This New Film Is Tackling The Issue Of Social Media And Porn’s Impact On Teenagers

As calls for greater education around affirmative consent sound across the world, Channel 4’s Consent looks to examine the way porn and social media impact the way teenagers construct their own sexual identities.

Where it used to be the case that discussions around sex in school were concerned only about reproductive organs and sexually transmitted diseases, it’s now acknowledged that education needs to include pleasure, desire and perhaps most importantly, consent. It’s why in November of 2021, NSW parliament passed new laws regarding affirmative sexual consent, marking a significant milestone for survivors and advocates who have campaigned tirelessly to overhaul the state’s consent laws. But while there’s still much to be done when it comes to overhauling the curriculum and education around sex and age-appropriate consent education, a new film in the UK is looking to examine how social media and porn culture have impacted teenagers, particularly when it comes to their sexual identities and experiences. 

The film, which will land on the UK’s Channel 4, is called Consent, and looks to expose how teenagers at school come to shape their own sexuality amidst a barrage of porn, and the authority of the Internet and social media feed that seems to govern our waking hours. As a synopsis for the drama reads, Consent looks to “capture what it feels like for young people in an environment where sexual expectations are distorted by the instant access to porn and where lines of consent are minimised.” 

Set in a fictional private school that was previously only for boys, the school recently admitted female students. Viewers are introduced to the main characters Archie, a privileged, male student who feels like an outsider, and Natalia, a working class student who has won a scholarship to study at the prestigious school. Despite their different backgrounds, the pair find themselves forming a bond one night at a party, only for boundaries to be crossed. Natalie is then forced to navigate the challenges that come with levelling an accusation against a member of an elite group as the film tackles power dynamics, shame and the stigma associated with certain topics around sex. 

Consent writer, Emma Dennis-Edwards said, “While researching Consent, I was shocked but not entirely surprised about the culture of toxic masculinity and misogyny explored within the drama. While social media has proved to be an amazing tool for young people to express themselves socially and politically, it must also take some of the responsibility for the misogyny and sexual harassment that has become almost commonplace in our schools.”

Many hope Consent will serve as an educational film that speaks to young people about the importance of affirmative consent and the need to have open and honest conversations around such topics. “We hope our bold, authentic depiction of the teenage experience will resonate with many young people and will start a conversation about what kind of education a generation entirely permeated by a relentless online reality might actually need,” said executive producer, Aysha Rafaele. 

Consent will land on Channel 4 on Tuesday 7, February. While it’s unknown whether it will arrive to other streaming platforms for viewers in Australia, the film is certainly one that serves to highlight the importance of shining a spotlight on these issues and the power of film to inspire such conversations around consent culture and sexuality. 

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