Consent: Unconscious people don’t want tea, OK?

Being an optimistic person, I’m hoping the fallout from the Brock Turner rape case (you know the one — the Stanford swimmer sentenced to only six months in jail, with all the letters from family and friends saying he’s a good guy and shouldn’t lose his love of ribeye steaks just because he was sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a Dumpster) will force more people to talk about consent and entitlement.

In some cases, sure — it’s complicated. A few people out there still think “something happened” at the Duke lacrosse party that ended in blatantly false rape allegations. That’s pathetic. And yes, there’s a difference between regretting something the next morning and having someone to accuse.

But in this discussion, we need to start with what’s clear-cut and proceed from there. If you’re the father of a son (and I am), the lesson you teach is really simple.

Don’t rape anyone.

For daughters, rape prevention is a more difficult conversation. Should you avoid drinking in places you might be vulnerable? How much responsibility can you take for your own surroundings?

Even then, there’s no guarantee of safety. You may have seen the recent story of the woman who went out to dinner with a work friend, only to be grateful for the intervention of three strangers who saw the guy slip something in her drink.

So those of us who drew the “male” end of the cosmic coin toss have it far simpler.

Don’t rape anyone.

One of the best pieces I’ve seen on the Turner case was from one father to another:

The idea that your son has never violated another woman next to a dumpster before isn’t a credit to his character. We don’t get kudos for only raping one person in our lifetime. I don’t believe your son is a monster but he acted like one and that needs to be accounted for. To be sure, this decision is not the sum total of Brock’s life, but it is an important part of the equation and it matters deeply.


Look, Brock Turner is the lucky one. He’s lucky two Swedish guys on bicycles stopped by when they did and stopped him from doing any more than he did. He has an opportunity to get through his time in prison and then start a real conversation — not about “promiscuity and alcohol,” which was never the issue here, but about consent.

And he can start by emerging from prison with a simple statement:

Don’t rape anyone.

Another bit of viral content going around today is utterly charming, and it’s a good-humored way of wrapping up this serious topic. A random blogger made an analogy of consent and tea. It had another simple statement: Unconscious people don’t want tea.

It has since been animated, with several versions floating around, one used by Thames Valley Police with a narrator who specializes in British understatement.

Simple, right?

We can talk about all sorts of ways to prevent rape. Sure, we should have conversations about alcohol — sometimes, people aren’t unconscious but are still in a state in which they can’t really consent.

But for men, it all hinges on one thing:

Don’t rape anyone.

That’s not a sure-fire defense against rape allegations. The Duke lacrosse guys went through a horrible experience they did not deserve. So did the fraternity at UVA that was impugned by fabrications repeated to Rolling Stone.

But it’s a sure-fire defense against rape.


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