Teenagers need direct messages about sex consent not confusing and demeaning videos about milkshakes, tacos and pizza, says Susie O’Brien.
Teenagers need direct messages about sex consent not confusing and demeaning videos about milkshakes, tacos and pizza, says Susie O’Brien.

'Sex consent can’t be taught with milkshake videos'

OPINION

Teenagers should not have to learn about sexual consent from confusing and demeaning videos about milkshakes, sharks, tacos and pizza.

It's not surprising federal resources designed to teach school students about respect and consent have been widely condemned as a bizarre, insulting and irrelevant.

In the past year we've been given a loud wake-up call from young women, telling us their stories about being forced to have sex by their male peers, assaulted when they are too drunk to say no and badgered into non-consensual sexual relations.

Rape prevention campaigners have slammed the consent videos as potentially harmful. Picture: The Good Society
Rape prevention campaigners have slammed the consent videos as potentially harmful. Picture: The Good Society

 

These serious incidents of abuse, harassment and rape mirror the wider sexual landscape, where young men in federal parliament think it's okay to pleasure themselves on a female colleague's desk. Where a long-serving MP takes upskirting shots of strangers and doesn't lose his job. Where a political party's polling was deemed more important than a young woman's rape claim.

The young people negotiating their own sexual interactions against such a backdrop deserve clear, practical and direct materials helping them work out what's acceptable and what is not.

They do not need videos showing one female smearing milkshake on a young male's face in a weird rape simulation, clips showing a female being scared of sharks at the beach representing unwanted pregnancy, or learning about sexual assault by eating tacos.

 

The video doesn’t use any words like sex, rape or assault. Picture: The Good Society
The video doesn’t use any words like sex, rape or assault. Picture: The Good Society

 

The materials, from The Good Society website, were launched as part of the Department of Education's Respect Matters program. There are around 350 videos, stories, podcasts and curriculum materials aimed at young people in years 10 to 12 and they were released by Education Minister Alan Tudge last week.

They appear to have been created by a PR firm rather than anyone with any experience in teaching sexual consent.

None of the videos use the words sex, rape or assault, so what's the point?

This is a generation that was exposed to hard core online pornography before they left high school, so cutesy metaphors about sharks and fast food are totally meaningless.

If we want young people to learn about healthy sexual encounters then we have to talk about sex and abuse and rape.

The stories in Chanel Contos' sexual consent petition show young women are aware of what consent is on a theoretical level, but feel confused and pressured when the perpetrator is a male peer whom they've got a relationship with.

 

Chanel Contos’ petition to teach sex consent in schools has sparked discussion about the issue.
Chanel Contos’ petition to teach sex consent in schools has sparked discussion about the issue.

 

What's needed is highly sophisticated and nuanced discussions of the issues, not graphics about football fields and misleading messages such as the suggestion that "sexual desire can distort our thinking".

Some of the videos also depict females as the perpetrators when more than three quarters of sexual assault is perpetrated by men.

Even more concerning is the misinformation in the accompanying guidebook, which doesn't include any information about reporting to police.

Victoria has a sexuality and sexual consent policy making it mandatory to provide age-appropriate information at all ages.

Let's hope teachers stick to the much more helpful state material and leave the federal Respect Matters program alone.

Originally published as Sex consent can't be taught with milkshake videos



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