OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to make a normative description of the nature and duration of genital lesions sustained during consensual sexual intercourse, using the three most commonly used techniques; visualisation using the naked eye, colposcopy and toluidine blue dye followed by colposcopy. METHODS: Ninety eight women were examined within 48h of consensual sexual intercourse. Fifty of the women were examined twice again within the following 7 days of sexual abstinence after the first examination. RESULTS: The participants had a median age of 22.4 years and 88% were nulliparous. Lesions were frequent; 34% seen with the naked eye, 49% seen with colposcopy and 52% seen with toluidine blue dye and subsequent colposcopy. The lesions lasted for several days; the median survival times for lacerations were 24, 40 and 80h, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: The legal implications of these findings are that genital lesions by themselves do not corroborate a rape complaint. Genital lesions may, however, corroborate specific details of a case and should be documented as carefully as any other lesion in rape complaints.