Dawson
  • P. MacNeela
  • C. Silke
  • E. Byrnes
  • S. O'Higgins


Background Sexual consent is acknowledged as an important component of positive sexual health. However, there has been scant development of theory-driven and evidence-based interventions to support young adults in developing sexual consent knowledge and preparedness. In order to address this limitation, this study investigated the effectiveness and acceptability of a ‘SMART Consent’ initiative in promoting positive attitudes and behavioural intentions among college students. Method A sample of 292 college students (112 male; 178 female; 2 unspecified) were recruited and randomly allocated to either a sexual consent (Intervention) or sexual health (Control) condition. The intervention group took part in a two hour interactive consent workshop based on social norms and sexual scripting theory. The control condition comprised a two hour interactive workshop on other topics in sexual health. Participants completed pre- and post-workshop questionnaires assessing their attitudes toward consent and behavioural intentions. Findings Participants in the intervention condition showed significantly higher intentions to engage in verbal consent behaviours (M = 34.28, SD=6.76), in comparison to the control group (M = 33.86, SD=5.36), after controlling for Time 1 responses. Participants also provided positive feedback on the quality and usefulness of the SMART Consent workshops. Discussion This study provides preliminary evidence that sexual consent workshops may be effective in promoting greater intentions to engage in verbal consent communication. Guided by research and theory, consent workshops can be a practical addition to emerging research on sexual consent practices among young adults.
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