Blacking Out (Blackouts), Passing Out, and Rape Allegations

Are blacking out and passing out the same?

Women who were drinking and report rape often don’t remember clearly what happened. And defendants may claim that the woman gave consent for sex. So juries often face a case of “she said, he said.”

Men need to know that laws prohibit sex with anyone who can’t give informed consent. This includes anyone under a specified age. And anyone with impaired judgment. Impairment can be from things such as mentally disability, intoxication, or a high from drugs.

Blacking Out vs Passing Out

blacking outSome women don’t remember what happened at all during the alleged rape. Therefore, they may think they were unconscious. However, they’re usually suffering from a blackout.

There are two forms of alcohol blackout. One is “en bloc blackout.” The person experiences amnesia covering the entire period of intoxication. The other is fragmentary blackout. The person experiences partial amnesia of that period. The latter are more common.

It is important that we not confuse blackouts with passing out. When people pass out they are not conscious of what’s going on. That is, they are unconscious.

On the other hand, people who suffer a blackout have amnesia. They were aware of what was going on while intoxicated. But now they can’t remember it.

People who are conscious may be able to give consent if they choose. However, those who are unconscious can never give consent.

Protect Yourself

blanking outYou can reduce confusion and later disagreements about consent for sex. Avoid either blacking out or passing out.

High levels of intoxication can result in blacking out. Also the risk of blacking out increases the faster intoxication occurs.

So be smart. Discover how to maximize alcohol pleasure and minimize alcohol problems.

Resources on Rape & Rape Prevention

Black Belt (firm). Rape Awareness and Prevention for Women. Lubbock: Black Belt, 2005. (Video)

Dow, B. and Crowfoot, N. Acquaintance Rape. “I Thought We were Friends.” Des Moines: Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, 1998. (Video)

Lindquist, S. The Date Rape Prevention Book. The Essential Guide for Girls & Women. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2000.

Meridian Education (firm) Date Rape Drugs. Monmouth Junction, NJ : Meridian Ed, 2004. (Video. High School)

Scarce, M. Male on Male Rape. Reading, MA: Basic, 2008.

Shucker-Haines, F. Everything You Need to Know about Date Rape. NY: Rosen,1998. (Juvenile)

Sjoberg, L. Women as Wartime Rapists. Beyond Sensation and Stereotyping. NY: NYU Press, 2017.

  • Goodwin, D. et al. Alcoholic “blackouts”. Am J Psychiatry, 1969, 126, 191-198.
  • Hartzler, B., and Fromme, K. Fragmentary and en bloc blackouts. J Stud Alco, 2003, 64(4), 547-550.
  • White, A.  et al. Experiential aspects of alcohol-induced blackouts among college students. Am J Drug Alco Abuse, 2004.