Understanding consent when it comes to sex and sexting
Airdate: 
Tuesday, August 8, 2017 - 20:30
Channel: 
SBS

Please note this episode contains descriptions of alleged sexual assault. 

 

“What happens if you decide halfway through sex that you don’t want to do it?” asks Insight host Jenny Brockie.

Lauren says she feels pressure to keep going out of guilt: “The first thing that will pop into my head is like, I’ll feel bad, I feel like I’m annoying him because he’s got this huge erection and what’s he going to do now, get blue balls?”

Jean Paul offers a male perspective: “But I think a lot of people are trained from a very young age, through pornography that women don't ever say no once they say yes.”

This week on Insight, young people dish the dirt on sex and sexting. Not the mechanics of it, but what it’s like to navigate sexual encounters and how you work out whether or not you’ve got the green light to go ahead and have sex.

The issue of consent has been making headlines across the country, following an Australian Human Rights Commission report that revealed 6 per cent of university students were sexually assaulted in 2015/16. The report recommended universities provide students with education about consent and respectful relationships.

So what do young people think of what they’ve been taught about sex and consent? How do they know someone is interested in having sex – is it as simple as a yes or a no?

A young man tells Jenny Brockie the problem is that guys and girls brains work differently.

“The guy's quite confused about what the girl is feeling, what the girl's experiencing during this time ... So when a guy's trying to interpret consent he's not able to actually comprehend where she's sitting and what she's thinking and so we find that, I think guys can find that quite hard to read and understand at times.”

And, what happens when someone tries to say no?

Winnie was at a music festival with a group of friends when she caught the attention of a young man. They ended up kissing and dancing together and things began to escalate when they headed back to his tent. She thought they were on the same page about how far things would go.

“I was too scared to say no and push him off, because I didn’t know how he was going to react and I ended up pushing him off … he was like ‘you’re just going to leave me like this?” she says.

Kevin felt like he’d lost the right to say no.

“As it started getting more heated, I realised that I had given off all these signals. Like I've already said yes, I've already like given him the consent just by my body language and by my flirtatious behaviour. But that's not what I actually wanted.”

 

Credits 

 

Support services 

National

Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence National Help Line

1800 Respect (1800 737 732)

A full list of state-based services can be found here.

Transcript

 

VIDEO PLAYED. 

 

MALE 1:  Consent to me is really like the all clear to, you know, get jiggy with it.

MALE 2:  If you're hugging and kissing that's obviously consenting to you hugging and kissing but I think a lot of people read that as consenting to other things as well. 

MALE 3:  Guys are more savage towards girls, like they're pressure people, it's just male, like male thing to do, I guess, but not all males do it. It's just drunk ones. 

FEMALE:  I have felt pressured a couple of times but I've realised that I don't need to do what the person's saying.  Like if I don't feel comfortable then I shouldn't have to do that. 

MALE 1:  A guy can like physically like hold down a girl and, you know, rape her or whatever. Where a girl, I mean she has to like what drug a guy, tie him up and give him Viagra to like have sex without consent. 

FEMALE 2:  Consent is something you need to make very clear because there could be some misunderstandings or like they just don't get it and you make it very clear if you want to do things or not. 

MALE 1:  I think if it's gone too far definitely, yeah, they say stop, but I guess like they might be quiet and feel shy about it. 

MALE 4:  I think it's scientifically proven that it's harder for a man to understand whether the girl is much into it his as he thinks she is. 

END OF VIDEO. 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Mmm, welcome everyone, good to have you here.  Tonight we are talking about sex and consent and I want to start by asking all of you how much room you think there is to get it wrong on consent, Werrdan? 

WERRDAN:  There is a lot of capacity to get it wrong, respect for the other person's dignity doesn't come into people's minds, it's simply about it being have you consented expressly?  Yes, no?  Is there an offer and acceptance? But people aren't, I believe, looking towards that core essence of dignity and if they did that, then I think the flow on would be a lot clearer.

JENNY BROCKIE:  How straightforward do you think consent is? Rheanna? 

RHEANNA: I think it's quite circumstantial. It depends on what you're doing, if you're drinking or if it's in a normal situation with like say a loving partner that you've known for a long time, compared to someone in a one night stand situation. I just don't think that…

JENNY BROCKIE:  How is it different if it's a one night stand to a relationship?  How is consent different? 

RHEANNA: Well I think it just moves a lot faster.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Mmm, if you are having casual sex, what are the expectations and, you know, do people think consent is an easy thing to work out?

LINLEY:  I don’t think that it is ever an easy thing because like, each sexual experience and each interaction is going to be nuanced and there is going to be, there might be one thing that you consent to and one thing that you don’t. It’s hard to be stopping every ten seconds to say “okay, now can I touch this or can we move on to this” and it just doesn’t kind of suit the natural flow of events. You might have consented to one act but not another, or one position and not another and it kind of becomes difficult because the natural flow doesn’t feel like you are constantly having a discussion about what’s okay and what’s not once you are in there.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So does that mean you do things you don't want to do sometimes? 

