Since sexual assault remains disturbingly common and misunderstandings about consent abound, a number of analogies to explain consent have popped up around the Internet over the past few years. Teresa Lee's "How To Explain Consent Through Masturbation" video just presented a new one. In it, Lee talks about how sex is like masturbation — and not just in the most obvious way. The same way you wouldn't have sex with yourself when you don't want to, you wouldn't have sex with someone else when you don't want to. Simple, right?
Lee addresses the basic tenets of consent through the masturbation analogy. First of all, if you don't want to masturbate, you just don't, and if you plan to masturbate and then change your mind, you just stop. Secondly, if you want to masturbate but only want to do so in a particular way (say, with a vibrator), then you don't do it if you don't have those means available (say, if your vibrator's out of batteries). This point is useful in explaining how consent to sex with a condom, for example, does not constitute consent to sex without one. Thirdly, if you consider masturbating and maybe even start but are too drunk to carry on, you don't do it.
You could also take it a step further: If you've taken your clothes off and gotten into bed, that doesn't necessarily mean you're going to masturbate. Even if you get out your vibrator, you don't have to masturbate.
"You never argue with yourself when you don't want to masturbate," she points out. "You either want to or you don't."
If this analogy doesn't do it for you, there are many, many other ones out there. One viral video uses tea as an analogy for sex. If you offer someone tea, you don't give it to them unless they tell you they want it. If they want tea one day, that doesn't mean they want it the next. And if they're too drunk to drink tea, you don't give them tea.
Alli Kirkham's Everyday Feminism consent comics present a number of other analogies: You wouldn't borrow an item from someone without asking, make someone keep watching a movie they're tired of, or give a tattoo to an unconscious person, for example. These situations are all easy to understand, and sex should be, too.
Since all these resources are out there, we have to wonder: To what extent does the prevalence of sexual assault reflect a lack of understanding and need for analogies, and to what extent do people already know what consent is (considering that it's pretty simple) and still not practice it because they've been taught not to value women's autonomy? It's a difficult question to answer, but we do now have yet another way to address the first possibility. Watch the full video above.