A cup of tea. It’s warm, comforting, and incredibly British. It’s also a simple yet effective way to explain a complex and controversial concept: sexual consent.
This week the consequences of a sexual assault case at one of the most prestigious universities in the United States caused outrage and introspection. Brock Turner’s light jail sentence and his victim’s candid account of the January 2015 assault on the Stanford University campus have reignited a debate about the understanding of sexual consent, a big problem on many American college campuses.
Now this British video is being widely circulated to explain the concept of consent. The three-minute video was produced as part of a 2015 campaign by Thames Valley Police. It features animated stick figures and uses a cup of tea as an analogy for sex.
It may seem like the most British approach to the issue possible, but the video is resonating with many Americans online.
It’s been shared widely by social media users, including "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling, who tweeted the video to her 7.44 million Twitter followers.
This is awesome. Watch this. Sexual consent explained in terms of making a cup of tea. Seriously. Watch.
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) June 10, 2016
— Alex McCord (@mccordalex) June 10, 2016
A splendidly British explanation of consent.https://t.co/f2MXsvE8Qh
— Justin Wolfers (@JustinWolfers) June 9, 2016
The video is striking in its simplicity. A staid British voice details various scenarios. It’s equal parts tongue-in-cheek and somber.
"If you say, ‘Hey, would you like a cup of tea?,' and they're like, 'Uh, you know, 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, and this is the important bit, don't make them drink it. Just because you made it doesn't mean you're entitled to watch them drink it. And if they say, ‘No thank you,' then don't make them tea. At all.”
Perhaps most relevant in the wake of the Stanford case is this portion about consent and consciousness.
"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 the kettle, brew the tea and add the milk, they are now unconscious. Don’t make them drink the tea. They said ‘yes’ then, sure, but unconscious people don’t want tea.”