Kings headmaster questions whether drunk boys recall consent lessons

The headmaster of The Kings School questions whether boys can recall their consent education while drunk if politicians and footballers cannot, and he warns Australia faces a reckoning over the harm that alcohol, porn and parties inflict on children.

In a letter to parents, sent after former Kambala schoolgirl Chanel Contos’s petition led hundreds of young women to reveal they were sexually assaulted as teenagers, Kings headmaster Tony George wrote that children and alcohol did not mix.

Cadets at The Kings School Credit:Steven Siewert

His comments follow a number of private school principals saying parents were providing an environment that enables sexual assault if they permit under-age students to hold parties involving copious amounts of alcohol, secluded spaces and poor supervision.

“Sadly, many of these parties involve children and alcohol, and worse, are often supported by parents and other adults who either turn a blind eye, go out for the night, or even supply the alcohol for the party,” Mr George said in his letter.

“I understand some put the view that 16 years of age is old enough to be responsible with alcohol. However, they are not old enough for a driver’s licence, and certainly not to drink and drive.

“And yet, do we really think an intoxicated teenage boy is going to have the presence of mind to recall his sex education curriculum and restrain himself at a boozed-up party when given the opportunity to pursue his porn-filled imagination and desire?

“If footballers and parliamentary staffers can’t do it, I think not. Our children need our support and supervision.

“I expect there will come a day when we will be held to account for conduct that has contributed to the harm of children due to alcohol, porn and parties. Perhaps that day has come.”

Phil Lambert, chair of the national expert group on respectful relationships education, and deputy chair of OurWatch, said evidence showed those elements were factors in sexual assaults rather than causes.

““People are saying things they believe to be helpful… But they’re all opinion,” he said.

“There are a lot of boys who get drunk and don’t sexually assault or abuse girls and women. There are people who watch porn and don’t ignore the need for consent. That doesn’t in itself lead to sexual assault. What the fundamental drivers are relate to respect for women and girls.”

Alcohol and sex education experts also fear conflating the issue of consent with underage drinking undermines the message that lack of consent is a crime, but say drinking can “muddy the waters” and is risky for many reasons, including the higher risk of injury and violence.

Dr Lambert said some factors, such as alcohol and pornography, were relevant to an extent. “But they’re not going to change statistics unless the drivers are addressed,” he said.

“That means looking at the whole school approach at how boys and girls interact with each other, who has dominance in the playground, who gets names read out as the sporting heroes – I could go on.

“These unending messages, some very subtle, that ultimately say: the boys are the ones who make the decisions and are the ones we recognise, their views and their success and achievements.”

Mr George said Kings was teaching its boys about consent through its Boys2Men program about respectful relationships with an emphasis on consent, porn, drugs and alcohol; its involvement in White Ribbon Day; and its recently-established The Kings Women’s Network.

National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line: 1800 737 732.

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