Chanel Contos: ‘Conversations around consent are comforting, not awkward’

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Relationship expert Chanel Contos has debunked one of the most common online dating myths that she believes plagues modern relationships after three years of highlighting its importance.

“We need to dispel the myth that talking about consent is uncomfortable,” she says.

“I think that’s a big obstacle to promoting these conversations,” she says.

“I think people don’t realize how reassuring it is to message someone on Tinder and have them get back to you.

“There’s a perception that it’s a very rigid, uncomfortable thing, but when you talk about the positive aspects of a consensual and respectful relationship, it’s a very normal and natural progression from that and is pretty much always appreciated.”

Their comments come as Tinder is set to introduce eight new terms this Friday as part of an update to its online dating dictionary.

These include coercive control, gender norms, healthy sexual relationships, sexual acts/activities, sexual abuse, sexual violence, social norms, and victim-survivor relationships.

Ms. Contos helped with the online dating app’s recent update and will be writing a new chapter of the online dating guide, “School of Swipe: Consent Edition,” when it launches in September of this year.

“I think that’s significant because these are all words that we instinctively understand, but without the actual language to define them, it’s very difficult to talk about them or engage in conversations in a respectful way,” Ms. Contos says.

A big priority for the 26-year-old, who founded the online platform Teach Us Consent, is changing the way people deal with and understand rejection.

“If someone doesn’t take the extra step forward with you, whether it’s because they’re not ready to meet you in real life or kiss you on the first date – whatever it is – that doesn’t mean the game is over,” she says.

“It’s about finding out what everyone is comfortable with and building a new connection.”

Tinder’s awareness campaign comes after dating apps such as Bumble and Hinge (which is owned by Tinder’s parent company Match Group) were given notice by the Albanian government in September. The government asked the apps to implement a code of conduct by mid-2024 or risk the government enacting its own laws.

The new dating dictionary will also include an infographic outlining the Government’s Commonwealth Consent Policy Framework, which is based on the five pillars of consent: it is free and voluntary, specific and informed, positive and communicated, ongoing and mutual, and reflects the capacity of the individual.

Kirsty Dunn, Tinder’s communications director in Australia, said it was of paramount importance to the company to ensure that dating interactions on the app were “safe and consensual”.

“To keep Australians safe, it is important to clearly define what is and is not consent,” she said.

She said Ms Contos’ continued work with the app will help give users “tools” to communicate clearly and build healthy relationships.

“User safety is at the heart of what we do,” she said.

“It all started with mutual matching. We don’t allow the sharing of photos or links in our chat and have a number of safety features to encourage better behavior and make dating safer.”

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