Consent: Not actually that complicated

Dino tea party, by KaffySmaffy on Tumblr

A short one today as my life is currently very complicated and conspiring against my preference to spend all of my days working out what to blog. But do you know what isn’t complicated?

Consent.

It’s been much discussed recently; what with college campuses bringing in Affirmative Consent rules, and with the film of the book that managed to make lack of consent look sexy raking it in at the box office. You may not know this, but in the UK we more or less have something similar to ‘affirmative consent’ already. It’s how Ched Evans was convicted while his co-defendant was not – and is along the lines of whether the defendant had a reasonable belief that the alleged victim consented. From the court documents it appears that while the jury felt that it was reasonable to believe that the victim had consented to intercourse with the co-defendant, it was not reasonable to believe that she’d consented to intercourse with some random dude that turned up halfway through (Evans). The issue in the UK isn’t traditionally in the way it’s dealt with in court, but in the way it has been investigated – new guidance was recently issued to try to improve this.

It seems like every time an article is written about consent, or a move made towards increasing the onus on the initiator of the sex to ensure that the person they are trying to have sex with, you know, actually WANTS to have sex with them, there are a wave of comments and criticisms.

rape-and-consent-590

even the comments in response to this cartoon illustrate the depth of lack of understanding of consent

It seems a lot of people really, REALLY don’t get what ‘consent’  means. From the famous “not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion” to the student that (allegedly) thought he’d surprise his partner with some non consensual BDSM to that fucking song to almost every damn comment on any article by anyone that suggests that yes means yes; it seems people really have a problem understanding that before you have sex with someone, and that’s every time you have sex with them, make sure they want to have sex with you. This goes for men, women, everyone. Whoever you are initiating sexytimes with, just make sure they are actually genuinely up for it. That’s it. It’s not hard. Really.

If you’re still struggling, just imagine instead of initiating sex, you’re making them a cup of tea.

You say “hey, would you like a cup of tea?” and they go “omg fuck yes, I would fucking LOVE a cup of tea! Thank you!*” then you know they want a cup of tea.

If you say “hey, would you like a cup of tea?” and they um and ahh and say, “I’m not really sure…” then you can make them a cup of tea or not, but be aware that they might not drink it, and if they don’t drink it then – this is the important bit –  don’t make them drink it. You can’t blame them for you going to the effort of making the tea on the off-chance they wanted it; you just have to deal with them not drinking it. Just because you made it doesn’t mean you are entitled to watch them drink it.

If they say “No thank you” then don’t make them tea. At all. Don’t make them tea, don’t make them drink tea, don’t get annoyed at them for not wanting tea. They just don’t want tea, ok?

They might say “Yes please, that’s kind of you” and then when the tea arrives they actually don’t want the tea at all. Sure, that’s kind of annoying as you’ve gone to the effort of making the tea, but they remain under no obligation to drink the tea. They did want tea, now they don’t. Sometimes people change their mind in the time it takes to boil that kettle, brew the tea and add the milk. And it’s ok for people to change their mind, and you are still not entitled to watch them drink it even though you went to the trouble of making it.

If they are unconscious, don’t make them tea. Unconscious people don’t want tea and can’t answer the question “do you want tea” because they are unconscious.

Ok, maybe they were conscious when you asked them if they wanted tea, and they said yes, but in the time it took you to boil that kettle, brew the tea and add the milk they are now unconscious. You should just put the tea down, make sure the unconscious person is safe, and  – this is the important bit – don’t make them drink the tea. They said yes then, sure, but unconscious people don’t want tea.

If someone said yes to tea, started drinking it, and then passed out before they’d finished it, don’t keep on pouring it down their throat. Take the tea away and make sure they are safe.  Because unconscious people don’t want tea. Trust me on this.

If someone said “yes” to tea around your  house last saturday, that doesn’t mean that they want you to make them tea all the time. They don’t want you to come around unexpectedly to their place and make them tea and force them to drink it going “BUT YOU WANTED TEA LAST WEEK”, or to wake up to find you pouring tea down their throat going “BUT YOU WANTED TEA LAST NIGHT”.

Do you think this is a stupid analogy? Yes, you all know this already  – of course you wouldn’t force feed someone tea because they said yes to a cup last week. Of COURSE you wouldn’t pour tea down the throat of an unconcious person because they said yes to tea 5 minutes ago when they were conscious. But if you can understand how completely ludicrous it is to force people to have tea when they don’t want tea, and you are able to understand when people don’t want tea, then how hard is it to understand when it comes to sex?

Whether it’s tea or sex, Consent Is Everything.

And on that note, I am going to make myself a cup of tea.

*I actually said this word for word to a friend in the early hours of Sunday morning after a warehouse party. Tea. It’s fucking brilliant.


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Tea Consent by RockstarDinosaurPiratePrincess is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://rockstardinosaurpirateprincess.com/2015/03/02/consent-not-actually-that-complicated/.

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880 Responses to Consent: Not actually that complicated

  1. shonnawhite says:

    Reblogged this on Outside The Bubble and commented:
    This is the best article about consent I’ve ever seen.

  2. elmowrites says:

    Laughed out loud at this!
    My mother-in-law likes to offer me drinks (not complaining about that, it’s very kind of her). If I say no, she starts offering me specific drinks until I either give in and accept a drink, or run away. Recently, I responded to the fifteenth drink option with “I’m going to teach my children that no means no” and I really think it gave her pause (possibly also offended her I’m afraid).
    Your analogy is perfect.

  3. Pete Stevens says:

    Practically every morning my girlfriend makes me a cup of tea unasked for, and sometimes she orders me to drink it in order that I wake up in time to start work. Have I been raped?

    • Only if you don’t understand what an ‘analogy’ is.

      • shonnawhiteS says:

        The internet-emboldened asshat emerges from his cave, grunting, beating his chest, and scratching his butt-crack with his wooden club.

      • curiosetta says:

        I think Pete’s thinks your tea analogy IS a good one, but he thinks the argument you are making off the back of it doesn’t work. He is making a valid point. Spontaneous tea making and/ or lovemaking without asking for consent first can be a wonderfully gracious, loving, kind, fun, spontaneous, sensitive thing to do for someone. Obviously CONTEXT is everything…. something your black-and-white set of rules fails to account for.

        Knocking on your neighbours’ door at 3am with a cup of tea, or breaking into their house, creeping into their bedroom and sliding between their legs is NOT appropriate. However in the CONTEXT of a relationship of trust, initiating tea/ lovemaking can be a wonderful thing.

        Pete’s criticism was offered in a courteous manner. And you insulted him (and without asking his permission first) by calling him an “internet-emboldened asshat emerges from his cave, grunting, beating his chest, and scratching his butt-crack with his wooden club.”

        The tea analogy is good, and your argument is bad, because in real life there ARE plenty of occasions when a spontaneous, unasked for, cup of tea is an absolute delight. And when we receive one we usually say “Oh, you shouldn’t have!” ……. by which of course we mean – “This is lovely, I’m soooo grateful you did this!”

        The idea that ALL acts of sexual intimacy MUST start with verbal consent is not only ridiculous, it is destructive because it denies even the possibility of relationships being built on trust. Your rules ‘criminalise’ natural, spontaneous, loving behaviour and this obsession with verbal consent just one more example of how feminism is destroying healthy, grown up male/ female relationships and society in general.

        But if YOU want total ‘cards on the table’ honesty in all human interactions then that is FINE. But rather than you forcing the rest of us to be like you I suggest you wear a T-shirt or a badge in public stating your ‘rules of interaction’ explicitly so that everyone will know that’s how YOU want to be treated. It could say in big bold letters:

        “I demand verbal consent be asked for and given before any act of intimacy, tea making, flowers, chocolates, touching, kisses, hugs, caressing and sexual intimacy”

        And I guarantee you that most men (and probably most women) would avoid you like the plague, suspecting (in all seriousness) that you have some kind of mental health issues, or some kind of autism, which (again in all seriousness) might not be so far from the truth.

        Your rules are basically saying “I am not able to handle complex, subtle, nuanced adult relationships and interactions – so treat me like someone with special needs”.

        And to be clear, I have no problem if that’s how YOU want to be treated. But it’s unfair for you to demand the rest of us to give up our spontaneous, thoughtful, fun, trusting and loving adult relationships and interactions just to accommodate you. And it’s ungracious to just insult other people for taking issue with your demands.

