CONTENT WARNING: this report contains multiple references to sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexism, abuse, institutional betrayal, and mentions of violence, particularly against marginalised groups.
The National Report on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment at Australian Universities (the “AHRC Report”) produced nine recommendations for universities across Australia to combat sexual assault and sexual harassment (SASH) in tertiary-education environments. The urgency of change was underscored by the incredibly high statistics of incidents being disclosed.
The ANU has since received dozens of recommendations across several reports. Many of these have been implemented to some degree; often late or with significant gaps in the eventual delivery. Others have been implemented and since reversed or diminished by inconsistency in upkeep. Others have been entirely ignored without any real accountability mechanism to hold the university to their promises.
The purpose of this report is not to provide a definitive list of every promise broken by the ANU in this space, but rather to provide an indication of the extent of the university’s failure to protect students and instigate an immediate change.
This report can be read as a timeline of progress on SASH issues (and lack thereof) at the ANU. The report is divided into years, with each year focusing on a different report or open letter along with follow-up reports being included alongside the original report, regardless of year of publication.
In my family, relationships and sex are topics that are never up for discussion. They’re not necessarily considered ‘taboo’, but we intuitively know never to talk about them, and it was strongly implied that neither were things that actually happened. I had my first (and only!) boyfriend in highschool, and as much as I wanted to go further than just ~making out~, there was always a part of me thatfelt wrong to do that, and I felt I would be letting someone (???who???) down. I also share a room back home, so masturbation was off the table and was never something I really thought about.
Then I came to uni and more specifically, to college, where people would openly discuss their sex lives, and I constantly felt – and still feel, to an extent – that I was missing out. Here were all these people making out, fooling around and hooking up, and I just had no idea what any of the fuss was about. TMI, but this led to me trying to masturbate and understand why all this was such a big deal – and spoiler alert, I failed. I constantly found myself too embarrassed or scared to go further than just touching myself over my undies, I always wanted to but it just felt so wrong that I couldn’t bring myself to.
I was so excited when I won the Lovehoney giveaway! I thought it would be an opportunity to try something new, which I normally wouldn’t due to financial constraints but also the sheer inability to convince myself to buy a sex toy. I was also struggling to be comfortable with myself due to a traumatic experience earlier this year and thought that owning and using a toy (or two) would help me to reclaim both my body and sexuality.
This has not, by any means, been an easy journey – I’m still not completely comfortable touching myself and often still find it hard to convince myself to do more than the classic pillow-humping, and I felt so embarrassed even just thinking about writing this piece. But, in what feels like a huge win, I have used the toys I bought a few times (and even bought another!), and I’ve found myself slowly getting more and more confident with myself and my body. I think this is the start of really building my confidence and owning my own body, and I couldn’t be happier!
You’re on a night out with your closest friend – the one who overshares and you love it – when she mentions her latest purchase… a rabbit.
“A what?” you ask, confused.
“A rabbit, you know, the vibrator with the rabbit for your clit.”
You look at her, still unsure. She brings up a photo on her phone.
“Oh righhttt,” now you’ve got it.
Why did you not know that before?
Since the 60s women have been said to be sexually liberated, yet within our hypersexualised society, female sexual pleasure is largely on the peripheral. Female masturbation and gyno-centric sex toys remain predominantly unexplored by mainstream culture.
Whilst the sexual revolution aimed for female sexual empowerment, it fell short in one key regard. It didn’t result in women having equally pleasurable sexual experiences, as female sexual pleasure remains a taboo.
In this post #MeToo era of disclosure and empowerment, it’s time to address the topic which has been absent far too long from our conversations around sex: female pleasure.
Throughout history, women’s exploration of sexual pleasure has been dominated by a pervasive phallocentric model. During the Spanish Inquisition, a guide to finding witches cited the clitoris as the ‘devil’s mark’ of a witch, justifying the death of 9 million women over two centuries. In the Victorian era, women who expressed unfulfilled sexual desire were diagnosed with ‘hysteria’ and treated by doctors through manual stimulation to reach a clinical orgasm which ‘cured’ the disease of desire. Throughout this history, female sexual pleasure has been positioned within a context of masculine hegemony.
