NSW-based youth sex education org Consent Labs, who give presentations to high school students, was criticised last week for encouraging their young audience to risky, porn-inspired sex acts and to become customers of the sex industry.
In an Instagram post, Campaigns Manager Caitlin Roper called out Consent Labs over an Instagram story in which they encouraged viewers to
“Consider trying activities out of the box for your usual play e.g. roleplay, swinging or group sex, hiring a sex worker.”
In her post, Caitlin asked whether Consent Labs had considered the impact of this advice on young people, particularly girls.
She also raised concerns that an organisation tasked with teaching the concept of consent to teenagers seemed to believe consent could be purchased.
“Setting aside the inherent violence and exploitation in the sex trade, or the links to sex trafficking, men’s paid sexual access to the bodies of women in the sex industry is the opposite of consent. If two people desire to have sex with each other, there is no need for payment. In prostitution, money is exchanged to circumvent consent. Paying for sexual access to another person’s body is coercion, not consent,” she wrote.
Consent Labs responded in a comment on Caitlin's post:
We did not mean to cause any harm from our recent instagram story. As we are always open to feedback, we have deleted that slide. We take our responsibility as educators in this field very seriously, and as a female-founded organisation that was created based on the lived experiences of our peers, we are acutely aware of the prevalence of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and the consequences of rape culture. We have spent 6+ years working with a host of relevant industry professionals to deliver evidence-based content. We tailor all our programs to the needs and asks of every school.
We created this program by combining evidence-based information and expert advice, so that we can answer the questions that young people have explicitly asked us. Our values are to be inclusive and diverse - because that is the direction that consent and sexual education needs to go. We target our Instagram stories specifically to our Instagram demographic (98% over 18yo) and as a result may choose to explore more mature topics, particularly if they are questions that our followers have asked.
To address the story content itself, these activities ‘swinging or group sex, hiring a sex worker’ were intended to capture the diversity that exists within our communities. There are reasons why consenting adults may choose these avenues to explore their sexuality - such as pleasure, disability and sexuality. As an organisation that focuses on consent, we absolutely agree that any non-consensual activity or sexual violence cannot be condoned. Again, we did not mean to cause any harm by this post. We are driven by our vision that young people are equipped with the tools to engage in consensual healthy relationships and understand their rights.
But despite claiming that their Instagram content was targeted to adults over 18, they had previously encouraged high school students to engage with this very content.
After we shared the post to our social media, the Daily Telegraph picked up the story:
A sex education charity which runs workshops for NSW high school students has come under fire for a social media post encouraging “role play, swinging or group sex and hiring a sex worker”.
Collective Shout spokeswoman Caitlin Roper who campaigns against the sexualisation of girls, said she was “alarmed” at the advice.
“Normalising risky, porn-inspired sex acts to an audience of young people, including high schoolers, is the last thing women and girls need," she said.
“Did Consent Labs pause to consider the potential impact of this advice on their young audience?
“Young women are increasingly reporting their experiences of harassment, sexual abuse and rape at the hands of porn-fuelled male classmates. They describe being coerced into unwanted, painful and degrading porn sex acts.
“It’s alarming to me that an organisation that teaches consent to high school children believes consent can be purchased.”
NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell was asked if education authorities knew what was being taught in schools by outside agencies and if inappropriate sexual content was provided in such lessons.
“The content in the Instagram story is not suitable for a consent lesson at a school,” she said. “It is my expectation that sex education at schools is always age appropriate.”
Caitlin spoke with Stephen Cenatiempo on 2CC Canberra. You can listen here.