      • I love your characterization, especially since the cave people are being influenced to say what they say by billionaires and millionaires. Who look down on the very person who made that sneaker or their jeans.

      • katherinejlegry says:

        Hi again mr. Foghorn… Curiosetta is a known troll who harasses women and people of color regularly on blogs. They actually look for articles about rape to go insult victims of rape on. So, I saw you were kind to women on a different blog, even when you and I had it out a little on the military blog… and I’m just saying agreeing with curiosetta about much of anything won’t bode well for your reputation as a man or a weather man…

      • Pete Stevens says:

        I do understand what an analogy is. I just don’t think yours is very good.

        In particular, whilst socialising with an employee recently, she ended up very drunk and my wife and I took her home to her partner. Whilst she was insistent that we should all party and drink some more, her boyfriend, my wife and I instead persuaded her that a cup of tea would be a much better plan. She has since thanked us for making her the tea and is very pleased we acted in her own best interests.

        Do you see how three responsible adults giving a very drunk person a cup of tea to help sober them up might be different to gang-rape?

      • I can see that you still don’t know what an analogy is.

      • curiosetta, Please don’t imply that everyone with “mental health issues or some kind of autism” should be avoided “like the plague.” shonnawhiteS was being rude, and so are you. If it’s true that Pete doesn’t understand analogies, he needn’t be condescended to, but perhaps had this particularly analogy explained. However, in this case, I think he just made a joke that fell flat and doesn’t really need Internet bullying to be the result.

      • graminaondw says:

        Curiosetta, you said: “The tea analogy is good, and your argument is bad, because in real life there ARE plenty of occasions when a spontaneous, unasked for, cup of tea is an absolute delight. And when we receive one we usually say “Oh, you shouldn’t have!” ……. by which of course we mean – “This is lovely, I’m soooo grateful you did this!”

        The idea that ALL acts of sexual intimacy MUST start with verbal consent is not only ridiculous, it is destructive because it denies even the possibility of relationships being built on trust.”

        The thing is, I am not seeing or hearing anyone saying that “all acts of sexual intimacy must start with verbal consent.” And to take it back to the tea question, if someone offers me spontaneous tea I’ll probably say “Oh! Thank you!” — but after that, I may drink it or I may ignore it; if I’m not in the mood for tea I can just not drink it. If someone “spontaneous[ly], unasked for” pours tea down my throat, I’m going to be *really damned cranky about it* and probably charge them with assault.

        If I’m trying to initiate sex with someone, and I’m not getting *really unmistakable* signals that they are very much into the idea, I’m going to *ask.* With my words. If it’s someone who hasn’t had sex with me before, I’m probably going to ask ahead of time and there will be a fair bit of (often very hot) conversation about it in advance, and then there will be checking in along the way.

        I value relationships that are built on trust very highly; no relationship is going to get to the point where *I’m* consenting to sex without a strong foundation in trust. But *everyone* can make mistakes, and I want to minimize mistakes and maximize the ability to recover from them, so I’d always rather ask, “hey, is this ok?” than find out later that the other person felt pushed or coerced. That’s happened to me, when a long-term partner was in a bad place and I didn’t know it, and it left me feeling sick when I found out, and it took a long time to reestablish both their trust that I never, ever want to push them and my trust that I could rely on their signals or their words to help me not ever make that mistake again.

        So, yeah. Clear, unambiguous consent is actually central to building and maintaining trusting relationships. IMO&X.

      • Lynx Dean says:

        Thx u made me laugh again.

    • Hey Pete, how did you reward yourself after this droll comment? Did you have another ‘FUDGE EXTREME’ lo-carb power bar, or did you scrape the dried cum from your belly hair and lube up for Round Two?

    • curiosetta says:

      @Valarie Johnson

      > curiosetta, Please don’t imply that everyone with “mental health issues or some kind of autism” should be avoided “like the plague.”

      I meant in the context of looking for sex, not generally in everyday life.

      And Pete DOES understand analogies. And that is why he realised the tea analogy does not make a good analogy for the point being argued in the original blog post.

      • katherinejlegry says:

        You prefer to defend men who have been raped Curiosetta, but you like to find reasons women bring it on themselves or ruin men. You are a troll and and have no business telling anyone what consent is.

      • xenariana says:

        Really? I mean, really, really, really? Is “verbal” comunication the only way to communicate? Seriously? Because I kinda manage to offer tea (the actual drink) without verbalizing it and, suprisingly enough, people manages to underestand me. You know, a couple of gestures, while preparing tea for myself or even showing the box. And I manage to know by their faces expresions or their own gestures either if they want tea or not.So, if I am able to communicate this intention without explicitly saying “do you want a cup of tea?”, maybe the analogy is not that wrong, as it is actually easier to know by the response to kisses and other physical contact if the person you want sex with actually shares your desire of having a carnal interlude.

    • suchnothing says:

      Pete: no, because forcing someone to drink tea does not fit into any definition of rape anywhere. However, if you are being made to consume something you don’t want, you’re facing another kind of problem ranging from annoyance to psychological/physical abuse depending on the manner in which it’s done and how you feel about it.

      curiosetta: There’s a HUGE difference between spontaneously making someone tea (nice), and spontaneously forcing/coercing them to drink it (not nice). It’s not like sex is something that happens suddenly, there’s a whole process to it: removing clothes, maybe some foreplay, getting into position – there’s lots of time between initiating sex (making tea) and actually doing it (drinking tea) in which to get consent without removing the spontaneity of it. Also, no one said anything about verbal consent being the only way.

      For some non-verbal examples: if you initiate sex (put tea in front of someone) and your partner is all over you and super into it (picks the tea up and drinks it), you have non-verbal consent. If your partner is disengaged (picks up the tea without really drinking it), non-reactive (ignores the tea), trying to move away (moves to a different spot), or is physically pushing you away (pushes the tea away), you do not have consent (and should not force them to drink the tea you made). If you find yourself in a grey area, where they are going along with it but don’t seem enthusiastic (they’re drinking the tea but don’t seem happy about it), it’s not a bad idea to check in verbally and ask for consent with your words (maybe that’s just how they drink tea, or they actually wanted a glass of water instead, or they aren’t really thirsty). A simple “do you want to have sex?” is all it takes. It’s very common for people to freeze up when confronted with sudden, unwanted physical contact, so verbal consent is important when your partner is not actively engaging. Not sure if they’re actively engaging, or what “actively engaging” even means? Then use your damn words until you figure it out. (Pro tip: this all applies throughout sex, not just at the beginning – if you think you may have lost consent halfway through, better ask).

      If you honestly can’t understand the difference between initiating sex (making tea) and having sex (drinking tea) I just don’t know how to fix that calibre of stupid and can’t help you. If you really think there’s no time between initiating sex (making tea) and having sex (drinking tea) to get consent, you need to slow the crap down. It’s not a race. If you really need to put your dick in it with no time beforehand in which to gain non-verbal consent, then verbal consent is absolutely necessary and not as burdensome as you’re making it out to be. Just look deep into your partner’s eyes and say “I need to put my dick in it right now”. If you get any answer other than yes (or some derivation thereof), you do not have consent so don’t put your dick in it. (Pro tip: this works the same for getting someone else’s dick in you)

      General comment: If you’re upset by the idea of needing consent because you’re thinking about how getting it will inconvenience you or prevent you from having sex, there’s a good chance you have or will sexually assault someone without even understanding that that’s what your interaction means to the other person, which is pretty scary for those around you and pretty sad and legally dangerous for yourself. That’s why people design analogies like this – so that people can better understand their own actions and not unwittingly assault another person.

      • You win the tinternets today, good person. Thank you for clarifying so eloquently. Also, I’m autistic and the person above who claimed I need to be avoided like the plague because of my mental health is about as empathetic as a rock. Which, considering the fact that they feel personally attacked and inconvenienced by the need for consent (because it like ruins to nuanced subtle adult romance, bro) is not at all surprising. Those lacking in empathy are more likely to hurt others, intentionally or unintentionally.

        I might have a different means of communication (which actually isn’t that atypical since I am not non-verbal and I am fairly high functioning thanks to therapy) but that does not make me less interested or deserving of a safe, sane and fulfilling tea filled life.

