Lots of people have shared it with me, the “Consent: not actually that complicated” thing, including the little video. Summary: you wouldn’t force tea on someone who doesn’t want tea, and the same applies to sex. It’s funny and true and great.

I haven’t shared it.

It’s not that I don’t like it or agree with it – I do (though I’m still looking for evidence that consent education actually prevents sexual violence. I know it sounds counterintuitive at first, but think about it: the problem is not that the majority of sexual perpetrators DON’T KNOW what consent is; it’s that they DON’T CARE. They feel entitled to the other person’s body and the person’s lack of “yes” doesn’t represent any kind of barrier to them.)

Consent education is mandated for new students on college campuses, and this wouldn’t be a bad starting place for lots of schools. It could well be that consent education helps bystanders recognize the precursors of violence with reduced ambivalence or ambiguity. Helping people recognize the precursors of interpersonal violence is one of the goals of bystander education, along with teaching them strategies for responding and supporting them in feeling personally responsible for doing something.

And it could well be that the people who perpetrate violence “accidentally,” as it were, because they didn’t realize they didn’t have consent, would be helped by having such a clear, simple analogy.

And it could well be that consent education like this is part of changing the cultural discourse around sexual violence, placing responsibility solely on the perpetrator as the one who didn’t get that you’re not allowed to just make people do things they don’t want to do.

All of that is REALLY IMPORTANT.


I’m worried that “Here’s what consent looks like” education teaches people what behaviors they need to create in the other person in order to have “gotten” consent. And – because: patriarchy and terrible sex ed and sexual shame etc – that’s a hot mess.

Because sometimes consent… well look. How about I put it in a 3-panel comic:


I would like to give you tea. Do you want tea?

Things I want... Things I don't want



Did this person want tea? No. Did they want lots and lots of other things that come with tea? Yes.

Alternatively maybe tea is on a person’s “Things I Want” list, but the “Things I Don’t Want” list includes things like “exposure to this person’s germs” or “to let this person see me drinking tea” or “social reputation consequences” or whatever else can come with tea.

“This is how you know you have consent” doesn’t teach people to recognize what a person really wants when they say yes – and it certainly doesn’t teach either partner how to clarify.

And it just… it feel dismissive of the experience of the person being asked for consent, to say it’s as simple as wanting tea or not wanting tea, like it’s an off-switch/on-switch.


I hope you will comment and tell me why I’m wrong to worry, tell me stories about the good conversations you’ve had with people as a result of the tea analogy.

And even just the fact that I’m writing this post indicates the good that the tea analogy does, right?

I just wanted to pipe up and say…

Consent: slightly more complicated, because a person can both want tea and not want tea at the same time.

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