Consent: Not actually that complicated

CONSENT
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/.

RDPP

919 comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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?

        1. 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.

          1. Gosh, what an amazingly sensible statement! If you’re a woman, I definitely want to make you a cup of tea, if you know what I mean :)

          2. Yes, consent can be implied in a trusting relationship. But you are way off the mark in chiding someone for expecting it verbally.

        2. 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.

          1. 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…

      1. 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?

      2. 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.

      3. 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.

    1. 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?

    2. @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.

      1. 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.

      2. 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.

    3. 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.

      1. 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.

      2. 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!!

    4. 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.

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

      1. “Sex or tea” is a question I wish I were asked on a more frequent basis, and might on some occasions require some consideration.

        Yes, I am British, why do you ask?

        Also, to those people trying to nitpick the consent-tea simile: you are confusing an attempt to present the matter from a different perspective with an attempt at a false analogy.
        And if any of aforementioned are Yanks, do remember that refusing to be force-fed tea was a famous factor in your struggle for independence… please appreciate the irony.

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

      By the way, great article, RDPP!

  4. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

    2. 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.

      1. 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.

      2. 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”.

    3. 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.

      1. 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.

    4. 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.

    5. 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.

    6. 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.

      1. 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.

    7. 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. :'(

  5. 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

    1. 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”

  6. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

      1. 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?

    3. 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.

  7. 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.

    1. 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?

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

    1. 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

    2. 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.

  10. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  11. 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.

    1. 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.

  12. 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 😉

  13. 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.)

    1. 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.

    2. “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.

  14. 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?

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

  15. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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

  16. 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.

    1. 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.

  17. 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.

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

  19. 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.

    1. “Dunking biscuits in other peoples’ tea.”
      Ask. First.
      If you dunk your digestive in my tea without asking, and you keep it in there too long, and a big soggy load of spent biscuit goes in my tea, then I will never be inviting you over for tea again. And I’ll tell everyone you dunked your soggy load in my tea without my consent.

      1. “And I’ll tell everyone you dunked your soggy load in my tea without me consent”- Sorry, but that could be a T-shirt.
        I love the fact that such a serious discussion has all of these humorous/super serious/slightly insane off shoots.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

    2. “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.

      1. “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…

  22. 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

  23. 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.)

    1. 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

    2. 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.

  24. 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.”

    1. “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.

  25. 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.

      1. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

      1. 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.

      2. 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.

  28. 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!” ?

    1. 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.

  29. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. “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.

      1. 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.

    3. 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.

      1. 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.

    4. “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.

  30. Really nice blog and comparison.

    I’ve had a debate with a male friend who thinks there is a cultural element to some of the consent debate. That women feel obliged to put up some level of resistance e.g. saying I’m not sure / being coy so they don’t appear over keen (and all the charming terms that go with that). But I disagree – you shouldn’t be twisting anyone’s arm. If they’re not sure if they want tea … you shouldn’t be waging a war of words to convince them to drink the tea!

  31. How about this tiny twist – giving vs. receiving.

    I ask someone if they would like to make me a cup of tea. Or maybe they are already with kettle in hand, pouring tea for a friend of mine, and I casually take the cup and have a sip. Or they told me they would make me tea, but now they don’t and I am really thirsty for some tea. And they are standing there with the cup in their hand, saying “No I take it back, it is not for you”. Can I be angry with them then? Can I go “Hey you promised me tea, what happened now?” Sometimes they pass out with the cup in their hand, can I take it since they clearly meant to give it to me, or do I need to wake them up first?

    This only means the analogy is limited. And flawed in the sense that sex is unfortunately perceived as something you “get” rather than “give” – at least from the male side, yeah, even if you do not gender your analogy this attitude is still unfortunately prevalent in our culture. Perhaps you might like to address this. I would suggest something along the lines of “making tea together”.

    Anyway, to be honest, it is not consent that we need, it’s enthusiasm.

  32. i have used a similar analogy for quite the opposite reason, to demonstrate the idea of how nebulous consent can be.

    substitute “delicious chocolate cake” for tea.

    for me, tea is neutral. doesn’t turn my taste buds on.

    but if someone offers chocolate cake, i would simultaneously want it because i love cake, but also immediately say no because cake is not on my diet plan to become a perfect size 4, which society deems to be an acceptable size.

    my friend says come on, it’s so good.

    i say no again.

    but now the cake is right in front of me. hmmm…

    i might be sort of persuaded. i might try to eat half – that’s it, i’m only having half.

    and then oops- i end up eating the whole thing.

    dammit, how did that happen? why did i do that? ugh i feel sick. i still love cake but right now i regret it.

    having gone off my intended plan i am pissed at the person who (persuaded me? convinced me? coerced me?) into having cake with them.

    did i consent?

    was i forced?

    did i just make a mistake according to my dietary paradigm of self-shame from my casual random glutton/slut cake eating?

    1. See, this is why the whole issue confuses me. It’s literally to the point that the only safe way to have cake and not be accused of culinary assault is to have a lawyer draft a contract for each encounter. At least then you have something in writing.

      1. it’s also just understanding the context of cake shaming. we all know even mediocre cake can taste good. if there was no shame in having random half-baked cake would we draw the same lines around consent?

        i mean sure, i can’t enjoy cake when i’m unconscious, so that is crystal clear.

        but claims of coercion and manipulation are, like, harder to swallow if i fully acknowledge i like cake and like most people i do a lot of dancing around the issue of should-i-or-shouldn’t i indulge in something enjoyable that is frowned on by society.

    2. Your friends should have respected your “no” when you said it. Trying to persuade someone to eat cake when they’ve said no is disrespectful. You may not agree with their reasons for saying no and think that they should eat the cake anyway, but that’s neither your choice nor your business. Their decisions, and the reasons for those decisions, should be respected.

    3. Your friends should have respected your “no” when you said it. Trying to persuade someone to eat cake when they’ve said no is disrespectful. You may not agree with their reasons for saying no and think that they should eat the cake anyway, but that’s neither your choice nor your business. Their decisions, and the reasons for those decisions, should be respected.

      1. But the problem with that is, well, frankly- making a deal out of “awww, c’mon, have a piece, it’s good!” is a quick route to having either no friends or friends that don’t ever want to offer you cake.

        And here’s, for me, as a man, the reason I’m not on board with these types framing.

        I’m not dating women that write feminist blogs on the internet, or their commentators- at least not so far.

        I’m trying to get dates in bars, and online, and flirt with women in the real world. And while I’m sure you all think that a guy who is into positive affirmation is very sexy, not many other women do.

        (And by this, I mean “sitting down with my female friends at various times in my life and asking their advice on dating, only to be told I need to be aggressive and I quote “dont’ take no for an answer.” This isn’t a commentary on their being right or wrong or speaking for all women. I’m simply saying that I was able to gather together a group of a number of intelligent, educated, take-no-shit women who know damn well what feminism is……and they don’t think guys who take an approach like this are sexy. That’s not the patriarchy, that’s just personal choice.

        Like it or not, strategies that involve pushing boundaries (“C’mon, baby, just have one bite of cake, see what you think…..”) WORK. And I don’t think it’s because the world is full of women too dumb and weak to do “Well, I WAS going to turn him down, but now that’s he mildly cajoled me…..I’m helpless before him!”

        Clearly, again- this is working for SOMEONE and a large number of women seem to dig it.

        And you can’t legislate all sexual behavior. I make sure that she’s into it before I get…..well….buh-ZAY…..but the rest? Do I say “may I kiss you” or steal a kiss? While making out, how far do I move my hands without asking? How about switching from making out to necking? From necking to tugging her shirt up? Should I ask to pop her bra, or if we’ve got that far, should I assume?

        the answer to all these is- it depends. Is she shy? Is she pushy? Does she start slow or get right down to it? How much chemistry? What type of chemistry?

        And at no point is the best way to handle the situation one where you stop kissing, say, “do I have your verbal consent to kiss your neck?” and so on.

        Ultimately- if we’re gonna spend this much time and effort to try and attempt to make sure that no woman is ever harmed by a man- why not just bring back chaperones and male escorts? They did wonder’s for the rape rates of the 1860s and 70s.

    4. While I understand the point you are making, and I do agree that sometimes a little encouragement may be innocent and completely fine, I would like to draw your attention to a couple of points, firstly that encouragement to et the cake is encouragement to do something that is not necessarily healthy for you either mentally or physically, and secondly, after they ‘helped’ you change your mind you felt guilty. Taking this back to sex, why would you want t encourage anyone to partake in sex if the end result is them feeling guilty? Surely you should only want them to feel good emotions afterwards not regret and guilt. So should you encourage/coerce someone with that cake if they tell you no? Were you forced to eat the cake – No, but were you pressured into it – Yes. No means no, and it still means no even when you think it might be something that deep down they want unless they change their mind of their own free will, without added pressure.

      1. Coercion isn’t consent. Exactly what I wanted to say with the addition that there’s a world of difference between someone tempting you with cake then you eating it yourself, and someone tempting you with cake and then forcing it down your throat against your will.

    5. The original analogy was bad, and yours is worse. However, the point of the article is correct. The situation is very simple, and here’s how it goes:

      It is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to determine beyond all reasonable doubt that the other person is consenting. If there is any doubt, you need to straight up ask. It’s not that hard. Use your words.

      Whether or not someone regretted having sex is not relevant to the question of consent, which is why your post made less sense than the original blog post here.

    6. But at the same time, if someone shoves a big, huge piece of chocolate cake down my throat even if I tell them not to, now I’ve got a bunch of people asking me, “Didn’t it taste good? Didn’t you really, actually enjoy it? Deep down? Even though you said you didn’t want it, didn’t you actually like it? So it wasn’t REALLY non-consentual cake-tasting?”
      Or maybe “If you didn’t REALLY want the chocolate cake, maybe you should’ve fought harder against the cake. Maybe you should’ve said no louder, or screamed or fought louder. Maybe you weren’t clear enough that you didn’t REALLY want the chocolate cake. I mean, everyone LOVES chocolate cake, right?”
      Or “What were you ordering that you deserved to get the chocolate cake? Were you too skinny, or too fat? Did you show, in some way, that you weren’t committed enough to your diet, or that you wanted to gain a few pounds? Maybe you hinted that you had low blood sugar, or that some chocolate would cheer you up? I think that your shirt really sent the message that chocolate would cheer you up today.”
      Goes both ways, right?

    7. a little bit of both. your pusher should have respected that you didn’t want any, no matter your reasons. they should have been supportive in your desire to abstain.
      but also, you clearly love cake and felt it was missing in your life. i say kick off the oppressive weight of society and embrace yourself the way you are. cake is worth it.

    8. a little bit of both. your pusher should have respected that you didn’t want any, no matter your reasons. they should have been supportive in your desire to abstain.
      but also, you clearly love cake and felt it was missing in your life. i say kick off the oppressive weight of society and embrace yourself the way you are. cake is worth it.

    9. “Have cake!”
      “No”
      “Come on, look how good it is!”
      “No”
      “Pleeeease?”
      “Ok, fine, i’ll just eat half a piece” *om nom nom* “Give me the other half of that cake!”

      this is *consentual* cake. You said yes, on your own free will, and your subsequent guilt is immaterial. (the guy may still be an asshole, but he’s not a rapist)

      Note how *you* said yes at every stage where it matters.

      If you agree to half a piece but then he starts shoving the whole thing into you, then that is NOT ok.

      1. “Note how *you* said yes at every stage where it matters. ”

        And right there we have the problem. You have decided that the only stage “where it matters” is the stage where she said “Yes.” You have decided that the stages where she said “No,” quite clearly — don’t matter.

        “Have cake!”
        “No”

        That’s it. That’s all. That’s the only stage that matters.

        There is only one acceptable response :

        “OK, no problem.”

        Depending on your inclinations and the situation, you might follow that with :

        “Would you like something else?”

        Or

        “Let me know if you change your mind.”

    10. But at least then your host would see you enthusiastically eating cake and they will see how you are enjoying it and hungry for the next bite, this is still consent because you are showing that you want to eat cake . But if you only doing it out if politeness and are miserably eating cake then you are not enthusiastic and the host should not keep insisting you eat it; you have been coerced and it would not be consent.

      1. Yes – but now your ‘consent’ is defined by how the host interprets a particular expression on your face – which is very subjective. Anyone could claim “but he/she *looked* like they were enjoying themeselves, so it was consensual!” as a defense against coercive cake, or coercive sex. And in reality I’m sure this is the kind of thing that happens a lot of the time – if a sexual partner *seems* to be enjoying themselves, we assume they are. But they might not be. Which is why consent can be a very complex thing, and not always the simple black-and-white thing the orignial author claims…

    11. I don’t know … are you really angry with friends who persuade you to eat chocolate cake? Because I know I wouldn’t be. I would just be angry at myself. In the end, it was my decision.
      With sex, that is not so easy. If someone makes clear that sex before marriage is against their principles, and someone still tries to seduce them, I would consider that … well, maybe not rape, but I would consider it a bad thing.
      And I am of the opinion that if you are worried about false rape accusations … just don’t have sex when consent is questionable. Consent is complicated only if you make it so. I live in a wonderfully easy world where there is “yes”, which means yes, and there is everything else, which means no. Easy.

  33. Also if you asked for English Breakfast tea and someone brings you nettle tea, you are entitled to refuse that tea. Or try a bit but stop drinking it if you don’t like it.

    And just because you went to the tea room to enjoy a cup of English Breakfast it doesn’t mean you also fancy a cup of PG Tips and a Yorkshire Tea on the same evening.

  34. There’s also no way the way you’re dressed could imply that you want tea, from anyone, all the time. Wearing Laura Ashley or Edinburgh Woolen Mill clothing does NOT imply you are gagging for a cup of tea.

    BTW I really want a cup of tea now but its too late in the evening for me to drink tea!

      1. I only like straight full caff Yorkshire tea …. In the morning from a special mug – 2 cups! (I don’t mind if the light is on or off 😉 )

  35. So what if you offer someone tea, and they accept, and appear to enjoy it, but then two weeks later say that they were hopped up on Benadryl and you took advantage of their state to make them drink tea?

    1. Well your moral (/legal) culpability will depend on your state of mind at the time. Questions like “Did you know they had taken something?”, “Were you aware this might impair their ability to consent?”, “Did you consider that possibility and go ahead anyway?” will be asked. If you didn’t know, you’re in the clear, you didn’t take advantage of them. If you knew, thought “hmm they seem kind of out of it, maybe they don’t actually want this” but just wanted so damn much to give them the tea that you didn’t give a shit, you may be liable.

