These Consentless Movie Scenes Sparked a National Campaign

For any Australian, warnings of violence or lesson language before watching a movie or TV show are an integral part of the experience. The same goes for content involving sexual references or aggression. But a worrying act is never classified before appearing on the screen. Worse still, this act is often glorified and romanticized: consent, or lack thereof, remains unrecognized, though it often occurs in alarming ways.

This is the exact reason why Angelique Wan, who co-founded educational youth organization Consent Labs, is leading a campaign that could see ‘lack of consent’ included in Australia’s film and TV rating system.

“We inevitably get questions from students saying, ‘[Asking for consent] seems awkward, how do you make it feel normal and second nature? “And those conversations always come back to the fact that you rarely see a role of consent modeled anywhere, it’s certainly not modeled in the relationships that we see on screen,” Wan said. SHE Australia.

She’s not wrong. While it’s already common knowledge that the relationship dynamics shown on screen often create unrealistic expectations, what you may not have noticed is that some of these relationships seem to normalize problematic behaviors. and, in some cases, criminals.

Take The devil wears Prada for example. In one scene, Andy travels to Paris where she finds herself several drinks with Christian, a writer who helped her with Miranda’s unreasonable demands. In this particular scene, he walks in to kiss her, but Andy repeatedly turns him down before saying she has no more excuses as he kisses her. The music turns up and the scene cuts to the couple waking up in the same bed. The scene is meant to be romantic, in a way, but what people might not realize is that legally a person cannot assume consent is given if their potential partner is smitten. incapacitation by alcohol or drugs.
Likewise, a problematic scene in the viral Netflix series Bridgerton depicts the Duke of Hastings asking Daphne to stop while they are having sex so he can pull out before he climaxes. Aware of this and desperate to have her child, Daphne ignores him and continues to have sex with him until he ejaculates. By law, consent can be revoked at any time during the act, even if you originally consented. Bridgerton was technically a rape scene, but it wasn’t treated as such.

“Consent is often never asked and always assumed [onscreen]”Wan continues. “And a lot of times a character will actually say ‘no,’ but the person still accepts the kiss, and it’s all fictionalized, and then there’s some sexy music behind it, and then it turns into a scene of sex – and it’s just played as well.”

Another alarming example occurs in two important children’s stories: White as snow and Sleeping Beauty.

“There are cartoons and animations where the main character is asleep and you kiss him out of his sleep, but legally you can’t consent if you’re sleeping or unconscious,” Wan points out.

She reiterated that the new campaign, and this potential addition to the ratings system, is not necessarily about “cancelling” these famous films, but rather highlighting and educating more Australians about the definition of consent.

“It’s not about canceling or censoring these movies, this rating is like any other rating out there – we just let viewers know what they see on screen,” she tells us. .

It is clear that this additional element of education will not be bad either. According to research commissioned by Consent Labs, nearly two-thirds of Australians have never been told about consent, with 25% learning about consent on their own.

“Three in five Australians are unable to recognize consent when seen on screen and a quarter are unable to define it,” Wan continues.

The campaign coincides with major advances in consent laws being made in several Australian state governments. In June, New South Wales officially adopted the affirmative consent model (this requires a person to take active steps to ensure that they have established whether another person wants to have sex before committing in the act). In August, Victoria also passed the Affirmative Consent Bill, with the model due to come into force in 2023.

“For us to see the really positive changes around consent was a sign that attitudes are changing and more progress can be made,” Wan said.

her and her Consent Laboratories co-founder Dr Joyce Yu launched the campaign, #ClassifyConsent on September 7, and they are asking for support via pledges to the website They are considering turning this into a federal petition to the Classifications Commission. Hopefully, “lack of consent” will be a classification for all relevant movies and TV shows in the future.

Andrea G. Henderson