        Every relationship will obviously have a different dynamic, based on the involved party. But if in the beginning, you’re unclear on your partner’s boundaries, just fucking ask. That is sexy. Men and women are capable of feeling appreciative towards someone who has the ability to communicate like an adult, with clear and open words. Subtly is nice sometimes, but most of the times, there is a lot of room of miscommunication and misunderstanding between two adults when it comes to the nuances of romance. Spelling it out for your partner isn’t treating them like they have special needs. It’s respecting them enough to have a good level of fucking communication and it should be the foundation for every relationship, with friends, family members, sexual partners, spouses, etc. Not just for tea time. For life.

      • graminaondw says:

        Yes this! I have a much less eloquent answer to the same comment awaiting moderation, and if I’d read further down the thread before replying I could have saved time 🙂 Thank you!!

    • graminaondw says:

      If your girlfriend is actually coercing, manipulating, or bullying you into drinking the tea, she needs to stop: that is abusive behavior, and while she may be the sweetest person in the world in many other ways, that specific behavior is wrong. I suspect she’s not — that you can in fact recognize the difference between loving, respectful (even if pointed) care and coercion when you are the subject of it. You may very well be able to recognize the same difference when you’re the one doing the behavior — or you may not; I don’t know. But it looks like you’re more interested in rules-lawyering the language than in making the effort to ensure that your partner is an enthusiastic volunteer every time you have sex.

    • Only if she poured the tea down your throat or if you felt that the order was one that you didn’t consent to. Did you even read the post?

  4. Steve Silberman says:

    I agree with everything you said, ABSOLUTELY, except the part about adding milk to tea. No wonder you lost the empire!

  5. setaymit says:

    Best tea-related analogy I’ve ever read, and I come across a lot of tea-related analogies in my day-to-day.

    • Russ says:

      I’m confused: “I come across a lot of tea-related analogies” – is this inuendo or not? 🙂

      By the way, great article, RDPP!

  6. J says:

    No women has ever asked for consent to sex with me, sometimes I didn’t want to do it but… ugh… I did anyway to save on the hassle because some people can be irritating like that. What does this mean? Obviously you should only have sex if the other person is ok with it but who honestly “get’s consent”?

    Also if someone said yes to a cup of tea and then changed their mind after I’d made it I’d probably be a bit grumpy with them for a while.

    • cookwitch1 says:

      Consent should be asked. They way it’s asked might be different, for different people, but either it gets asked, OR SEX DOESN’T HAPPEN. It’s really not that difficult.

      • J says:

        Like I said, I have never asked consent and have never been asked and sex happens. I’m willing to bet this is the same for the vast majority of people and you must be living in a different reality if you think every is or must be explicitly asking consent.

    • Jonathan says:

      J (assuming you are a dude), that’s because as far as plumbing goes, your ability to refuse sex is much easier than a woman’s. I hope you realize that. Whatever ‘hassle’ you think you encountered and politely avoided by having sex was still a consensual choice on your part, there’s literally no way around that (urban legend of Russian kickboxer woman, viagra pills, and her assailant turned sex slave aside). And if in fact someone said “Oh god yes, tea please, thank you!” and then DIDN’T want the tea, sure, being grumpy is reasonable. But my grumpiness is not the same as being entitled to anything. Maybe next time the person says “God yes, tea please!” I won’t make it, and they’ll have to live with that. That’s what normal, well adjusted, non-violent, non-egomaniacal people do.

      • RB says:

        Men can be legitimately raped by women. They don’t have to want sex to get an erection. Quadriplegics can get erections when they are physically stimulated even though there is no connection between their brain and penis so it can’t be anything to do with wanting sex. I am not saying that’s what happened to J though – even if you consent as a favour to someone else it’s still consent.

      • That’s why i was very careful to not gender my analogy.

      • curiosetta says:

        Male erections are involuntary, just as female engorging and lubrication is. A man’s erection does NOT signify consent, anymore than a woman’s engorging and lubrication does. In experiments women will get wet watching videos of chimpanzees having sex. Does this mean they want to have sex with chimps?

        And your attitude that men can’t be raped is precisely why so many men ARE raped. They have been conditioned that if they have an erection they must ‘want it’ even if they feel like they don’t.

        So your attitude to men is exactly the same as some asshole who says “Well she must have wanted it because she was wet”.

    • shonnawhite says:

      In a lot of ways, I see the argument in general has more to do with getting people to understand what isn’t consent, and when to stop advances that are unwanted.
      The problem is that many people feel entitlement to other people’s bodies and affections. Men, women, and everywhere in between, do this. Because of this, they press their desires on other people. Some people even lack the ability to tell when someone doesn’t want something, or simply don’t care.
      The conversation revolves around making the act of entitlement to other people socially unacceptable. Getting people to ask for consent is a way of trying to make everyone identify more with the comfort level of the person they are wanting to be with, and in some cases, even care what that other person does or does not want. Change will only happen with intelligent conversation about boundaries, a line that evolves with every step society takes toward a more empathetic existence.
      The level of verbally given consent, and the frequency which it is needed, will obviously change depending on your relationship with that other person and your understanding, and empathy, of each other’s boundaries. It should just never be forgotten that even in a relationship, no one should be made to do anything they aren’t presently comfortable with.

      • J says:

        That is a great reply, thanks.

      • So much this. I remember being in a short relationship with a guy, because he couldn’t take my non-verbal cues to stop touching me (my leg, my arm, moving towards my breast, trying to kiss me etc). At the time, I was 15. I hadn’t learned how to open my mouth and say stop. For one, I had never spent much alone time with a guy. For two, I had already been groped by a man much older than me, very inappropriately, so physical situations were hella terrifying for me. For three, I was struggling with verbally communicating at the time, due to being autistic. It was very uncomfortable and I was alone with him in my house. I literally kept moving away from him (off the couch, two seats over, etc) and he just would not take a fucking hint. I wish I had said no. By the end of the evening, I felt so pressured, I kissed him to say good bye and he jammed his tongue in my mouth. I cried when he left because I felt so anxious and uncomfortable. I told him I didn’t want to see him anymore a couple days later. Which actually worked out, because I ended up marrying his best friend who never did shit like that to me.

        Anyways, I don’t think he understood that me moving away meant it was unwanted and that just because we were “seeing each other” doesn’t mean I have to let him fondle me and stick his tongue down my throat. He didn’t think he needed consent because we were “together” and therefore he was entitled to the perks, or whatever. I wish at the time I had been more evolved emotionally and mentally. I have a strong understanding of what boundaries are, for all the people in my life now. It takes a lot of work and self-awareness to understand boundaries and to make these clear in every type of relationship. Sometimes you also have to be understanding of what boundaries you don’t want yourself to cross. We’ve all probably been guilty, when we were younger or otherwise, of pressuring someone to do something (not necessarily tea-related) they didn’t quite feel comfortable with, or we’ve experienced it.

      • Been reading all the comments, and this is the only one I felt I can reply to, well done @shonnawhite. Everyone lost the point along the way.

    • Pantsless Santa says:

      Getting consent doesn’t have to mean saying “madam, would you consent to my putting my pee pee in your hooha?” All you have to say us “wanna fuck?” or any of dozens of other normal things that are normally said in this context.

    • ellgieff says:

      Personally, I think feeling a bit grumpy after you’ve invested the effort to make someone a cup of tea and then they change their mind is OK.

      It’s even OK to express that you’re feeling grumpy (/disappointed/upset)

      Trying to get them to drink the tea anyway, because you feel grumpy (/disappointed/upset)? Not OK.

    • Fox says:

      You could always consider drinking it yourself. Just a thought.

    • argh says:

      You do understand consent doesn’t have to be verbal. It does need to be verbal if you don’t know the person pretty well, if you are in any way unsure, or if you have no ability to read simple body language like closed legs, moving away from your penis, no enthusiasm whatsoever on their part, etc.

      Generally, if someone grabs your genitals and inserts them inside their body, you can consider yourself good to go. Plus it’s just good manners to wait for that to happen.

      I find it hard to believe you’ve never had any idea whatsoever if anyone else wanted to have sex with you or not, but then had sex anyway. Sounds pretty risky.

      • Nu-uh! If someone grabs your genitals and inserts them inside their body, that person may actually be raping you. (See: Shia LaBeouf, for instance.)
        It might also be that the inserting person was too inebriated to know what she or he was doing, and you get in trouble, because either you should have known better, or because a third party will prefer that person’s account to yours if the inserter comes to regret the situation.

        Even in a world without evil rapists (and they do exist, and they will be captured by the wonderful tea metaphor, and they mostly won’t care), consent is sometimes a very tricky concept.

