Chanel Contos: “At No Point in School Was it Ever Said to Me That I Was Meant to Enjoy Sex”
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**Trigger warning: this article discusses sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers.
The conversation around consent, and education around consent, has come leaps and bounds in just a few years. However, with 1 in 5 Aussie women having experienced sexual violence, we still have so long to go. We know what consent means, but messaging around it from schools and from government tends to try and summarise it in a quippy, easy-to-remember catchphrase that doesn’t consider the nuance and realistic situations that instances of sexual assault might occur. Chanel Contos, consent and sex education advocate, has been pushing to change that.
Contos’ widespread movement pushing for holistic sexual education took off after she posted a simple question on her Instagram story: have you or has someone you know been sexually assaulted by someone who attended an all-boys Sydney private school? Within 24 hours, over 200 people replied ‘Yes’.
From there, Contos launched her website — Teach Us Consent — which advocates for holistic consent and sex education. In February of last year, the initiative smashed a huge milestone, with Ministers of Education nationwide committing to mandating “holistic and age-appropriate consent education in every school, every year, from foundation until Year 10”, starting this year.
Contos has just released her new book Consent Laid Bare, taking a deep-dive into how and why our society is still falling short on these issues. Now, she’s sitting down with Melissa Mason on the newest episode of POPSUGAR’s Love Rants to help give the nuance, and know-how, this conversation deserves.
Contrary to what some teachers or politicians might think, avoiding being assaulted is not as simple as taking a few self-defence classes.
Chanel Contos on Where We’re Still Falling Short on Consent and Sexual Education
For the record, Contos notes the steps the government has taken to ensure that consent is being taught in schools from as young as possible.
“We’ve got affirmative consent legislation being rolled out around different parts of Australia at the moment,” she says on the latest episode of POPSUGAR’s Love Rants.
“That’s really exciting because it really does change that narrative from ‘no means no’ to ‘only yes means yes’, which accounts for things like freezing in a way and stuff like that. But it still misses the mark.”
Contos goes on to explain where our education from societal systems, and education between each other, could improve.
“One: is it safe to say ‘no’? Do you say ‘yes’ because it’s safer?” she says, “but, in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of the other, that could come across as consent.”
“Even as we move to ‘only yes means yes’, are we taking into account the idea of pleasure and intimacy, better known as enthusiastic consent? That’s what we should really be aiming for here, right? People are not only legally consenting but enthusiastically engaging in sexual activity.”
Both Chanel and Melissa note that common sense and basic people skills come into acknowledging and noticing when someone is uncomfortable, but Chanel says that if someone is ignoring those signs, in some instances it can be brought back to their education around sex.
“If someone has been socialised and has an extreme amount of sexual power and control over another’s body, and they’re not seeing us as true humans that they’re engaging in intimacy with, but instead seeing us as a vessel for their sexual desires, then obviously us not saying ‘no’ is good enough for them.”
Listen to Chanel’s full episode of Love Rants above, or via Apple Podcasts.
If this article brings up any issues for you or anyone you know, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please contact 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) — the National Sexual Assault, domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service.
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