      MAY is the operative word here, if this were a rape case, it’s A) pretty dependent on the specific facts; just because you know someone’s taken Benadryl doesn’t mean you have any idea how that affects their ability to consent, and B) state of mind is notoriously hard to prove, and if it comes down to it, reasonable doubt will kick in and you’re likely not to be convicted.

      It is very difficult to prosecute rape in this scenario. That’s not to say feel free to go and take advantage of people who are out of it, but in an ambiguous situation, innocent until proven guilty tends to do its job.

  36. It’s a great analogy, but like all analogies it’s imperfect. The problem I have with it is that social pressures expect some people to be tea makers and others to be tea choosers. Tea makers are expected to be the tea initiators and make their tea in a smooth and suave way. And tea choosers have been heard saying that they want their tea makers to take control and be able to read all the subtle tea chooser signals and to figure out what exactly kind of tea the tea chooser wants. They want “real” tea makers. Now, no sane logical person thinks a tea maker should force tea down anyone’s throat nor that the tea maker is entitled to anything. However, why don’t we stop using imperfect analogies and talk about the fucking actual subject? Dating and sex, including consent, IS complicated just like all social human interactions. Should a man force, persuade or pressure a woman in having sex? NO! Should there be affirmative consent prior to intercourse? YES! Should a guy ask for consent before kissing a girl? Maybe, but wouldn’t that kill the romance a bit? What about putting an arm around her? What about taking clothes off? Do we need to formally ask each step of the way? I thought that wasn’t manly and romantic?

    1. Honestly, if the only way you know to check that what you’re doing is okay with someone is to ask them formally, then I’d suggest your communication skills could use some work.

    2. I totally get that it can be confusing for masculine folks to figure out how to navigate this. It must be ridiculously confusing to sort through all of the different messages that are sent your way when it comes to sex/dating. I also think it is immensely important to dissect which of these messages are drivel from various media (TV, movies etc) vs. direct messages from actual womyn/femme folks in your life or whose blogs you read. Saying womyn have been heard saying they want a real man who takes control etc. makes it seem like this is the opinion of all womyn. I think overwhelmingly, womyn in real life agree that they would rather be asked directly if what you are doing feels good, as opposed to feeling coerced/forced into participating when they are uncomfortable. I agree that there is gray area, but focusing on if you should ask for a kiss, or putting your arm around her distracts from the initial message. Sure, sometimes if you’re picking up subtle clues that she wants to be kissed, a kiss is pretty non-threatening for most, and she might feel fine if ya just go for it.
      For me (as a womyn), it’s really sexy when a partner asks me “how does that feel?”, and equally sexy for me to ask and have them reply “yes!” As the original poster said, this does not apply just to men instigating sex, it applies for all people engaging in sex. I think it is fucked up that society tells men that being male means they want sex all the time, no exceptions, and they also need to instigate it. It is also fucked up that womyn are taught to be ashamed of having a sex drive, having casual sex, and that it is wrong for them to instigate sex. We certainly have a long way to go to figure all this out. If you are still confused about this, i encourage you to read/ask more real womyn, and i think you will find some good insight.

    3. I would think that If all the activity that happens before tea is not objected to..(& if there are any objections, you ought to back off) when you are about to have some ‘ tea’, that then would be the time to ask, but not at every stage along the way.
      If this is a new partner, then you need to ask before kissing her, touching etc., but in a longer term relationship some ground rules are in place. The person is not an acquaintance, a near stranger, or a person that you do not know very well. Women need to feel safe & establish trust before they are likely to put themselves into a potentially dangerous situation with someone that they do not know very well. (& we all start out not knowing each other very well)
      Men never seem to understand this ! They say, “I’m not a crazy rapist or a serial killer”. She doesn’t know you well enough to decide that… It’s not paranoia, or resisting tea because of ‘programming’. It’s not any different than looking both ways before you cross a busy road. Basic survival. If I asked you to put an apple on your head so that I could shoot it, would you allow me to do that? (even if I assured you that I’m a crack shot, or in your case, ‘a nice guy’? ) Rapists seldom introduce themselves as such.
      And it’s not just physical abuse. There are more kinds of abuse than those kinds. We want to make sure that you are not one of those. Women are cautious, & with good reason. It never hurts to ask first, even if you are pretty sure it’s o.k.. We will Respect You for it. Being a decent kind human being is not a weakness, it’s a great quality.
      I have the feeling that you get most of your information about making tea, (& women) from either males friends, or the internet. They are both frequently wrong.

  37. There are a few other things about consent that are in your article like someones right to have protected sex. In college that right was taken away from me by someone who I thought was serious about me. I was with him for a long while before we had what was supposed to be consensual sex. We discussed using protection condoms because that’s what is necessary to protect yourself and he of course didn’t think so. He argued that men in his age group didn’t get aids this discussion went on for days (this was in the lat 80’s) Finally I thought I got my point across and he conceded or so I thought. Then when we went to have sex he of course didn’t use a condom and he even had one in his bedside table ( found it a three days later. I was already in love with him and was ill-equipped to deal with the reality of the situation. Make new mistake that is rape. Regardless of whether it was going to be consensual or not I had the right to have safe sex and he took that away from me and that makes it Rape! That type of behavior was so foreign to me that I couldn’t understand it. I didn’t understand what he did was about power and not about love. This was the first time I had ever come into contact with that type of thing up close.

  38. I needed to edit the above because I had too many typos.
    There are a few other things about consent that aren’t in your article, like someone’s right to have protected sex.
    In college that right was taken away from me by someone whom I thought was serious about me. There was a long courtship before we had what was supposed to be consensual sex. We discussed using protection ie… condoms. That’s what is available to protect yourself and he of course didn’t think so. He argued that men in his age group didn’t get aids this discussion went on for days (this was in the late 80’s) Finally I thought I got my point across and he conceded or so I thought. Then when we went to have sex he of course didn’t use a condom even though he ended up he having one in his bedside table ( found it a three days later). I found it when he asked me to get some thing from the bed side table for him. I was already in love with him and was ill-equipped to deal with the reality of the situation. Make no mistake that is rape. Regardless of whether it was going to be consensual or not I had the right to have safe sex and he took that away from me and that makes it Rape! That type of behavior was so foreign to me that I couldn’t understand it. I didn’t understand what he did was about power and not about love. This was the first time I had ever come into contact with that type of thing or person up close.

  39. I feel that this is actually quite an intelligent metaphor, however I do think there was one scenario that wasn’t touched on. Suppose you ask your guest whether or not they would like tea and they answer yes, but then sometime within the process of making tea they change their mind and decide that they don’t (it can happen) however they realize that you went through the effort of making it and don’t want to be rude, so they drink the tea anyways. Who exactly is at fault here? The host for not picking up on the fact that their guest did not in fact want any tea, or the guest for not being more honest and simply declining to drink? It appears in there world of tea consent there are a few gray areas after all.

  40. I fear the folks who really need to know won’t read it. I had been pressure raped by my ex on one occasion, and raped on another, and it’s a hard issue to sort out in that sort of situation I wasn’t
    sure at the time, but later, after getting rid of that 225 lb. tumor, and doing therapy twice a week for a half a year, it all became clear to me.

      1. I thought I had replied to your comment; I am slow to learn my way around new sites. I really enjoyed looking through your postings.

        It was perplexing reading all the different permutations and interpretations of your posting about consent. i thought people were having maybe a little bit too much fun and not taking the topic seriously. Women are just as confused about consent as men are, though I think they are violated more often than men. My take is that men may feel that it’s unmanly not to give it up.

        It would be sad if our culture got so PC that flirting was seen as assault of some sort. I don’t think it is, but I also don’t think flirting is the same as consent; more of a fact-finding mission.

  41. what if you really want tea, but you are told that tea-likers are frowned upon, so you need to refuse the offer for tea at least three times before then you can finally accept the tea without guilt. And what if this kind of behavior conditions the tea offerer to understand that refusal isnt a refusal, but really just part of a dance by which the offerer needs to feign it.

    Now throw a ton of baileys in the tea and see if there are no misunderstandings.

    The fact remains that if tea drinkers felt they could accept tea without guilt, a guilt perpetuated by a system to control tea drinkers, then we’d be closer to the premise supplied in the post.

    1. What if you take a refusal of tea at face value, and put the tea away. Maybe they secretly wanted tea, maybe they truly didn’t. Your job is to respect what they are saying and not force tea upon someone who claims, true or not, not to want tea.
      What if everyone behaved like this, and this in turn conditioned the “tea-refusers that secretly actually want tea” that hey, if they want tea, they should be honest and forthright and that their wishes, whether wanting tea or not, will always be respected by you? I think that would be pretty fantastic.

      1. “What if you take a refusal of tea at face value, and put the tea away. ”

        If you did this with everybody, you might conclude through experience that very few people want to drink tea with you, even though for some reason they seem to enjoy drinking tea with others. You might conclude that there’s some problem with you, even though all you’re doing is consistently respecting other people’s stated wishes.

        The fact is that much of our society favors men who take initiative, even with women who seem reluctant. Obviously there’s such a thing as taking that too far, but a man who is too sensitive to what women seem to want will be labeled as a loser.

        Of course if everybody behaved like this one guy, as you say, the tea refusers might learn to be honest. Problem is, everybody does not behave like that person offering tea, and that person’s strategy is likely to be a losing one. From an evolutionary point-of-view, people with that strategy are eliminated in favor of people with more successful strategies.

        So if we want things to change, at least part of what needs to change is for would-be tea drinkers to be more honest and upfront about their interests in what kind of tea they like and with whom they’d like to drink it.

    2. I heard that exact premise from a person who likely did commit a sexual assault.( From his own description of the event!)
      “Women always feel guilty about drinking/enjoying tea.” (‘pretty sure that was Not the case here.)
      Some men take it as a personal insult when we say, “No thank you”. There can be a lot of valid reasons why we don’t want tea now, or would prefer not to have tea with you.
      You get that choice..why do you think others should not have it too?

      B.S. to the women’s guilt excuse ! We want to have a say in what tea we drink, & when we drink it. No more. No less.
      There are people who like to make people feel guilty, & small, & ugly, & inferior. They like to control people, sometimes by physical methods, sometimes by psychological methods. This is their game. Forcing someone to drink tea is about power, not tea.

      Guilt doesn’t push a person into a long, nasty court battle, involving assassination of their character, & a lot of legal expenses, & sometimes threats from the people surrounding the defendant.

      Whatever sentence the tea maker gets after a court reaches a decision, the tea drinker, or tea refuser gets ‘life’ or something like it.

      I’m sorry that you don’t seem to understand that.

  42. Yeah, but sometimes they pick up their cup, you pick up the teapot, and start pouring and no one actually says anything. Sometimes you surprise your friend with a tea tray.

    1. Converting this back from the tea analogy, sometimes I’ll hug and kiss my fiance in a “certain way” that she knows is an offer of sex. If she says “not right now” or “I’m too tired” or even doesn’t seem “into it” it’s left at that, basically unless she reciprocates. Still not complicated.

  43. Reblogged this on Starring Role in YOUR own Life and commented:
    If a self-invented Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate Princess isn’t a star in their own life then I don’t know who is. Also, this piece about consent is spot on. I’m going to make some tea which you may or may not decide to drink as you read it…

  44. I do agree with the opinions expressed. But for theinitial consent , either party changes its mind and to take revenge if the relationships become sour, they file cases in the courts accusing rape. What one must understand that these remarks are sometimes like passing winds. The momentary truth in the relationships never binds the other party unless and until it could be proved.the outcome is always not true.

  45. Am talking about the Indian scenario where it quite often happens. There may be umpteen reasons to break relationships. My only concern is that one’s conscience must be pricking despite uttering lies and this is hard to prove. In fact, there are cases now in India which are being taken up for hearing despite the fact that it might have taken place a decade ago wherein now if would be difficult to prove beyond doubts even medically the culprit. Where’s the question of tea now. The milk is already curdled enough.

    1. I don’t think this post holds the answer for India’s problem, as it is about preventing rape, not how to deal with a crime that had already happened. As a person with a certain degree knowledge of laws myself (but unfortunately not Indian laws), sadly as you said, the case has been cold for far too long, and it’s become very difficult to prove anything. To my understanding, however, usually in this case, it rests heavily on the judge. With the amount of evidences present, the testimonies of all parties, the pressure of the public, as well as how his/her decision at the moment can have an effect on future cases of rape (as a precedence) and many other factors, the judge will decide to whether or not to condemn the accused, as well as how are reparations are to be made for the victim(s).

  46. There’s a lot I like a great deal about this analogy, but where it (and maybe the chocolate cake version) fall down is …

    I don’t just want you to want some tea, but I want some tea, too. Really, I’m dying for a cuppa. But I’m not going to drink tea alone because that’s kind of sad, and I really had my heart set on making tea for you. So it’s not just a matter of wanting you to want some tea, but my own tea-drinking being contingent on yours. Which means I’m very likely to keep bringing the conversation around to tea, and interpret any hesitation in saying no to running off to light the kettle.

    (The chocolate cake version works better here, perhaps.)

    Besides, what does it mean if you won’t drink tea with me? I’m told I brew a great cuppa. I even washed the cups and restocked the tea cabinet for you. If you say no to tea, it not only means I don’t get tea, but calls into question my whole reputation as a masterful tea maker …

    It doesn’t change the ethical requirements to GET CONSENT, DAMMIT, but it acknowledges that the insistence about making tea is not just over-insistent politeness. The tea maker has some skin in the game (so to speak) as well. That is where the problem comes up — with the tea making being primarily about me, and not about you.

    1. “If you say no to tea, it not only means I don’t get tea, but calls into question my whole reputation as a masterful tea maker …(sic)”

      My bullshit meter is burying the needle. No woman is required to have sex with you simply to keep your ego and reputation intact. What you think about yourself is up to you.

      1. And I agree. But for some people the art of a tea party is fraught with a bit more emotional risk and consequences than simply, “Well, no tea then — can I get anything else for you?” Rightly or (quite arguably) wrongly, that can lead to impolite behavior and a pushy host or hostess.

    2. Tea drinking is not just about you. There are 100’s of valid reasons why any given person might refuse tea @ any given time, & many of them have nothing to do with the person who made the tea. They simply don’t want any right now.

