Consensual crime

A consensual crime is a public-order crime that involves more than one participant, all of whom give their consent as willing participants in an activity that is unlawful. Legislative bodies and interest groups sometimes rationalize the criminalization of consensual activity because they feel it offends cultural norms, or because one of the parties to the activity is considered a "victim" despite their informed consent.[1]

Consensual crimes are sometimes described as crimes in which the victim is the state, the judicial system, or society at large and so affect the general (sometimes ideological or cultural) interests of the system, such as common sexual morality. Victimless crimes, while similar, typically involve acts that do not involve multiple persons. Drug use is typically considered a victimless crime whereas the sale of drugs between two or more persons would be a consensual crime. The fact that no persons come forward to claim injury has essentially made the two terms interchangeable in common use.

Giving consent

Main article: Informed consent

When discussing consensual crime, one issue is whether all the participants are capable of giving genuine legal consent. This may not be the case if one or more of the participants are:


The generally accepted definition of a consensual crime is a criminal act committed by two or more people, who consent to involvement, and does not involve any nonconsenting individuals. The following is a list of criminal acts in various societies at various times and in different societies, where the issue of liability hinges on consent or the lack of it:

The issue in each of these situations is the same. Society has created a formal framework of laws to prohibit types of conduct thought to be against the public interest. Laws proscribing homicide, assaults and rape are common to most cultures. Thus, when the supposed victim freely consents to be the victim in one of these crimes, the question is whether the state should make an exception from the law for this one situation. Take euthanasia as an example. If one person intentionally takes the life of another, this is usually murder. If the motive for this is to collect the inheritance, society has no difficulty in ignoring the motive and convicting the killer. But if the motive is to relieve the suffering of the victim by providing a clean death that would otherwise be denied, can society so quickly reject the motive? It is a case of balancing the harms. On the one hand, society could impose pain and suffering on the victim by forcing him or her to endure a long decline into death. Or society could permit a system for terminating life under controlled circumstances so that the victim's wishes could be respected without exposing others to the criminal system for assisting in realising those wishes.

The other situations move down the hierarchy of non-fatal and sexual assaults with society deciding whether, and in what circumstances, to offer an excuse or exculpation to those who freely participate.

See also


Further reading

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