Tuning into and turning up the conversation: What girls and young women have to say about reimagining education on consent

Year: 2021

Author: Mackinlay, Liz, Henderson, Margaret, Mickelburgh, Renee, Ramos, Fabiane

Type of paper: Individual Paper

In the same week that attention was centred on the sexual assault allegations of Brittany Higgins while working as a staffer in Parliament House, former Kambala student Chanel Contos launched a poll on her Instagram account asking, “If you live in Sydney: have you or has anyone close to you ever experienced sexual assault from someone who went to an all-boys school?” Within 24 hours she had 300 responses with over 73% saying yes. The poll has now grown into a “teachusconsent” petition, attracting more than 3,000 harrowing testimonies about alleged sexual assault and harassment from predominantly private school students in Sydney's eastern suburbs. The “teachusconsent” petition resulting from the Instagram poll sheds light on the fact that consent is taught far too late in Australian schools, and when students are finally taught about it, it is inadequate. Chanel Contos’s Instagram petition is an example of new digital feminist activism and highlights how the voices of young women have often been silenced. Young women want to be heard, their accounts of everyday sexism are pervasive and need to be listened to—and the time for tuning into and turning up that conversation is now.There are now over 3000 “teachusconsent” online statements and collectively these form a rich public dataset for beginning to understand how girls and young women are voicing their experiences and making sense of issues consent. In this paper, “Tuning into and turning up the conversation on consent”, we consequently seek to amplify the voices of girls and young women in relation to experiences of consent and the role of education through a feminist discourse analysis of the available online statements. Our paper asks the following key questions: what are the voices of girls and young women telling us about their experiences of consent, sexual harassment, assault and violence in their relationships with boys and young men? What do the voices of girls and young women tell us about the intersections of sexuality, race, class and location with experiences of consent, sexual harassment, assault and violence? How might we reimagine education about consent by tuning into what girls and young women tell us about their experiences of consent?