Viral video ‘Tea Consent’ gaining traction in wake of sexual assault coverage

Apr 4, 2016 | News

(Screenshot via 'Tea Consent' video on YouTube)

(Screenshot via ‘Tea Consent’ video on YouTube)

Ryan Durgy

Recent high profile sexual assault cases in Canada and the United States have created resurgence of the viral video ‘Tea Consent’ which simply explains sexual consent through the analogy of making, serving and drinking tea.

Rachel Brian, the animator behind the video, told Humber News that  the video can especially be useful in educational settings.

“I think the video is filling a very strong need in society,” Brian said.”The fact that people are sort of dealing with it head-on is great.”

Brian said she had been working on a script for almost a year about sexual assault but tabled the idea, finding it difficult to figure out a way to animate it.

That’s when a post from Emmeline May, also known as Rockstar Dinosaur Princess, went viral explaining consent by comparing it to serving someone tea: if that person doesn’t want tea, then don’t serve them tea.

Brian says she contacted May about animating the tea comparison and they went forward with the video from there.

Brian said some might say that the video doesn’t go into the complexity of sexual assault.

“It’s a beginning of a conversation, it is not everything about sexual assault,” she said. “There’s plenty of more to talk about.”

Lisa Taylor, a Ryerson School of Journalism professor and expert in media coverage of sexual assault, said the video did a great job at teaching consent.

“It gets way more effective when you reduce it to something as banal as making and serving a cup of tea,” Taylor said.

“Then the very ludicrous nature of even contemplating trying to have sex with someone who is not a willing, enthusiastic partner who is confident to give consent, is just so damn clear. [The video is] wonderful,” she said.

Taylor said the reason the video has been making the rounds again on social media is because of the recent headlines about sexual assault and the discussion surrounding consent.

“Having those discussions amplified so incredibly by social media, the consent conversation has never been greater,” Taylor said.

Taylor said another great thing about the ‘Tea Consent’ video is that it is not gender binary or heteronormative.

“We certainly know that people who identify as trans or otherwise gender fluid are at greater risk of sexual assault,” she said.

Taylor said that while we are making progress as a society with understanding consent and discussing sexual assault, more still needs to be done.

“Those conversations aren’t yet happening yet with young men. It seems to be a no brainer that parents have that conversation with their teenage daughters,” she said.

“It’s not a conversation that we’re having often enough with teenage boys,” Taylor said.

Brian said that her studio, Blue Seat Studios, is creating videos directed at a college age audience, including how to report sexual assault and support people who have experienced it.

“Colleges are really struggling right now,” Brian said. “They want to do something about sexual assault, it’s basically a culture of sexual assault that’s on campus.”

Brian said she hopes the videos can help students understand consent and bystander intervention better.

“Things that used to just sort of get brushed under the rug are being addressed more directly now,” she said.