8 thoughts on “Brilliant Youtube on Sex and Consent”

  1. From 1999 to 2003 I did a fair amount of work on community based alternatives to police and courts in dealing with sex offending. As I’m sure you know the actual rape is often just the start of the pain and humiliation the victim goes through and the legal process all too often makes the whole thing much worse. The offender is generally someone quite close to the victim and the outcomes offered by the legal system are often unwanted by everyone involved.

    What I learned is that simple, straightforward, obviously non-consensual rapes are the exception rather than the rule – at least in the cases our NGO dealt with – and that large disparities in power between the offender and victim often made meaningful negotiation over sex pretty much impossible.

    Despite what their lawyers might tell them to claim in court I think there are very few people indeed who think sex with an unconscious partner could be construed as consensual, so even if that clip was made compulsory viewing for everyone I doubt it would clear up much confusion. But on the other hand there are also many people who routinely deny agency – at least partially – over their sexual decisions. Think of the women who like to pretend they’re drunk or the men who claim to have been ‘driven’ to it by ‘prick-teasing’.

    But the big question that the clip fails to address at all is the one Andrea Dworkin was so well known for. The question of relative power. Does ‘yes’ really mean ‘yes’ if you’re alone with him in his car on a country road at midnight? Does ‘no’ really mean ‘no’ if your community will slut-shame you for saying ‘yes’ too quickly?

    I still don’t have answers to a lot of the questions those four years raised in my mind – especially the ones about myself – and the tea clip doesn’t even come close to them. Several of my blogposts are attempts to come to terms with those questions.


  2. Hi Cabrogal, Yes, you make a good point about coffee and there was actually a very good essay that I wanted to post here too, that did this as well, with the issue being Cake..What do you do when someone offers cake? Because then it is not so simple. There are all sorts of issues that complicate cake taking and eating and offering, including guilt, just for starters, so of course that would be much more like the issues around sex. The tea business way over simplifies it, yes, but I think it is a start, and believe me some people really do need it simplified just to start off with. After they get the BASICS down, then you can offer complexities, but if they don’t get the point that NO TEA (or sex) forced on an unconscious person, then clearly the complexities, or niceties, whichever way you see it, of guilt and shame and other “stuff” won’t get through at all.

    Thanks for the comment, much appreciated!



  3. Actually I think the clip is pretty useless except as a moral touchstone for people who like to imagine the question of consent to sex is always unambiguous.

    If communication around sex was really as straightforward as it generally is around tea there would be no confusion. But it’s not.

    Even tea isn’t really that simple. There are plenty of people and cultures in which it would be SOP to initially refuse an offer of tea even when it’s wanted. In some middle-eastern cultures its traditional to refuse offers of hospitality three times before accepting them.

    As little as 50 years ago it was assumed that any woman who said yes to sex the first time was a slut and a long ritual of faux refusal was expected. There are still some people – even in ‘progressive’ communities – who subscribe to variations of that kind of mating ritual and adolescents still obsess over ‘how far’ it’s appropriate to go on a first, second or third date regardless of their personal preferences.

    And that’s just tea. What does it mean when she invites you up for ‘coffee’?


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