Within our own milieu, a scientific and educational focus on female sexual pleasure remains largely absent as we remain positioned within an androcentric system whichnormalises male pleasure and marginalises women’s.
Only a generation ago, doctors believed women incapable of orgasm, with the clitorisbeing completely absent from anatomy books. Even now, far less research is done on female sexual pleasure, with little known of our nerves, erectile tissue, G-spots and orgasms than the equivalent is known of our male counterparts. The orgasm gap remains a fixture, with women having fewer, less predictable orgasms than men.A 2017 survey found just 65 percent of heterosexual women orgasmed during sexualintimacy whilst their male partners reached orgasm 95 percent of the time.
Our sex education remains shrouded in taboo, with discussions around sexual pleasure almost, if not exclusively, limited to the reproductive purpose of sex.
Another night out with another friend, and this time you’re talking about kegel exercises.
“Are they for your back muscles?” she asks.
“No,” you say. “They’re to strengthen the muscles in your pelvis.”
This lack of basic sex education has left many of us floundering. Shame and embarrassment around sex and our bodies has also impacted our sexual knowledgeand freedom, with a 2016 survey by Equality Rights Alliance finding three-quarters ofwomen believe sex education in Australian schools left them unprepared for sex and relationships. The idea that women are going to ‘lose something’ or are ‘giving something away’ by having sex remains pervasive, and means we are less aware of what we enjoy and how to get it.
In order to create a culture of true gender equality, we need candid conversations and accurate, sex-positive information about female pleasure. Without this, popular culture, pornography and outdated institutions will continue to perpetuate unhealthy stereotypes and unrealistic expectations that centre on male pleasure and relegate women to a secondary player within the phallocentric narrative. Through open conversations about sex and a desire to seek out empowering information, we can increase our knowledge and make more educated choices that will improve our sexual well-being.
Recognising the clitoris as an agent and object of power is one way in which women’s experiences can be transformed. Every time a woman has sex because it feels good, she is prioritising her own desire and asserting her sexual pleasure as anintegral societal norm.
Time magazine stated the #MeToo movement was fermenting for years. A related revolution for pleasure equality is also emerging as women reject the current androcentric system to assert their place within the sexual liberation movement.
It’s time for another revolution; it’s time to demand pleasure equality
As part of the semester one campaign Lets talk about sex baby! , women’s department hosted OMGYes and LoveHoney subscription giveaways. Some of our lovely winner have given us reflections about their experience. The ones we are sharing today are beautiful artwork we received in response to our giveaway. Have a look at these phenomenal pieces!
Over the first semester of 2020 as a part of our Lets talk about sex baby women’s department held a give-away contest. Where we gave away OMGYes and LoveHoney subscriptions and now some of our lovely winners have given us reflections on their experience. Hope you all enjoy it!!
This is going to be pretty TMI, so enter at your own risk.
I’m not very good at masturbating. I feel awkward about my own body, so usually make do with a bit of classic pillow-rutting. I feel awkward about the idea of having a conversation about it, which results in my furtive Google searches for advice. I went out on a limb entering my name in a Women’s Department draw for an OMGYes subscription, and when I got it, I felt less “omg, yes” and more “omg what do I do now?”
But this site is such a gift for the awkward types. It is full of women being frank about their bodies and what they like. It isn’t a ~*~sexy~*~, dimly lit, suggestive strip tease. It’s far more the vibe of the sex ed teacher who told us every year that she’d “had her embarrassment glands removed” and so we could ask her anything. Except, within the next moment, she was naked and touching herself.
It will take patience, self-acceptance, and a lot more time for me to get to a place where I can say confidently OMGYes has improved my sex life. But it has released me of the expectation that there’s a quick fix and given me the hope that one day I too could confidently tell someone how I like to be touched. And that’s a big step.