    • graminaondw says:

      I am so sorry! I don’t understand how someone can *not* get consent before sex — even just “Hey, d’y’wanna–?” (The thing is, “eh, not really” has to be an acceptable answer — not the point at which the first person says “awww… but you haven’t said yes in ages, and I really want it, and…”)

      (I admit, I’m picky about my partners, so maybe I’ve just self-selected for folks who are good communicators or something.)

      As far at the tea goes — and the analogy holds, I think — sometimes someone offers me tea, and I say ‘sure, that sounds good!’ but what they offer me is not what I was expecting — overbrewed or one of those campfire-smelling-teas that some people adore but I don’t, or whatever — and at that point I am *still not obligated to drink the tea.* I can say “Oh, I’m sorry — do you happen to have any Irish Breakfast tea?” or “I’m such a tea wuss — could I add some hot water to this?” or (since we’re talking about tea) I can just ignore it and quietly pour it out when you’re not looking. That last option is harder with sex, leaving someone with the choice between trying to give non-verbal “this isn’t working for me” cues or saying “actually, I don’t like this.”

      For me, the idea of having sex with someone who isn’t actually into it makes me feel queasy, so I tend to be pretty alert for “not working for me” signals and either back off or double-check, depending on how confident I am that the other person will tell me if they’re not really in the mood. (If I’m not confident, I’ll just back off — if I’m wrong, they can always re-initiate, after all.)

      Anyway — I hope your future partners are more alert and — pardon the expression — ‘on the ball’ 😉 Nobody should end up having sex because it’s a hassle not to. 😥

  7. I love this. Agreed it should be obvious but it makes it really clear. And , if I drink half of a cup of tea and decide I have had enough, that is OK too!

    I have seen the issue of informed consent in psychiatry change massively over the years. Now, at least in some places possible side effects of psychological treatments as well as medication are explained prior to getting consent. I suspect that this is best practice and not followed in many places but informed consent means not getting a cup of tea with three sugars when I hate sugar in Tea!

    Dave

    • argh says:

      That is a spectacular thing to hear. Thank you for that information.

      “at least in some places possible side effects of psychological treatments as well as medication are explained prior to getting consent”

  8. SuperflyJon says:

    How about this tea analogy:

    Someone comes back to your house and you’re not actually sure who it is, you make some tea for them and they drink the tea.
    Next morning they start shouting that they drank tea the night before. You can’t even remember making any tea.

    Was there consent?

    Things can be difficult when e.g. people are drunk.

    • I’m wondering why you’d make tea for a total stranger who isn’t coherent enough for you to establish their identity?

    • Serious answer: in the UK at least someone can be considered ‘too drunk to consent’ and this doesn’t mean they are unconscious. Therefore if you at any point suspect that the other person is really hammered, don’t make them tea. Let them sleep it off and offer them tea in the morning if you think they still want some.

    • I don’t see what’s so difficult – if someone is obviously drunk, do not put anything inside them. People who make this argument are being incredibly disingenuous, because anyone drunk enough to have a memory lapse the next day would be obviously drunk the night before.

      No one can stop you making them “tea” at the time, but if it turns out that they didn’t want tea, and they weren’t in a position to give informed consent to tea, it’s not difficult: the tea-maker is a rapist.

      • SuperflyJon says:

        The difficulty is when people’s ability to consent is impaired, so let’s say both parties are drunk and consent is agreed. Then at a later time, one person doesn’t remember consenting or regrets consenting. Is it easy to say if one person raped the other (or not) in all cases here? How can a 3rd party know if consent was given?

    • Kyle Hale says:

      Actually, it’s very simple: no there wasn’t consent.

      And here’s an equally simple idea: don’t have sex when you’re drunk and you won’t have to worry about the consequences of consent later.

      This is the world we live in now, and the world we ought to have been living in always. Stop trying to handwave away consent by saying “it’s difficult.” No, it’s not difficult, it’s just difficult for you to accept the consequences of affirmative consent.

  9. PhoenixPaw says:

    Hmm … If the person asked if they wanted tea replies with a no, is it okay to make some tea for myself, and drink it, in their company, or should one ask their permission first?
    Also, how would you suggest that one ask for a cup of tea. I mean, “excuse me, but would you mind share a cup of tea with me?” seems … plump in the analogy.

    • Teamaker- “You’re so gorgeous, I would really like to make you a cup of tea right now.”
      Drinker – “Oh my gosh, tea would be so fantastic. I was thinking about making a cup of tea for you too.”
      TM- “what do you want? Oolong, green tea, lapsang souchong?”
      D – “oh my god, I want to make you earl grey so hard right now!”
      TM – “Don’t let me stop you! Would you like some milk with that?”
      D – “I prefer a little lemon with my earl grey, do you mind?”
      TM- “Of course not!”
      D – “it might seem a little kinky, but I’d love to watch you turn the kettle on”
      TM – “then why don’t we move this to the kitchen?” et cetera, et cetera, et cetera…

      Consent happens, tea happens, everyone hopefully gets a lovely loose leaf afterglow!

      It’s basic human communication, not friggin’ particle physics! Why do peole equate getting consent with turning into a weird sex robot?

      • Devil's Advocate says:

        Because the analogy is far too simple and limited. To continue with one possible outcome for your scenario:
        (Some time later)
        TM- so how was the tea?
        D- it was great thanks. But I have to go home now.
        TM- ok, see you around sometime!
        D- ok, bye.
        TM- bye.

        The next day.
        D- I feel so bad for having had tea.
        Friend of the tea drinker- You had tea?
        D- yes, with TM.
        F- and did you want to?
        D- well, i think i did at the time, but now i feel bad about it.
        F- well, i think that means deep down you didnt want tea, really.
        D- ohmygosh, i think youre right!

        D&F- hey TM!
        TM- oh, hi, D. Hows things?
        D- youre sick.
        TM- what?
        F- she told me what you did, youre evil.
        TM- wtf?
        D- i hope you rot!

        … etc…
        Sadly, TM had no proof that D accepted the tea at the time, because TM did not record the agreement to have tea. TM suffers as a result.

      • Me says:

        Devil’s Advocate: The events of the next day could happen whether tea was drunk or not. They could happen even if TM and D never went home together. Thankfully, such an outcome is rare in the extreme. During a 17-month test period, there were 5,651 prosecutions for rape and 35 prosecutions for making false allegations of rape.
        http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/mar/13/rape-investigations-belief-false-accusations

      • Even if it DID happen like that, I find it hard to believe anyone would go through a lengthy and invasive court process on a ‘regret’. Particularly given the treatment meted out to victims where their case is proved. I understand that Ched Evan’s victim – and remember he was convicted and all appeals refused – has had to move house at least 4 times and been repeatedly harassed and threatened. I can’t believe many people would put themselves through that for a ‘regret’. Let’s face it, the vast majority of victims of sexual assault with a *genuine case* don’t put themselves through it. Most sexual assaults go unreported.

      • graminaondw says:

        You win the internets!

      • i8there4irun says:

        Sorry, but this made me laugh. I have to tell the hubs that one:”I want to make you Earl Grey so hard right now!” LMAO

  10. This should be filmed, the tea analogy I mean, it would make a brilliant viral animation to get the point across. And you know what? Perhaps it’s not a good idea to invite random drunk strangers into your home for tea, for your own self preservation as much as their’s? Like sex, sometimes tea’s better on your own, you can enjoy your favourite mug, and not worry about leaving lipstick on the rim.

  11. Reblogged this on The house of crooked sisters and commented:
    Everyone so needs to read this.

  12. Reblogged this on AbSINthePassion and commented:
    This is brilliant!

  13. Mr. C says:

    Recently a friend was invited into a very private tea room by one of two people who were planning on drinking a lot of tea. After the hosts started the tea ceremony, the invitee joined in. In the end it got quite wild and all three were drinking quite copiously from the same pitcher, so to speak. Unfortunately, a few days later the invitee was told that she had broken the rules, that she had been bad, and that the tea had actually not been for her. Which makes me wonder how much tea one must guzzle before consent is implicit.

    • Heather says:

      Perhaps the invitee should have said, is it ok for me to have some of this tea before joining in? And I would have asked what kind of tea was being served. I mean, you would not want to discover unexpected fruit tea in the teapot, would you?

      In my case, unexpected fruit tea would have me putting the tea down and not drinking the rest. nobody shoudl then start making me drink it, or telling me that my refusal to finish the tea, having tasted it and estalished that it was devil tea, proved that I was a bad guest or anything else about me.

