‘Good Society’ Sexual Consent Videos: Another Federal Government Flop

by Sonia Hickey

The Federal Government was recently forced to remove two controversial consent videos from its ‘’Good Society’ website, after wide-spread criticism, chalking up another expensive federal flop.

The videos were titled ‘Moving the line basics‘ and intended to be an education module for year 10 to 12 students.

The deleted videos

The first of the deleted videos showed a young woman asking her male partner to try her milkshake. When he says he’s happy with his own, she smears the drink over his face – needless to say, without his permission.

The second deleted video featured a man with a spear gun attempting to coerce his female partner to go swimming, despite her fear of sharks.

The videos were immediately mocked, with some reporting them as offensive.

Criticism

The widespread criticism of the videos included that they are unrealistic, that they trivialise and misrepresent the issue of consent and that they are an ineffective and potentially counter-productive way of getting the message across to their intended market.

Many have gone on to ask the question, how can the government spend so much money on advisers yet still get it so wrong?

‘The Good Society’?

The videos, digital stories, podcasts and other materials on ‘The Good Society’ website were launched last week, as part of the government’s $7.8 million Respect Matters program.

But already, the resource has faced significant backlash from rape prevention advocates, women’s rights groups and some politicians for its strange messaging around the laws of sexual consent.

The videos are seen to be cheesy, acted poorly and accompanied by a condescending, almost comical voice over.

Part of their ineffectiveness, critics say, is that they are far removed from the slick, edgy material that teenagers are consuming day and night on social media.

And given the horrific stories of sexual assault that have been emerging from schools around the country, this demographic, along with university students are seen as desperately in need of appropriate information to better understand consent and respect others.

A multi-million dollar failure

What’s alarming to many is the cost of the entire project, which less than a week after its launch has been labelled, amongst other things, a “missed opportunity” and a “dismal failure’, with some experts saying that the online resources don’t even meet the National Standards for the prevention of sexual assault through education.

The website alone cost $3.8 million.

An insult to intelligence

Australian of the Year, Grace Tame, who is a fierce advocate for survivors of sexual abuse, societal change, and education called the videos ‘an insult to the intelligence of everyone, not just adults, but to children as well.’

Furthermore, she told media, “It minimises the experience of rape trauma, it fails to really address the nuances of this complex issue of consent. I think this is just indicative of poor leadership, of a poor understanding of how serious this issue is.”

And there is the crux of the problem right there. If sexual consent were easy to solve, it would have been done a hundred times already, but it’s an incredibly complex issue involving very personal experiences and feelings.

While most people realise that ‘no means no’ although it’s not always expressed as no, everyone has a very different view of where their own personal boundaries lie, and no two situations are ever the same.

Given the serious allegations that have emerged from Parliament House this year, by Brittany Higgins and others, the Morrison Government had to do something. But unfortunately it has again come up with an expensive technology solution that doesn’t deliver.

Sexual assaults continue to increase

Unfortunately, the videos have shown that our leaders really don’t understand the issue and it’s worrisome that until they do, there will be no headway towards eradicating Australia’s epidemic of violence against women. And headway is urgently needed.

Just released NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) data shows sexual assaults escalated to an all-time high after 2020’s COVID-19 lockdown, with police reports up more than 10 per cent year-on-year.

Women’s Safety NSW says most assaults occurred in a domestic setting and online contact for help went up 20 percent during lockdown. The number of sexual assault reports recorded by police fell to 336 in April during the pandemic lockdown, but the numbers escalated to more than 600 in June, post lockdown and remained high for the rest of the year.

Consent is definitely a social issue, but teaching it is not a Federal Government responsibility. This responsibility lies within families and schools because it lies at the very heart of our close relationships.

The Government should stop wasting taxpayer dollars on overpriced websites and apps, and commit money instead to the legal reforms that have long been called for, and to support  the existing prevention programmes and victims support services that are currently desperate for more funding.

Image Credit: The Good Society website

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Author

Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice, and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team.

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