Thanks Women’s Department ❤
I had been waiting for an opportunity to use OMGYes for a while after hearing about it in an Emma Watson interview, and was so excited to get the chance when I won this giveaway! As someone who enjoys engaging in self-pleasure, as well as someone who (particularly at the time of the giveaway) was relatively new to being sexually active with others, this is such a fantastic resource. There are so many different things discussed that I have never tried, thought about, or even considered before, and the variety not only brings a lot of excitement, but is really helpful for allowing me to experiment with what really works well for me. Going through the modules in the season to try different techniques (alone, or with my boyfriend) has been really informative as well as fun, to the point that we went and bought the other season! I absolutely recommend this to absolutely anyone 🙂
Oh my gosh, OMGYes is OMGamazing! For a number of reasons that I feel I can do better justice by putting on different hats.
#Conservative Hat: As someone brought up in a conservative household with friends that are now married but have only recently started openly discussing sex I have found this such a good resource. I personally have limited sexual experience and the format of the site felt like speaking to a friend with diverse women sharing what worked for them and allowing me to have the opportunity to safely explore what might work for me and to also have the confidence to try something completely different that feels good for me.
#Single Hat: I don’t date much or at all but I don’t want that to mean I will leave the control of my pleasure to my partner if/when I find him. BONUS beyond exploring what feels amazing for me I loved that there were also options that would involve my partner when they enter the picture giving me confidence to share what works for me and potentially making it better for him!
#’Me’ Hat: Personally I also loved the interface. With so much content to go through, the layout allowed me to immerse in different techniques and clearly follow the content. I loved the little touches like using icons to highlight videos that might have sensitive content. It is a respectful non-judgemental platform that made me feel more comfortable experimenting and learning. And the diversity of the women sharing and their honesty added to this comfort.
#Pleasure Hat: I don’t have any experience with sex yet but definitely support self-pleasure! I thought I had done all there was to it but OMG there is so much more to explore which is really exciting.
I also loved that it’s not a one size fits all and there’s room to tweak a method to what feels good for me and just becoming more comfortable and familiar with my body and my sexuality 🙂
I’ve always had an odd relationship with masturbation. It was definitely
something I’ve experimented with since about age 14, however, this was always
in the cover of darkness in my bedroom at home, making sure to be quick and
quiet, as opposed to actually experimenting with and exploring my body and
pleasure. Moving out to come to uni, and moving into my own room on campus,
lead to the opportunity to properly explore myself on my own time (although
still remaining relatively quiet for the sake of my neighbours!).
However, this was still a limited and tentative exploration, bolstered
by a reliance of my two favourite vibrators.
My relationship with masturbation prior to OMGYes was one of
procrastination and a manner in which to destress (via distraction). I’ve
suffered from anxiety and depression for over 10 years, and, particularly when
I can’t sleep, masturbation has always been a tool I return to. Thus, this
relationship has never been one which truly focuses on pleasure and myself,
rather abstract distraction, and therefore, has always been one-dimensional.
Having finished Season 1 of OMGYes, I’d say my relationship with
masturbation and my pleasure has certainly been given a new perspective.
Firstly, the 12 “episodes” all require you to dedicate time to yourself and
your pleasure, so setting aside time to in order to properly explore the
website and its lessons was a new experience, and ultimately quite rewarding.
It was almost like a meditation session, a dedicated time for myself, and I
emerged from these “sessions” calm and blissfully happy. Associating
masturbation with this journey of discovery, outside of merely being something
to do when bored or mentally heightened, I think will prove fruitful in the
long term; certainly, the relationship between my mental health and
masturbation is more positive and much more meditative than prior to
The only hang up I had regarding the series was that it was all focused
around orgasms driven by your own touch. I personally prefer to use vibrators
and toys, as they offer sensations my own hands can’t. Although the series did
suggest some manners in which to mimic these sensations, I still found myself
reaching for my vibe as my hands purely weren’t enough, even which the
techniques the series taught. I can’t comment on Season 2, but it would
certainly be interesting to see if future episodes of OMGYes did include
techniques to enhance your pleasure whilst using toys. Regardless, this focus
was helpful in the sense that it did aid in uncovering and developing
techniques that can be employed when one doesn’t want to use, or doesn’t have
access to, their preferred toys. If you do primarily prefer your own touch in
order to orgasm, or for partners wishing to enhance their partner’s pleasure, I
would definitely recommend trying OMGYes out. However, if you do prefer toys
over your own hands, the subscription may not be worth it.
