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Medical Health Aged Care, Women

Monash Experts: World Sexual Health Day 2023: Consent

Monash University 3 mins read

On World Sexual Health Day, the World Health Organization celebrates every person’s right to sexual wellbeing. This year’s theme is consent. 


WHO says: “Consent is a crucial element of any healthy sexual encounter, and we must educate ourselves and others on what it means, how to express it, and how to obtain it. In addition, it is essential to respect and value everyone’s autonomy and choices in sexual matters, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or any other factor.”


Available to comment: 


Dr Claire Tanner, Senior Lecturer in Gender Studies and Sociology

Contact details:
Read more of Claire’s commentary at Monash Lens 

  • Digital Cultures 
  • Gender and Sexualities
  • Families, Food and Consumption
  • Social and Ethical Implications of Science and Technology

The following can be attributed to Dr Claire Tanner:


“‘Consent’ is a critical element of, not just legal, but positive and empowering, sexual encounters. What consent looks like, how it can be communicated and recognised, is not necessarily straightforward given the messy realities of sexual intimacies and exchanges, which are also shaped by powerful gendered norms and expectations. This highlights how critical conversations about consent are – not just in the bedrooms of intimate partners, but in courtrooms, the offices of policymakers, and in schools where ideas about what consent is and looks like are made and re-made. What comes of these conversations has grave implications, not least for the more than one in five women who currently experience sexual violence in our society. 


“Increasingly, key spaces where messages about sex, bodies and consent are being circulated are on social media, where different platforms are enabling informal forms of sex education to take place.”


Jessica Grahame, Lecturer

Contact details: +61430095504, or or Twitter DM: @jessica_grahame

  • Sexual violence 
  • Rape culture
  • Post-structuralist, Intersectional and feminist theory
  • Gender norms and sexual coercion

The following can be attributed to Jessica Grahame:


“The significance of consent as a social issue worthy of attention cannot be overstated, and must be understood within the social context of what scholars have described as ‘rape culture’. Rape culture is characterised by sexually coercive norms, victim blaming, stigma, legislative inadequacy, and associated low reporting rates of sexual violence. While conservative estimates suggest that one in five Australian women will experience sexual violence during their lifetime since the age of 15, the reporting rate of sexual violence crimes in Australia is 13 per cent, suggesting that the incidence of this violence is likely higher. Considerable work has been done in acknowledging the significance of education around consent, in preventative measures of this type of violence and to eradicate this culture of coercion and violence.”


“Consent has received considerable attention in the space of legislative reform, most recently, in the Victorian Government’s implementation of law change to prioritise affirmative consent. Importantly, this reform includes a changed legal definition of consent, to one which highlights the importance of seeking and receiving explicit, voluntary consent. This means that each person participating in a sexual encounter is responsible for ‘checking in’ and otherwise ensuring that all parties want to engage in this encounter. A crucial characteristic of affirmative consent is that it is not merely a case of relying on the absence of no, assuming yes through interpreted body language or applying consent of one sexual act to all sexual acts. To prioritise sexual health and wellbeing, consent needs to be an ongoing and reciprocal process.” 


“The importance of an affirmative consent model is in the shifting of responsibility from potential victim survivors of sexual violence to the perpetrators of said violence. Deepening our legal and cultural understanding of consent provides us with the knowledge to hold accountable the perpetrators of violence who often utilise coercion as a tactic to obtain consent. Within the framework of affirmative consent, how consent was obtained is crucial — this is part and parcel of the steps need to move away from a culture of victim blaming associated with sexual violence.”


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