Friday FREAK OUT! Consent, just like a cuppa tea

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“hey, would you like a cup of tea?”

In the last week or so, I’ve seen one particular blog post about consent pop up several times in my Facebook feed, Twitter, and  yep, it made it to Buzzfeed. In this post, Consent: Not actually that complicated, blogger Emmeline May compares seeking consent to offering someone a cup of tea:

…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?

And so on… (you should definitely read the whole post!)

Her post, written in a very approachable, colloquial, conversational tone, has people freakin’ out a bit- mostly in good ways.  (And from her follow-up post, seems like she’s had a bit of a freak-out, too, given the attention her blog is suddenly getting in response to her tea analogy post- from an average of 13 views/day to 30,000!) Emmeline’s blog, Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate Princess, isn’t focused on sexual assault prevention, it’s not a bog about sex/sexuality specifically, it’s a blog written by a young woman sharing her voice. Her posts vary in topic, but often discuss feminism, intersections, bodies, and she actually started her blog as part of her journey to not drink alcohol for a given period of time (initially 3 months, then it shifted to a year). So I think that her post on consent, which she wrote as a “short one” not imagining that it would go viral, appeals to people’s need to talk about consent as an everyday activity, in everyday terms. Much of the recent dialogue about consent has been shrouded in controversy, legalese, and policy debacles, and her post is more about understanding the concept of consent and how to apply it in real life. It reminds me of peer-to-peer messaging (she even shares that the post was inspired by her conversation with someone else!), helping others to realize that practicing consent can be straightforward.

However, sometimes life really isn’t that simple. As my friend and colleague Meredith White shares, “Where consent becomes complicated is when you factor in power, which this analogy does not address. A power differential can make “no” difficult or terrifying to say. A lack of power can quash a person’s agency, which is necessary in order to articulate desires.” As more and more people encounter Emmeline’s tea analogy, it’s important to encourage further critical thinking about the context and relationship of the tea drinkers, especially considering power dynamics and individual agency.

In a perfect world, consent would be as simple as having tea, however it’s going to take more education and skills development, with consistent messaging about how consent is essential, mandatory, ongoing, and also best when enthusiastic! So let’s still freak out about tea, but maybe with a grain of salt.

 

consent- just ask

Resource Highlight: The Sex Ed Store

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Description The Sex Ed Store is an outstanding resource for all things sex ed. There you can get a plethora of curricula on a range of topics, you can get a contraception kit, and it’s run by the amazing Center for Sex Education (CSE). A few examples of print resources available include Sex Ed in the Digital Age, Teaching Transgender Toolkit, and Older Wiser, Sexually Smarter. If you’re interested in learning more about some of the lessons published in curricula available at the Sex Ed Store, check out Sexually Smarter, a blog by the CSE.

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Using this resource The store is there for you! Anyone can order from the online store, although the resources available are admittedly geared towards educators. The lesson plans may supplement curricula, since many manuals are set up to be buffet-style (pick and choose what you like), or the curriculum can stand on its own. Some manuals do assume a certain level of training and education for the facilitator, but fortunately the Center for Sex Education also provides training sessions!

Why I like it The Sex Ed store has resources developed and edited by some of the leading professionals in the field. Many of their curricula consist of lesson plans written by different sexuality educators, incorporating diverse voices and perspectives. Their resources are peer-reviewed and are thoughtful and relevant. In addition, the Center for Sex Education makes sure to update their manuals regularly so they are reflective of current issues and trends. The curricula also have easy-to-use lesson plans with clear instructions and rationales, utilizing sound educational approaches. There are resources for people of all ages- young adolescents, young adults, and older adults. Lastly, sexuality educators are often invited to submit contributions, so it can be a great way for your ideas to be shared with the larger community.

How you can get it Visit the website to order (or preorder) resources. The Sex Ed Store also makes appearances at events and conferences, especially the Center for Sex Education’s annual conference.

Note! I will likely cover some specific resources from the Sex Ed Store in future posts, so stay tuned!