Ask your parents about ‘breadcrumbing’, ‘Grindr, ‘ghosting’ or ‘kittenfishing’ and they’ll either blank you completely or assume you’re talking about hip-hop. That’s because, just like hip-hop, they have absolutely no idea about navigating the minefield that is sex and intimacy in the digital world.

So, when you’re looking for advice about boundaries and consent when it comes to things like sexting and online chatting, you’ve come to the right place. Here we run through five of the non-negotiables, grey areas and no-go zones of finding love in the Digital Age.

1. Consent matters

Don’t understand what consent means? Watch this simple instructional video. At Swinburne, we strongly encourage all students to complete the Consent Matters course. All students are automatically enrolled in the course through Canvas. The course covers what sexual consent is, how to ask for it, recognise it, and how to identify situations where it can’t be given. Because if you’re a part of the Swinburne community – or heck, a member of human society – , sexual consent is 100% mandatory. Every time. No excuses.

2. Sexting isn’t a crime (until it is)

Let's be real for a moment – regardless of whether you think it's good or bad – 'sexting' is something people do. The term 'sexting' was added to the Oxford Dictionary in 2011, but another term you should be aware of is 'image-based abuse', commonly referred to as 'revenge porn'. Here's what you need to know:

  • Under Victorian law, posting nude images without the other person's permission can be deemed illegal distribution of an intimage image. A person who commits this offence is liable to a maximum jail time of two years.
  • If you find out there's a nude photo of you posted online without your permission, you can do something about it. The Office of the eSafety Commissioner has advice on what to do in the first instance. You can also make a report to eSafety and they will do their best to have the image removed, and you can report the abuse to the police.

3. Sexual harassment and assault may look different from what you think

At Swinburne, we take a zero-tolerance stance against sexual harassment and assault. So it’s important to understand how we define the lines between flirting and harassing, intercourse and assault and rape.

Let’s make it clear:

  • Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance or conduct, including through digital or online means, that another person finds offensive, humiliating or intimidating.
  • Sexual assault is forcing, coercing or tricking another person into sexual acts against their will or without their consent.

So, before you interact with another person on a dating site or in the flesh, ask yourself: ‘are my advances welcome here?’, and ‘have I been granted consent?’ If the answer to either is ‘no’ or ‘not sure’, the best and only thing to do is stop. Immediately.

So, before you interact with another person on a dating site or in the flesh, ask yourself: ‘are my advances welcome here?’, and ‘have I been granted consent?’ If the answer to either is ‘no’ or ‘not sure’, the best and only thing to do is stop. Immediately.

4. Act like a creep and you’ll be labelled a creep

At first, the online dating world might seem an ocean of possibility. Literally hundreds of eligible singles just waiting for a nudge. But when you start swiping left through the options, the ocean soon shrivels to a pond. And every precious second you waste can feel like time down the drain.

Creep acts like ‘kittenfishing’ (tweaking your profile to sound better than you are), ‘catfishing’ (pretending you are someone you’re not), ‘ghosting’ (abruptly cutting off communication with no explanation) and ‘breadcrumbing’ (stringing people along when you’re not even interested) are not ok.

No one should have to put up with phoneys. And unlike gaming, in the online dating world, you can’t hide behind your avatar. Act authentically, and you’ll attract genuine contenders for your affections.

5. Speak up and help stamp out unwelcome sexual behaviour

Whether you’re online, on-campus or on the bus to a night out, the rules around sexual harassment and assault remain the same. So it’s important that if you see or experience something, you say something. And sooner rather than later.

The #MeToo movement taught us that when we stand united against sexual violence, our voices can be powerful agents of change. It may not be possible to speak up in the moment every time, and that’s ok. But if you or someone you know has been sexually harassed or assaulted, there are a range of options for you to report it.

Like every Australian university, Swinburne champions the Respect. Now. Always. initiative. This means we take a zero-tolerance stance against sexual harassment and assault. It also means that if you speak up, you will be supported, you will be protected, and you will not be victimised or victim shamed. Ever.

Did you know?

Swinburne offers on-site health services and fully confidential counselling to students at all campuses. To book a free sexual health appointment, simply call +61 3 9214 8483. If you have symptoms, book with a GP at the Hawthorn or Wantirna campus. If you don’t have any symptoms, book with your on campus nurse or the weekly sexual health clinic at the Hawthorn campus. You'll need 30 minutes for your first appointment.

Are you or someone you know in immediate risk or danger?

Contact emergency services immediately: 000
Other crisis support services include:
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467