    1. I make tea for myself all the time.

      oh wait. TEA.

      Ok, so if I want TEA and the other person doesn’t…I respect that and either get over it, have a cold…drink… or just go and have a cup of tea by myself. Occasionally, I’ve been partway through that cup of tea or cold drink on my own and hte other person’s got all excited about my solo cup of tea or cold drink and they decide they did actually want one after all.

      However much you want tea has ABOSLUTELY NO BEARING on the response the other person gives. None. None whatsoever. No one else should be made to feel obliged to have a cup of tea purely because you just REALLY WANT ONE.

      1. “However much you want tea has ABOSLUTELY NO BEARING on the response the other person gives. None. None whatsoever. No one else should be made to feel obliged to have a cup of tea purely because you just REALLY WANT ONE.”

        What you hear is deafening sound of me and every other woman clapping wildly in approval.

      2. I do this all the time, and it doesn’t have to involve coercion. Since I’m American, I drink coffee, and I will often say “I’m putting a pot of coffee on, do you want some, too?” If they say yes, great! We shall partake together. If they say no, that’s fine, I’M still going to have some. The invitation is merely to make the other person not feel ashamed or like they’re “putting me out” by requesting coffee. It’s no trouble at all, I’m already doing it. Just as, when someone is about to have sex with their partner, it’s like “Hey, I’m interested, it’s no trouble at all for me to get you going, too – no? You’re just not interested? Okay then.” Nobody has to feel guilty or obligated in these situations. Our society should really take the ego-trip out of sexual encounters.

        1. If we’re having a party then I’ll go out into the party (I’m generally in the kitchen) and say something along the lines of “Kettle’s boiling. Who’s interested?”

          If there are masses of people, I go “Hands up if you want tea. Hands up if you want coffee.” and so on.

  47. so “i want tea” and you make it and i decide i don’t want it, you feeding me tea is rape.

    but what about “no, i don’t want any” but then you make some for yourself and i change my mind and drink it? does my earlier refusal still make this rape, by the definition of this law?

    what about “yes, i want some tea” and i decide i don’t want any more *halfway through the cup*? (note that the teapot is very heavy, so once you actually start pouring it might be difficult to actually stop)?

  48. Your analogy doesn’t address the issue of whether people have been drinking a lot of wine before they decided to finish it off with some “tea.” Now, ideally, everyone should abstain from ethically nebulous situations when intoxicated, but we have already had some wine and forgot about that. We both want tea. We want so much tea! Whose responsibility is it to say, “No, we are too drunk to partake in tea tonight?” Is the person with a lower blood alcohol level the responsible party? The one who is older, stronger, taller, heavier? Drunk people can’t give consent, that much is true, but who is responsible for obtaining consent when both parties are drunk?

      1. Does it? In the case described, both parties are drunk to the point where they can’t consent, and to point where they can’t appreciate the others’ incapacity. You seem to think there’s an obvious answer here – what is it, exactly? No sexual assault has occurred? Or two sexual assaults have occurred?

      2. How? Obviously, what happened is bad (you shouldn’t have sex when you are too drunk to be aware of yourself, so ideally, don’t ever get that drunk). But who should be held responsible? Both parties? Neither?

  49. Does everyone know how hot consent can be? I once had a girl friend who might say no to my offer of sex, but she might also say; “Oh baby, yes, I want you to fuck my brains out and make me come like steam engine.” Sigh. She is saying that to somebody else now. Oh well.

      1. Totally agree that consent is sexy. Good sex is more about what goes on between the heads of the participants than the mechanics of it, however important they are. And informed consent, means being clear about what you ask for suggest etc.

  50. You chocolate cake analyzers, you got a problem. Consent is consent. You know what this means. You are lying to yourself or us if you say you don’t. Check your gut. You are not an idiot. Great post.

  51. On a related note, I’m really sick of the notion that, as a woman, it’s my responsibility to stay away from Starbucks, otherwise I’m asking for someone to force me to drink tea.

  52. Reblogged this on The Tempest and the Teapot and commented:
    Ok…you mentioned tea, and had a graphic of tea-service and dinosaurs, which, for me, is almost enough for an immediate reblog (given the name of my blog and all…)

    But the analogy goes much deeper than the bottom of the kettle – or even the bottom of the cup. Brilliant.

    Now…I need something to drink.

  53. Tea, cake, ornaments on a mantlepiece…. these comments are becoming most Jane Austenesque… in fact we don’t seem to have moved on at all since then. Submission is as much in vogue now. We only need to remove our blindfolds for a moment to ponder at the popularity of Thirty Shades of S***e. Plus ca change. Come on peeps. Let’s embrace the liberty and openness of the 21st Century. No means NO. Say what you mean. Mean what you say.

  54. Holy crap, I’m never drinking tea again with a straight face.

    Great post. What’s been the most educational, though, is the mind-boggling equivocation on the part of the commenters, who just can’t seem to grasp the concept of saying a word and meaning it. No wonder it’s such a crazy tea house out there.

  55. For the life of me I do not understand why people invest so much in this claim that sexual consent is never complicated. Your tea analogy only addresses the easiest cases. Consider these scenarios:

    1. Suppose someone has had a couple of drinks and is tipsy when they ‘consent’ to sex. Is the consent mitigated by the tipsiness?
    2. Suppose you had sex with someone an hour ago; you initiate sex again and do not elicit verbal consent. Your partner goes along with it because he/she doesn’t want to be awkward. Is this sex non-consensual?
    3. Suppose a person misrepresents their age or profession or net worth in order to seduce a partner. Is sexual consent invalidated?
    4. Suppose a person is HIV+, but doesn’t disclose this, reasoning that because he/she has a low vial load and condoms are being used, the risk of transmission is infinitesimal. Is consent invalidated?
    5. Suppose a person initially declines sex, but their sexual partner pesters them to the point of consenting. Is this valid consent?

    Do you honestly think that cases 1-5 are straightforward? Legal systems around the world have struggled with these questions.

    Very often when these complicated cases are raised, people will say that *ideally* the partner will not proceed where in cases of tipsiness, they will always elicit verbal consent, they will always be honest and never pester, etc. That is true, but not really relevant. Any legal question is “easy” if we assume people are angels. Scenarios like 1-5 occur in the real world – does anyone seriously suggest that deciding whether to jail people in these scenarios is uncomplicated?

    1. Here, let me help you by translating your examples into the tea analogy.

      1. I’m drunk, I dunno if I want tea or not…umm….
      2. (They just assumed I wanted another cup…I wish they’d asked first…)
      3. I’m a millionaire you know and that means I definitely deserve tea.
      4. Sure I’ll share this cup with you. (I dont need to tell them about my cold sores…)
      5. I dont want tea. Look i dont want tea. Why are you getting mad at me? Stop making me upset. (Oh god, i really dont want this tea, its getting out of control. If i grit my teeth and drink it it’ll be over and i can get away..but i dont want the tea!!)

      No… Seems straightforward to me!

      1. With respect, I think this seems straightforward to you because you’re simplifying the problem:
        1. So, you’re saying that when someone consents to sex while tipsy, they should be allowed to bring sexual assault charges the next morning if they regret the decision?
        2. ‘You wished they’d asked first’. I assume that in this discussion we’re trying to specify the circumstances in which consent is compromised to the point where the person ‘offering’ sex has committed a crime. That is a very different question from specifying how we *wish* sexual partners would behave. I tried to explain this in my original post, when I said people slip into talk of how people will *ideally* approach consent.
        3. “I’m a millionaire you know and that means I definitely deserve tea.” Now you’re confusing the analogy. Properly applied, the tea *offerer* is posing as a millionaire in the hopes you will want to drink tea prepared by a millionaire. Is consent invalidated by this misrepresentation?
        4. I agree with you on this case. Others replying to me do not, which suggests this is not a simple case.
        5. You are adding some details to the situation re. the mounting resistance and growing display of anger by the ‘offerer’. I think your intuition that we want more information is correct, but I think that indicates this is not a simple case.

    2. 1. Tipsy and Drunk are different. Giving tea to a tipsy person is not the same as forcing tea on a drunk person.
      2. Yes, Not complicated. If they don’t want a second cup of tea but it’s put there anyway they don’t have to drink it.
      3. Age, Yes. Profession, No. If the tea is from last week and has been sitting there and warmed in the microwave but you represent it as new tea then that’s not right. However if you said it’s builders tea but it ends up being earl grey that’s not so bad, but once they find out they’re not obliged to continue drinking said tea. Granted this ones a little different, if the person represented themselves as older but is underage then the charge of rape is on the person who was “tricked”, but not really tricked because you should check age, there’s no excuse.
      4. Yes, Did you really need to ask that? If the tea has a small chance of causing illness but you don’t disclose that, that’s not right.
      5. “Pesters”? If they are harrassed or feel threatened into have sex then that is not consent. If I keep asking you if you want tea and then say you can’t have something else unless you have the tea, is that okay? clearly not.

      Every legal case can be complicated in where to prosecute and what punishment to give, but consent itself is simple.

      1. 1.
        But how do you differenciate?
        If you have to make a general rule about this, there is only one place that you could set the limit, that doesn’t involve the other person having to make a judgement call. That is if you set the limit at zero alcohol in the blood.
        And THAT would be rediculous.

      2. 2.
        But in the analogy made, what happens is that the cup is put infront of them, and they drink it without complaint, even though they don’t want it.
        How is the brewer supposed to know they don’t want it?
        3.
        This would not be a case about consent or rape. It would be a case about deceit.
        4.
        This isn’t really about rape either. But I definetly agree that it should be punishable.

      3. Hi, thanks for your reply. Here are a few replies if you’re interested:
        1. I agree tipsy and drunk are different, and drawing the line between the two is very complicated. Doesn’t this complicate determinations as to the validity of consent? Often it seems women are torn as to the validity of their own consent in these situations. See tinyurl.com/pnaq3m9
        2. I’m not sure the upshot of your reply here. Let’s suppose the person quietly allows penetration. Does the lack of verbal consent make this a crime? Here we see another problem with the tea analogy: you can’t really pour tea into a passive recipient, whereas you can have sex with a passive partner.
        3. I don’t really follow your reasoning in this example. It seems to turn on your subjective sense that old tea is bad while builders tea is not so bad. What if someone else likes old tea but hates builders tea – should they reach the opposite conclusion? This is a sign that the tea metaphor is not bringing clarity to the debate. You also say that if the person sips the builders tea and dislikes it, they can cease drinking. In offering the example I didn’t have in mind that the person would disclose their true profession midway through the act of sex (which would be the analogy to discovering it was builders tea midway through drinking the cup). Moreover, I think many people would say you reach the wrong conclusion here: if a ‘builder’ deceives someone into sex by posing as a rock star, but reveals their true profession mid-coitus, we wouldn’t say that the consent is valid merely because the deceived party has the option to stop…er… sipping.
        4. Here you act shocked that I needed to ask about this example. It’s actually taken from a 2013 Supreme Court of Canada ruling, where the reached to opposite conclusion to you. So, again this looks like an area where reasonable people can disagree, which is to say it’s complicated.
        5. Here again you’re building facts in the scenario that simplify the case — that the offerer threatens the other party with violence, or threatens to withhold ‘something else’ unless there is consent to sex. Take the simple case, which happens all the time i imagine, where someone simply pesters their partner– pleading with them for sex, acting like their feelings are hurt by rejection, insinuating that they are dissatisfied with the relationship– until the partner is worn down to the point where he/she consents. (No threat of violence though). Should the law entertain claims that sex here was non-consensual? This isn’t complicated?

        1. I would suggest that it’s only complicated because you are making it so.

          To go back to the analogy – because an analogy is a way of making something simple, and consent is simple so an analogy of consent is REALLY simple –

          Are you ABSOLUTELY sure that the person:
          genuinely wants tea?
          is old enough for tea?
          wants the tea you have in the cupboard?

          And if so, can you:
          make the tea the way they’ve said yes to?

          If the answer to any of these is no, don’t give them the tea.

          You have to either use the analogy, or talk straight up about sex, non consenusal sex or sexual assault. Because if you start mixing the two it ceases to make sense.

      4. “Are you ABSOLUTELY sure that the person:
        genuinely wants tea?”

        You can never be absolutely 100% sure of that. Especially when it is a partner you don’t know very well. Perhaps unless the partner is the one initiating sex, and isn’t under the influence of any drugs or alcohol.
        You can ofcourse do your best to make sure that you are as certain as possible. And in some situations you have to realise that it’s simply not possible to be certain enough to proceed with the sex.

    3. Re: 2, consent doesn’t have to be verbal. Any enthusiastic participation works just fine. Reaching to help with the teabags might fit the above analogy.

    4. The legal questions are hard, sure. But unless I missed something, this blog isn’t addressing the legal aspect, it’s a guide for how to manage one’s own interpersonal interactions.

      And this really is simple. If “Wait, am I sure this person really wants it or is this rape?” is a question you have to think about the answer to, then why would you proceed before you had a clear answer?

      1. Hi Alexandra,
        Part of what I find frustrating about this debate, as I explained in my original comment, is that people slip from saying that *it is simple to prescribe interpersonal practices that will ensure valid consent” to saying “it is simple for *the law* to make retroactive determinations as the validity of consent, where people fall short of ideal interpersonal practices”. I’m glad that you agree with me that these are very different questions, the latter often very complex. And if this blog is solely about the former, I stand corrected.

        But in the early paragraphs, the blogger clearly seems to be engaging debate surrounding the legal standard of consent. She refers to ‘affirmative consent rules’ – a retroactive legal standard, not an ethic of interpersonal interactions. She links to court documents from the Evans case, and suggests that commentary surrounding this legal case has suffered from not appreciating the simple truths captured in her tea analogy. I think this suggests that the blogger is making the slippage I mentioned above. Also, others replying to me have tried to defend the tea analogy as offering straightforward answers to the legal question, which suggests that readers are also making this slippage.

    5. Toscano, simplifying is key to making good analogies, good arguments, and good blog comments. But all right, I’ll engage on your answer.

      With respect, I think this seems straightforward to you because you’re simplifying the problem:
      1. “So, you’re saying that when someone consents to sex while tipsy, they should be allowed to bring sexual assault charges the next morning if they regret the decision?”