      H

    • Ella says:

      It seems a little off to me that the invitee would have been included in a tea drinking ceremony they weren’t expected to partake in. It also makes me wonder if the person who said the invitee did a bad thing consented to the idea of a three person tea ceremony, or if maybe they were pressured into it by their partner. If that is the case, sounds like the partner who invited is more responsible for not gaining the consent of all parties, and the person who blames invitee is doing some mental backflips so that they don’t have to confront their partner about feeling violated. Scapegoats are much easier.

      Regardless, I think anyone who decides to have a three person tea ceremony should sit down before they start drinking and determine the rules of engagement, such as who’s allowed to drink what.

  14. Nick says:

    Here’s my earnest question:

    You make someone tea but they change their mind about wanting it after it’s been made.

    They, however, feel bad that the other person made them tea and drink it despite not really wanting to.

    It seems as though some non-consensual tea drinking happened, but whom is at fault? The drinker for not voicing their feelings or the brewer for not picking up on the fact that the drinker felt coerced at the last minute?

    This is where things get more complicated to me and why your article seems to over-simplify things.

    Thanks.

    • It depends whether “they drink it despite not really wanting to” means that they:
      a) Politely and quietly finished their tea as quickly as possible, but made no effort to convey that they were really no longer in the mood for tea
      b) Mentioned that they really no longer felt like tea, and then after some heavy sighs and grumpy looks from the tea maker, went ahead and drank the tea anyway.

      In situation A, I think that while it would be nice if the other person magically picked up on the fact that you were no longer keen on your tea, if you haven’t clearly communicated that, then it really was up to you to set that boundary.

      If it’s situation B, then I think the tea maker really has an obligation there to say “Oh, OK, well, you don’t have to drink the tea” or otherwise provide a “backing off from the tea” avenue. Especially if you want to preserve your relationship with the tea drinker (but really, just if you’re a decent human being, imho), the tea maker has a responsibility to ensure that where consent is not given or is withdrawn, the tea drinker isn’t emotionally “punished” for that – especially not to the point where they give in and drink the tea anyway.

      • Nick says:

        Definitely think you nailed it, thanks for the thoughtful response, and it’s sad that not punishing someone for expressing their feelings has to be explicitly stated.

  15. Derek says:

    Great blog! Yet more wisdom to pass on to my two boys. It’s even better when you get asked for “tea” though

  16. If I was a man, I’d take a photo of any woman I was with and have her sign a consent form before we had tea. Because I wouldn’t want to have to go to court to prove she was old enough to have tea (which, of course, opens up all kinds of issues around signing said consent form if not being of legal age), and also I wouldn’t want anyone to say that I coerced her into having tea, but of course there’s no guarantee of that even if I had witnesses to a sober of-age woman signing said form. Fuck it, if I was a guy I’d be a virgin until I was 50. Just to make sure.

    • argh says:

      If your social skills are that poor, yes it would make sense for you to never have sex or have people sign consent forms to have sex with you (though you’d have to put a clause in there that even if you hurt them they couldn’t stop sex in the middle, as I feel like that signals like “no, I’m in so much pain, please get off me” might confuse you.).

      Being a woman you need to know about this too. Not just to know what is acceptable behavior in a sex partner, in order to better detect abuse, but also to prevent you from sexually assaulting or statutory raping someone yourself.

  17. TK says:

    Great article… I would also add, just because she/he wanted tea, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask how s/he’d like it made (with milk, without, lemon or sugar?), especially in the first few times you make tea – learn their preferences. If it’s something different from vanilla (e.g. English breakfast tea), make sure they’re OK with experimenting and how they want to experiment (e.g. a sip, trying bit of their partner’s, a whole cup of their own?)… Not everyone is into Earl Grey, let alone green tea, or Darjeeling or gun-powder 😉

  18. You do seem to have forgotten that having sex with someone that you love when you’re kinda tired and would probably answer in the polite and reassuring negative if asked for consent is still better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. A lot better. The offer of tea is a cute analogy for the offer of sex, but tea ain’t sex.

    (This is obviously not referring to the ‘but she said it was ok five minutes ago/ when she was conscious’ sort of stuff. Then again, I think most of the sex in the world happens outside of situations bordering on or involving rape, really. Most of the sex in the world, I think, happens in relationships where the integrity of the relationship depends in part on the quality of the sex life associated with it. Basically, saying no has consequences. Like that you leave your partner horny in bed while you snore into their ear. That’s not a terribly rockin’ time for them, and you might feel bad, etc. Including this side of things will make for a much more complete analogy to sex in general, but you might need to choose something more serious than tea.)

    • tinapj says:

      So if the partner is left horny whilst you snore in their ear, they can have a wank. No-one is entitled to sex, whether in a relationship or not. Saying no has consequences, but that does not mean the person who said no is responsible for all of those consequences. No-one should be made to feel guilty for saying no. That’s emotional abuse.

    • cherrybright says:

      “when you’re kinda tired and would probably answer in the polite and reassuring negative *IF ASKED FOR CONSENT*” – this is presumed consent again and the other party absolutely deserves the right to say NO. Without having to be reassuring by the way.

  19. Devil's Advocate says:

    Although I agree that no-one should ever be forced to drink “tea”. Here is an important point:

    What about if you make someone a cup of tea, which they willingly and cheerfully drink, then when they go home, they notice the coffee in their own house, and regret having drunk the tea.

    They then accuse you of having forced tea on them, and everyone agrees you are a horrible person for making them drink tea, and ignore the fact that they accepted the tea until they left.

    Maybe, just maybe, in this kind of case, its their fault for having accepted the tea?

    • Me says:

      In that case, they were happy to have the tea, and so you’ve done nothing wrong and they’re a horrible, horrible person. But then, they could do that even if you never had tea with them.

    • S says:

      How about this: If you feel unsure about consent or about any aspect of it, just don’t have sex with them.
      This type of situation is incredibly rare and almost no one would make a false accusation and be put through the horror that is a rape trial. Victims are ALL treated like lying sluts due to this kind of thinking, while rapists are treated like innocent victims by the justice system. Thank you for that. Try not raping people, chances are if you do that you’ll never be accused of rape.

    • As an avid coffee drinker I think I can honestly say that if I went crazy and had tea and then regretted the decision the last thing I would do is advertise to anyone/everyone who would listen that I had even been in the same room as tea. I’ve never put much stock in the “tea drinkers remorse” theory.

  20. David says:

    Brilliant!

  21. jacaleee says:

    Reblogged this on Don't Panic! and commented:
    ALL OF THE FUCK YEAH
    This is a brilliant analogy.
    Thank you for posting!

  22. Loulou says:

    Basically agree but not entirely…… I love my hubby and sex is great but if he gave up every time I said no when I am under stress it would probably never happen. And because he does persist a little… Not too much pressure and I do agree it is usually just what I need. I don’t think there are ever complete hard and fast rules as everyone’s communication needs are different.
    But if I really don’t want to he is ok with that and yes… Sometimes just goes and makes his own cup of tea……
    And if he actually came out and asked me each time it would be a turn off. I love that most of the time it is just a touch of love of some kind in innocence that leads us there…. No words spoken.
    And there have been time he is not in the mood and I have per sued and things have worked out….
    But then we have a brilliant 20 year long relationship.

    • binidj says:

      I think that if you’ve been in a brilliant relationship for twenty years then one develops a shorthand for offering tea, and a tolerance for one’s partner accidentally letting the tea get cold because they got distracted or snoozed or something. Also, if you’re lucky enough to be in a continuing brilliant twenty year relationship (jealous? Me?) then I think you’d be comfortable enough with, and respectful enough of each other to not coerce your partner into having tea if they clearly don’t want it.

      • Heather says:

        I know someone who set up two ornaments on their mantelpiece, because they wanted to be asked for sexytimes only when they had the physical capacity to participate. They make the ornaments touch if it’s a good day and separate them when it’s a bad day. Their partner then gets to decide if they want to ask on good days, without pressure to go for it on those days just because partner-who-has-limits is up for it.

        Consent all around, Win.

        It’s the opposite to Loulou’s situation, but reflects the same idea that you do not need to present a consent form, you can create your own sign language or other indicators that work for you. and that’s ok. But if you applied the same rules to another partner, then it would not work at all. I mean, seriously, how would my friend’s new partner know to look at her mantlepiece to find out if she was up for tea?

