Why Young People Really, Really Need To Think About Consent At Schoolies

Tia Gostelow

Tia Gostelow, the 17-year-old singer songwriter who last year won Triple J‘s first ever Unearthed High Indigenous Initiative, as well as placing in the top five for Triple J Unearthed High, is not your typical teenager.

While most of us at that age were cramming for the HSC and/or avoiding responsibilities, she’s making music and spending her free time advocating for what she believes in. She’s the new ambassador for Our Watch’s national youth campaign The Line, which aims to develop healthy relationships between men and women.

Here, she writes for PEDESTRIAN.TV about how absolutely essential consent is when it comes to hooking up at Schoolies Week.

If you took a quick poll of young people hitting up Schoolies this year, I am sure you’d find ‘hooking-up’ high on their list of priorities.

Sex, partying and alcohol are synonymous with the typical Australian Schoolies experience.

When I arrived in Airlie Beach this time last year for an epic seven-day adventure, there were no surprises.

The underage drinking and subsequent fuck-off hangovers, the peer pressure and the belligerent behaviour were a reality.

Schoolies – all fun and games, until it isn’t.

What struck me the most from my time at Schoolies were the disturbing stories I heard about sexual assault and rape.

They were the kind of rage-inducing stories we hear about every day in the news, reminiscent of the millions of #MeToo posts and the recent attention to on-campus sexual assaults at Australian universities.

These stories make us ask why, in 2017, these kinds of violent incidents are still occurring. Yet if we dig just a little beneath the surface, the answer is blindingly obvious.

They stem from a culture that says, ‘nailing a chick’ is a rite of passage for guys and that pressuring girls into sex is just a part of being a young man – after all they’re ‘way hornier than chicks’.

Instead of looking at sex as something that requires mutual and enthusiastic consent from all sides, it’s accepted that it’s up to the guy to initiate it and up to the girl to make it abundantly clear she doesn’t want it.

Sexual consent is often misunderstood by many young people today: if you wear revealing clothing ‘you’re asking for it’ and that if you don’t actively protest against it, sexual consent is implied.

Unfortunately, these problematic attitudes are also reflected in the research.

According to a survey of 12-20-year olds conducted by The Line campaign, 1 in 10 think it’s ok for guys to put pressure on girls to do sexual things, and almost half of the young people surveyed believe it to be common.

But there also seems to be a giant gap in how young people are taught about what it means to have sex, as opposed to how to have sex.

While I was lucky to have parents that discussed sex and consent freely, there are heaps of parents for whom the cringe factor is high. And schools aren’t much better.

In Year 9 Health we learnt about how to avoid pregnancy and STIs by ‘being safe’ and wearing a condom, and that was pretty much the end of it.

Schools have the biology and mechanics of sex down (mostly!), but they miss the human side of it – the respect, the loud and clear HELL YEAH from both sides, and the fact that it should feel good for both parties.

If ‘hooking-up’ is really high on your list of achievements for Schoolies, then you should make sure that the person you’re hooking up with is 100 per cent into it. If they’re not, there’s a 100 per cent chance you’ll be turning Schoolies into Toolies, and a heads-up: it won’t be them who’s the tool.

So if you’re heading north after the exams, please keep this in mind; Schoolies is a fleeting moment in time that only happens once, so make sure it’s a party you’ll remember for the good times for the rest of your life, not because you made someone else’s life a living hell.