      Nope, I’m not saying that at all, but it’s not a case of regret, it’s a case of whether you had the faculties to make the choice. What tipsy are we talking about here? I think you mean one drink, feeling happy? Agree to sex, the next day regret that sex? It’s a shame but no, it’s not rape because that person wished they hadn’t done it afterwards. Too drunk to consent in the first place? Yes, it’s rape.

      2. “‘You wished they’d asked first’. I assume that in this discussion we’re trying to specify the circumstances in which consent is compromised to the point where the person ‘offering’ sex has committed a crime.”

      If you let them feed you tea without telling them you don’t want to have tea, then you’re giving consent. You still of course are not going to be happy with the decision. I’ve been in this situation before, btw. The sex thing, not the tea thing. A boyfriend was very insistent about sex and didn’t respect my desire to be left alone sometimes. Not knowing how to explain I didn’t want sex, I sometimes just tried to make him happy by having the sex. Now I felt angry and unpleasant afterwards, but I knew I’d given my consent.

      3. “I’m a millionaire you know and that means I definitely deserve tea.” Now you’re confusing the analogy. Properly applied, the tea *offerer* is posing as a millionaire in the hopes you will want to drink tea prepared by a millionaire. Is consent invalidated by this misrepresentation?”

      With respect, your question here was not very clear to me. What lies and whose consent are we talking about? If I lie and say I’m 16 when I’m 15 to get that cup of tea, is my consent invalidated? Well yes, because I’m not an adult, the law says I can’t give my consent. Lines have to be drawn. I do agree it’s not fair to label the other person as a sex offender. But why didn’t they make sure I could legally consent first? Or do you mean, a person says they’re free and single and committed when actually they’re married with three kids? Naw, that kind of background has nothing to do with consent.

      5. “You are adding some details to the situation re. the mounting resistance and growing display of anger by the ‘offerer’. I think your intuition that we want more information is correct, but I think that indicates this is not a simple case.”

      Sure, I was adding details to show that a person can be pestered, sometimes unpleasantly so, but they still are able to give consent. In my example the person’s not happy about it, but they’re giving consent.

      1. Hi Beck,
        Agreed, there can be value in analogies that simplify. One of my favourite explanations of how recessions occur is by analogy to a babysitting club, where all parents horde their vouchers (http://www.pkarchive.org/theory/baby.html). But the blogger here is arguing for the conclusion that *consent is simple* and it seems obviously circular to reach this conclusion using an analogy that *builds-in* a large degree of simplification. We could prove that *anything* is simple by that circular reasoning:

        1. The human brain works like an abbacus (simplifying analogy)
        2. An abbacus is a simple mechanism
        3. Therefore, the human brain is a simple mechanism

        What is wrong with this argument is what is wrong with the tea analogy.

        As to your point-by-point replies to me, I agree with your judgements in several specific cases. But others disagree: for example in scenario 2 there people who would say that consent was absent; under the ‘affirmative consent rule’ for example, your boyfriend might be guilty of a crime. On point 3, I sympathize with your desire for more information. I think this speaks to the complexity of these determinations. On point 4, the Supreme Court of Canada disagrees with you, and Canadians are divided. On point 5, I can only say that I’ve raised this example with other people who claimed that consent was simple, but who disagreed with you on how this case should be settled; this again suggests that the appearance of simplicity is misleading. Cheers.

    6. Legally speaking: 1. will depend on how drunk they are and thus whether a jury thinks they’d be capable of making a decision in their purported state.
      2. That sex is non-consensual. According to the Sexual Offences Act 2003 one must gain active and positive consent. The case law around the subject shows that there need be no resistance or refusal shown by the victim for it to be rape.
      3. There would be a question over whether or not their consent was free and informed.
      4. If the victim contracts an STD this would be considered grievous bodily harm, and a hefty prison sentence.
      5. This would be submission and thus not consent.

      The legality of that stuff is actually relatively basic. There are problems around victim blaming and enforcement, but the rules are pretty clear.

      1. Interesting -thanks. That we have another commenter weighing in with a completely different set of answers again suggests to me that retroactive determinations of consent and wrongdoing are not simple.

      2. Why not just read the sexual offences act, bingo; the person claiming the other consented must show that their belief was reasonable. If you’ve not asked, it’s not reasonable.

  56. The tea parable is fucking brilliant! I don’t get/have never gotten how people could misconstrue consent anyway. I know it happens. You know, like in India because you take public transportation at night that (to a certain subspecies of human) means that you are consenting to having sex with the WHOLE bus. Thanks for taking such a horrid subject and stuffing some humor into it.

    1. I cannot raise other people’s sons, and some will become psychopaths no matter how hard their parents try. If you don’t lock your front door, you are certainly not asking for your home to be robbed, and no burglar will be excused. Still, you should lock your front door if you live in a dangerous area, and victim blaming does not start with asking people to lock their doors.

      Let us work at making the town safe. But I will ask my daughter not to start this by dismantling the door locks. We throw away the locks once we have driven out all the burglars.

      1. Except that most men who rape are not psychopathic rapists; they’re stooges of society’s fear of explaining sex seriously. This law will hopefully ensure such an explanation is provided. And it does have to be the responsibility of both women and men, but it has nothing to do with being “appropriate”.

  57. I have been sharing tea with my wife for years. Some mornings she makes me a cup and starts pouring it in my mouth before I wake up. Should I really prosecute her?

  58. So, things are clearer in moral/ethical consent land than in legal consent land. Laws about consent vary across time and jurisdiction. “Rightness” is more consistent. People who say that consent is simple are generally not saying “everyone who does non-consensual things belongs in jail and everyone who had things done to them non-consensually should report them to the police.” They are saying “this is how people should behave.”

  59. How consent goes in my relationship:
    (Making out and a little touching)
    partner: hey, you wanna have sex?
    me: in a minute, I’m enjoying this
    (more making out)
    me: ok, bedroom?
    partner: yup

    Wow. So difficult. maybe y’all should try it.

    1. Wait. You don’t require your partner to sign consent forms in triplicate and lodge one copy with a lawyer before canoodling? What madness is this?

      (I’m now wondering if there’s a whole subculture that I was previously unaware of who I have now mortally offended.)

    1. Could be seriously just having a cup of tea – that’s why it’s called an imagination but you prefer her to give explicit confirmation of where your imagination led you?

  60. First I want to congratulate everyone (and mods) for the best comment section I’ve seen on the internet for quite a while. I also want to express my concern for some of the comments on here. It seems like the folks that are confused and/or suspicious of affirmative consent seem to be focused heavily on the legality. I think it is important for these folks to realize that what is being discussed is not how to legally get consent/not be accused of assault in a court of law. The important part of this is the “tea drinker” on the other side. I believe we should always be focused on how to engage in sexual activity intentionally, seeking an equal experience between you and a sexual partner. The goal here is to have a positive, equal, consenting sexual encounter where both or all of the people involved are comfortable and genuinely stoked on the situation. If there is a chance they are uncomfortable or unsure, that halts anything inside me that wants to go forward. After all, is sex really fun if you have to convince someone to do it with you or you think they will regret it? I would say overwhelmingly, no. Is sex ridiculously fun when you are totally sure the other person(s) want to do it and that they are enthusiastically consenting? YES! (and what is the point otherwise?)

    1. Hi Dre,
      I think it was me who introduced the legal dimension, so allow me to reply. I fully understand the distinction between (i) setting ideals of interpersonal relations and (ii) setting legal standards of sexual consent. In fact, I made this distinction myself in the last paragraph of my initial post (see sentence beginning, ‘Very often…’).

      My precise concern is that people often notice others saying ‘consent is complicated’ (in the legal sense) and then incredulously point out that ‘consent is simple’ (in the ideals-of-interpersonal-relations sense). This blog does that: it introduces the topic with a discussion of legal standards (affirmative consent rules, the Evans case) and then proceeds with tea analogy as if it offered simple solutions to the problem those legal standards were meant to address.

      Cheers

  61. Great post with really interesting analogy here. Yeah, we all know what you are talking about. Maybe some of us, the readers, don’t. But I certainly do. For me, the inner peace came with yoga practice, when my wife was pregnant. It helped me to understand better our desires and our fears, and why the body and mind answer in a certain way.

  62. it’s so simple it only took 1,068 words in 19 paragraphs to ‘splain it to me. maybe the author should have drawn a picture

    1. The only issue here is that it needed explaining to you. Do you make a habit of forcing tea down peoples throats?

      Show’s the need for better education on the matter.

  63. I think the proble comes from giving young men the idea that women never actually want tea. They sometimes tolerate having tea poured down their throats, but they never actually want it. So these young men who find it so confusing are looking for signs that they might be allowed to do something fundamentally unwanted and unpleasant And that’s just a totally different process than figuring out if she wants tea.

  64. The idea of oral consent isn’t quite as clear-cut as you depict it. What if, instead of receiving a clear “yes”, the person asking for the tea just makes a gesture that implies assent? The problem here is that a lot of communication is non-verbal. It’s not a small matter, either; whole cases have played out over this issue. Of course, there’s no excuse for date rape, or simply assuming consent to sex where no consent has clearly been given, or going on when someone clearly has withdrawn their consent. But if the analogy to making tea were that easy to draw, the problem of what constitutes consent wouldn’t be this complicated.
    It seems to me that the simplest answer is just for society to discourage casual sex altogether. Then people would, you know, get to know each other before having sex and would be more likely to consent to sex and understand each other’s desires, signals, etc. It also seems like at least 9/10ths of these “borderline cases” involve two people who don’t know each other well or at all. I know this is a conservative solution and it probably wouldn’t work, though.

    1. Actually, scratch that: the problem is that college campuses are full of horny, drunk idiots who are still mentally not adults. I bet a crackdown on alcohol on college campuses and gender-segregated dorms would go a long way towards solving the problem, at least as far as it goes at colleges.

      1. I don’t know about the gender-segregation (things are difficult enough for genderqueer people), but alcohol consumed in large quantities makes everything worse. In an ideal world, we would never get drunk enough to be unaware of what, exactly, this “tea” consists of. Unfortunately, our world is not ideal and people take advantage of each other if they notice someone is too drunk to realize they’re being offered tea.

      2. Actually, I don’t understand why alcohol is allowed at a university in the first place. People go to a university to learn math and science. How can you study math and science when you’re drunk?

  65. Been in a loving relationship for many years, probably 90% of the time there is no verbal consent for sex. I think consent is very important but when you consider the area of implied consent there is always going to be a grey area.

    In medical practice implied consent is a legitimate form of consent in some situations and if you transfer that over into sex then like I said, grey areas are inevitable. There is lots of ifs, buts, maybes but that in itself shows that consent is not as simple as the tea analogy makes it sound.

    Also when two people are drunk who is responsible, and if men are drunk is the women then responsible? Should we all be responsible for being able to assess the level of intoxication of other people? What if someone is drunk but is very good at hiding it? Like someone said before, what if someone lied about themselves, is that manipulation and therefore invalidates any consent?

    Verbal consent in itself is also not perfect, there are lots of cases where people are falsely accused of rape and relying on his word vs her word (or any combination of the two), it can be difficult to distinguish between liars and victims sometimes. Ideally, in theory, written consent should be gained then for all intimate contact but again it raises the issues regarding someone’s capacity to consent again throwing it back into a grey area.

    Long story short, ideally consent is simple but it’s not.

  66. A: I’m going to have piece of this great chocolate cake I made, do you want to join me?
    B: No thanks.
    A: Okay (starts to eat cake with obvious enjoyment). Mmmmm, good. Anyway, did you hear that weird thing Senator Buffnose said?
    B: Maybe just a taste…
    A: Of the cake? Sure! (offers a bite of the cake)
    B: Oh, that is good. Maybe a small slice?
    A: Great! (plates a small slice and attempts to restart the conversation) So, anyway Senator Buffnose said…
    B: Oh I can’t! I really shouldn’t! I’m trying to cut down! Take it away!
    A: Well if you don’t want it, I’ll finish it.
    B: No! I mean, you shouldn’t! You’ve already had a piece and …. I don’t know! I’ll have it (quickly finishes cake).

    Next day, A gets a phone call
    B: How could you!
    A: Uhhhh
    B: The cake! You know I didn’t want the cake and you like totally forced me to eat it! What’s wrong with you?!?

    1. You’re going to get shit for this, I bet.

      Really, I think your comment points out the whole problem with the analogy here, though. Sex isn’t tea, and sex isn’t cake. The act of preparing tea or cake for someone ends when you give the tea or cake to the person who requested it. At that point, it’s on the requester to decide whether to eat, drink, or leave the cup or plate on the table untouched. While the person who prepared the meal might be annoyed if the requester refuses to eat or drink, and likely won’t bother making tea or cake for that person a second time, it’s not really his business at that point.

      Sex, by contrast, involves the active participation of two people (usually) and that participation carries through from the “preparation” to the act itself. Moreover, sex is something that usually happens when people are emotional and not thinking in an especially logical or sober way, as they are when they’re doing most other things. This fact is at the core of the consent question, and it’s a reality that the tea analogy more or less ignores.

      1. Yes, part of the idea is to point out the wrongheadedness of the analogy.

        The other part is point out that often people change their minds about things from minute to minute because, many people, often aren’t sure if they want something or not (or they know they want it but can think of reasons why they shouldn’t indulge). Also people will invent on-the-spot justifications for things they regret later.

        Emotions by their very nature are changeable and hard to pin down and analyse. Hindsight gives the illusion of clarity but it’s just that… an illusion.

        1. I think you’re both so insistent on the point that people who are about the engage in sex are incapable of thinking clearly. While the point of the analogy is how to acquire an affirmative, whole hearted “yes” from the other party. Yes it may ruin the mood, it may be lengthy, but are you so hellbent on getting sex that you’re not the least phased out by the possibility of being falsely accused of rape the next day? If you had previously acquired all the signal to go from the other person, and no coercion, deception of any kind were involved, but he/she still blames you, feel free to bring it to court to have judge tell he/she to be more consistent with their decision. It’s better to say to the judge “I firmly asked he/she for consent and he/she showed [clear sign of consent]” than “I was in a rush/I wasn’t all there in my head”.

  67. This is THE worst way of writing about unwanted sex and rape that I’ve come across lately. From the comment section it proves you’ve made a farce and joke out of it all. Not at all a serious forum. It just brings out all the dumbed down bullshit. Tea is a good vehicle for a date rape drug. How about that?