LINLEY: I think that can definitely happen, especially if you don't want, once it's already kind of heading that way it might be harder to say no than to just go with it.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Okay, what do the rest of you think?  Do you think it's straightforward? 

LAUREN:  Definitely not. I feel like men, um, have been told that they're allowed to slap a girl's arse and that they are allowed to grab them, which is fine but I'm just not that kind of girl that enjoys just being played with like a toy.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And do you always feel you can express that, that you don't like that? 

LAUREN:  No. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Or do you feel constrained in that? 

LAUREN: No, because something that I feel is that the adult film industry gives such a false representation that women love it and expect it and really think about it all the time. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So porn does that? 

LAUREN:  Yes, I feel, and of course sex in porn, they're not sitting down for five minutes being like do you consent to this?  They're just like boom, like into it. So yeah, I don't think that it's taught. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What do some of the guys think about that?  Jean-Paul, what do you think? 

JEAN-PAUL:  I think in terms of the understanding of whether it's consent or not is often plagued by perceptions of the social influences, especially I'm thinking more of a university perspective and at a party where there's drugs, alcohol. It can often be become very skewed as to well, at what point is this consent given? I'm consenting to X but not necessarily to sex all the way. At what point is the consent stopped? 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So how do you read that?  How do you read those signals? 

JEAN-PAUL:  Well it's very difficult and I've spoken to many people about it and also from my own experience, how do you say no or how do you know when someone's saying no? Most of the time it's body language but if you're intoxicated, or you're both intoxicated, body language can be very difficult to read and that skews people's perceptions as to well, do I have actual consent for this or not?

If it was a yes at the very beginning and then oh, ten minutes later it changes and it's a no, how do you deal with that? Well, it should be hands off, I'm stopping, I'm not going to take it any further, but I think a lot of people are trained from a very young age, I'm talking from a male perspective through pornography, that women don't ever say no once they say yes, there is no I'm changing my mind and that's ingrained. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Is it, is that ingrained? I mean is that how people learn about sex, through porn? Yes, furious nodding over here. 

FEMALE: I think as well that it's, since sexual education doesn't tend to cover it as much, we've never told the younger people who are learning about this stuff what to do if something happens. So they say, oh, well, I saw that they never say no so it's not going to be problem for me. 

LINLEY: Or that you can push a little bit harder and they'll change their mind. 

FEMALE: Yeah, absolutely. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Pressure people a bit? 

LINLEY: Yeah, if you put, maybe if you put a bit of pressure on and say no, no, it will be fine, they will change their mind and it will become okay.

JENNY BROCKIE:  I want to know from some of the guys whether you think it's hard to read this, yeah? 

DANIEL:  I think that the problem is that a lot of guys don't realise that guys and girls brains work completely differently and that a lot of guys use things like sex as something to destress, whereas a female needs to not be stressed to have sex.  Guys walk into sex expecting one thing and girls walk into sex expecting something completely different. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So where does consent fit into that picture? 

DANIEL:  Consent fits into it as like the guy, the guy's quite confused about what, about what the girl is feeling, what the girl's experiencing during this time because our brains are just programmed completely differently. So when a guy's trying to interpret consent he's not able to actually comprehend where she's sitting and what she's thinking and so we find that, I think guys can find that quite hard to read and understand at times.

JENNY BROCKIE:  James, what do you think about consent and signals and how good people are at picking up signals around issues like consent? 

JAMES:  Different people definitely pick up signals in a different way and that same point, different people send different signals so you can have someone sending signals that you think are consenting but they, the person sending the signals might not even realise they're doing it and then what causes is a big misunderstanding which can lead to a lot worse things. So I think there's a lot of pressure that goes into it, it has to be, a lot of it has to be said more than sending signals and stuff like that. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  But is it said? I mean is consent something that's talked about? 

JAMES:  It's not talked about but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be. It might be awkward, it might be not normal. 

LAUREN: It's not considered a part of foreplay.  Like it's just not and it's very, it's ruining the moment and at leaves with guys that I've grown up at school with, it's just like they use it as this dominant thing of like you're an object.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So where does that leave you if you don't want to do it, or if you decide halfway through that you don't want to do it, or three quarters of the way through? 

LAUREN: That's how things like assault happens, at least for me the first thing that will pop into my head is like I'll feel bad, I'll feel like I'm bothering him, I feel like I'm annoying him because he's got this huge erection and what's he going to do now is, get blue balls. Like poor him, sorry, I know that vulgar but like they use that as an excuse and it's like, because you can physically see their feelings and you can't see ours, you're meant to act on it. And they'll use the whole like guilt trip on you. That's been my experience. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Okay, I want a male response to some of that, yeah?

TOM:  Yeah. I know for me it's like the thing about sex is, obviously we're trying to engage in sex education but like there’s only so much with you do. So like and like the main way people are going to learn about sex is through experience and like that's a very difficult concept. I feel like a lot of men are kind of portrayed as like always having like this kind of like dominant kind of thing but I mean from myself, like the friends that I grew up with, like I've always been very confused, like anyone else I think, and it's…

JENNY BROCKIE:  Confused about consent? 

TOM:  Confused about, I mean sex.  Yeah, exactly. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Okay, you've opened the door for everyone else now to talk about how confused they are about sex? 

TOM:  Yeah, and like for me, and like consent is just another part of that that's perhaps not discussed as explicitly as it should be.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Jed, have you been in that situation where you've read signals the wrong way? 

JED:  Um, I've had a few times at the club, you kind of, they kind of start sitting close to you, you think they're trying to, I don't know, make a move and then you kind of go in and then you get the old what are you doing? Like I'm going to get a drink and then you just don't see them again, that's about it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Mmm, but what about sexual signals, have you been in situations where you've felt you've read the signals the wrong way? 

JED:  Um, not always. Like I don't think I've ever had the chance to be sexual and then it's been like oh no, that's not what I wanted or anything like that. But there probably could have been times where I have and then I might not have known, like, but nothing that I could have, you know, nothing that I could tell. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Winnie, I want to talk to you about an experience that you had a few years ago.  You were at a music festival in Byron Bay with a group of friends.  Tell us what happened? 

WINNIE:  So like end of school, going up to Byron Bay, have fun at a music festival and it was on New Year's Eve. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How old were you?

WINNIE:  I was eighteen. I'd never really experienced anything sexual before in my life. I was a very anxious, nervous, kept to myself little girl and I, um, I you know, I'd had something to drink and we were all dancing and one of the guys took a big interest in me and I'd never experienced anyone taking interest in me in a sexual way like that before and it felt really good to have someone look at me like that and want that from me.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So what happened?  You went back to his tent with him? 

WINNIE:  Yeah, we kind of hooked up, we were making out and he was constantly pressuring me through the night and throughout the night we had a lot of exchange and I was sort of like look, I'm not really into this.  I explained I'd never had anything happen before and he was like that's okay, that's fine.  So I was like okay, we're on the page, we're fine kissing, just having this fun time and then, um, it escalated.  Went back to the tent and he just pushed it a lot further than I wanted.  

JENNY BROCKIE:  Did you make it clear that you didn't want to go that, that much further? 

WINNIE:  Yes.  I said to him, I was like look, I don't want to have sex but I'm happy just like kissing and stuff and he was like okay, and then we went back to his tent and he like basically just got undressed and I was like okay, what's happening? I was clothed but he was like taking my undies off and I was like not okay with it and um, he just kept pushing me and he tried to go inside me and I would pull myself up because I was too scared to say no and push him off. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Why were you scared, too scared to do that? 

WINNIE:  Because I didn't know how he was going to react and I ended up pushing him off and said no, I don't want this and I had to give him a hand job to finish him off because he was like you're just going to leave me like this? And then that was kind of the end. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What went through your mind after that? 

WINNIE:  Um, honestly, the most memorable thing of the night is walking back to my tent and wanting to trip over and never get up again. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Are you okay? 

WINNIE:  It's just hard talking about it because I literally just go right back there. But I'm pretty open about it because especially for me it's something that I took two and a half years to know what happened and that should not be okay.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Are you okay to keep talking about it? 

WINNIE:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Did you feel you could say up-front to him just stop, I don't want this? 

WINNIE:  No, I don't think I felt like I could. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And why do you think you felt you couldn't because this goes to the heart of -- 

WINNIE:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  -- the issue of consent, doesn't it? It's really important to try to work that out as to why you felt you couldn't. Was it a power thing?  

WINNIE:  Um, I just, it felt, it felt nice having someone touch me, want me, and I got lost in that thinking this feels good, but at the same time I was like but I don't want this to go further. But he just didn't really care. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Kevin, you've been in a situation where you were confused about consent. Tell us what happened. 

KEVIN:  Yeah.  So essentially I went overseas to, I don't know, just to have a cool trip and I decided one night I would go to a nightclub. So I just decided to start drinking and also coming from like Sydney to Europe everything's so much cheaper so I decided to buy a lot. So I was drinking quite a bit and then getting obviously pretty drunk and then becoming kind of like flirtatious.

So I caught the eye of some guy and we started dancing and that progressed to like kissing and all of that. Then, yeah, as it like kind of heated up a little bit more we moved to like a private area and at the time I wasn't sure what I wanted because I was still very drunk and really confused and so it was getting like a little bit more heated and the more heated it got, the more anxious I got because I didn't know what was going to happen and as it started getting more heated, I realised that I had given off all these signals. Like I've already said yes like essentially, I've already like given, like given him the consent just by my body language and by my flirtatious behaviour.

But that's not what I actually wanted and so when he proceeded to continue, it was really, well first of all it was really painful.  Like it hurt so much and then I just felt really ashamed of myself because I had let myself fall into this situation. I had done, I had given off the signals and now I can't say no because I've already essentially said yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you felt you'd lost the right to say no? 

KEVIN:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Why did you feel that? 

KEVIN:  Because I've, I felt guilty. I was like oh, he probably, like if I say no now he'll probably just get angry at me because I led him on and it was so like confronting because I really wanted to say no but I did not know how.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do you think it would have been any different if you'd been sober, or do you think you might have still been in the same situation? 

KEVIN:  No, I feel as if I was sober I'd probably be up-front, be more up-front. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So what was it like for you afterwards? 

KEVIN:  Um, at first I kind of like brushed it off.  I continued on with the night and then got home and kind of just was like oh well, like that, it was bound to happen, that's what the signals I was giving off and I was kind of just telling myself oh, like yeah, you deserved it. But as time went on, the more ashamed of myself I felt. I started really loathing my actions and really not - I did not respect myself. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What about him though, what did you think of him? 

KEVIN:  I don't know, to be honest. I was annoyed. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You really blamed yourself by the sound of it. 

KEVIN:  Yeah, yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE: Are there other people here who've gone along with sex when they didn't really want to?  Like who found themselves into situations, like some of the ones that we've heard of earlier? Anyone, yeah?

LAUREN: If I could be of any situations it would be like at the beginning it seems like he's really lovely and, you know, he really like thinks you're beautiful and ra, ra, ra and then by the end of it he's just self-centred and wants to get his own pleasure done and you've lost interest.  But if you say no, you're a bitch so you've just got to end, like keep it going. So yeah, do you have something to add to that. 

JEAN-PAUL  I think it comes down to this juxtaposition between where you're having sex in a loving relationship, compared to the casual, and especially the hypercasualisation of sex that's occurred since the rise of the internet with Tinder and on-line dating, where casual sex is becoming more and more of a regular thing. You're juxtaposing a highly emotional and a deeply intimate act of sex with a casual one night stand and it's like mixing water and oil. Sometimes they don't really work together in that regard because, well, I'm giving you consent for tonight, tonight only and tomorrow it's not going to be there any more, or I'm giving it to you for this time being while I'm comfortable.

While in a loving relationship, well as you were saying, you're doing it because you're in this loving relationship, whether you feel like it 100 percent tonight or whether he feels like it 100 percent tonight is irrelevant. Not irrelevant but it's fluid so to speak. It's very different in this hypercasualisation of it and both men and women really struggle in trying to understand what this consent line is and from number one, a social perspective, what is consent? And then number two, from a legal perspective what is consent because then it flows on?  If you do something that you thought was consent but wasn't actually consent for your partner in that one night stand, so to speak, well for you it's assault. For him or for her it's not necessarily so. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So how do you know whether somebody wants to have sex with you or not? 

JEAN-PAUL:    Well for me I come from a legal background as well and I've taken it it's yes and it's no and I'm very up-front about it because you have to. And you have to be super careful because this is a world where you don't want to take advantage of someone. You don't want there to be any grey and it's either yes or no in my eyes and for them. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Is that how it plays out in reality though? Is it yes or no? 

JEAN-PAUL:    But you can force that reality. You can stand up, you can say during the encounter:  Do you want this? Yes or no? 

LAUREN:  I'm a teenage girl so I'm just speaking for like guys under 21, I feel like half of them couldn't give a care in the world if you want it or not, they're just there for one reason, and that the other one is actually petrified of being accused of rape.  You know, you don't have to sit there and be like hey, do you want to have sex?  You can just like, you can whisper in their ear, like you can make it your own little thing that makes the other person feel comfortable, but you're like I said, it's just either one extreme or the other. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Lauren, what's happened to you?  What sort of situations have you been in? 

LAUREN:  I was with this guy and I was not interested, no thank you, and he basically like grabbed my hand, put it, you know, there.  Oh, my God, it was just, it was really intense, it all happened in about ten seconds and then he got really angry, really, really angry, like he didn't hit me or anything but was kind of like what the hell? Like obviously we're going to have sex, that's why you came over here isn't it?  I was like no actually, maybe I just wanted to like watch a movie or spend time with you, and then he just went into the bathroom, finished himself off, full told me in detail like what he was watching and then he came out and he was like, he like looked at me, I'm just sitting there on the bed like feeling completely, I just felt vulnerable and embarrassed and he just looked at me, was like I don't want to touch you anymore.

Like I'm satisfied now and I'm like, clap, clap, clap, good for you buddy, like good on you, like go to bed tonight like feeling like a man. It just made me really angry. Like I feel like what I experienced was nothing compared to what some people experienced and I felt the way after I did, I'd hate to know how some girls feel after much worse circumstances. Revealing a lot right now, my mum's going to kill me but it was just like, and then he went to finish himself off and came back in like ha, ha, like look what you missed out on. Yeah, I chose to do that. I felt empowered but also embarrassed. It was a very odd feeling. 

WERRDAN:  I just was going to say Lauren, you chose like when you started saying there's sort of two types of men, they're either petrified or they don't care and they're selfish. 

LAUREN:  Yeah. 

WERRDAN:  And I think that just really highlights the critical issue of men really, at the end of the day, not being men and I guess, and what I mean is not just adult boys, not just boys who happen to be eighteen or whatever it is with hair on their chest, I'm talking about men who can actually be self-aware and learn to show respect. 

LAUREN:  I find it more attractive when a guy is like hey, I think you're really beautiful and if you don't mind I'd like to go on a date beforehand, like I actually respect that. 

WERRDAN:  The question is then how do we as a culture, as a society, start building that up because we have…

RHEANNA: It starts with education. It starts, you know, when you're younger.

LAUREN:  But where's that to come from?  We don't even get a good education as it is in public schools. I don't think that's going to be the first of their priorities. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Kevin, what did you want to say? 

KEVIN:  Well for a lot of people, as we've already established, they learn from the porn industry, shouldn't the porn industry be the ones educating us? There's been, there’s been instances where I've seen like weird campaigns where like actual porn stars will teach people about prostate cancer so why can't they teach people about consent? 

RHEANNA: But aren't you just removing the problem, the problem was because you don't know, like if you don't know what the issue is…

KEVIN:  Yeah. 

RHEANNA: You want to learn, then you should probably learn or you know, you seek it out. Like I get it, you know, there are sometimes where you can't seek it out because your parents are from a different culture or a different race or a different this and a different that and that's what I grew up. But at the end of the day it's really important because if you want to be intimate but you can't have, and you can't deal with the consequences, then you start to feel the confusion.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What about when alcohol's involved? What does that mean for consent do you think?  Up the back, yeah? 

FEMALE: When I was doing research for coming here tonight I came across a really great saying:  If you're too drunk to drive, you're probably too drunk to have sex, and I think we should just stand by that. If you're with your friends and you're drinking and they're like hey, you need to call a cab, it's not to go back to someone's house that you've picked up because if you can't drive you can't have sex. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Okay, what do the rest of you think about alcohol? I mean to what extent do you think alcohol affects your view of consent, whether you can consent or whether you recognise someone else giving consent or not?  Yeah? 

TARNEEN:  I think you're new, go out to a club and you'll go drinking, like the likelihood of you dancing up on the table compared to like when you're drunk, compared to when you're sober is completely different. So I think that when alcohol is involved, like you would do things that you usually wouldn't.  So you might consent to do something that you actually, when you're sober you're like oh wow, I didn't consent to that or I didn't want to do that.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Tarneen, what happened to you eighteen months ago? 

TARNEEN:  I was out, it was like my friends, a workmate, it was his engagement party and his 30th birthday, um, and then we had been drinking all night. We continued on, me and my friends at our house.  My old house mate, she brought two dudes back.  One of them stayed, the other went home and the person who stayed, he was chatting to everybody, got along really well. Like I didn't show any interest, like into having like anything sexual with him, it was just purely, like I just thought he was a nice person. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Had you been drinking much? 

TARNEEN: Yeah, I had been because it was like an after work thing, I had been drinking since like maybe 5 or 6 o'clock and we even continued to drink back at the house after like 3 am. And my old house mate, used to be in the room that I was in so she was like showing my workmate the room and the guy who she invited over he was in the room as well and like we were all just having a chat there and that was fine. And then the dude who she invited over, he fell asleep on my bed and so like I feel really bad for him, I just shut my bedroom door while we all like continued like having a bit of a party in the house and so I was like I'm not going to sleep on my bed because I'm not going to share a bed with a stranger.

So I fell asleep on the lounge room, on the couch, and then I fell asleep and I woke up to him sexually assaulting me. Once I kind of came and I'd woken up, I'd pushed him off me and I was just like, I opened my bedroom door and I was like get the fuck out of my room. Like get out and he was just like are you serious? And I was like I don't even know like what's happening. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you were in the bedroom at this point? 

TARNEEN: I was in my bedroom at this point. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you'd fallen asleep on the couch? 

TARNEEN:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How did you get from the couch to the bedroom, do you know? 

TARNEEN: To this day I still don't know. Like I do not have a clue how I got from my couch to my bedroom. I went to the police about it and I heard his story.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what was his story? 

TARNEEN: Apparently like I was like calling out to him, like I didn't even know this person's name, and yeah, he told them that everything was consensual and like that I wanted it.  And so he was from The States and he was a student and and he got interviewed by the police and it was like the Good Friday eve and by that day he'd been interviewed and he flew back home to The States.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what was it like for you immediately afterwards, the next day what were you like? 

TARNEEN: The next day I was just like, I was confused, like I was really confused. I was like oh, I don't know, I don't know, this is like actually happened to me. I was just really depressed over the like next 48 hours and I just couldn't stop crying, and then I called the police and like the Sunday night, I actually called up, actually a sexual assault line that's in Victoria that's called CASA and then I went to the hospital to, to help report it and get the medical examination done. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So was he ever charged? 

TARNEEN: No, no, he went back straight after the interview that afternoon and so he was never charged. 

JENNY BROCKIE: Ben, you're a criminal defence lawyer, what is the situation with consent when someone's been drinking or is affected by drugs? 

BEN:  There's no real sort of fine line or definite line about whether or not you're consenting if you’re drunk. The law says that it's a ground for the jury or the judge to accept and consider as to whether or not the person was really consenting if they are substantially impaired by a drug or alcohol. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what does substantially impaired mean? 

BEN:  Well there's no real definition of what substantially impaired means and that's really a consideration for the people who are deciding the case. So if you take the two extreme examples you might have a couple of drinks and you might be tipsy and you might be able to consent in those circumstances. But if you take the other extreme and the person can't speak or they're slurring their speech, they're walking without any balance and they're tripping up all over the place, and I think in that circumstance you could probably say, almost definitely say the person wasn't consenting because they couldn't have the capacity to consent because they were impaired by drug or alcohol. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How does the law define consent? 

BEN:  Basically the law says that consent is where you freely or voluntarily agree to sexual intercourse, that's the basic definition of consent under the law. And then what the police have to prove is that number one, there was sexual intercourse and this is all beyond reasonable doubt.  Number two that the victim or complainant didn't give their consent, and the third issue is that the person or the accused was aware that there was no consent given.

And so when you look at that ground, the jury's normally asked to place themselves in the shoes of the accused person at the point in time that the act happened as to whether or not there were any reasonable grounds to think that there was consent involved. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Is it a really difficult area of the law? 

BEN:  I wouldn't say it's a difficult area of the law in terms of the legal principles, but in terms of the emotional consequences and the emotional turmoil that both the complainants and also the accused have to go through is a difficult area of the law, yes because the consequences at the end are quite devastating. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what if there isn't a clear conversation, a clear yes or a clear no, what does the Court rely on then? 

BEN:  Well it looks at the circumstances of the case and perhaps the body language of the person that has been sexually assaulted. And I've been hearing stories where there's no real verbal communication beforehand and sometimes you're not going to say to the person look, do you agree to have sex with me? Can I have this in writing please? You know, you look at the body language and you look at the mood of the person and what's happened leading up to that sexual intercourse. 

If I can take off had my lawyer hat and just speaking just as a father of two young boys, it really boils down to just respect. No one's mentioned the term respect and you being taught respect by your parents or by the people that are around you and it's the respect of what the other person wants as opposed to you what you want yourself. I think that's what it really comes down to. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Alright, let’s talk about sexting and consent.

 

VIDEO PLAYED.

 

FEMALE:  I’ve been sent the pretty standard, unsolicited dick pic as I think a lot of people have.

MALE 1:  When it comes to nudes, when it comes to sexting, it happens a lot. I have had many nude pictures of young women being sent to me, that’s just the intel.

MALE 2:  I know a couple of mates who send nudes and I know a couple of chicks who do too. I know of someone who changed schools because their nudes got leaked.

MALE 3:  I don’t even try to really ask for photos or whatever, you just go see the person and you know, do it real.

FEMALE 2:  Yes, I have sent and received naked pictures.

MALE 4:  People who take photos of themselves naked or other people and send them and they end up on the internet for everyone to see, I think it is 100% their fault.

MALE 5:  No, I’m not very sexy so I wouldn’t plan on doing that at all, no.

 

END OF VIDEO.

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How many of you have received nude photos? Hands up, show of hands?  Okay, quite a few. How many have sent them? Who's prepared to own up to that?  Okay, quite a few people as well. Jess, you've sent photos? 

JESS:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Of yourself. Who did you send them to? 

JESS:  My partner at the time. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what happened when you broke up? 

JESS:  Um, so him and I had split up and it ended really rocky.  He messaged my dad and said to my dad that he had something to show him.  So I messaged him and asked what was going on. He said to me that he was going to send my mum and my dad the photo that I'd sent him.   So I had to contact both my parents and let them know what, what had happened. I didn't want to because that's not really something I wanted to tell my parents that I'd done but I had to before he got in the way. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what were the photos of? 

JESS:  Full body naked photos of myself and my face was in it because it was the first time I'd done something like that.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So did he just threaten to show the photos to your parents or what happened to the photos? 

JESS:  He threatened to send them to my parents, and then because he couldn't get to my parents he started going to my friends and sent them to multiple of my friends.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Did you talk to him about it, did you talk to him about the photos when you broke up? 

JESS:  I did. I asked him about them and he said that he'd deleted them off his phone and all of that and that he'd lost them.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Last year you discovered that your photos had been posted on a Facebook group. Tell us about that, what was the group called? 

JESS:  Melbourne Men's Society. A friend of mine, her boyfriend was in a group and he'd seen that they'd started posting ex-girlfriends, even girlfriend’s nude photos in the group. So she ended up screen shotting something and sending it to my and it was me again, it was just really disgusting and it was horrific. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How does it make you feel about, about sending the photos in the first place?  Do you still do that? 

JESS:  I don't. Like my partner and I, I have sent them to my partner but in saying that, I actually had a talk with him first because I didn't, I was so scared of maybe like, you know, if we split up what if he does that to me?  Or what if we have a fight and he does that because you never really know what could happen. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What can happen. Does it stop anyone from doing it, wondering about what might happen? Yeah, Kevin?

KEVIN:  Like, before I started sending them, I heard from other people, like I knew about the experiences of other people getting, like in that situation so generally if I were to send a photo it wouldn't include my face so that there was a sort of anonymity.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Anonymity. Jed, you sent some pictures to a girl who you were in a relationship with. What happened when you broke up?

JED:  We dated for not that long, probably sent a few pictures back and forth. We ended up breaking up and I thought I will just delete hers. I don't want to be that kind of guy. A few months went by. I had like random people come up to me and say, "Is this you?" "Yes, that is me." It went from there. More people saw it.

JENNY BROCKIE:  How did you feel about that when people came and showed you those photos of yourself?

JED: I don't know. Like, at the time I think I did care. I was a bit upset. Thinking back on it now, I don't really mind. Like, I am not ashamed of my body or whatever, if people want to see them, then good for them.

JENNY BROCKIE:  James, you don't sext, why?

JAMES:  I just can't take it seriously at all. To me it just seems like a waste of time. I think nude photos, if they get revealed to anyone, like if they get released or anything, the only person you can really blame is yourself 90% of the time no-one is forcing you to take photos, no-one is making you do that and you don't to send them to people and when you send them out you give them complete control over what they can do with that. So, in my mine, I can't take that seriously and it will always come back to you.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So do you blame the people who send them rather than the people who share them around?

JAMES:   I blame both parties, but I think if you send a nude and someone reveals it, you can put all of the blame on them.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Really?

JAMES:   It comes back to you. You did send the photos.

RHEANNA:  I agree with that actually. If you take the photo, you take the risk. You don't - you wouldn't put your face in those photos if you are going to send them. It goes back to you, if you are going to send them.

JEAN-PAUL:  The voluntary assumption of risk. If there has been communication with that person it was for their eyes only. If I was to lend you something that I valued like a special ball or whatever, I expect you to take care of it and not to puncture it and trash it. It is the same principle.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Tazmyn, you teach a program in schools that covers consent and sexting. How old are the kids you are talking to?

TAZMYN:  Anywhere from year 8 to Year 12, so it just varies.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What are you teaching them?

TAZMYN:  In terms of sexting, we try and give them the bare bones to try and survive in the new-age world with sexting offences because it is really complicated. In Victoria, if you are under 18 then you are not breaking any child pornography laws or any sexting laws if you have a photo of yourself and your partner and you keep it amongst yourselves, as long as you are within two years of each other.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Of each other's age.

TAZMYN:  So that marries up with the age of consent laws in Victoria as well. So you have to be within two years of the person that you are having any sexual relations with, so we teach young people about their right to take photos of themselves or take photos of themselves and their partner, but not ever to share that.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Julianne you run a program for school kids about sexting and the law.

JULIANNE:  That's right.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Does it vary much from state to state, what people are allowed to do?

JULIANNE:  In NSW we are still a lot stricter than what Tazmyn has just said. If you are under 18, for the Commonwealth code, so the laws that cover using a phone or the internet, you are defined as a child until you turn 18, so any picture of yourself or anybody else who is naked or in a sexual pose or actually having sex, if the people in the photo are under 18, that is still classified as child pornography and I think that is not something that all young people realise that it is quite a serious criminal offence to take those photos if the police find those photos on your phone or if a school principal reports it or if somebody reports that photo.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And this is just taking them.

JULIANNE:  It is taking. It is sharing. It is having them on your phone. It is asking for a photo from somebody who is under 18.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So is that how you educate kids by scaring them about what the laws are and how they might get into trouble?

JULIANNE:  Definitely not. I’m definitely not there to talk to young people about how bad technology is but I think it is super important that they understand what some of the legal consequences can be for some of those pictures if the police find out. What can be confusing for a lot of young people is in NSW you can consent the physical sex when you are 16 but you can’t consent to taking a picture of yourself and sending it to your partner until you are 18 and that is not necessarily something that young people would think of.

 

VIDEO PLAYED. 

 

TEACHER:  One, two, three, four, five, alright. So we're going to sit down, we're going to do a story.

DEANNE: People aren't surprised when we say that we're teaching consent in early childhood. People have gone yeah, that absolutely makes sense because we can teach it simply. The only thing that they want to know is, are we actually teaching about sex at this age and of course the answer to that is no. 

TEACHER:  How can you tell that this is a scared egg? 

CHILD:  Up and down.  Up and down.  And they're getting bigger. 

DEANNE:  When we're talking about identifying their emotions, learning how their bodies feel when they're feeling worried or scared and talking a little bit about consent.  So we're talking about how our bodies belong to us and we have the right to say yes or no. 

TEACHER: So this is my friend Hugstapuss and Hugstapuss is going to say can I please give you a hug and we're going to help Hugs listen. 

DEANNE:  Would you like a hug today? No thank you, using our bodies and saying no, I wouldn't like a hug. Would you like a hug? Yes. 

DEANNE:  What we're seeing is that young children have a really great sense of their own bodily autonomy. As children become older I think that we train them not to have bodily autonomy. We train then to say but just kiss Nana because Nana's feelings will be hurt. 

TEACHER: Remember our scared feelings?

CHILDREN: Yeah. 

TEACHER: If we get any of these feelings we might not want to share our body. No, no. Don't touch me.

CHILDREN: Don't touch me.

TEACHER: I don't like it.

CHILDREN: I don't like it.

DEANNE:  We find it's really important to start early so that these concepts are simple, they become really normal for the children and it's something that they just incorporate that their relationships as they grow older.

END OF VIDEO.

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Deanne, how does nanna respond with "don't touch me"?

DEANNE:  We work a lot with parents. I think at that age it is really important to get the parents involved and they have conversations with nanna and they are very good at finding other ways of showing nanna that they care so maybe if they don't want to be touched they can pick some flowers for nanna or do a drawing and nanna is fine.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Little kids are kind of told what to do by adults all the time of course. Where do you draw the line here?

DEANNE:  So, when we are talking with adults, we are talking about bodily autonomy for children and young people, but we do talk about health, hygiene and safety. So it is not negotiable to say not hold hands crossing a road when you are six years old. That is a safety issue and that is something that has to be done, but we try to empower them with that. So it might be "You need to hold my hand. Would you like to hold my left hand or right hand or push the bouton?" You know, those sorts of things, give them a little bit of power back.

JENNY BROCKIE:  I can see a few parents listening to this going, ‘If I asked my child everything in terms of would you like to do this is it okay if I do that’ it might be a bit of a nightmare?

DEANNE:  It could take a lot of time to get out of the door in the morning when you are three years old. "No, I don't want to put my socks on. No, I don't want to put my shoes on." Totally understand that but what we are trying to do is change the culture. So we’ve heard a lot tonight about no means no and the onus being on the person without power to say no or to express somehow that they are not consenting. We want to change that, we want the person with the power to be checking in and going, hey, is this OK for you?

JENNY BROCKIE:   You mentioned that kids change their approach to consent as they get older.

DEANNE:  Yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What happens?

DEANNE:  So we are finding that pre-pubescent or pubescent children in the upper years of primary school, they are finding it very difficult to articulate non - that they are not consenting because we have normalised for them that they have to be OK with being touched by people. So if I say to year 6 students, "If somebody is playing with your hair and you don't like it, your friend is playing with your hair and you don't like it, would you feel comfortable telling her no, don't do that?" "No, I don't want to hurt her feelings. I don't want to lose a social standing. I don't want to cause any trouble. I don't want to... " because we have eroded their rights by 10 years old.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And because peer pressure is coming in possibly at a more intense level too.

DEANNE:  Yeah, but we are starting to see it gendered by that age as well. We are starting to see the girls are less able to speak up. They are more aware that there might be potential consequences for them and the boys are pushing the boundaries a bit.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Why is that happening?

DEANNE:  It is cultural. It is the culture we live in. The message that we give about go out and get what you want, don't take no as an answer, if you don't get what you want the first time, just try harder. So we are eroding what those 4-year-olds that you just saw actually know already.

JENNY BROCKIE:  I just wonder how all of your experiences and how this conversation, too, has affected the way that you think about consent? Tarneen?

TARNEEN: Mine changed so much, I think, once - like, I had a pretty good idea about what it was, but having a lived experience of that, changed completely.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what about the way that you navigate sexual experiences now? Has it changed that?

TARNEEN:  Yes, completely. What I do now is completely different. Where do you start to get consent? Do you actually make it a part of your sexual experience? Oh, can I touch you here or can I touch you there? Do you want to put a condom on? It is actually a part of it and it makes it fun as well because you are actually putting words to what you are doing and if they are not into it, then that is OK.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Kevin, what about you? Has it changed your attitude to the whole area of concept, do you think, your experience?

KEVIN:  Oh, yeah, 100%. It definitely makes me want to be more vocal and upfront about what I want. I think back and I probably haven't always fulfilled that since that experience, but I have been much more straightforward in sort of my approach to consent.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Lauren? What do you think about consent now?

LAUREN: I think I am more confused. Because we have opened Pandora's box, is that the right word, to like sexting, body language, verbal, even eye contact and I have avoided most sexual encounters as possible, but now like getting into the party stage every time I see a guy I am like, "Do you give consent?" Because I am just worried, even for me, am I going to regret it the next day? You need to think about it and think, do I have any feelings towards this guy? Is he going to hurt me afterwards? Girls get their hearts broken all the time and then afterwards you think, "I didn't even want to have sex with him!" It has made me more confused but it was still a good conversation.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Well, I am sure we can have more conversation after this, too. Thank you for joining us. Really appreciate it. That is all we have time for now. Let's keep talking about Twitter and Facebook.