Consent Labs is calling for a new “lack of consent” classification for films and TV shows to better educate Aussies about what consent actually looks — or doesn’t look — like.
Remember *that* shocking sex scene in Bridgerton season one between Daphne and Simon where he said no and she kept going? What about when Andy said she was too drunk to consent but was kissed anyway in Devil Wears Prada? Or how about the fact that Dale’s comedic plot line in Horrible Bosses was that his boss kept sexually harassing him? And of course, there’s *that* supposedly hilarious scene in Wedding Crashers where Gloria ties down Jeremy and forces herself onto him.
All of these scenes actually depict some form of non-consensual touching, kissing, or straight up sexual assault — but we don’t often see them discussed that way because they don’t exhibit the violence we associate with rape like certain scenes in more intense shows ( *cough* Game of Thrones *cough*).
Consent Labs is looking to change this.
The non-profit organisation conducted a study where it showed 1,000 Aussies aged 18-44 a bunch of intimate scenes from movies and TV shows. Shockingly, more than half (57 per cent) of the participants couldn’t tell which scenes had non-consensual acts and which did, prompting Consent Labs to call for a “lack of consent” classification.
The classification is designed to not only warn people about content in the media they’re consuming (like a trigger warning), but to let Aussies know that certain scenes are non-consensual, in case they wouldn’t have recognised it themselves.
“Our research shows that despite Australians having the best intentions to either teach or learn about consent – such as in school or as parents – we’re still seeing it being defined incorrectly,” CEO, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Consent Labs Angelique Wan said.
“While adding a classification to content may seem simple, it’s a powerful addition and can even be used as an education tool.
“From scenes in children’s films where women are kissed while they’re asleep, to rom-coms where men are tied to a bed and their struggle is played for laughs, or scenes that are depicted as romantic, even though the person says ‘no’ again and again.
“These acts are designed to add dramatic effect to a scene but the visualisation without warning perpetuates and normalises lack of consent.”
It’s important to note that adding a (C) Lack of Consent classification to a movie or shoe doesn’t mean it’s being “cancelled” or that it’s now problematic and no one should watch it. It’s about educating people that these are examples of non-consensual acts, to help normalise healthier and more respectful behaviour IRL. Chandler kissing Rachel and Phoebe as a joke in Friends might be funny to watch, but it’s good to make it clear that wouldn’t fly in real life.
“There’s power in knowing what you’re watching,” Co-Founder and Executive Director of Consent Labs Joyce Yu said.
“That’s why we classify coarse language, nudity and drug use. And that’s why we must classify lack of consent.”
Actually introducing the lack of consent classification will be pretty complicated since it’ll require a change in legislation.
To kick start the campaign, Consent Labs has introduced the website Classify Consent. It plans to launch a Federal Petition to the Classifications Board later this year to turn its movement into legal reform. We love to see it!
Help is available
If you require immediate assistance, please call 000.
If you’d like to speak to someone about sexual violence, please call the 1800 Respect hotline on 1800 737 732 or chat online.
Under 25? You can reach Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800 or chat online.