  68. Sonatano1, If you’ve found that “sex is something that usually happens when people are emotional and not thinking in an especially logical or sober way,” then you’ve probably never experienced consent. You sound very rapey.

    1. It’s not really my experience that people approach sex in the same way that they approach, say, doing their taxes or preparing a meal. That was my point. I was trying to argue that there’s more nuance in the consent issue than the author suggests here.
      Also, all the sex I’ve had has been consensual, and I’d never consider having sex with someone I knew, believed, or even had reason to suspect didn’t want it. But I guess talking about verbal and non-verbal cues for consent automatically makes me a rapist. I guess that means the same is true for the author of every single medical journal and law review article on the issue of sexual consent, right?

  69. I suppose my biggest issue with this whole situation is that these laws are inherently unenforceable without completely throwing out due process. These are -easily- abused as well. Either side can go to a judge and claim that consent was not properly given, and it leaves us right where we started: He said She said.

    Even if we are forced to fill out waivers, those can be claimed to have been filled out under duress. Congrats, even legal forms are no longer solid in court.

  70. “I would suggest that it’s only complicated because you are making it so.
    To go back to the analogy – because an analogy is a way of making something simple, and consent is simple so an analogy of consent is REALLY simple –”

    Your blog uses the tea analogy to make the point that sexual consent is a simple matter. I mention a few real-world scenarios that are not captured by your analogy, and you complain that I’m complicating things. Do you not see that– as an argument that consent is simple– your reasoning process is circular? You simply stipulate that we can’t ‘overcomplicate’ things, and then claim to have demonstrated that consent is simple.

    Analogies are not a ‘a way of making something simple’. Analogies illuminate unfamiliar topics by highlighting their similarity to familiar things, and the things analogized can both be complicated. For example, cognitive scientists study artificial intelligence in computers in order understand, by analogy, how human intelligence works. Where an analogy converts a complex topic to a simple one– say someone claimed that the human mind is analogous to an abacus, and therefore simple– the analogy is to that extent flawed.

    “You have to either use the analogy, or talk straight up about sex, non consenusal sex or sexual assault. Because if you start mixing the two it ceases to make sense.”

    Your analogy was meant help us draw clear lines between consensual sex versus sexual assault, illustrating that consent is simple. I’ve offered real world examples where the analogy to tea does not give us clear answers, suggesting that matters are not as simple as you’d have us believe. Now you insist that my examples have to *use your analogy* — a demand I obviously can’t meet because my point is precisely that your analogy oversimplifies. Sorry to drone on like this :(

    1. TL;DR a simplified analogy only needs to work from the 10,000 foot view, it’s easy to find straw man arguments if your trying to look at the 500 foot level without giving the details. Consent can be VERY simple but it’s still going to have nuances that occur in specific situations. It’s not that hard to use the tea analogy so long as you figure out exactly what situation you’re trying to describe, otherwise you’ll get caught up in the weeds.

      Your abacus analogy is flawed. In this most recent example you’re dropping the analogous (comparable in certain respects) when you combine the two analogies. You’re attempting to make a transitive property without carrying the meaning. The human mind is simple, in certain respects. This would be a true statement because you’re carrying the definition of the qualifier, analogous, forward. In you’re original simplifying analogy, where you said the human brain works like an abacus, you would have to add a qualifier as if you had said “can work” or something similar to when you later used the word analogous.

      1) Legally consent while impaired is going to have the same legal issues as a contract. A contract signed under the influence of alcohol may or may not be valid. Ethically the individuals are making a personal judgement call on their level mentally competent and that of their partner(s). You’re handing someone potentially hot tea without a “caution contents may be hot” labeled cup. Are you comfortable with their state that they aren’t going to spill it on themselves and go after you because it was hot? If not what are you doing that is the equivalent of having that liability label?

      2) As consent can be withdrawn at any time it would not matter if it was an hour later or 5 days later, but would matter if it was part of the same act. Where the people still intimately engaged during that time (ie sexual in some manor, maybe naked or or even cuddling) or had they gotten dressed, worked on their taxes, maybe done the dishes? Carrying the tea analogy forward in one instance there is still tea in the cup, it hasn’t all been consumed. The tea may be cold but it’s still present. In the other the cups been washed and put away, you might be able to reuse the old tea bag but it’s new tea being made. You’re offering them a new cup of tea so the same rules apply as when you first offered them a cup. Either way time isn’t the defining factor for consent.

      3&4) The consent may be given to a specific act, but it’s not consent to the act with a person that misrepresents themselves. Bottom line it’s not informed consent. The question then becomes is the person in possession of all relevant facts. This is where individual boundaries may come into play. For me someones health status is always relevant, and if they misrepresent themselves that too is relevant, but if there is no discussion on age, profession, or net worth and it is just omitted from the conversation that is not relevant. The misrepresenting party is trying to make a consent agreement based on the letter, not the spirit of the law (assuming the law in question only focuses on the act, and the person is irrelevant). An agreement cannot be made without relevant facts. In tea I’d say net worth would be the volume of tea or the size of the cup while age and health status would be the type/contents of the tea. For net worth if I’m offered and expect to get tea how important the volume of tea provided may not seem to make a huge difference, but I’m not going repeatedly get tea from a person who provides in 1/4 cup increments when I expected a full cup. How long it takes for me to realize I’m only getting 1/4 cup is an unknown and depends on other factors. For the health status the contents make a huge difference, I may be allergic to the almonds in the Almond Oolong Tea. That allergy could be just throwing up and be gone in a day, it could trigger long term reaction that is with me for years, or I could be deathly allergic and it kill me. You might even know my allergy and think it’s not enough to affect me but just because I consented to have some tea does not mean I consented to risking myself to allergen exposure from a specific type of tea. If I know my risk I can then assess the situation to provide consent.

      5)The topic acquiescence with consent is a valid one, but different people will view the boundary differently based on their lived experiences. If we keep with the tea, yes there is consent to eventually drink the tea, but it is far from affirmative consent or enthusiastic consent. The consent is given reluctantly, and the question then becomes if it is freely given as something that is given reluctantly is unwilling and/or hesitantly given. If the tea is bitter or cold I may acquiesce and drink the tea but it’s done to “get it over with” which I would view in a best case scenario as barely consent.

      1. I honestly can’t follow your discussion re. my analogy. Why don’t we stick to the fundamentals: do you think it’s reasonable to *argue for the conclusion that x is simple*, using an analogy that you admit *simplifies x*? That is so clearly circular that to argue further about it would be like arguing whether 2+2 = 4.

        For the record, I do not deny that consent *can be* very simple. If that were the blogger’s point, it would be utterly uninteresting. She is engaging the debate over (e.g.) affirmative consent laws, arguing that critics’ concerns over real-world ambiguities are not real concerns.

        I have a very difficult time making sense of our points 1-5. If this is your attempt to prove that sexual consent is *simple*, I half suspect you’re trolling me. You’re discussion of 3&4 for example is so convoluted you must recognize how ridiculous it appears as explanation of the *simplicity* of sexual consent. My mortgage contract is easier to follow!

  71. thanks so much! i shared this one. somehow you managed to get tasteful humor in this article without being completely offensive but actually driving the point home, well done!

  72. thanks so much! i shared this one. somehow you managed to get tasteful humor in this article without being completely offensive but actually driving the point home, well done!

  73. An interesting analogy. Not sure what to infer by the fact that you’re ‘making yourself some tea’. oo-er.

    I can’t read the cartoon you’ve posted with the two people arguing, nor can I read the text that says where it’s from. Can somebody link me to a larger version?

  74. Loved this! It’s funny. My time at university was 25 years ago. As I read your article, I thought, “No one ever asked me if I wanted tea.” They just assumed I did and many times I felt uncomfortable refusing it even when I really didn’t care for any. I have sons approaching the age when we will need to talk with them about consent so they don’t end up in trouble. I’m going to use your analogy to make it crystal clear for them. Thanks!

  75. Great post! The analogy to being offered tea is clever, demonstrating how uncomplicated the concept of consent really is. In her book I Am Not a Slut, Leora Tanenbaum conducts interview with teens and young women, finding that even the victim is confused as to whether or not she “gave consent” simply by being inebriated or by virtue of having a reputation as being a “slut.” Thank you for posting this. I hope that many young women and men read it an take it to heart.
    http://www.harpercollins.ca/9780062282590/i-am-not-a-slut

  76. Of course the problem is not that you force someone to drink a cup of tea, it’s that you want that tea yourself. “I’ll just have that cuppa now, if you don’t mind”. “Well, uh…”

    1. Then go drink you’re own tea. In this analogy what you’re saying is that the only way you could ever enjoy tea is by watching someone else drink it. So you’re saying that you would force someone else to drink tea just because you feel like having a cup.

      1. “Of course the problem is not that you force someone to drink a cup of tea, it’s that you want that tea yourself.” So, transposing the analogy back to the issue at hand, the problem is that in initiating sex with someone, you want that sex yourself? I have no idea what that could possibly mean. It’s a case of getting carried away by this very bad analogy.

    1. I agree, in a humourous way it blows alot of the stupid arguments completely out of the water. Even made me feel silly about some of the things I’ve said in the past,

  77. This is awesome! The next time the topic of consent comes up, I think I will just pull this post up on my phone and read it to everyone as we wait for the tea to steep :)

  78. I love this, equally, if I offer you tea and you enthusiastically respond, I might change my mind and withdraw the offer of tea. Been discussing it with my wife and playing out different scenarios invoving tea, it works so many ways. Sad to see sonme over analysis of it on reddit and the like, completely missing your point that it’s really not that fucking complicated, it’s an analogy, not a thesis. Well done.

  79. You are right – this is brilliant. I appreciate fellow analytical writers. Your ability to break down the word “consent ” is excellent, as is the schooling on this topic. By the way, I find the tea analogy perfect, as analogies are for exactly that purpose. Great article, and very current.

  80. I love this. EVERYTHING. You put everything I want to say about this so nicely, I’m just going to link people to this page whenever we talk about consent. :3

  81. the core of the problem is that in real life reality of sexual pleasure vs. cup of tea pleasure, no does not always mean no.

    there. i said it.

    i have certainly been one to give a vague “no” which is really a “maybe”.

    sometimes “no” means “maybe because i’m on the fence about it. i could take it or leave it. i could use more convincing.

    sometimes “no” means “maybe” because i want to, but i feel i shouldn’t because you may judge me as a slut. so the “maybe” is weighing short term benefit vs long term risk, and more convincing may tip the scale towards short term benefit.

    finally, “no” might mean “maybe” because the scenario isn’t going to plan, i may not be with the ideal partner, i may have logistical issues like getting up early the next day, etc. so here my “maybe” is only going to last until my body’s appetite for sex kicks in and my logical brain clicks off and i’ll just deal with being late for work later or figuring out if i really want a relationship with this person.

    i find that that if someone pursuing sex with me was to politely defer to my first no, it would be a total misstep on their part as i have not resolved to a final decision.

    i’m not saying this is the most authentic messaging i am capable of. i am certainly capable of forming the word “maybe” on my lips. but in these exchanges my early “no” is just a short and simple speedbump which produces the pause i am looking for.

    the only unambiguous early “no” that i recall giving out, which was heeded, was “motherfucker get the fuck off me.” that one was crystal clear. so i am not talking about the “no” which is really a “no”.

    so i think that the longer we engage in the fiction pursuing a clear “no means no” type of consent, the more the discussion comes off like the war on drugs propaganda to “Just say NO to drugs!” when everybody knows that drugs can be damned fun and the idea that the word “no” is the solution is ridiculous.

    Lena Dunham and others have stretched the definition of rape beyond the “shoving” of tea or cake down one’s throat, and extended it to “manipulation” and “coercion” tactics. likewise the tea analogy is not potent enough to describe the actual interpersonal dynamic of real consent and the real ambiguity of “no” as it exists in practice.

    i can only speak to my own patterns of “no” but as i have talked to my own friends and heard about their experiences, some have even more extreme definitions of what is an acceptable “boundary push” beyond their “no”. some definitely allow or even prefer their partner to physically, assertively reject their “no” and they interpret this anywhere from either being extremely desired by the partner to being swept into a kind of heat-of-the-moment passion that makes physical assertion acceptable. what makes it acceptable seems to be based on whether the partner was acceptable, not on whether the act was acceptable.

    or to go back to the tea example, “forcing tea down your throat” could be the same action described as “passionately pouring tea into my mouth” depending on a person’s preference of behavior and how much they like person offering the tea and how much they like having tea forcefully applied. and how they wound up in the that position of tea exchange is based on nuances in communication not covered by a simple “no”.

    1. It’s still not complicated. If “No” means “maybe later” wait until flipping later. No-one said “no” meant “not a chance ever, give it up, get out of my house now I never what to see you again”. OK: “No.” “Are you sure, it’s very nice tea and you look parched?” “Actually thinking about it yes I would like some tea after all.” Not OK: “No.” “I didn’t go to all that trouble just for you to say ‘No’: Drink it you @£$% or I’ll pour it down your throat.”

    2. Consent is a choice. You say “no” to sex when you really mean “maybe”, but nevertheless you have said “no” because that is what you have chosen, for whatever reason. You say that your “no” might become a “yes” if certain things changed. In other words, you have not consented to this, but you might consent to something else or you might consent under certain conditions. This is *not* the same as “no doesn’t always mean no,” which is a totally different and very harmful idea. Whether a person is saying no because they really don’t want this at all, or because they think it’s a bad idea even though they’re tempted, is irrelevant.

      1. Below in this comment section I offered the example of someone who persists in asking for sex after being initially refused. Using the tea analogy, others responded that this is straightforward case: if the person says ‘no’ once, you shouldn’t pester them further. Iain and Zoggi are here (I think) saying that a ‘no’ can change to a ‘yes’ over time, which would seem to license second attempts. For some reason everyone admires this tea analogy for illustrating the simplicity of consent. Yet nobody agrees what the tea analogy prescribes in difficult cases. I think this is a sign that the analogy is not actually helpful, and that consent is not actually simple.

    3. To expand on your points ….

      Historically (and biologically) a woman wanted some kind of assurance that the man expressing a sexual interest in her was genuinely interested – enough to hang around after sex and provide resources and protection to her and the inevitable babies that would be now on their way. And even in today’s society with our modern effective contraception, women still like to test men’s devotion and loyalty before allowing them to get intimate/ get into a relationship.

