‘Insulting and confusing’: Aussie govt video on sexual consent mocked

The video, which cost approximately AU$3.8 million in taxpayer funds to produce, was widely ridiculed on social media and has since been removed.

A screengrab of a video as part of the government's Respect Matters campaign
A screengrab of a video as part of the government's Respect Matters campaign

This week's PR mess comes out of Australia where the federal government released a series of videos about sex and consent in light of the public debate about sexual assault.

In one particularly incriminating video—which is part of the government's Respect Matters campaign—a teenage couple are seated in a milkshake bar and a bizarre dialogue exchange takes place culminating in the girl in the video smashing ice cream on the boy's face accompanied by confusing milkshake-related infographics.

"When a person imposes their will on you, it's as if they were moving the 'Yes line' over the 'Maybe zone' or the 'End zone', ignoring your rich inner world," a narrator in the video says. "And that's not good." Upon widespread mockery and confusion, the department removed two videos including the milkshake one on Tuesday (April 20).

In a statement, secretary of the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, Michelle Bruniges said on April 20:

"In response to community and stakeholder feedback, two videos have been removed. The website contains about 350 resources aimed to support teachers and parents to educate students across all age groups about respectful relationships more broadly. The website is designed to be a live and dynamic resource, with content added, removed, and modified, to ensure it remains current and appropriate. The department will continue to engage with experts to evaluate the materials that appear on the website to ensure they are fit for purpose and reflect current experiences and community issues."

According to publicly available information, the Department of Education paid Brisbane-based digital media agency Liquid Interactive nearly AU$3.8m (US$2.9 mil) to create the campaign that included the video. Overall, the Respect Matters campaign is billed at AU$7.8 mil (US$6 mil).

Critics took to social media and the news to lament their confusion, with one of the main points of contention being a female used as the perpetrator, even though government statistics show that women in Australia are disproportionately victimised by sexual assault compared to men. Plus, the words ‘sex’, ‘consent’ and ‘assault’ were nowhere to be found in the language used, and instead, relies on analogies using pizza, milkshakes and sharks.

One Twitter user said: “There's been a big public conversation about sexual assault and consent in Australia so the government funded this spot to teach people about consent? And it's f**cking insane? They're all acting like teletubbies and the young woman is victimising the man?”

A public conversation about sexual assault and consent continues to brew nationwide shortly after Attorney General Christian Porter revealed he was the subject of a 1988 rape allegation and Brittany Higgins, an ex-political adviser, alleged in February that she was raped in a minister's office in 2019.

In early March, tens of thousands of people took to the streets across major cities in Australia to protest against sexual abuse and harassment of women. 

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