By Samantha van Staden
CN: rape, sexual assault, PTSD, depression
Earlier this year, Rose Payne wrote an article for Blueprint talking about her idea for a project which would catalogue instances of rape and sexual assault in film and TV. This project was called Unconsenting Media, and its goal was to empower the public – but especially survivors of rape and sexual assault – to make more informed and healthy choices about the media that they want to engage with. Rose believed that, although discussions about the larger-scale struggles of survivors to reclaim agency over their lives are relatively abundant, recognition of the smaller, more commonplace challenges (including things as simple as enjoying TV and film) is often much less so. It’s a simple idea, but a meaningful one: survivors deserve to choose if and when they want to engage with particular scenes and dialogues, rather than having potentially upsetting scenes sprung on them with little to no warning.
“The link between this project and mental health awareness is clear”
In my mind, the link between this project and mental health awareness is clear. For one thing, survivors of rape and sexual assault are more likely than other people to suffer from psychological ailments such as PTSD and depression. Even without such a diagnosis, rape and sexual assault have many painful psychological, emotional and physical effects which can be difficult for survivors to overcome. The primary function of Unconsenting Media is a crucial one for people who find themselves in this situation: for someone who might otherwise find herself unexpectedly watching a graphic scene in a movie theatre, feeling unable to get up and walk out without inciting unwanted questions, or for someone who feels that his freedom to enjoy simple things like television and movies has been curtailed by something he would rather have never happened.
I’m Samantha and, in October, I became the new Director of Unconsenting Media, recruiting a team who began work developing the website, recruiting more volunteers and publicising the project. Since Rose’s article, Unconsenting Media has experienced considerable progress. On the 27th of November the website was officially launched – something which would never have been achieved without the team at doesthedogdie.com, who donated their time, resources and knowledge free of charge to assist us in developing and publicising the website. The project has been met with enthusiasm and generosity in ways which none of us could have fully anticipated.
“We ask that, the next time you watch a film or television show, you take thirty seconds to submit it to our database”
The most important part of the website is and always has been the database, which, at the time of writing, lists over 1000 films and television shows (including the roughly 150 which contributors listed during the earliest stages of the project in 2016). This database is fully crowdsourced and, as a result, relies on submissions from the public to be as comprehensive as possible. Due to this, we ask that, the next time you watch a film or television show, you take thirty seconds to submit it to our database, if it isn’t listed there already. It is these small contributions by members of the public which keep Unconsenting Media up-to-date and valuable.
“Hopefully, it will also create a greater awareness of how we create media which deals with topics like rape and sexual assault”
Since the website’s launch we have also introduced a number of new functions to the project. For instance, the website features pages dedicated to background information and resources addressing consent and sexual conduct more broadly. We hope that these will both publicise potentially helpful resources to survivors and those who care about them and to clarify the principles which underlie Unconsenting Media’s ethos and activities. Plus, Unconsenting Media’s blog will act as a platform for open, informed and productive conversations regarding sex and consent in the media. If this is something you think you might like to be a part of, have a look at the content writer vacancy on the website’s ‘get involved’ page!
Going forward, we at Unconsenting Media want as many people to benefit from and contribute to the project as possible. We want to expand both within and beyond university circles to reach as many different kinds of people as we can. In all of this, your involvement is the most important thing. You can:
- Make submissions to the database when you watch something which you can see isn’t listed;
- Keep informed about what Unconsenting Media is up to on Facebook and Twitter;
- Check out the variety of opportunities on our ‘get involved’ page.
Alternatively, if you have any ideas or feedback regarding the project, feel free to get in touch via the website’s contact form! The team is always fully open to conversations about how we might expand or improve in any way.
Ultimately, I and my team truly believe that this project has the potential to make a meaningful difference to how the public, but especially survivors, consume media. Hopefully, it will also create a greater awareness of how we create media which deals with topics like rape and sexual assault, which affect so many real lives.
Check out the database and get involved at www.unconsentingmedia.org
Header image courtesy of Unconsenting Media