Mates & Dates: A report from the chalkface

Whaleoil recently published two series of articles about the Mates&Dates programme inside New Zealand schools. We were then contacted by a teacher who wrote Two pernicious points about Mates&Dates. This is the teacher’s second article for Whaleoil.

Mates and Dates ? Watch out for White Supremacists Online?

I sat through an episode this week of Mates and Dates so you don?t have to.

The final instalment of Mates and Dates for Y11 is a look at online relationships.

Most of the time is used, via discussion, to create a list of all the social media apps, like Tinder, and what you can do on them. Many giggles later, students are now better informed on what you can get away with online, and I think the effect is that the behaviour is normalised. There is a neutral moral perspective from leaders regarding engagement like this, but at the end of the discussion they did suggest visiting Netsafe for more info.

The next section was about cyber bullying, stalking, and hate speech. quote.

?Hate speech is not free speech ? it?s like a white supremacist arguing they can say what they like because it?s free speech. Of course not.? We won?t allow them to speak and it?s wrong if they try.

end quote.

Clearly, those people are not causing a problem to a class of 15-year-olds in New Zealand. The reason for giving the example was to give an excuse to outlaw speech that the programme disagrees with, not to make a point about racism.


?Any statements that are sexually related without consent is a form of sexual violence.? end quote.

Not pictures – statements. The Netsafe page, in contrast, regarding pictures and the Digital Communications Act is here.

The context seemed not to be 15 year old children, but anything you see online at any age. The only speech that is free is the speech you, or the government, allows.

The implication, of course, is that there is no free speech.

Once again, you?ve got some basic things that people agree on (bad to post bad stuff online) couched in a clearly political context (real free speech is bad). The only free speech allowed is that speech you (or Mates and Dates) have given consent to.

The extra weird thing about seeking consent for sexual statements is that surely a statement asking for consent for sexual statements is, itself, a sexual statement. What about flirting? What about misunderstandings? Apology not accepted – it was sexual violence? These people seem to want to criminalise your sons.

The last section was a fairly well-played dramatization on video, of possibly the worst case scenario: Girl shares nudes with her boyfriend that end up on the school blog after being shared by a third party he sent them to because he wanted to show off about how much the girl loved him.

The oft repeated theme of the story is that you show love by sharing nudes. Missed was any positive example of sharing love without sharing naked pictures of yourself.

The facilitators strongly confirmed to the class that the situation was?not her fault. No ‘blame’ can be attributed to the female here! The blame is only on the individual who shared her pictures.

The message was ?Get consent before sharing naked pictures of someone else? not ?sharing naked pictures at 15 years old is not the way you show love.?

The core moral point Mates and Dates made with the video was that there is nothing wrong with sending naked pictures of yourself, only pictures of others.

The emphasis on naked pictures being a symbol of sharing love for school kids was repeated many times in the video.

They did suggest that it is easier to start having sexual encounters and conversations online but you should always finish the conversation in person? I?m not sure where this was going.

I think it should be noted that this whole approach to complete blamelessness of the video girl directly goes against the message that Netsafe NZ promotes on their website which helps to explain the dangers of such behaviour. There is a difference in how one reacts to a situation to support people in real or imagined situations versus how one educates others so they don?t make the same mistake. Mates and Dates completely misses this.

This single point, Mates and Dates promoting the idea to 15 year olds that the highest form of love is sending nude pics, is more than enough reason to not have the programme in your school.

It should be about the mind, the heart, and togetherness in helping others and accomplishing shared tasks. Yes, you can do anything but not everything is good for you.

The first report
The first series of articles
The second series: The Ministry of Sexualisation