      In many species – including humans – a female will entice several males by flaunting her sexual attributes at them (dressing alluringly, emphasising your femininity, giving off sexual energy etc)…. and after she has provoked sexual desire in them she will then play them off each other by denying sex to all of them. She will then sit back and watch which male shows the MOST persistence, which tells her which male is going to be the most loyal and devoted… and which male shows the greatest SKILLS and DOMINANCE, which tells her which male is going to be the best at providing her with resources and protection. Just watch any romantic comedy with Hugh Grant in it to see this female strategy in action.

      And so not only do females (including female humans) often say “no” when they actually mean “let’s see what you’ve got, and then we’ll talk”, but this is actually how females find their ideal mate – ie the most loyal, devoted, skilled, protective male of the bunch. The male *least* likely to just wander off in search of another conquest, once he’s got his rocks off.

      So this is yet another case of feminism completely misunderstanding (or just denying) basic human nature – especially female nature – and totally oversimplifying complex human relationships and interactions and reducing it all to the most moronic level.

      If all men accepted that when women say “no” they really mean “no” and they just walked away never to be seen again then women would no longer have a way of assessing men’s potential suitability as devoted, loyal partners, and they’d just have to make a snap judgement instead, which is not in their interests.

      The “no means no” campaign is simply there to promote the idea that all men are rapists by nature and therefore need to be trained to not be rapists. This is because feminists are parasitical people who need to constantly promote a threat narrative about men to justify their incessant demands on men and other (non feminist) women.

        1. > You are the one assuming the tea-maker is male, the tea receiver is female.

          In the human realm, and in many other species too, the general rule is that “men propose and women dispose” (as the saying goes).

          Sure it doesn’t always work that way. But that is the overwhelming trend. But feel free to swap the genders if you like. It doesn’t change the principles or the logic in any way.

      1. So Curiosetta if I wanted to have sex with you and you did not consent to it, I should assume that you just want me to try harder? How do you let me know if you actually don’t want to have sex with me? Should I even be concerned with your opinions when what is foremost in my mind is finding a mate?

        1. > So Curiosetta if I wanted to have sex with you and you did not consent to it, I should assume that you just want me to try harder?

          You should use your senses and your brain to asses the situation (the context) as a whole. Where is this interaction taking place? Am I working in a library and have you just approached me and said “I want to have sex with you?” …..or are we in a club, and have I gotten all dressed up in a sexually alluring outfit, and am I giving off a bunch of sexual energy and signal which say – “I am single and looking for sex/ a relationship”?….. or are we strangers sitting on a bus and if so, have I made any positive signals – prolonged eye contact, shifting my feet/ legs towards you, smiling demurely etc?

          Being an adult means being able to read the situation, and the complex multi layered messages humans give out verbally and non verbally. If you can’t do that properly then I suggest you assume people do NOT want to have sex with you unless they state it out loud or write it clearly on a whiteboard.

          But you should also let mature, sensitive, intelligent, astute adults carry on communicating their intentions in complex ways and NOT try to force your over-simplistic mating rules onto them, just because you personally can’t grasp such subtle and nuanced behaviour.

          > How do you let me know if you actually don’t want to have sex with me?

          I suggest you write out the scene in full, to give yourself some context and then imagine how woman might turn down your advances – in whatever form those advances take. If you STILL cannot grasp what is going on I suggest you assume she DOESN’T want sex, and perhaps seek clarification. Maybe wear a T-shirt of badge saying that you only understand simple commands like a dog… but of course if you admit that then most women will avoid you, which solves the problem I guess.

          > Should I even be concerned with your opinions when what is foremost in my mind is finding a mate?

          Well, it depends if you are looking for a girlfriend or just casual sex with a girl … or if you are just looking to rape someone.

          Are you just trying to play it dumb to derail these comments, or are these genuine questions?

      2. Thing is…there are so many things wrong with your arguments, which indicate a lack of understanding as humans as social beings as well as biological ones.

        The evo-bio / sex selection arguments you are applying to women can also be applied to men. Arguably it benefits men to be rapists – and prolific ones at that -as it increases the chances of getting women pregnant and therefore the man increasing his genetic contribution to the next generation. If a man politely obeys the ‘no means no rule’ he isn’t going to be ‘mating’ as much.

        Now of course, we have to see this in the context of humans being social species with substantially greater complexity of thought, interaction, and behaviour. A rapist may not rape indiscriminately and at every opportunity because he knows he may get caught / the woman may abort thus he fails to reproduce. And likewise, it turns out, that women are also capable of making decisions and interacting with the world and not just playing he sex selection game you seem to be suggesting.

        To long, didn’t read: you’re applying questionable evo-bio arguments to women but not considering whether they might also be applicable to the idea that rape benefits men.

        I’m not saying that rape is an innate biological urge – I’m much more of a sociologist than a biologist – but I am saying that you are applying your arguments inconsistently and also failing to consider the social context of these behaviours.

        1. > Arguably it benefits men to be rapists – and prolific ones at that -as it increases the chances of getting women pregnant and therefore the man increasing his genetic contribution to the next generation.

          Well, it’s not as simple as that, as I explained in another reply to you just now…

          As a further analogy we could say that ‘buying a house’ is very costly, whereas simply breaking into a house and squatting in it gets you a house for free. But of course the reality is that buying a house is still more preferable to most people – even putting morality aside. Squatting (even when it is legal) is a very precarious, restrictive and risky arrangement.
          > To long, didn’t read: you’re applying questionable evo-bio arguments to women but not considering whether they might also be applicable to the idea that rape benefits men.

          Well no (as I explained previously).

          Perhaps it would be easier to understand if you imagine all men have to approach all women with their intentions on their sleeves…. “Hi, I find you attractive and I would very much like to have sex with you – are you up for it?”

          And all women are obliged to accept the invitation or to turn the man down, and her decision either way must be taken as her final answer on the matter.

          In this scenario, I’m sure you can see that it benefits the ‘promiscuous man’ wanting to spread his seed, because he can quickly and efficiently sort through all those women who aren’t interested instead of spending a whole evening with each of them in turn….. buying them drinks and making small talk, before being denied sex at the end of the evening.

          And it disadvantages women who lose the ability to play men off against each other, or test men by turning them down and then watching them try to change her mind (with gifts and acts of chivalry etc). In this “no means no” scenario a woman must now make a snap judgement on each man moments after he has approached her and propositioned her.

          So, like I said, this is another example of feminism actually going against nature, going against sophisticated and evolved social conventions and going against the interests of women themselves…… and all for the purpose of shaming men by defining them as rapists, and defining them as a threat to civilised society.

          The result of this ridiculous twisting of reality is the creation of a new generation of miserable, angry, fearful and self entitled, narcissistic, bratty, bitchy women…… AKA feminists.

          In essence it is just hideous propaganda used for recruitment purposes.

          1. A question for you –

            “The result of this ridiculous twisting of reality is the creation of a new generation of miserable, angry, fearful and self entitled, narcissistic, bratty, bitchy women…… AKA feminists.
            In essence it is just hideous propaganda used for recruitment purposes.”

            Do you genuinely believe this?

          2. > Do you genuinely believe this?

            No, I SEE IT all around. I am simply acknowledging what actual feminists say in real life… what they complain about and what they claim they are being ‘oppressed’ by.

            If you believe feminist propaganda then you will end up believing men have systematically oppressed women throughout history, because that’s what feminism’s ‘patriarchy theory’ claims is the truth. And you will believe men are rapists by nature, because that’s what feminists are constantly inferring – or outright stating.

            Feminism promotes a ‘threat narrative’ which is a combination of previous threat narratives used against blacks and jews.

            Blacks were once portrayed as savage beasts lurking around every corner with rape in their eyes – a threat to civilised society indeed! ……. and jews were once portrayed as scheming, control freaks who used their immense power to manipulate society (especially financially) to their advantage, and at every body else’s expense.

            Combine those two threat narratives and redirect them from ‘blacks’ and ‘jews’ to the new group ‘men’ and you have feminism – which portrays men as savage beasts lurking around every corner with rape in their eyes – a threat to civilised society indeed! …… and as scheming, control freaks who use their immense power to manipulate society (especially financially) to their advantage, and at every body else’s expense.

            Threat narratives are so effective because they portray the aggressors as the victims, and the target group as the aggressors. And so any hate speech, or even persecution of the target group (blacks, jews, men) is framed in terms of ‘self defence’, and the aggressor always denies their aggression by claiming they are only acting in self defence against the threat (blacks, jews or men).

            I am not suggesting the average feminist is AWARE of any of this, but neither was the average German or white American AWARE of how they were being conditioned by their prevailing threat narrative either. In the past black segregation or even slavery was viewed as appropriate and ‘fair’ because blacks had been portrayed negatively (as a threat to civilised society) for so long. that people actually believed it. And the same is true of the average German’s attitude to jews in the 19030’s

            The internet is full of young, naive, impressionable, materially comfortable, extremely privileged young women making videos and blogs about how the ‘patriarchy’ (AKA men) have oppressed women in the past and are still oppressing them now.

            The mass of ‘moderate’ feminists who rants about how men are bad and women are poor helpless victims may not advocate actual persecution of men, but they provide the culture which allows the extreme ‘radical’ feminists (or just social engineers) to get their way without being stopped (in time).

            The same was true of the average ‘moderate’ racist American, or ‘moderate’ anti semitic German … it is always the mass of moderate haters who allow the tiny minority of radicals to reek havoc on society and commit atrocious acts of discrimination and/ or persecution.

            And that is why those with evil agendas just LOVE to stir up division and hatred between races, religions, classes …. and in these times between the sexes too.

            If I stood up on a bus and declared “All men are pigs!” nobody would really bat an eyelid, and I would not be regarded as engaging in hate speech. But swap ‘men’ for ‘gays’, ‘women’, ‘jews’, ‘blacks’ etc and suddenly I am saying something which is treated as extremely offensive.

            Every age has its ‘threat narrative’ which targets specific groups in society, and after a few years we all end up desensitised to hate speech and even persecution of that particular group. When that desensitisation reaches a certain threshold there is often a flash point reached where in the matter of a few years the target group suffers extreme persecution (often a bloodbath)… and then a few years afterwards everybody claims they had nothing to do with it.

            Just try reading a bunch of feminist blogs and swapping ‘men’ for ‘jews’ or ‘blacks’, and then you’ll start to see the hate speech.

            We are already too desensitised as a society to be able to SEE hate speech when it is directed at men.

          3. Well, it’s not a case of ‘belief’ so it’s more of a ‘no’ actually :)

            I’m going by the EVIDENCE (what feminists actually say) and not what I ‘believe’ they think.

            Do you ‘believe’ the sun rises in the east or do you KNOW it for a fact? See the difference?

      3. Well that’s just bad science. For a parent entity to be biologically fit, a parent entity’s offspring must survive and procreate. A man who’s just bouncing about spreading seed and abandoning it and pregnant women about the landscape isn’t biologically fit, especially in the deep dark “biological” past you’re using there when environments were harsh and populations were small. Without his participation and protection, offspring wouldn’t survive to procreate and he would have no descendents. You’re working off a bad model there.

        1. > Without his participation and protection, offspring wouldn’t survive

          And how can the female tell which man is most likely to hang around and participate in the raising of any future children? …. the answer is to by first advertising her sexual availability and desirability, and then denying all her male suitors sexual intimacy/ sexual relationship and seeing which ones demonstrate the most loyalty, devotion and persistence. Whoever wins in the competition of trying to impress her and woo her with gifts, special treatment, protection, adoration etc is chosen by her to be her partner.

          It’s a mating/ courtship ritual as old as time and this basic template is observed throughout the animal kingdom.

          Denying this behaviour is just another in the long list of natural behaviours that feminism is trying to eradicate from society.

          Children absolutely need fathers during early development. Fathers are essential for the proper development of empathy, among other things. Yet for decades feminism has told us we don’t need fathers in the family – or even that fathers are a bad influence. I think there is even a feminist MP in the UK who actually stated that fathers are a bad influence! Studies also show that a fatherless upbringing is the number one predictor of childhood dysfunction like depression, criminality, unwanted teenage pregnancy, gang culture etc.

          Feminism also promotes the abandonment of children into ‘day abandonment centres’ as perfectly acceptable so that mothers can go back to their more ‘fulfilling’ and ’empowering’ role working for some boss in an office somewhere (and paying lots of taxes to fund the wars, naturally). Again this is terrible advice, and studies show young children experience measurable trauma when abandoned with strangers. We now see children so damaged by their post feminist upbringing that they are now being put on drugs to stop them from slitting their own wrists.

          So in just about every area of adult relationships and parenting feminism is giving the worst possible advice. This is driving a wedge between men and women, destroying the lives of children and making women miserable and angry… all of which is great news for the feminist movement which thrives on social disfunction and the misery of women. Ka ching!

      4. Thing is…you’re only applying your evolutionary-biology argument to women in terms of sex selection. It is arguable that for men, there is an evol advantage to rape – and prolific rape: if a woman refuses then the man loses his chance to procreate. Forcing her will (subject to the fact that pregnancy is not a guarantee) increase the chances of him spreading his delightful genetic material around. Raping lots of women = even more chance of having lots of children. Therefore, one could say, sex selection / evolution would favour rape.

        Now. Of course, this ridiculous in the sense that there are other factors at play beyond simple evolution – the man might get caught, which would severely limit his reproductive capabilities, for example. However given you seem to be suggesting the woman is acting under somewhat (very) spurious evol-bio selection processes without you really suggesting that social factors can and indeed do play a role in our behaviours, interactions and decisions, why aren’t you considering what might be the most beneficial sex selection strategy for men?

        1. > why aren’t you considering what might be the most beneficial sex selection strategy for men?

          Because the issue I was addressing was women’s active role in courtship/ mating rituals – specifically the way women often turn men down even when they have an interest in them, so they can play men off against each other and/ or get a feel for how devoted and resourceful that man is likely to be in a relationship.

          I am acknowledging women’s agency and active participation in courtship and mating rituals and not simply defining women as ‘precious ornaments’ (ie objects) in the way that feminism does.

          Yes I agree that for males the biological drive to reproduce does seem to favour promiscuity (spreading his seed far and wide), but with humans there is the added factor that (a) pregnant women are extremely vulnerable and incapacitated relative to many other species and require a great deal of care in the later stages (b) it takes years to raise a human child unlike many animals where the newborns are relatively self sufficient in a matter of hours, days, weeks or months at the most. For humans it is about 16 years!

