Through It’s a Man’s Issue, Curtis travels to schools and clubs around Queensland to help young people understand consent, masculinity and sexual violence . Curtis says the program mainly focuses on defining — or rather, redefining — masculinity.
“The research shows that targeting and challenging gender stereotypes is the most effective way of preventing sexual harassment and sexual violence,” he says.
“I played representative footy at school. I went to a really good school. I had awesome parents. I was surrounded by really cool people, but nobody ever sat me down as a boy and spoke to me about healthy relationships, about having sex and what consent looks like.”
It’s a Man’s Issue is comprised of two 45-minute workshops. Curtis says the first workshop establishes the issue, while the second addresses its underlying factors. “We talk about consent, sexual harassment and sexual assault, as well as misconceptions of those topics.”
Curtis says a common misconception of sexual violence is that it occurs in shadowy places and is perpetrated by unknown persons. The reality is that it often occurs in residential and social locations, and is often committed by a partner, family member or friend.
The 2021-2022 Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey out of the 2.8 million Australians who had experienced sexual violence, 2.5 million reported that the perpetrator was male, and 2.2 million suggested that the perpetrator was known to them, usually a partner.
“That's why I call it a man's issue,” Curtis says. “It's an issue that has been happening to women and girls for so long, but it isn't really a space yet where the average man feels comfortable enough or even knows how to participate in education and advocacy.”
The second It’s a Man’s Issue workshop focuses on discussing masculinity and challenging forms of toxic masculinity. “I talk about the fact that I have no problem with being a man. I have no problem with masculinity. But there are some forms of masculinity that are toxic.”
Curtis says toxic masculinity can be dangerous for young men as well, with young men far more likely to have a fatal car crash or die by suicide. Part of the solution is to show participants that traits they associate as being masculine or feminine are not so clearly divided, nor are they always positive.
“That's the most rewarding part. I tie that back into the fact that toxic masculinity does contribute to rape culture,” Curtis says. “I work at a junior school as a before and after school educator, and it starts even at a young age — preschool to grade 6 — where boys are saying the same things adults do about being a girl. I even spend a lot of time in those sessions talking to the boys and getting them to think critically about it.”