Students call for better sex education on consent, while the debate still rages about the power of social media and how to make Big Tech accountable.
The petition calling for better sex education, circulated by former students of private girls and boys schools across Sydney, makes for devastating reading. From the testimonies shared, it is clear many young women have carried the weight of heinous sexual crimes against them for years, not knowing what to do with the shame that should not be theirs. Their call for education on consent is a good one, which I imagine most schools will support.
And yet reading these harrowing stories tells me that such an initiative is a candle in the wind. In each story, I could not help thinking: these young men are living out something they’ve seen in hardcore porn.
...many young women have carried the weight of heinous sexual crimes against them for years, not knowing what to do with the shame that should not be theirs.
That the allegations against these young men describe crimes that are patriarchal, violent and violating speaks volumes about the culture in which their young minds have been formed. And while we can easily and perhaps rightly point to their privilege—existing at the tripartite crossroad of race, class and gender—I would like to suggest that the patterns in these horrific stories go beyond that. The “education” our teenagers are receiving on how to relate to one another is sitting in their pockets, as they walk through the front doors of their schools and homes.
The hours we might invest in teaching young men and women about consent would be far outclassed by the hours of access young men have to hardcore porn, on their phones and on their computers, in which women are routinely debased, violated and used for patriarchal pleasure.
I do not understand why access to home internet must simultaneously mean access to any pornography on YouTube. Why is it that family friendly filters are not ubiquitous at the moment of sign-up with any provider? If a person wants access to hardcore pornography, then the onus should be on that person to opt out of the family friendly filters, not on the rest of us to find ways to protect our children. I still remember a friend telling me of preschoolers who had accessed hardcore porn by telling Siri their new toilet talk words, leaving them traumatised. This is how easy it is, how widespread this “education” is on what a sexual relationship looks like.
I still remember a friend telling me of preschoolers who had accessed hardcore porn by telling Siri their new toilet talk words, leaving them traumatised.
As a leader in a school, I support explicit conversations about consent and about loving relationships, wherein women and men are respected as human beings, not as commodities for someone else’s pleasure. It breaks my heart to think the young people I have taught could be in any of the stories I read on the petition.
But this is a conversation we need to have as a society. Debate about the power of social media and how to make Big Tech accountable dominates the news. Simultaneously, the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins is also rightly finding headlines. But the two reports are far more closely related than we might like to think.
Sarah has also taught in both government and independent schools, as well as across co-ed and both single sex schools i.e. girls schools and boys schools.