          So if men want to *successfully* reproduce they actually have a better bet if they stick around and provide resources and protection to their mate and their children.

          But of course in the last few decades we’ve seen feminism/ socialism push forward a bunch of policies which give women the right to transfer money from everybody else to themselves under threat of caging. This means many mothers now have a financial incentive to kick fathers out, or simply get pregnant by some random guy and not tell him about it.

          So in this way feminism coupled with the legalised violence of the state is helping to destroying hundreds of thousands of years of social/ moral progress. And we are now seeing the devastating effects on children who are now being routinely drugged to stop them from doing harm to themselves or others.

      5. > “And how can the female tell which man is most likely to hang around and participate in the raising of any future children? …. the answer is to by first advertising her sexual availability and desirability, and then denying all her male suitors sexual intimacy/ sexual relationship and seeing which ones demonstrate the most loyalty, devotion and persistence. Whoever wins in the competition of trying to impress her and woo her with gifts, special treatment, protection, adoration etc is chosen by her to be her partner.

        It’s a mating/ courtship ritual as old as time and this basic template is observed throughout the animal kingdom.”

        Or, as humans with rational (sometimes) thought, consciousness, symbolic language, complex behaviour we could…I don’t know…ask questions, learn about people, get to know someone, fuck a few people if we fancied. The fact that something occurs in animals does not mean that it translates to humans.

        > “Studies also show that a fatherless upbringing is the number one predictor of childhood dysfunction like depression, criminality, unwanted teenage pregnancy, gang culture etc.”

        Citation needed.

          1. A lesbian couple is still a ‘couple’, which is NOT the same as a single mother. ANY couple is going to have the advantage of having one partner doing childcare while the other works (swapping roles as and when).

            Also the studies you quoted are very small, with sample size of between 70 and 90. I’m not saying they are wrong but they certainly do not disprove the hundreds of much larger and more comprehensive studies which show the devastatingly adverse effects of fatherless/ single mother upbringing.

            And if the lesbian couple has adopted or gained custody in some legal way it is likely they have gone through a vetting process of some kind, which means they will all be above a certain threshold of sociao-economic status (able to provide a stable home etc).

            And there is no information I could find on whether the children in the study have contact with their fathers.

      6. Or alternatively, if we’re going historical, we could actually learn from the examples given by Jane Austen – who wrote a couple of scenarios about this communications problem about 200 years ago – and realise that most women really don’t want Mr Collinses, the men who can’t take a “No” at face value. On the other hand, women do (rather enduringly) like Mr Darcy, the man who accepts “No” for an answer with no expectation of any change of mind, but who changes the mind of the heroine without trying to, simply because he’s committed to being a decent person.

        1. So are you saying Mr Darcy accepted his rebuttal at face value, and so wandered off and found himself another partner who did want him and settled down with her instead?

        2. Hi Nic… Jane Austen can be a fun read. It’s nothing to base real relationships on. Mr. Darcy is a character. Janes real life was miserable. She wrote a fantasy. And there are no “mr. darcy’s” for real.

      7. I feel like your opinion on feminists feels more like the propaganda you liken them to than valid point in the initial bog. Women scream don’t be a rapist I say ok but I don’t think everyone heard you so keep shouting… I then assume they aren’t talking to me from that point on.

        1. Fine. You are entitled to ‘feel’ whatever you like.

          So let’s say a bunch of men form a massively influential group (as big as feminism). They claim women are inherently (genetically) predisposed towards beating their children. Undoubtedly some women do beat their children (studies show about 90% of women ADMIT to hitting their children).

          So, as a woman, would you be happy to accept the association of ‘woman’ with ‘child abuser’ even if that association didn’t apply to you specifically?

          Or do you think it’s better to treat everybody as individuals?

      8. We’re living in the Information Age, and there’s one new quality that trumps all the ones you mentioned: math intelligence. This occurs more often in autistic people, and so does being timid enough to ask for consent. So by asking for consent, a man is adertising his math skills.

        Non sequitur? No more so than all the indications you mentioned!

  82. This article is brilliant. Tea and consent. Who would’ve thought that two separate things can become one so easily. Thank you for putting this in front of people’s eyes.

  83. I loved your post too. I think the cup of tea analogy is useful. Two points from me: 1. For consent (and for great sex generally) there needs to be an invitation. This could be a nudge or a wink or some other verbal or non-verbal clue that essentially lets the other party know that you up for sex. This invitation/response is like a dance. If the door is not opened to you, you should not try to enter. If the door closes (because you are inept or make the other person uncomfortable or they have second thoughts) then the deal is off. And everyone – that’s everyone – can control their body and back off no matter how disappointed/frustrated they feel. 2. We all need to feel more comfortable about saying out loud “Would you like a cup of tea?” While the nudge-wink slow dance can be great fun, its really nice to know exactly what you are being invited to – ie, a cuddle, a nosh-up, of the full steam shag brand of tea. Let’s teach our young ones, girls especially, to say out loud – and not feel like they going to be thought of as a slag – I’d love to make love with you here are now. Are you up for it?

    1. > Let’s teach our young ones, girls especially, to say out loud – and not feel like they going to be thought of as a slag – I’d love to make love with you here are now. Are you up for it?

      There is nothing wrong with this, and it is a sign of a modern, ’empowered’, independent woman if she initiates sex or intimacy without needing to be woo’d and seduced first. BUT I think it’s worth pointing out that this type of pro-active behaviour does potentially reduce a woman’s value and leverage with the men she approaches.

      In other words, whoever is the one who is propositioned (traditionally this is the woman) has the most power in the interaction. It’s the same in ANY transaction. If you approach a potential buyer and say “I’d like to sell you my car” they have the power… but if they approach you and say “I’d like to buy your car” that power now shifts to you.

      A lot of women are understandably reluctant to give up the power that comes with playing it passive and waiting for men to make the first move because whoever gets approached and propositioned gets to set the terms of the interaction and even the future relationship (they get to name the price and draw up the contract, if you will). Traditionally this privilege has always belonged to women.

      And of course it is far easier for women to get laid than for men – it’s just one of those things – and so if a woman appears to have no problem propositioning a man for sex the man inevitably is going to wonder just how many other men this woman has shagged! It could be hundreds! …… or…. he might wonder why this particular woman is going around asking men like him for sex when most women can sit on a barstool and have men proposition her all night long. He might wonder if this woman has some major personality flaw or some other defect that means she is reduced to the status of men – who have to always go around looking for sex pro actively. Or perhaps she is a sex addict, and perhaps the man is actually looking for a proper relationship and not just sex.

      There are a hundred reasons why women – in general – still choose to play the passive role, and let the men proposition them. And another reason (which ties back in to the original topic) is that this passive approach allows her to turn down men’s advances, so she can then gauge their responses and pick the man who shows the most persistence and devotion to her. Being passive allows women to turn down a buch of men, and have those men then compete to win her affection, which in turn tells her which man is going to be the best partner. And this ‘selection proccess’ (observed throughout the animal kingdom) is something she would have to give up if she took a more pro active approach.

      I’m not arguing against women being pro active. In many ways the things you have to give up mean that any woman being pro active can also come across as very confident, self reliant and independent (an ‘Alpha woman’ if you like) and this can be very attractive too. But if the women does not look like an Alpha woman, she is likely to set off some alarm bells in men (unless they really are just after a casual shag).

      1. Howdy Curiosetta you ugly Troll… I see you found a space that will allow your vile windbag promoting violence against women. You sure do like to find all the nuanced ways women deserve to be degraded. Guess I’ll be seeing you around the blogosphere

        1. Hi Katherine,

          How are you feeling today? :)

          RE: ‘you ugly troll’

          If you wish to address any specific points in a comment I made with some facts or a well reasoned argument or an intelligent question then by all means go ahead.

  84. Totally, utterly, brilliant. Genius.
    And gorgeous eloquent important blog too! Thanks for giving voice to things we don’t always know how to articulate!

  85. As a man consent is important to me cos why would I want to have sex with someone who didn’t want to have sex with me? Sex is better when both people are consenting, not only when both people are attracted to each other but when they are both ready to have sex. As for no means maybe…

    A invites B over to watch a movie, B likes A so B agrees, A offers B some tea, B likes tea, B wouldn’t mind a cup of tea from A, B could go for a cup of tea right now actually but B is worried that A only wants to drink tea with B so B says no thanks.

    Reaction 1 – A takes that no to mean no and asks B to leave proving A was only interested in tea and the movie was a ruse… look at that B’s no did mean no!

    Reaction 2 – A takes no to mean maybe and keeps offering tea and goes so far as to make B a cup and just leave it here then ask ever 30 seconds if B’s sure they don’t want that tea or that the teas getting cold and maybe they should drink it cos A’s not making B another cup after that one… Again B’s no did mean no.

    Reaction 3 – A takes no to mean no but A likes spending time with B and tea or not a night together watching a movie is time well spent, A and B watch the movie, B has a great time and B’s fears that this was just a ploy to introduce tea into their dynamic are set aside, B suggests to A that one of them should put the kettle on… Wow B’s no meant maybe! right… errr no the no meant no but B is totally within their right s to change their mind to a yes at any time.

    Last point I wonder how many of the some women just want you to be persistent crowd would feel if a gay man was to take the same approach with a straight guy? Assuming that the consent discussion is mainly aimed at heterosexual men if in doubt just imaging how you would feel if a gay man did to you what you are doing to the woman you are with.

  86. With all due respect, this isn’t “perfect” or even remotely good. It is trivial and banal. There are absolutely no issues or debates around consent at the level of this metaphor or discussion. Everybody understands consent at this level; absolutely everybody. (Unfortunately, some don’t care, but they certainly go to jail if caught.)

    To see where the issues start, if using this metaphor, you need to address cases where somebody has fully said they want tea, they drank the tea, and then later (sometimes months to years) say they didn’t *really* want to and only agreed to drink it for various reasons.

    The metaphor also skips completely over the continuum of inebriation. It jumps from stone cold sober to passed out. Almost all issues surrounding consent and drinking these days have to do with the range between a couple of drinks and inebriated but actively consenting or even actively sexually aggressive. For example, in an Occidental College case, a young woman and man were both drinking and she was the sexual aggressor, as fully agreed by both people (http://is.gd/ds01Zn): “Both had been drinking, she went to his room, took off her shirt while dancing, made out with him and returned to his room later for sex, asking if he had a condom. When friends stopped by the room to ask if she was OK, she told them yes.” and “both parties were drunk but ‘willing participants exercising bad judgment’. Yet when she later regretted her own drunken actions, she had him kicked out of school based on her being drunk. The kicker is that his drunkenness is actually not allowed to be considered in the context of his actions. If anything, she was the aggressor and he was too drunk to consent, but since he didn’t file a complaint and she did, nobody is allowed to consider that. (He has since sued the school and, I understand, the college agreed to settle out of court.)

    The other big issue is around evidence of consent (or lack thereof). Consider Emma Sulkowicz’s case (http://is.gd/eXoXbv), the girl who dragged her mattress around. Did she consent? The courts, college, and the guy involved all say there is insufficient evidence to suggest she did … even with the low standard of “preponderance of the evidence”. She was actually very affectionate for up to 6 months after the alleged incident and only after things soured did she claim lack of consent.

    Then there’s the “Yes means yes” laws in California, where consent is defined to include “nonverbal cues” since participants in sexual activity rarely, if ever, explicitly ask at each step and that would surely kill the mood for both participants. The problem, of course, is that you have a person giving the clues and one receiving the clues, and there can be miscommunication. This is always true of any communication; this issue is what is *reasonable* interpretation then, not a trivial binary “yes” or “no thank you” issues. Where’s the “nonverbal cues” discussion in this “perfect metaphor” article?

    Perhaps the biggest problem with this “perfect metaphor” is that drinking tea is a solitary activity. Consent is irrelevant for tea, just leave a cup and let the person decide. Nobody ever asks for consent to pour tea down somebody’s throat because nobody does that. Sex is a two person activity (at least), and for one to have sex they both have to, hence the problem with consent.

    This metaphor is probably the *worst* metaphor I’ve ever heard … for anything. It has no relevance whatsoever to the topic and addresses none of the problems, or even the dynamics of the activity. It’s trivially useless and adds nothing to the conversation.

    1. Agreed – and what’s puzzling me now is why, of all the areas where consent is at play, ‘accepting tea’ is thought to be the germane analogy. Probably it’s best to reason directly about sexual consent on its own terms– without getting lost in analogies– but transgressions and miscommunications related to tea are so trivial that this analogy seems just insanely off base. A more useful analogy might be consent to medical care, where at least the grave issue of bodily integrity is implicated. I consider myself a feminist, but I don’t understand why large numbers of feminists are so drawn to the view that sexual consent that they applaud any facile argument or analogy leading to that conclusion.

      1. Hi Toscano, I meant to reply to another comment of yours but as the page reloaded on my browser, I lost track of it, amidst these 600+++ comments. So I have settle with replying to this one, unfortunately.
        I see that through your comments, you’re consistent with the point that the tea analogy is not perfect. As you and various other commentors add more and more to it, the more it spins out of control. And you know what, I agree with you. As seen from the POV of someone with a cent or two legal knowledge, there’s no way such simplification is going to cover everything that everyone in their own experiences had mentioned. However, you also see a lot of people- and who I presume – do not come from a legal academic background- who find this analogy made sense. And in some way, it made sense to me as well.
        I don’t think the analogy was about, or ever tried to be taken in a legal context. Rather, it is a very well simplified ‘code of conducts’ for the average Joe on how not to land himself/herself in the legal minefield.
        Even though I also agree with one of the commentors here that the laws must also address all the “what-ifs”, but we all know, that it is simply impossible. That’s why there are guidelines for judges to work around tricky cases on, and even then, we would still have one variable that is the judge in question him/herself. It’s not always about big legal obscure terms printed in enormous tomes and volumes, that vaguely, insufficiently or incorrectly define a set of certain actions or non-actions as “consent”, “non-consensual”, “coercive” or a myriad of other terms. It’s about human, a lot of human that are all different in their own ways. Amongst all that, the judges have to decide on that specific case, what is “right”. And even the concept of that varies from person to person, and is always changing as a whole. But I think by simply following the analogy, people would already save the judges a bunch of troubles and headaches.
        And since “consent” – as well as the human attempt to define any other concept/practices that also belong to billions of other human, most of which don’t study laws; but if we do, it’s probably only gonna make us argue more fiercely – is such a difficult thing to describe, we feminists just take anything we can man. I’m glad thanks to this post, the general public can understand a bit more about mutual respect for the other party regarding sexual interaction, and various other values people had associated with and described in the comments.
        Legally speaking? We raise the monocles and take the fight elsewhere.
        Now you must forgive me for if you had found any terms used incorrectly in the above text, as I’m not a native English speaker, and even more unfamiliar with legal English. I’m coming from a legal system very different from the US system as well. So that’s all, thanks for combing through the whole thing.

  87. This article and (most of the comments) is pure RAPE CULTURE. Tea is a very reckless way of speaking about unwanted sex is making for a thread of insensitive rape encouragers or minimizers and this is not a way to teach children or men or women how to relate in a healthy way. And you the author are just letting it all paste like casual opinion. The praise you are receiving and this freshly pressed popularity is dangerous to women.

  88. This is my first day of being a ” WordPresser ” , and Consent was the first article I read in its
    entirety !! I am a huge fan already! Although the next time I have tea, I think I will have them hold the ” cream ” !!!!

  89. Passed on your blog post to my niece who has just started college. It is a perfect way for her and friends to frame the discussions about sex and consent. Thank you.

  90. Thank you so much for this. It is so incredibly perfect, and so clever and amazing. I want to show this to every person I know and make them read it.

    I also want to let you know that this matters to me, not just as a woman but as a survivor. So many people try and cover up consent or brush over it and act like it doesn’t matter. But I’m sitting here reading this and crying because it matters, so incredibly much. No one should be able to force you to have a cup of fucking tea, no matter what.

    Right on, sister, right on.

  91. What if they say they want tea, drink the tea, but than feel guilty for drinking the tea. Then they say well I didn’t really want the tea in the first place, so you must have forced it on me. Though it has never happened to me I have seen it. Because some girl wants to sleep with a guy at a party, then the next day people find out about it and she get called names then she has regrets and says he must have raped her.

      1. Still doesn’t change the fact that the guy who made the tea is still going to get fucked. For something that isn’t actually his fault.

      2. @ Just a concerned citizen:

        That’s actually exactly what it changes.

        And if one goes around making tea for every inebriated person who asks for tea at parties, you might not be making smart judgement calls by obliging. Make tea for drunk people, expect to have to clean it up when they spill it on you.

      3. Jon Smith – Were you there when she asked for and happily drank the tea or did the gentleman just tell you about how she asked for tea? Do you have a good reason to believe she lied about not wanting the tea?

    1. I am assuming alcohol is a factor here. In that case, replace unconscious with “tea drunk” in her description above, and it answers your question. Let’s try together:

      “Ok, maybe they were THIRSTY 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 TEA DRUNK. You should just put the tea down, make sure the TEA DRUNK person is safe, and – this is the important bit – don’t make them drink the tea. They said yes then, sure, but TEA DRUNK people don’t want tea.”

      That is, if you are drunk, you cannot give consent, and you should not assume drunk people are able to give you consent. It’s a dangerous situation to put them and yourself in. Not having sex with drunk people ensures you do not rape drunk people.

      Why? Because everyone has different levels of tolerance and it is generally difficult to tell with drunk people if they are of sound enough mind to give consent. Maybe when you get super trashed you are still able to think logically and make decisions you would have made when you were sober…but many people are not, and most importantly, you cannot really tell with drunk people. The solution is not to have sex with drunk people. Easy.

    2. Yeah, I call bullsh*t on this whole scenario. Because you know what was in her mind, right? By virtue of some kind of special party-specific mind-reading radar, I suppose.

  92. This is a great metaphor. You cane add not making coffee drinkers drink tea just because you do to it :) or forcing people to drink green tea when they actually want chai.

  93. This was incredibly inspiring. A delicate issue treated with delicacy and compassion, and clarifies (using a tea metaphor! And let’s face it, the mere presence of tea makes everything better) a simple and powerful truth. It shouldn’t matter how often we drink tea or who our tea-companions are; if you don’t want tea, you don’t want tea!

  94. This is a great piece, but I fear it may sweep some rather common and very difficult situations under the rug. For example–and I’d like to take care to sidestep the crushing heteronormativity that always seems to dominate these discourses, here–let’s say we have two young women who are partying, get rather inebriated, and end up spending the night together, engaging in mutually enthusiastic sexual activity while in an altered state of consciousness. The following morning they wake up naked in bed, and neither one remembers a thing, but a roommate assures them that they were indeed going at it all night long. Was there necessarily a violation of consent in this situation, based solely on the information given? What if one of the women feels violated, simply because she doesn’t feel like she would have chosen to do such a thing in her normal frame of mind? What if BOTH women feel that way? Obviously I’m not demanding actual answers to these questions; my point is just that there are times when consent is anything but simple. The hypothetical example I just gave is a perfectly ordinary scene that plays out every day, all over the world. It’s not a contrived thought experiment. Can we really say that there are no murky and distressingly contentious questions to be answered in such cases? I doubt it, since even consent activists can’t seem to actually agree on how to answer them. Perhaps it would be best to bear that rather important fact in mind, instead of blithely dismissing consent as “not complicated”. After all, if we say that consent can’t be complicated, then we will have erased the many people and situations in which problematic consent behavior arises under circumstances that we all agree are indeed somewhat difficult to appraise. I find that to be an exceedingly dangerous proposition.

    1. Well I take issue with the idea that people who are drunk to the point of real insomnia could perform at all, let alone all night.

      I think that the points above still stand… If either party are particularly drunk then default should not be “well let’s capitalise on drunken hornyness” it should be “this will be at best sloppy and awkwark and at worst something that makes one of us feel violated.”

      1. Oh, I agree completely that sloppy drunk sex isn’t generally a smart idea, and that the responsible thing to do is to avoid it unless there’s good reason to be confident that no one will have any regrets afterward. My point is simply that edge-case situations actually do arise rather frequently, so it’s important for us to be able to have conversations about where the boundaries of good consent lie. Blanket statements about how consent is “not complicated” can be dangerous, because they may serve to shut down those conversations, and also because most people instinctively understand that definitions of consent vary enough to prevent the issue from being entirely black or white, and will therefore dismiss anyone who appears to be engaging in glib oversimplifications.

        I’ve also got to point out that the common notion that “drunk enough to have memory loss = too drunk to engage in competent, enthusiastic sex” is a dangerous myth. The effects of alcohol on the brain are such that it’s actually fairly common for people to experience profound memory loss after a night of only moderate drinking. I have a couple of friends who never remember anything that happens when they drink, even though they always retain the ability to behave normally all night. You’d never even know they were under the influence just by watching them. Alcoholics seem particularly prone to this, as they gradually learn to achieve higher and higher levels of very convincing-looking functionality while profoundly drunk. None of this is to say that a victim’s story should be doubted or dismissed due to memory loss, of course! I just think we need to move past the simplistic and inaccurate assumption that only sloppy-wasted people lose their memories, when both formal research and personal testimony clearly indicate otherwise.

  95. That’s an awesome way to explain the most basic thing like SEX.. I love the way you have written it in a way that does not demean either / blame the man or the women..

  96. Kudos. A very well written piece. It baffles me when I’m reminded that there are still people who struggle with this concept…

    Now, my question is, what if they ask for cream, but you didn’t think that the tea was that great and, consequently, are unable to honour the request?

  97. I don’t understand why people find the idea of consent so difficult. Just don’t do sex on someone who doesn’t want you to do sex on them.

  98. Also, if someone says yes they’d like a cup of tea and then they start drinking it but then half way through they just change their mind and put down the cup, they’re not obliged to finish it.

    Also; if someone says yes to tea and ask for two sugars and they start drinking it but then they find that there are no sugars in it, and so they decide to stop drinking it, they’re not obliged to finish it. In this metaphor two sugars is a condom and you’re that creepy WikiLeaks guy.

    Valid consent can be withdrawn at any time, and consent given with stipulations ceases to be real once those stipulations are broken.

  99. Good tea analogy, and I don’t disagree with anything you’re saying, but I think there are situations where consent can actually be quite complicated; eg when people want tea but are too ashamed to say so, or when people want kinky tea action, or when people say they want tea but are just being polite… (I made a kinky tea flow chart to try and address this:
    http://sexlovebdsm.blogspot.com/2014/12/on-consent-picking-apart-different.html)

  100. Wonderful, great analogy. I cannot understand how people struggle with this, you either consent or you don’t. Best article I have read on the matter!

  101. Thank you. Really enjoyed reading that; makes the point clearly. Serving tea to someone who doesn’t want it, is unconscious, ambivalent or doesn’t appear all that into it is obviously just wrong.

    Partly agree with some of the comments here though. My ex-girlfriend used to love tea. I don’t like it but I loved her a lot. She wanted me to love tea as much as she did; the prospect of my liking tea as much as she did made her happy. So, because I loved her and wanted to make her happy, when she asked if I wanted tea I nodded, smiled and said ‘yes, I really would, thank you’. Even though I didn’t want any. And then, when she brought it to me, I made a great show of slurping it down and appearing to enjoy it. Even though I didn’t enjoy it. But it made her happy that I seemed to like the tea, which in turn made me happy.

    We did split up in the end, but that was due to an argument about rugs rather than tea.

    Dan

  102. what about when someone says yes I’d love a cup of tea but then you give it to them and they later decide actually drinking tea was frowned upon so they say that you forced them to drink tea and you serve either 10 years or a lifetime of being frowned upon by your peers because you can’t actually prove you didn’t , after all your tea is in their stomach.

    1. The rate of false rape allegations is 2% – 8%. In other words, it is the same as all other crime. False allegations are horrible and can destroy someone’s life but they are rare.

  103. I thought of one more item to extend the analogy. Sometimes tea drinkers just want hot water with lemon. Even though they are enjoying the water hot, they might just not feel up to the way tea is going to make their stomach feel.

  104. This is a terrible analogy. In it, both sides are driven by a powerful biological urge developed over million of years to want to drink tea. However, only one side of the potential tea drinking couple ever initiates the tea making process, and the cues that someone may want a cup are either non-verbal or wholly absent. Also asking “would you like a cup of tea” is socially unacceptable and may lead to someone declining tea, even if they were actually thinking about having one.

    On top that, you will probably only meet other potential tea drinkers when moderately to severely inebriated. If you suggest tea to someone who doesn’t want it you may be branded a “teep”. Of course, making someone drink tea who doesn’t want it is terrible, but if there is a suggestion that you gave someone tea against their will you will be publicly vilified and likely prosecuted,even if you didn’t at all.

    So it is quite complicated, after all.

    1. Sorry for the late reply, but you are making tea wrong. Your partner isn’t a child, you don’t need to avoid rude words around hir, and they are giving signals, though you seem to be ignoring them. Ask. Talk about why only one of you is initiating sexytimes. Make ‘both of you initiate sex’ one of your criteria for whether a [new?] relationship is worth pursuing.

      Make a rule that the first time you get into bed with a new partner, you will only do [low level you set]. Don’t rush past the being a teenager stage with someone new. They might be surprised, they might find it frustrating, but it really is rather nice when someone wants you and says so. If you only want a one night stand, stick to things they have already done to you, or explicitly asked for, and tell them it’s a one night stand. They might leave, or they might try something new. You won’t know.

      But getting to a second/nth night without regrets is part of what this is about, and not pushing for the max you can get without asking is a much better way to avoid the scenario you describe than ignoring the problem.

  105. I recommend this addition: “If someone has already been drinking a lot of another beverage, it is unlikely they will want some tea. Just assume they do not want any and perhaps offer it to someone who has not already filled up on beverages, or save your tea for another time.” (dealing with intoxication and consent)

  106. I really like this metaphor, I only have one question: What about the scenario that they say “I do want a cup of tea” or “I’m not really sure if I want a cup of tea” and then you make them a cup of tea, fully willing to pour it down the drain if they decide later they aren’t interested, and they drink it and then they say that they didn’t actually want a cup of tea, they were just being polite or felt pressured by you to do drink it? This is the sticky scenario consent faces.

  107. I like this a lot but I fear the most problematic scenario is the one which is not addressed.
    Sticking with tea…
    You offer the tea, they say yes… they start drinking it then once half consumed they decide they don’t like it after all. At that point they say you shouldn’t have given them it in the first place. You take the cup back and apologise (possibly unnecessarily) but they blame you for the unpleasant experience.
    So who is at fault here?

  108. Until we all enjoy a society in which all people understand the concept of innocent until proven guilty perhaps all tea parties should be required to be video taped by, and stored with, an independent government agency so that, if required, consent can be shown to have been provided both before and during the festivities. That way there can be no discussion as to whether or not the tea was initially and willingly accepted and also whether or not that acceptance was denied after the fact thereby casually ruining somebody’s life forever. Definitely a win/win n’es pas? And no, I don’t think signed and witnessed affidavits would do; lawyers pick those things apart all the time. Yup – consent – it really is that simple.

  109. Perhaps the author of this post should become a lawyer so she can argue her stupendously simple understanding of consent in front of a judge. I wonder if the author is aware of the damage that she and other similar commentators are doing to the level of the discussion by espousing this type of glib over-simplification while denying the legitimate concerns raised regarding the other side of this issue. While I’m sure it plays very well to it’s intended target audience, the misandry on display is appalling. The one lesson my mom taught me early on was “Two wrongs don’t make a right”. Perhaps the author may want to take that advise to heart.

  110. What if somebody’s made a rule that, by law, you can’t actually agree to a cup of tea because officially you don’t know what drinking a cup of tea entails?

    In the light of Operation Yewtree: what if you change your mind about whether or not you want that cup of tea, 30-odd years after you happily drank it, because you’ve now been conditioned to believe that tea’s really bad for you in a lot of circumstances and you should be traumatised if you drank a cup of it back then?

    Yes. Consent is utterly obvious. Except when times and/or laws and/or changes in moral climates dick around with the very idea of it.

  111. “Ah No Mrs Doyle, I -”
    “Ah go onnn…”
    “No really, Mrs Doyle, I don’t -”
    “Ah ya will, ya will….YA WILL”

    We’re forgetting “forced consent”: at what point, as Father Ted is worn down to consent to having “tea”, do we stop considering it “lack of consent”, if at all? (Change genders if it helps. Add sex too. If you acquire “consent” by verbal insistence, is that consent?)