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Sexual Consent

  1. Joan McGregor

Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee348

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics

How to Cite

McGregor, J. 2013. Sexual Consent. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 FEB 2013


Consent is generally thought to play a critical role in our moral relationships, purportedly by transforming impermissible acts into permissible ones (see Consent). In sexual relationships, consent changes the nature of the activity, from a sexual violation to a voluntary sexual encounter, and performs a central role in the legal analysis of rape or sexual assault (see Rape). Given the morally transformative function of consent, what is consent's nature, its moral force, and what conditions undermine it are widely debated. Beyond the concerns about what consent really is and what its moral force is, there are questions about whether attention to consent is misguided. Questions such as whether consent is a sufficient condition to make any sexual behavior morally permissible (see Sexual Morality) and whether genuine consent to sex is even possible in a society with extensive gender hierarchy and oppression are argued as more critical to the discussion about the legitimacy of sexual interactions than the discussion about consent.


  • autonomy;
  • ethics;
  • harm;
  • law;
  • legal and political;
  • practical (applied) ethics;
  • rights;
  • sexuality