Despite this, I really enjoyed my encounter with OMGYes. Outside of getting better orgasms, it was incredibly refreshing and rewarding to watch real women discussing masturbation and pleasure openly and candidly. The interviews with the women were honest, and felt like I was talking to a friend or a mentor almost. In this regard, OMGYes added a crucial element to the societal discourse surrounding female masturbation and pleasure, with the discussion and reflection it prompted something I feel needs to be much more publicised and discussed. Candid conversation about masturbation and orgasms, with the added benefit of improving one’s mental health? Yes please!
OMGYes Reflective Statement 2, Anonymous
I thought I knew what was what when it came to masturbation. I’d gone through that ‘rite of passage’ summer of self-lovin’ as a teenager and believed that I had already found my groove. Boy, was I wrong.
OMGYes, a paid subscription platform providing ‘masturbation education’, was unexpectedly enlightening. With content on more than just ‘the mechanics’, as well as ways the insights could be transferred to a partnered scenario, it was certainly a game-changer. The advice was collated from women of various ages and ethnocultural backgrounds. The site features written, video and interactive content, grouped into 12 ‘episodes’, or themes. Backed by university research and a survey of over 10,000 women, the content definitely came across as being well thought out and resulting from thorough investigation.
Sounds bizarre, but one thing I realised through the experience of engaging with the website, was just how little many of us see vaginas in such a nondescript context. This is especially in the context of having them connected to living and speaking people, rather than disconnected in artwork or feminist iconography, dehumanised in typical sex education or perfected in the mainstream pornosphere. Sure, these particular encounters were situated within a ‘sexual’ scenario, but to have examples of women just casually talking about pleasure was refreshing. Nudity was treated as ‘matter of fact’ and coincidental to the purpose of demonstration rather than shrouded in bashfulness. There was also a variety of vaginas with and without pubic hair, but most were trimmed back, which makes sense for practical reasons in the context of what was being shown
In terms of the content, episodes ranged from manual techniques to advice regarding getting in the right headspace and partnered communication. It was easy enough to dip in and out of content, with videos scattered throughout the written sections. There was also the option to expand sections of interest and engage in touch-focussed ‘practice activities’. This wasn’t solely a resource for the ‘person-with-a-vagina-self’, it was also a resource for anyone who engages in sexual interactive play with vaginas. It is important to acknowledge, however, that this was framed as being “for women”, which can be somewhat exclusionary.
In the words of the website promo, this was about “making a great thing even better”. It is a resource that would be great to revisit ‘just because’, or to share excerpts of with a partner where appropriate. At the end of the day, any resource that aims to demystify the cone of silence around self-pleasure for people with vaginas is a good thing, and OMGYes has contributed an important voice in the discussion.
This July, the ANU Women’s Department attended the 2018 NOWSA conference, with help from funding from SEEF.
We travelled all the way to Newcastle on the Sunday to arrive in time for an exciting week of panels, workshops and keynote speeches.
Some highlights were a key note speech from Tilly Lawless, a panel about women in unions, a panel about decolonising tourism and rethinking refugees, a panel of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women, a speech from Lee Rhiannon, as well a dinner with all of our new friends from other universities.
ANU Women’s Department member Eleanor said, “It was an important opportunity to reflect on the intersectionality of my own feminism: to examine where and how I can be a better ally (but not to speak for minority groups).”
ANUSA Women’s Officer Laura Perkov, “It was an amazing opportunity to get to travel to Newcastle and spend time with Women’s Collective members who I hadn’t gotten to know previously. It was exciting to share my passions with women students from across the country in the workshops I ran.”
ANU Deputy Women’s Officer Juliette Baxter, “I really enjoyed getting to know students from other universities and learn about the advocacy taking place in other universities across the country. Participating in different workshops empowered me to want to get more involved at ANU.”
ANU Women’s Department member Issy, “For me, NOWSA was not just about formally learning and engaging with all the various intersections of feminism through the workshops and seminars, though they were brilliantly run and often really enlightening and empowering. Another incredibly important part of the conference was meeting passionate students from all around the country, as well as getting closer to other ANU Women’s Department members!”