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What Even is Consent? An Investigation Into Educational and Media Presentations of Consent

Our work was focused on understanding why, after years of messaging, consent remains an ambiguous topic, and there are far too many rapes, sexual assaults, and coercive encounters. We believed that messaging received from media and social norms around sex

Consent in Film Header

Beauty and the Beast. Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, performances by Paige O’Hara and Richard White, Buena Vista Pictures, 1991.

Time stamp: 18:06-19:48, Gaston proposing to Belle.

Gaston walks into the home without asking Belle if he can come inside. As he makes his way into the home he quickly advances in while Belle backs up. He tries to get as close as he can similarly to how men approach women when they want to touch them or engage in sexual activity. While talking about how Belle will be his wife and cater to him and for the 6 or 7 children they will have, again has an undertone of a sexual advance in order to get her pregnant. Belle again walks away and Gaston corners her in the corner of the room as she again steps away quickly to get away from him. Here he is trying again to get physically close to touch her. She then walks to the door where he puts his hands on either side of her head and attempts to kiss her while she expresses that she does not deserve him. Although she does not directly mention that she does not want to marry/ be around him, her ways of manuerving around him illustrates her desire to not be close with him and him violating consent.


Pretty Woman. Directed by Garry Marshall, performances by Julia Roberts and Jason Alexander, Touchstone Pictures, 1990.


Philip Stucky is in Vivian’s hotel room and he discusses how she must be a good hooker to get the main character Edward to not care about million dollar deals. Philip then sits on the couch next to Vivian very close and comments that, “maybe if I do you then I wouldn’t care about losing millions of dollars.” Philip then moves closer to Vivian as she shows signs of being uncomfortable and fidgeting. He then strokes his fingers over her leg and then grabs it and says, “I am just freaking out so maybe if I screw you huh.” Vivian pushes his hand away and he again grabs her. She later bites him and he hits her in the face and then pushes her to the ground and gets on top of her where she yells, “Get off me!” In this scene Philip makes many sexual advances even while Vivian expresses that she wants nothing to do with him. Philip assumes that since Vivian is a hooker that it is consent since that is part of her work and she has been having sex with his friend Edward. Philip makes sexual physical contact by touching the inside of her leg and jumping on top of her and verbally talks about how he would like to have sex with her. Philip violates consent.

Gianna Ottaviano


Frozen. United States: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. 2013.

Anna presents Kristoff with a new sled at the end of the movie after broke his last one. Kristoff is blindfolded and Anna guides him to the spot where the new sled sits. She removes the blindfold and she surprises him with a new sled insisting he take it and it cannot be exchanged or returned. He is in complete shock and doesn’t know how to respond. With joy Kristoff sweeps Anna off her feet. He then with excitement says “I love it! I could kiss you!” He brings her back to her feet and nervously utters “Uh, I could, I mean, I’d like to. May I? We me? I mean, may we? Wait, what?” Anna then responds “We may.” With the consent that Anna has given he then moves in for the kiss.

Maya Beaudoin


The Sleeping Beauty. London: Oxford University Press, 1959.

During the song “Once Upon A Dream,” Aurora is singing in the woods with her woodland creatures alone. The prince watching her from afar, suddenly appears, repeatedly grabbing Aurora’s hand. She continues to pull away from him, but the prince is insistent. Clearly, her pulling away is a form of saying no. However, as the song continues, Aurora opens up and starts to let the prince hold her hand and the two begin to dance and sing together. The scene ends with the two staring off in the distance hand and hand and happily in love.

Mackenzie Knapp


Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. 1937.

In the movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, at 1:20:35, the Prince stumbles upon the dwarfs and the animals surrounding Snow White in a glass casket. The prince walks up to her in the casket and decides that a “true love's kiss” is what will wake her up and kisses her. Though the prince might have thought he was doing the right thing because it would awaken her from her curse, he did not have consent from Snow for him to kiss her. As she was unconscious, she had no way of deciding whether or not she wanted to be kissed and therefore could provide no consent.

Allison Finley


After. Directed by Jenny Gage. 2019

Time stamp: 1:17:26-1:18:48

In the movie After, Tessa and Hardin are in a relationship. In this specific scene, they are about to have sex. Tessa makes it clear that it is her first time having sex and she verbally consents to it before it happens. Tessa says “I want you now” and Harding reassures that she is still ok with it several times. Hardin does this by saying “are you sure?” and Tessa responds “yes”. Hardin also says “do you want me to stop” and Tessa responds “no just go slow”. This scene in the movie shows a clear example of verbal consent in a sexual situation. Hardin makes sure that Tessa is definitely consenting to having sex and he asks for consent before doing anything. Tessa also clearly states that she is consenting to having sex with Hardin.

Maryah Thomas


Greys Anatomy season 8

In season 8 episode 21 of Greys Anatomy , the residents are taking their boards. The night before their boards, they decide to have a night out at the bar. During the timestamp at 22 mins and 25 seconds, April Kepner makes a choice to have sex with Jackson Avery after a night out. She then wakes up the next morning and second guesses her decision because she feels like she went against her religion, but at the same time she enjoyed what she had done with Jackson.

Rachel Ludwig


Sixteen Candles (1984)

In the movie Sixteen Candles, which was made in 1984, Jake Ryan tells his friend ,Ted, that his girlfriend passed out at a party and that he can “violate her in 10 different ways” if he wanted to. Jake ended up not doing that because Ted eventually takes the girlfriend home and they supposedly had sex but neither of them remember doing that act. Since she was passed out we cannot tell if she consented to having sex with Ted or not.