The Age reports today a ‘pro-rape’ Facebook page set up by past and present University of Sydney students.
The link was set up by students from an all male elite college at the University. It appeared in the ‘sports and recreation section’ of Facebook. The ‘anti-consent’ link was only shut down last month. According to The Age, “The students, mostly from an elite, all-male college, initially ensured the ”Define Statutory” group had an open and public profile, and proudly displayed their membership on their personal Facebook pages”. For men like this, rape is just part of sport and recreation. (I’ve written about these attitudes before – see Not rape – just boys acting up, On Line Opinion, February 28, 2008.)
I’m reminded of a (pink) t.shirt I came across, proudly made and designed in Australia. It’s slogan read: “It’s not rape, it’s surprise sex.” It is men like this, too often supported by cultural messages that promote a view that women are merely objects for their gratification and pleasure, who believe women are just there for the taking. The Facebook site helps groom and prepare boys to desire – and be proud of – coercive sexual exploits in which ‘no’ doesn’t mean ‘no, but ‘of course I want to be violated by you.’ The Facebook page acts as an incitement to crimes of violence against women. Today’s report lists a number of sexual assaults and attempted assaults on campus.
Where are Facebook’s moderators? Why did they take so long to act? Why was the site allowed in the first place? It seems the internet is now a deregulated conduit for the promotion of sexual violence against women and girls (I’ll have more to say on this in the future). So far there has been no disciplinary action against the male students who created, joined and promoted the site. St Paul’s, we’re waiting. For the sake of female students at the University – and for women and girls outside it – the strongest possible action must be taken. Otherwise, rape will continue to be seen as just a bit of fun for the boys.