        H

  23. Brilliant analogy but can I add a couple

    If the person agrees to teas but they don’t take milk or they only drink teas with lemon or cardamon then if you make tea the way you like it they are perfectly entitled to say, “sorry I don’t drink tea with milk” or “You don’t have any lemon? nope I don’t drink tea without lemon”.

    And secondly if the person you want to drink tea with can’t legally drink tea then you shouldn’t make tea for them even if they ask you for tea, even if they say, “hell yes I like tea, let me make it, where’s the kettle? Let me make a whole pot of tea and we can invite friends” still don’t make them drink the tea.

    • Me says:

      Yep. And… if someone says they’re not interested in tea and doesn’t ever offer you tea in return don’t keep asking them over and over and over again or try to pressure/guilt them into it to “change their mind.” If they say they don’t want tea but would like water don’t try to sneak tea into their cup. If you ask a friend over to watch a “movie” don’t try to use that as an opportunity to make them drink tea instead. Just be honest and respectful. Find someone who wants to drink tea with you without being manipulative.

  24. I love the way this post is titled: Consent: Not actually that complicated. And a ton of people in the comments are going ‘ah, but what if…’, and ‘not all teamakers’, and making it really, really complicated. It’s a great analogy, and IMO needs nothing added. Thank you.

  25. Manion says:

    Great post. Reading the comments though – I didn’t know sea-lions drank tea…

  26. binidj says:

    “Want a cup of tea?”
    “Actually I drink coffee”
    “Okay, want to hang out and watch rubbish sci-fi movies?”
    “Sounds awesome.”

  27. I absolutely love your tea analogy and totally agree with everything you said. Even when you are in a relationship you need to be sure that the other person consents. I might sex one night with my partner but it doesn’t mean I want it every night and he knows that.

  28. Pingback: RT @caitlinmoran: Brilliant blog that patiently ex…

  29. invertmouse says:

    Dunking biscuits in other peoples’ tea. Discuss.

    [great article BTW]

  30. Blackshapes says:

    Spot on!! How do I subscribe to your blog???

  31. Probably easiest to stick to using a Teasmade.

  32. alhazredsghost says:

    Reblogged this on Alhazred's Ghost and commented:
    More tea, vicar?

  33. Space Hobo says:

    Someone linked me to this because I’ve got a history of using coffee to explain why people shouldn’t get angry that the US Army had to delete a tweet: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2015/01/30/army-deletes-tweet-referring-to-chinks-in-armor-after-racism-accusations/

    An acquaintance of mine online said it was silly, and they weren’t deliberately using racist language. The latter I can’t predict, but of course we all maintain that that doesn’t matter. And so I get to the coffee analogy:

    If I come to your house and spill coffee on your carpet, or we’re out on a busy street and someone bumps me and I spill coffee on you, what do I do? Do I shout “I didn’t MEAN TO!” and claim that I’m being oppressed by people who think I should apologise?

    No, I act appropriately horrified and try at least a token attempt to make amends. Why do I do this? Because I’m at least trying not to be a horrible selfish man-child.

    Nobody points to people apologising for situations like these and calling them “political correctness gone mad”, do they? No, they call it common courtesy, and this is how many of us already knew how to read the absurd phrase “politically correct” anyway.

  34. This is so British! I love it.

  35. Just a Jersey boy says:

    While this is totally understandable and I agree, unfortunately women are not totally understandable.

    Luckily I am in a long term relationship built on love, trust and respect. Which, in English, means; if she’s not keen I’ll bloody know about it. That aside, we can tell by how we are interacting with each other and whether one of us is suddenly asleep. I occasionally get “raped” when I say no, but tbh it’s just funny and cute, in my case (THIS DOES NOT MAKE IT ACCEPTABLE FOR OTHERS. She would stop if I really wanted her to and I could certainly then stop quite quickly if that was not the case).

    What’s more worrying is that someone would just let this happen without saying they do not want it. This would surely demonstrate real issues within a relationship? Perhaps the more sensible approach would be to convince people to say if they are unhappy. Or to suggest that if they are worried about saying no for ANY REASON (fear or retribution, guilt, fear of losing them) then perhaps they are not in the right relationship?

    Besides, listening to some of my female friends talk (in a disgusting, shameful fashion which I would rather not hear, mostly) about blokes they are with or were with, they have frequently commented that they don’t want this. That they want them to ‘be a man and jump them’ – or words to that effect – so it IS actually very difficult.

    And the case of bondage was raised… obviously this is very, very difficult in a court of law. If one of you say no, then surely it must stop there and then. Even with failsafes or “special phrases” etc, the law is still the law.

    So while this is a very amusing article, I’m sorry to say you are wrong. It is not simple. It is only simple when you oversimplify it, as you have here.

    I believe the moral of the story here is don’t have sex, make love. If it’s not that, it’s not worth it.

    • Just a Jersey boy says:

      I can’t edit my typos ;(

    • Rape is funny and cute. You heard it here first, guys. Seriously.

    • argh says:

      So your girlfriend occasionally anally penetrates you as a joke, when you definitely don’t want her to? And you are still dating this girl?

      If you don’t understand the signals you are getting, or it is the first time or early in a relationship with someone, it’s very simple – use your words. Ask them if they want tea. Then listen to what they say.

      Bondage requires consent, BDSM is very big on consent as a community. That’s what a safeword is for.

      Consent is very very simple.

      Also, who the hell makes love? Yech. We were talking tea, not water.

      • argh says:

        To the blog moderator – if you’d prefer to replace “anally penetrate” with a possibly more delicate “plowed in the coffee hole”, you have my permission.

    • “unfortunately women are not totally understandable.”
      I would wager that most people are not totally understandable, to varying degrees. Some of this confusion may stem from the fact that men and women are often socialised differently in regards to initiating and accepting tea. That’s why talking about informed consent is so important; no genders should be socialised differently in regards to this.

      “What’s more worrying is that someone would just let this happen without saying they do not want it. This would surely demonstrate real issues within a relationship?”
      Yes.
      If you cannot express to your partner that you are not interested in tea, then you need to stop accepting tea and start communicating before accepting any further tea. You may work things out so that you are better able to express your mutual desires for tea or you may realise that you are not with the right tea maker. If you are afraid of repercussions if you refuse to drink tea (emotional abuse, including guilt, or physical abuse), then you need to get out of that tea relationship and seek help.
      (Note that “causing guilt” and “expressing disappointment” are not the same thing, although guilt may be framed as disappointment.)

      “That they want them to ‘be a man and jump them’”
      Then your friends need to communicate with their partners BEFORE ANY TEA IS MADE that they would enjoy this. If my partner always makes lemon tea, and I like lemon tea well enough but I’d really, really like to try mint tea, I need to tell him that, so that he knows he needs to buy mint tea (or maybe I’ll bring over my own mint tea). And if he starts making me mint tea and I say “Actually, let’s go with lemon again” or “I’m not really in the mood for mint tea right now,” then he should stop making mint tea and try again another time. (If he’s confused about my desire for mint tea based on my reaction, he should ask me about it.)

      “I believe the moral of the story here is don’t have sex, make love. If it’s not that, it’s not worth it.”
      No, the moral of story is “informed consent is good for all involved and the right thing to do.” This is an analogy, simplified so that those who are mystified can understand better.

      • Ella says:

        “What’s more worrying is that someone would just let this happen without saying they do not want it. This would surely demonstrate real issues within a relationship?”
        Yes.
        If you cannot express to your partner that you are not interested in tea, then you need to stop accepting tea and start communicating before accepting any further tea…”

        Then maybe your partner has shown that they will not take no for an answer, or maybe your partner should take responsibility and make sure you actually want tea. They should, like, check in and make sure you actually want it or something. And maybe it’s not your responsibility for other people’s actions of making you tea without asking or even making sure you even like having tea with them first…

  36. Father says:

    And of course the first related link on Facebook is:

  37. Just a Jersey boy says:

    I will also say that the purpose of an analogy IS to simplify a subject.

    I could simplify infinity for someone very easily. It does not mean that the various types of infinity are not mathematically extremely complicated

  38. tinapj says:

    Superb. Hope you like my blog post which lacks the wit and clever yet easily understood analogy of yours (apart from to people who choose ignorance): https://fromthemindoftinapj.wordpress.com/2014/10/31/more-to-consent-than-yes/

  39. TeaDrinker says:

    Sometimes my wife comes up into my (home) office and brings me a cup of tea without me asking, which I very much appreciate. I didn’t realise that, in a long term, loving relationship, it was still essential for her to ask if I want a cup of tea *every* *single* *time* she thinks I might be thirsty.

