Can milkshakes and sharks teach kids consent?
Criticism over the government’s ‘bizarre’ new campaign designed to educate school kids on consent have come from sex educators and advertising bodies alike. In the campaign, actors discuss respectful relationships with the help of a milkshake, taco and a shark.
The videos, made by The Good Society, Morrison government’s Respect Matters organisation, discuss topics involving consent and relationships across the different school groups. In the videos aimed at senior high-school students (Years 11-12), actors act out the process of gaining consent through a discussion of ‘trying milkshakes’ and other activities.
The ‘Moving the Line’ campaign also features a man trying to convince a woman to swim in shark-infested waters, reassuring her that they’ll be fine with his spear gun. Another depicts a man eating tacos to discuss sexual assault, saying that people have desires and objects such as tacos do not.
According to The Good Society website, all content has been developed to align with the Australian curriculum, but rape prevention advocates have criticised the resources, saying that they fail to meet national education standards.
Fair Agenda and End Rape on Campus on Australia (EROCA) called for a complete review of the content featured on the website. In a statement, the two groups said the videos are often “confusing” for teens trying to navigate the behaviours the videos try to address.
Caitlin Roper of Collective Shout, a national body campaigning against the objectification in media and advertising, agreed and told 9Honey the videos are “confusing and awkward”.
“They underestimate young people’s ability to comprehend sexual assault completely,” Roper said.
“It’s important to have a national dialogue, but the content widely missed the mark.”
The Good Society launched last week with 350 online materials about safe and respectful relationships for schools and families. As part of the government’s Respect Matters program, the program aims to support respectful relationships education in Australian schools and change attitudes of young people around domestic, sexual, and family violence.
The push for better consent education came after Sydney activist Chanel Contos’ petition to teach consent earlier, which received 4,000 testimonies detailing school-aged sexual assault.
These include allegations of violent rapes, coerced drinking, and sexual harassment, mostly perpetrated by young male students.
Roper says the new videos, including the one depicting a woman rubbing a milkshake in a man’s face, avoid ‘real, honest, and meaningful conversations’ and neglect to acknowledge the ‘highly gendered’ nature of sexual assault.
Depicting a woman as the perpetrator, “didn’t acknowledge the fact it is overwhelmingly women and girls enduring sexual assault and rape by men and boys,” Roper said.
“Kids are open to having these tough conversations, but the concept of consent alone is quite limited.”
“Better education around sex and consent is largely meaningless without looking at the wider culture and male sexual entitlement,” she said.
A recent report by UN Women found that 97 percent of women experienced some form of sexual assault or harassment before they turn 24, and 97 percent of men who experienced sexual assault were assaulted by men.
The videos also drew criticism for downplaying the experience of the victim and for offering more support to the perpetrator.
In a narration over an infographic likening sharing milkshakes to consent, the narrator said, ‘In a respectful relationship, if someone moves the line, you might be upset but ultimately want to repair the situation.’
In the video, the woman, named Veronica, smears a milkshake in the face of her visibly unhappy male counterpart, Bailey.
‘It’s just a funny game, Bailey. I know you really like my milkshake,’ Veronica tells him.
‘Maintaining any relationship is hard work, but handling a disrespectful relationship can be upsetting, lonely, even dangerous. In fact, it can be one of the hardest things we do in our lives,” the narrator continues.
Brandon Friedman, co-founder of sex education program Elephant Ed, told 9Honey, ‘Any engagement with young people around consent and respectful relationships needs that balance between humour and clear and concise messaging.’
View this post on Instagram
‘Historically there has been taboo and shame that surrounds these issues and often people will side step around them without tackling them. But young people are crying out for educators to tackle them head on.’
Social media was filled with criticism of the campaign, as many slammed how the videos approached teaching consent.
EROCA wrote, ‘Yes the videos are weird. They trivialise what is a very serious issue. But they’re just one small part of what’s wrong with this resource. We need the government to start listening to actual experts in violence prevention.’
I spent three days digging through the government's website. I watched every video. I read all of the accompanying materials.
I cannot work out what the milkshakes, tacos or sharks are supposed to represent. And I run an org called "End Rape on Campus Australia". https://t.co/sshajJPAkk
— Sharna Bremner (@sharnatweets) April 19, 2021
When the program launched last week, Federal Education and Youth Minister Alan Tudge said the program would be a ‘vital role’ in informing young Australians on consent and sex education.
‘These materials will provide additional support to better educate young Australians on these issues and have been designed to complement programs already being offered by states and territories,’ he said.
‘I will be discussing these matters further with my state and territory counterparts when we meet later this month.’
Consent education on the Australian curriculum will be publicly reviewed on April 29.