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 run an innovative Consent Matters course as part of our Safety through Prevention community strategy. Our course explains to students 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)

Congratulations. You’re probably over 18 and, at least in the eyes of Victoria Police, you’re an adult. With your newfound promotion into the world of grown-ups comes a range of obligations and responsibilities – one of which is abiding by the Victorian Crimes Act (1958). And although sexting (electronically sending sexually explicit material via a mobile phone) very much was not a thing in 1958, in 2014 new laws surrounding sexting were added to the Act.

The basic gist: it is illegal to send or threaten to distribute intimate images without the consent of the other person. Not to a friend, not to their mum and dad, not to your footy team, not to Vice magazine. Never.

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 recent #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