For everyone Let’s talk about consent, with the help of a good video

  • 28 Jun 2021

Consent videos have been in the headlines lately (anyone for a milkshake?), so we thought we’d seek out some messaging that actually works.

If you are in charge of producing advice about a matter of ambiguity, then it is of utmost importance that your message is clear. In other words, perhaps don’t use a woman tipping a milkshake over a man to illustrate an issue for which the reverse gender roles are almost always the norm. And perhaps avoid having the actors smirking if you’re trying to convey that this is a serious matter. Simple things like that. But then, what would we know – no one’s ever offered us $3.7 million to make a video.

Some videos do get it right, though. Using clear messaging, a calm voice and good performances, we know what they’re getting at – and kids will too. Here are a few that we like.

The British brew

This British video uses repetition and simplicity to draw a surprisingly effective comparison between consent and something as simple as… well, a cup of tea. “If they say ‘no, thank you’, they just don’t want tea”. Illustrating consent using an action many of us do daily – making a cup of tea for someone, or choosing whether we feel like a cup of tea – goes a long way to showing just how simple the concept really is. The notion of forcing someone to drink a cup of tea moves it to the level of the absurd and in doing so really brings home the message clearly. Find it here: youtu.be/u7Nii5w2FaI

Clementine Ford’s take

Independent creative agency The Royals teamed up with women’s rights activist Clementine Ford to put together this ad in rapid response to the Morrison government’s now notorious milkshake misstep. As Clem puts it: “Consent is an ongoing conversation, not a box you tick at the start of the night.” Offering straight advice in simple language – with the added idea of seeking not reluctant but “enthusiastic consent” – this is short, straightforward, unambiguous, and still playful.

Planned Parenthood USA

This American consent ad from Planned Parenthood depicts passionate kissing (DPK!), the kind that makes young children squirm, so it’s for older students only. It is matter-of-fact, avoids being hetero-normative, and brings a new spin with the notion that “asking for consent can actually be kinda sexy.”

Available at plannedparenthood.org/learn/relationships/sexual-consent

The tiny boss video

At the other end of the age spectrum, ‘Boss of My Own Body’ by the Teeny Tiny Stevies is a simple, cute and catchy song with a video featuring cartoon Australian animals made by the two Stephen sisters, Beth and Byll. It doesn’t talk over the heads of small people and it doesn’t talk down to anyone either. The message is clear, and the song will get in your head – and not in an annoying way.

View the Teeny Tiny Stevies video at youtu.be/2ntVdx9SOD4

Autonomy for all ages

Also for young children, this simple ‘Consent for Kids’ video from American agency Blue Seat Studios has a short and sweet message that is voiced by children and easy to follow. It explains that no one is entitled to tell you what to do with your body. It is tricky territory when discussing bodily rights with kids – as one YouTube comment points out, there may be instances in which medical care requires treatments, such as injections, that children would rather not consent to! However, it’s refreshing to see a video that tells children that they can decide whether they want to hug a friend or family member, normalising the fact that not everyone likes hugs – and that bribes or threats are never appropriate.

Kiwis calm and clear 

Finally, we have to add the excellent – and hilarious – New Zealand ad about internet porn, which promotes the importance of talking about the difference between real relationships and those shown in pornography where, as one actor says, “We don’t even talk about consent, do we? Just get straight to it.”

Focused on urging parents to have a calm, clear-headed chat with their kids, no one is being blamed; there is no finger pointing and no unkindness. Instead, these ads seek to educate, recognising that parents often don’t know what their kids are seeing or doing online. Along with the one about porn, there are ads about cyber-bullying, grooming and violent videos. If only our government had the wisdom to fund something this honest and entertaining!

Find the New Zealand government’s educational resources, including the full suite of ads, at keepitrealonline.govt.nz

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