Backlash over Australia's 'cringeworthy' consent video

Two state education ministers have criticised the Australian government's new campaign on consent, describing it as confusing, cringeworthy and woeful.

Victoria's Education Minister James Merlino called for the federal government to pull all content featured on The Good Society website, which launched as part of the Department of Education's Respect Matters programme last week.

"I was pretty disappointed. It was confusing. It was cringeworthy. It just did not hit the mark," he told reporters on Tuesday.

"The feedback I've heard from students is they're confused about what it's even trying to say.

"It's a big fail and it's not a resource that I'll be recommending to Victorian schools."

Mr Merlino, who is also the state's acting premier, singled out one of the videos entitled 'Moving the line', which is designed to teach Year 10 to 12 students about consent.

In it, a young woman encourages her boyfriend to try her milkshake, before smearing it over his face without his permission, which has been taken to represent sexual assault or rape.

"It's just a funny game, Bailey. I know you really like my milkshake," she says in the video.

"I just stopped watching it, it was terrible," Mr Merlino said.

"The best thing is for the Commonwealth to do is acknowledge, 'Yep we didn't get that right and we're going to redo those resources because they're just no good'."

Other obscure scenarios in the videos include a man with a spear gun attempting to coerce his female partner to go for a swim despite her fear of sharks.

The sharks are intended to represent the risks of unprotected sex.

In another, a man eats a taco in an apparent reference to sexual assault.

None of the videos use the words assault, rape or sex.

NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell described the videos as "pretty woeful".

"It's a missed opportunity about an issue that's really important," she said.

"I don't really see the benefit of a milkshake or taco metaphor. I think we should be a lot more upfront with young people when we talk about these issues."

Former Sydney school student Chanel Contos, who launched a petition earlier this year calling for earlier and improved education on sex and consent, took to Instagram to criticise the videos.

"You can't teach the logistics of sex talking about the 'birds and the bees' and you can't teach the intricacies of consent using milkshakes," she said.

"That video is belittling to Australian youth and was clearly not expert informed.

"I know what consent is and honestly I am confused by the message."

In a statement to announce the new website on April 14, federal Education Minister Alan Tudge said the new resources were developed in conjunction with Our Watch, the eSafety Commissioner, the Foundation for Young Australians and other groups.

But Our Watch and the Foundation for Young Australians have distanced themselves from the project.

FYA told AAP it had introduced to the government a young person in their network who "may have taken part in a confidential reference group process in 2017".

But the organisation said it had not been asked to "review, use or endorse the materials subsequently".

Our Watch said it was consulted between late 2017 and early 2019 when the materials were being developed and provided advice.

"We have not been asked to use or endorse the materials subsequently," it said in a statement.

Act for Kids, a charity that works to prevent and treat child abuse and neglect, has raised concerns about the videos in a letter to Mr Tudge last week.

 

Comments

People can be blind to the meanings of parables. If it is cringe worthy then it has achieved the goal of stating that sexually immoral behaviour does make participants cringe or loath being immoral.

Non consensual, yes. The producers might have shown a woman being violated, but Reality is too much. Only format available: symbology.

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter