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​Benjamin Law heads up sex and consent panel at La Trobe Uni

April 13 2016 By Hannah Grant, Media and Ambassador Program Manager

Writer Benjamin Law will be joined by Western Bulldogs player Marcus Bontempelli, academic Sue Dyson and Triple J’s Jo Lauder for Get a Yes before you undress, a panel discussion on sex and consent held by Our Watch’s youth campaign, The Line.

Recent Our Watch research found one in five young women are being put under pressure to do sexual things, and a quarter of young people think it’s ‘normal’ for a boy to pressure a girl into sexual activity.

In addition, research indicates young people are getting information about sex and consent from porn and pop culture, which can skew their ideas around what’s acceptable in relationships. These young people told The Line they need guidance about sex, consent and respectful relationships.

The Line is engaging young people to think about consent and respectful relationships at the panel, which will be held the TLC theatre at La Trobe University in Melbourne on April 13.

Benjamin Law said it was important for young people to know where the line is when it comes to sex and consent.

“It’s such an obvious blindspot in modern-day sex education for young Australians. We’re taught about the basics such as reproduction and contraception - so much of sex education is limited to mechanics and biology,” said Mr Law.

“The more complicated stuff about human relationships – respect, communication and the awkward discussion of pleasure (which, in breaking news, is why most of us have sex in the first place) – is often avoided, which means a lot of us are susceptible to engaging in sex that isn’t fun at all.

“It reminds me of something a sex educator once said, which is that consent is a pretty low bar; it should be about enthusiasm too,” said Mr Law.

Mr Law said bisexual, lesbian, transgender and gay young people were especially vulnerable when it came to sexual encounters.

“We’re not empowered and educated at an early age about any of it. Personally, I grew up in Queensland, where homosexuality was criminalised until the early 1990s, and still has discrepancies between the age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual sex. So as a gay dude, I went into the world of sex pretty blindly,” said Mr Law.

The Line Ambassador Marcus Bontempelli said that people should speak out against anything that belittles, degrades, or frightens women.

"Being a good role model is about respecting and supporting women, not controlling or putting them down,” he said.

The winners of The Line’s ‘Get Creative with Consent’ social media competition will also be presented announced at the panel event.

The competition was launched during O-Week this year, and asked young people to come up with creative ways to talk about consent.

Entrants were asked to design a slogan and an image that communicated the importance of asking for and giving consent before engaging in safe sexual activity.

From over 30 entries from young people around the country, two winners were chosen: 17-year-old Imogen Barker with her slogan, “You moustache me for consent: always” and 17-year-old Oscar Cooke-Abbott with his slogan, “Consent: mutual, sober, voluntary, continuous, definite. If they say no, it’s a no go.”

Imogen Barker said that it was important for young people to learn about consent, but they often found face-to-face discussions about sexual relationships and safety awkward.

“Young people need to understand that you cannot give consent when you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, that by consenting for one type of sexual activity, you are not consenting for a different type, and that you have the right to say no to continuing if you are uncomfortable,” Ms Barker said.

“I think it's very important for young people to learn about consent as it both provides a sense of safety that all people deserve, and it helps prevent stupid mistakes that can and probably will ruin the lives of any and all involved,” said Oscar Cooke-Abbott.

Media contact

For enquiries or further information: Hannah Grant, Our Watch, mobile 0448 844 930, email Hannah.Grant@ourwatch.org.au

*If you cover this story, or any story regarding violence against women and children, please include the following tagline:

“If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. For more information about a service in your state or local area download the DAISY App in the App Store or Google Play.”

About Our Watch 

Our Watch’s (previously the Foundation to Prevent Violence against Women and their Children) purpose is to raise awareness and engage the community in action to prevent violence against women and their children.
Our Watch was conceived of and brought into existence in 2013 by the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of Victoria. The Northern Territory, South Australian, Tasmanian and Queensland governments have also since become members of the organisation.
Our Watch’s work derives from the government’s commitment to the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010 – 2022 and gives expression to many of the activities in the Second Action Plan 2013–2016 – Moving Ahead.