I can't quite believe I'm saying this but I have a feeling that deep in my heart, I back the university vice-chancellors who have decided not to go ahead with a consent campaign for their students. The Saturday Paper last week reported Universities Australia, the peak body for universities, shelved a respectful relationships campaign for students because a minority of vice-chancellors among the 39 universities the body represents objected to explicit content. I mean, that's the worst reason ever because have any of these VCs seen any pornography? Talk about explicit. And a truckload of young people - the majority of young people - have consumed pornography way before they get to university. The Australian Institute of Family Studies published research in 2017 which revealed nearly half of children between the ages of nine and 16 experienced regular exposure to sexual images. That proportion of those exposed to explicit images is not getting any smaller, particularly not on the way to having actual sex. The average age of our first time is 16. Anyhow, the campaign materials assumed "many university students were likely to be sexually active and that there was a need to normalise positive, respectful behaviour". This bit is true and also necessary. But we can't start from here. Unfortunately, young Australians have grown up in a culture which is not respectful. And no campaign on Earth can change their minds at 18. Here's my problem, no amount of campaigning will fix the problem of male sexual assault of women. Hell, consent training and campaigning for university-aged people is not even a bandaid. The problem is men. Sure, not all men. But the raging torrent of male entitlement which besets us. I'm sure the VCs' reasons are different from mine. Maybe they don't like to be confronted with what young people do in their sex lives. And look, frankly, I love the idea of consent campaigns but about 18 years earlier in the lives of young people. My experience of dealing with university students who had to complete online consent training at university showed me the tick-and-flick approach will never ever fix the problem. Students joked about the content in class, gave each other answers to minimise the time it took - and the whole time, I couldn't process marks if students had not completed the module. It was a shitshow and I don't think the rate of sexual violence abated as a result of these campaigns. What was worse was the way in which some students thought it was hilarious to discuss the content in class. I could see it made some of the less experienced young people uncomfortable. Hell, it even made an old timer such as myself feel slightly awkward. Am I being an old grump? Am I being the kind of person who assumes nothing like this could ever work? So, as ever, I called an expert. Silke Meyer is a professor of child and family research at Griffith University and I first met her when she worked at the Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre. She says university is way too late, way way too late. Consent education can and should start in primary school. Now don't go all full bore rubbish about sexualising children on me. Consent is not just about sex, says Meyer. It is about recognising boundaries, she says. In her role, she has conversations with schools about what consent education should look like and when she brings up the issue of consent education, she feels the schools are reluctant. "I don't know whether it is parent pushback - but parents need to know that in primary schools, we are talking about recognising boundaries. It doesn't have to be in a sexualised way." She also wants to be perfectly clear about one thing - kids are having sexual thoughts even in years 5 and 6. Oh god. I know that's terrifying but we, all of us, have got to do a better job of teaching our young people the difference between "yes, definitely" and "no, leave me alone". Meyer says it's just possible parents don't feel confident about communicating this kind of knowledge - but it is the ultimate power. The ability to set the rules about your own body, that's fierce. That's real protection. UNSW academic Allison Carter gets me to settle down a little. Yes, she says, education around consent and respectful relationships needs to start early but it also needs to be ongoing. Early topics might not be focused on sex but respect for boundaries, just as Silke Meyer suggests. While she's sympathetic to my despair about the state of respect in this country, she tells me a story which gives me hope. Carter is in the park with her toddler and observes a mother with two kids, maybe 10 and 12. One is pushing his sister on a swing, much higher and harder than she likes. The one being swung says "no, stop", but the sibling proceeds to do what siblings do. Then the mother says, "you heard your sister". And he stops. Yes, it's the mother policing the boundaries but the kid gets the message. READ MORE JENNA PRICE COLUMNS: Carter and colleagues have reviewed global consent programs - and knows what they should include. But what's not yet clear is whether these programs really work. Universities should spend their consent education budget in their health faculties and in their law faculties. Teach the students there, who become practitioners when all this comes into play, teach them to explain that no means no and that maybe doesn't necessarily mean yes. In a country where the rate of sexual assault and sexual harassment is as high as ours, change needs to start at the beginning. A general education campaign for all students is just another box-ticking exercise. We've had enough of those.