How drunk is too drunk?

Update October 2016:
After a referral to the court of appeal by the criminal cases review commission, Evans has now been acquitted of the crime of rape. Whatever the rights or wrongs of that situation, in the eyes of the law, Evans is now innocent of the crime of rape. I leave the text below as a record of my thoughts on the case as it stood at the time of writing.


End of August & Beginning of September:

Another over entitled man disparaging the victim of convicted rapist Ched Evans. What followed was a tsunami of condemnation from all corners. Instead of taking stock, thinking about what was written to him, and re-evaluating his POV, he got stuck in, and launched an avalanche of tweets demonstrating an apparent lack of awareness of the issues surrounding rape, sexual abuse – and especially consent.

One question being raised over and over again is:

define “Too drunk to consent

He has been answered many times,seems to ignore most of them, but keeps repeatedly asking. It is even more strange – because he knows the answer is subjective:

@fergusboden challenge my views. Define “too drunk to consent” i’m yet to read one satisfactory answer. It’s subjective. Get it?!

Finally, in answer to my rather insistent definition:

Did you read what I just wrote? ITS A FUCKING JUDGEMENT CALL. If you dont’ want courts to reach a different JUDGEMENT from you……

……Then err on the side of caution……

He finally replies:

kids growing up in a drinks culture should make a “judgement call” of what consent is valid? Seems too vague to me.

Well, yes, because unfortunately neither women, nor men have a graduated gauge on their foreheads, with a little red line at the “too drunk to consent” point. However, the law clearly recognises that if a woman has consumed alcohol to a point where she is not able to give informed consent, and then a man penetrates her – that is rape. 

CPS Policy for Prosecuting Cases of Rape

2.7 People who have consumed alcohol may reach such a level of drunkenness that they no longer have the capacity to give consent. The courts recognise that this stage may be reached well before they become unconscious.


There is a good reason for this. It would be a rapists charter if all they had to do was get a woman drunk enough to be incapable, like legal rohypnol, and then simply claim she consented while drunk.

This means that yes, men (and women – if they are initiating events), you, me and kids growing up in a drinks culture ALL need to learn to make good judgement calls.

So how do we go about it? At the extremes, it’s pretty easy: If a woman is unconscious, or “out of it” then clearly she is not able to consent. At the other end of the scale, a small amount of alcohol – maybe a little tipsy, but in control of all faculties, not slurring words, not staggering or unstable – probably* heading towards the safe side of too drunk. In between – well that is where we enter dangerous territory, especially if the potential participants are not well known to one another. Get it wrong, and you are a rapist.

Edit: The Americans have a useful phrase. “Significantly Impaired” Is the person(s judgement) significantly impaired from Alcohol or drugs. If so, they cannot give a legal consent.

I’m sure most men don’t think of themselves as rapists, and would be horrified at the thought of committing such a vile crime – not to mention the personal consequences for both the woman (being raped) and the man (potentially finding himself in court and likely prison) So given the horrendous consequences of getting this wrong how about erring on the side of caution:

If there is any doubt at all, if you are not 100% certain that the woman is capable of making an informed decision to have sex with you, that that decision is not significantly altered/influenced by the consumption of alcohol, basically if you have to ask the question at all, then politely decline, and take it up another day. I read a suggestion on how to handle that situation on someone else’s blog (possibly in a comment) a few months ago. Unfortunately I can’t find it now, so cannot credit them but I’ll put it here anyway.

I’m really into you, so I don’t want to be somthing you regret in the morning. How about we cool it off now, and if you are still into me tomorrow we can <insert enthusiastic phrase of choice> then.


He seems to be outraged that somthing so important – so critical – has to be taken as a  judgement call. He seems not to recognise that this situation exists in many areas of life.

Take driving for instance. All drivers are expected to judge how to drive safely in all the conditions they encounter. In Fog, Ice, Snow, Rain, near schools, in a built up area, around vulnerable road users (kids, pedestrians, horses, cyclists), all drivers are expected to use their skill and judgement in order to drive safely. There are no hard rules to help here – the speed limits for example are just that – limits, not instructions. In many of the conditions outlined above a driver will need to be driving much slower than the limit.

Get it wrong – especially if someone is hurt as a result – and you are very likely to find yourself in court, and possibly prison.


* probably: it is subjective – be careful – everyone is different





2 thoughts on “How drunk is too drunk?

  1. Regardless, that is not really the point of the post above. Please don’t bring your pointless arguments from twitter over here.

    Putting it in the context of the post – if someone *appears* to be drunk, that is a good point at which to exercise caution, and put that person in a taxi home. Call them in the morning, to see if they are still interested when sober.

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