Blurred lines: perceptions of sexual consent and the role of mental illness
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Sexual activity can be a pleasurable and critical element of self-expression. However, research has found that mental illness is a condition that may affect the ability to sexually consent. Despite this fact, sexual consent remains under-studied and under-theorized when considering the various ways it can be influenced. Bipolar Disorder is especially concerning, as it is characterized by symptoms of thought disorder patterns, perception alterations, mood oscillations, and impulsivity. Consequently, individuals are particularly susceptible to bias when judging situations. The aim of this study, then, is to explore the relationship between mental illness and sexual behaviour. Specifically, perceptions of sexual consent and the role of Bipolar Disorder were examined among university students. The study is intended to determine if an individual’s mental health status was related to perceptions of capacity to sexually consent. In other words, I sought to determine if individuals self-reporting a clinical diagnosis would be more likely to proceed with a sexual interaction knowing their partner had a mental illness, compared to individuals who had never experienced symptoms of a disorder who may be more fearful. Additionally, it was examined if students’ sexual decision-making was influenced more by some disorders over others (e.g., Bipolar Disorder, Depression and Schizophrenia). The findings of this study demonstrates that there is a need for greater research examining people’s understanding of sexual consent, and capacity to consent, especially in the context of mental illnesses such as Bipolar Disorder.