    (I wholeheartedly agree that there should be no coercion to drink it, however.)

    • Heather says:

      This comes into the same category as Loulou: your wife knows that at X o’clock, you are likely to want tea. Or that when she wants tea, you might want tea because you have synced up. That is about long-term communication/empathy, and not about a failure to communicate.

      It would only be a problem if she brought you tea and then complained when you forgot about teh cup and let it get cold, or told her that actually, today you need coffee.

      Amusingly, Ex was very predictable in his actual, non-analogy coffee-drinking habits, so I could make him a cup of coffee black-no-sugar and know he’d drink it nearly every time. When I met nuPartner 16 years ago, he turned out to be someone who likes tea, or coffee, or Earl Grey, or Redbush, sometimes with sugar, and sometimes with soy milk. I never make him tea without checking what he wants.

      Turns out that the analogy holds. Ex was…predictable.

      H

    • cherrybright says:

      Bringing a cup of tea IS asking if you want a cup. It is only if you say “thanks for thinking of me but I’m not really thirsty for tea right now” and she throws it at you that we have a problem. There are many situations where there is presumed consent and it is important that everyone knows that you can say “NO, I don’t want tea right now” and that’s that. Presumed consent is not always a problem as long as NO is heard.

  40. tropicalzen says:

    I love it!

    More than a few commenters have chimed in to say that consent is not as simple as making sure the person one wants to make tea for, actually wants it and is fully capable of thinking clearly about such a decision. But it’s not more complex than that; it seems like what’s really going on is that they don’t want to do the work needed to gain clear, sober consent. Go re-read the analogy but change “tea” to “sex” and see if that’s clearer. From the examples given, it seems the primary audience for this message are singles/short-term couples who are not well known to each other and may have been partying. That’s the time to play it safe, because here is this stranger, right, and you have no idea what nonverbal signals they’re using for consent. Obviously if they aren’t sending any signals at all (unconscious people don’t want tea!) the safest choice is to keep yourself to yourself.

    If you’re in a long-term relationship where the boundaries and signals have already been negotiated, it’s natural to use shorthand when negotiating your 2,386th cup of tea.

    Please do not assume that all relationships are power-balanced, or that spousal rape doesn’t happen. Any form of abuse steals away a person’s ability to consent, and eventually they no longer even think about declining tea. This is true regardless of the length of the relationship or the gender of the abuser.

    If you don’t want to have to ask your long-term partner directly, negotiate. Find a nonverbal signal that does the same job: Person A (gives B the signal of waggled eyebrows and a wink). Person B (moves closer/ face lights up/ kisses A) : consent is had for the things you’ve previously negotiated. If Person B responded with a sigh, increasing distance, and/or looking away, the answer is no. If Person B opens negotiations verbally, they have some reservations but might be willing to have tea if certain needs are met.

    If one chooses to practice seeking consent in their daily lives, asking about sex becomes easier. But it means giving up the little manipulations we often use in order to get our daily wants and needs met. Perhaps this is the real reason people don’t want to practice consent. It would mean that people could say no to your needs, and also that you would have to admit to your own desires. Although my experience has been that, once people really get it that you’re asking and not demanding, they’re often quite happy to help you get your needs met. Way happier than when you were manipulating them to meet your needs.

    Asking means being able to hear “no” and saying, “okay.”

    • “it means giving up the little manipulations we often use in order to get our daily wants and needs met. Perhaps this is the real reason people don’t want to practice consent. It would mean that people could say no to your needs, and also that you would have to admit to your own desires.”

      I think this is a great point.

      And perhaps also some people hear “no thanks” as “I don’t like the way you make tea and will never drink your tea” when what was actually meant was “I do like the way you make tea but I don’t actually want tea right now”

      Communication, does what it says on the tin.

  41. eileengriffin77 says:

    Reblogged this on eileengriffin.

  42. BeenThere says:

    If any of you who are making jokes of this or said “what if” happen to be in the detestable circumstance of someone pouring tea down your throat (or that of someone you love) you’ll change your mind. The analogy is brilliant. Period. No clarification is necessary. No what if’s. Nothing. Do yourselves a favor and google “rape culture in america.” Yes I’m aware this is not an american blog. Sexual violence is a problem in every culture and it’s a problem everyone who knows a woman should be upset about. Because if you’re not upset, you don’t care. More voices like this blog need to be heard.

    • Thank you! It’s shocking how many people have had these experiences. One of the tea analogies is actually from my own experience – never reported because I blamed myself.

      • i8there4irun says:

        That, too, is way more common place than any of us would like to believe. Especially in the over 25 age group. It would seem to me that we were able to teach our kids better than our parents were taught about basic consent. The old adage of “a Lady never raises her voice” comes to mind. FUCK THAT. If someone is touching you without your consent scream your effing head off while fighting tooth and nail. But that could be a different post, I suppose.

    • Toscano says:

      I would not defend anyone joking about this issue. But to insist that legal standards for sexual consent must address common ‘what ifs’ is not the same as endorsing rape culture.

      In denying that consent is always uncomplicated, nobody is denying that consent is of the utmost importance, or denying that sexual assault is one of the gravest crimes. It is completely unfair, illogical, and inimical to open debate to suggest that anyone who questions this facile analogy does not care about this issue or that they secretly support rape culture.

      • When the what ifs are coming from the imagination based on sexist stereotypes it is 100% part of rape culture.

      • The what ifs are not imaginary. It is not that simple. How’s this for the analogy? You offer her tea by holding up the teapot and pointing at the teacup, which you think is a pretty clear way to nonverbally ask the question and she responds by giggling and batting her eyelashes, which you think is a not very clear way of answering it. You want to be certain she wants tea, so you say “Would you like a cup of tea?” and she gives an exasperated grunt and says “Not if you’re going to ASK!” You both go home feeling thirsty and uncaffeinated.

        Don’t tell me that this is coming from my imagination, because this happened to me like 4 weeks ago. Me and a woman were flirting and it just wasn’t going anywhere, so I asked straight out if I could kiss her and she laughed in my face and said “Not if you’re going to ask!” She later teased me and said “You’re not good at subtext, are you?” and said I was hopeless. Later in the evening I kissed her without asking and surprise! she was into it. My preferred strategy in these situations is to either ask if I can do something before doing it, non-preferred is to try tentatively and keep going if no objection. This particular person only responded to touches when I went for it confidently with no warning. Neither of us ended up getting laid that night, because I couldn’t get past making out without hearing a yes, and having to say yes was a turnoff for her.

        I’ll admit that maybe if I was better at flirting and seduction this could have played out in a way that made us both happy, but I’m telling you straight up… the tea analogy is flawed. In the real world you don’t ask everyone who shows up at your house if they want a bit of sex as a matter of course. You don’t have to seduce somebody before you can offer them a cup of tea. Women are not conditioned by society to think they must accept all offers of tea. Men are not conditioned to think that people turning down their tea reflects poorly on their masculinity.

        I would love it if consent were as simple as offering someone a cup of tea and seeing if they said yes or no. But it’s just not.

  43. Fromsprout says:

    Reblogged this on Sprout To Spirit Wellness and commented:
    Great Post on consent. It’s pretty simple.

  44. This really makes me want to have a cup of tea. I will ask everyone else in the house if they’d like a cup. If they don’t – more tea for me! Simples! Also that’s the best analogy ever.

  45. si says:

    i had a friend who has been a top celeb for nearly 25 years and ridiculously good looking. he used to make tea for a different woman every night.
    i asked him was he ever afraid that one of them would sell their story to the press. his reply was great: “why would they? i’m really nice to them, we have a great time, they just wouldnt want to do that”. he was one of the loveliest guys i’ve met.
    it seems to me a similar situation with consent.

    • I hope he’s informed his lawyers…for False Allegations have become The New Welfare/Pension payments now….

      • So, false allegations are like welfare fraud in that…they happen far less than everyone thinks they do?

      • tastysomething says:

        how do you know what everyone thinks? have you met ‘everyone’?
        anyway, you can imply they happen far less “than everyone thinks”, yet they still happen, its a good advice from Lizzie.

      • I’v been spoiled by facebook: now I can’t find a like button for RDPP’s comment… And no tastysomething it isn’t that good as advice, because it really is so uncommon that unless you’re specifically aiming for either very drunk people then you’ll only ever get deluded fantasists, and that would get thrown out of court.

        In terms of getting money: the woman who ched evans raped hasn’t gotten a penny for it, and has had to move 5 times and change her identity because his fans have threatened her safety, this sort of thing is not uncommon.

  46. Ah, but what do you do if they gave the first response, and you made them tea, enjoyed it with them in every way, then, a few hours later they told everyone you’d tried to poison them and had forced them to drink the tea against their will, causing them to choke, scaring and scarring them for life, to the point where they bring The Lawyers in, and The Police and you find yourself on trial, when all you did was ask someone, politely and kindly if they wanted tea and they’d said “Yes, PLEASE!” ?

    • That is a red herring. This blog post is about making sure you have clear consent, so you are not in the wrong, not about covering your ass. Yes, someone could STILL claim rape, when it didn’t happen, but if you actually do get clear consent, the truth is a lot more likely to come out in trial and exonerate you. If you DIDN’T, well.. Then you’re guilty. end of.

      I challenge you to explain how your “what if” in ANY way invalidates the article.

  47. NT says:

    I like the tea analogy.

    That said, I think it’s kind of amazing that some people still think they can tell other people how, and when, it’s okay for the other to have sex — to define the rules by which those other people are allowed to have sex. I was schooled by religious nutcases who were really fascist about sex, and I saw how destructive that was (and is). So even though I empathcally agree that sex should always be mutually consensual, trying to capture this in a set of rules about exactly what consent looks like reminds me way too much of those religious sex facsists.

    There’s an important case left out of the tea analogy. It’s when you make someone tea out of a genuine and reasonable belief that they want tea, and they drink the tea, and then claim that they didn’t really want tea. This actually does happen (for both tea and sex), fairly often.

    There’s a similar case that also happens fairly often. It’s when there’s a misunderstanding about whether the person wants tea, that doesn’t actually become clear until after the tea has been at least partially consumed. Anybody who has been in a relationship for very long has probably experienced something similar – perhaps not about tea (or sex) but about something.

    Two people can be witnesses to the same event – both present, both participating – and have very different sincere recollections about what happened. This happens for the same reason that eyewitness reports of a crime or accident are actually not very reliable. People don’t remember exactly what happened, they record what was significant to them at the time, and then construct a narrative that explains what they noticed.

    And it’s also important to acknowledge that there’s a widespread practice of semi-consent. That is, someone who isn’t willing to say what he or she wants may end up “going along” with what the other person seems to want. Perhaps that person does it because he or she doesn’t want to take responsibility for his or her choices, but does want to have sex. But this is how some people get laid, and they may actually prefer getting laid via semi-consent to not getting laid nearly so often. People who insist that everyone get very clear consent are essentially arguing that those people should not get laid as often. And while at least in my experience sex with clear consent is a hell of a lot more enjoyable than sex in which there’s some ambiguity (however small) about the other person’s willingness/enthusiasm, I don’t feel comfortable with demanding that other people have the degree of consent that I get to specify.

    The discussion about rape and consent is further clouded by a widespread socially-reinforced misconception about heterosexual sex, that it’s always the male who “does” it and the female to whom it is “done”. This actually isn’t supportable, either for sex or rape. Males, particularly young males, don’t have that much control over whether they get aroused. Males, like females, can have difficulty asserting boundaries and insisting that they be respected. Males, like females, can have their inhibitions lowered by use of alcohol or drugs. Males, like females, can be gaslighted, manipulated, threatened (whether or not physically), and/or misled. Anyone who doesn’t believe that women are capable of doing such things to men is being misogynist. Society tries to paint a picture of women as being helpless, and indeed on average men do generally have more power. But having less power doesn’t mean having no power, and averages don’t tell us anything at all about the particular situation between two people.

    But hey, this is a vitally important topic, and dialog about this is very needed. The tea analogy is an important contribution. Basically we negotiate consent, at least to some degree, in every other aspect of our lives – so it’s not at all unreasonable to expect to negotiate consent about sex. At the same time, we also deal with some ambiguity about consent in most other aspects of our lives, and it might be harmful or delusional to insist that there should never be any ambiguity about sex. Perhaps that’s inconvenient and not especially comforting to people who would like a nice, clean, gift-wrapped solution to the problem of defining rape. But ignoring reality probably won’t help either.

    • Actually, I’ll just straig out say it: People who refuse to engage in getting OR giving clear consent shouldn’t get laid as often. Or at all, until they take responsibility and give/get clear consent. Not wanting to take responsibility is NOT a valid excuse – it’s a huge part of the problem! Saying, “I’m uncomfortable demanding clear consent before having sex with someone, but it’s for their own sake” is a giant crock of shit, and it stinks. At best, it’s just begging to end up being a registered sex offender, and at worst, it’s a bullshit excuse for taking what you want because you want it, regardless of whether the other person does. Either way, It’s bad news.

    • argh says:

      “But this is how some people get laid, and they may actually prefer getting laid via semi-consent to not getting laid nearly so often. People who insist that everyone get very clear consent are essentially arguing that those people should not get laid as often. And while at least in my experience sex with clear consent is a hell of a lot more enjoyable than sex in which there’s some ambiguity (however small) about the other person’s willingness/enthusiasm, I don’t feel comfortable with demanding that other people have the degree of consent that I get to specify.”

      So you are ok with someone having sex with you without your full consent? Anal penetration? A stranger? Wanna post your address? I think there might be a lot of interest.

      “Males, particularly young males, don’t have that much control over whether they get aroused.”

      Ditto girls, btw. Except it’s 24-7 and masturbation doesn’t help. Oh, and it starts several years younger.

      Guys get raped too, of course. But I haven’t heard of many teenage girls forcibly penetrating their boyfriends, have you? Or entire girls’ volleyball teams doing the same? We should still obviously persecute the same way. Guys tend to get raped as small children, or as adults in prison, and the vast majority of perps are men regardless. It is not a mystery as to why anti-rape campaigns tend to focus on male perpetrators – for both male and female victims of rape, that makes sense.

      • morquen says:

        I believe you misunderstood what NT meant by semi-consent being the way some people get laid. The way I understood it is that there are some people who don’t want to give consent for one reason or another, but still want to have sex, so instead of giving consent they just “go along” with what is going on. The most extreme example of this that comes to mind would be for gay or bi men who are raised in extremely religious environments (the kind that view homosexuality as a sin). Though Tom might want to have sex with another man, he can’t allow himself to without feeling horrible about himself, so what he does is goes out, gets drunk and doesn’t object to Harry making out or having sex with him. The next day Tom has the excuse of alcohol and the fact that he never explicitly said “yes” to Harry to prevent him from hating itself. In this case Tom is the one using semi-consent as the means of getting laid.
        NT can comment with whether or not my interpretation is correct.

    • The simple answer here is that if consent wasn’t complicated, we would already have a simple law governing consent. What about reduced capacity to consent such as with mental illness or disability? If consent was that simple and uncomplicated, would we as a society be forcing the disabled and mentally ill to no longer have sex, as their partners could be charged with rape? I’m not saying here that consent is in some way ambiguous: just that there can be extenuating circumstances that need to be taken into account. And I’m in no way trying to justify any kind of forced consent or influenced consent here either: simply stating that consent IS actually that complicated.

      • Do we need a law governing breathing as well? Consent isn’t complicated.

      • collin237 says:

        Under this law, consent isn’t complicated anymore. I don’t know about disabilities in general, but allowing autistic people to have sex is clearly one of the purposes of this law. Autistic people are usually good at logic, and the worldwide trend toward abandoning logic is the main reason civilization is now collapsing throughout the world.

        We can stop the collapse only by increasing the incidence of autism until it reaches critical mass. Since it appears that the only significant cause of autism is genes, the only way there can be more autistic people is if they can freely have sex.

        That’s why all the lobbies that want to end the world are ganging up to try to make this law look ridiculous.

    • “Males, particularly young males, don’t have that much control over whether they get aroused. ”

      So fucking what. A man being aroused does not mean he has an excuse to assault someone. Wanting something does not mean you automatically get it.

      And no, women do not decide they were raped after consensual sex “fairly often” Men simply claim that is the case and you believe them because rape is hard to prove and you declare women to be lying whores rather than admitting that rapists lie.

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