The UK Home Office just released the Sexualisation of Young People: Reviewby Dr Linda Papadopoulos. It is a compelling, thorough and strongly evidence-based paper which should be read by anyone concerned about the impacts of the pornification of culture on girls and boys. Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls is cited a number of times (the quote above from the Executive Summary is taken from Betty McLellan’s chapter ‘Sexualised and Trivialised: Making Equality Impossible’). It’s good to see our work acknowledged in this significant report. Given that we share the UK’s cultural DNA, I hope this report will bolster efforts to address this issue here and add momentum to the push for a review of our own Senate Committee inquiry recommendations, which Emma Rush wrote about here earlier.
Abbi Marper is too shy to speak above a whisper, but she wants to be a policewoman or a nurse. Her friend Becky Billing is studying to be a plumber. Charlotte Wilson, the most chatty of the group, is having a problem narrowing her options. “I want to be a firefighter, but I also want to be a paramedic and a midwife,” she says. “The trouble is, there’s just too much choice.”
Slumped in the plastic chairs of a Sheffield community centre, shovelling fistfuls of free sweets from the coffee bar into their mouths, the group of girls are all members of Aim High, a dance troupe set up by Becky Billing and Charlotte Wilson’s sister, 17-year-old Lauren, two years ago after they got in trouble with the police. Read more…
Psychologist Lydia Turner has written another significant guest blog, this time dissecting the weight loss show The Biggest Loser, and arguing that a weight-based approach can never provide long-lasting health outcomes.
The Biggest Loser: A Danger to Health
The time to expose the dangers of the popular weight loss show The Biggest Loser is overdue. We need to look beyond the show’s manipulative emotionalism at exactly what messages it promotes about health and dealing with weight-related issues.
Here are some of the irresponsible ways the show’s trainers promote weight loss.
Encouraging contestants to dehydrate prior to weigh-ins – even up to 36 hours beforehand;
Encouraging weight losses of up to 17 kilos in one week even when it’s well know that such rapid loss is dangerous;
Making those who are labelled ‘morbidly obese’ run up to 10 kilometres in the summer heat, putting them at risk of heat exhaustion and dehydration – a deadly combination;
Encouraging contestants to continue intense exercise despite injuries;
Encouraging contestants to continue intense exercise despite vomiting;
Putting contestants on a starvation diet of 1000 calories per day – and overlooking those who choose to consume even less than that;
Berating those who haven’t shed enough kilos at the weigh-ins for “letting down the team” – even when they have already lost more than the recommended average for healthy weight loss per week.
They also hacked the PM’s site, plastering it with porn in a protest against the Government’s internet filtering plans. Parliament House staff also received porn spam emails.
So now we have porn vigilantes demanding their entitlement to every form of pornography – which would include child sexual assault images – by wrecking the computer operating systems of a democratic parliament and declaring cyber war on Australia. So great is their desire for violent porn and child porn, by overwhelming the system with pornography they also force others to view it against their will. This is how the porn lobby views freedom? Unleashing a form of cyber terrorism to get its way?
Speaking of illegal, Senate Estimates hearings of the Legal and Constitution Legislation Committee last week heard that Classification Board Director Donald McDonald had issued called-in notices for 37 unclassified porn magazines between July 1 and December 21, 2009. In the 12 months before ,he called-in 127 magazines. The called-in titles included ‘Live Young Girls’ and others imported by Namda/Windsor Wholesale, whose General Manager is David Watt of the Eros Foundation which launched the Australian Sex Party.
Many of the recalled titles endorse rape and incest and represent very young girls as desperate for sex with older males. The magazines have been illegally distributed in corner stores, milkbars and petrol stations including McDonald’s Fuelzone for who knows how long. See earlier blog
In addition, in the six months to December 31, 2009, McDonald had called in 440 pornographic films, including incest titles. From 2008 to July 2009 he had called in 386 titles. Under our laws, distributors who fail to put their publications through the classification system have three days to respond to these notices. So, guess how many distributors have responded?
While the Classification Board notifies police about illegal publications and films, there is no reporting back on enforcement. It is possible nothing happens. No one seems to know. And bear in mind, these are only the titles that were found. How many more are out there?
Porn distributors have demonstrated that they think they can do what they want and get away with it. It seems they are right. The system is broke. It needs fixing.
Maybe take up the whole day with it?
“Viewing porn online becomes a major problem only when people become so preoccupied that they spend 16 to 18 hours a day doing nothing else but watching porn, with serious impacts on relationships, work, studies, and finance,” Dr Sitharthan said.
So it’s only a problem if every waking moment is taken up with it? What about 10 hours a day? Or eight? Or three or four? Is porn use now so normalised that anything under 16 hours of viewing on-line porn is considered unproblematic?
If you or someone you know is a compulsive porn user, I’d like your thoughts on when you think porn use is a problem.
Throw in some dead prostituted women perhaps?
In another example of pimp culture gone mainstream , a Queensland schoolboy set up a Facebook page called “Kill my hooker so you don’t have to pay her”. The site was taken down by Facebook – but not before it attracted 18,000 members.
How about starting with educating boys that violence against women is wrong?
President of the Australian Sex Workers Association, Elena Jeffreys, took the opportunity to offer to get prostituted women into schools and educate students about the “reality of prostitution”.
Given that the association thinks prostitution is a good career choice for women and given their moves to loosen up our visa system so that more Asian women can be prostituted here, I’m not sure how much reality the school kids would get.
I’m very pleased to have Sarah McMahon, a Sydney psychologist specialising in eating disorders, write another guest blog, this time on the way the radical treatment of gastric banding is being pitched to teens, with very little attention given to the potential risks.
Promoting gastric banding to 14-year-olds: malnutrition and maintenance on the menu
I am shocked that a research article published on Wednesday by the Journal of the American Medical Association has been picked up, mixed up and hyped up by mainstream media, suggesting that gastric banding is an appropriate solution for “obese” teenagers. The research is typical of what we are seeing coming from the obesity industry, which is looking to capitalise from the condition.
What the research really found
Given the media hype, we need to look at what the research really tells us. Two groups of teenagers were randomly assigned to either a “lifestyle” group, for exercise and a healthy diet, or a “gastric banding” group, for laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding surgery with the main aim weight loss.
The gastric banding group experienced dramatically more weight loss than the lifestyle‘ group. This is not surprising. I would expect that intrusive surgery resulting in necessary food rationing is far more motivating than the “suggestions and encouragement” regarding dietary changes prescribed to the lifestyle group.
And although the extent of compliance between the groups is not clearly reported in the journal article, it requires little imagination. The reflex of a banded stomach is to vomit if the food is not small and well chewed. Not only does this force malnutrition, there is generally limited opportunity for high calorific intake. Of course vomiting is a vastly different compliance measure than the “intermittent food diaries and food counts used to measure compliance in the “lifestyle” group.
The sample size of the study was hardly robust. Less than 50 participants completed the research trial, meaning that statistically no evaluation of single health problems could be generated. This is important when considering the value of the study’s public health significance, given that the scaremongering associated with the “obesity epidemic” has gained so much momentum by medicalising the problem.
It seems that medicalising obesity somehow justifies culturally sanctioned prejudice on the basis that any intervention is “in their own interests”. Interestingly the study determined that despite the vast difference in weight loss in the gastric banding group, both groups experienced significant improvements in general health.
Further, follow up of weight loss measures were conveniently limited to two years, despite overwhelming evidence in research that suggests significant weight regain occurs from three years post surgery.
Industry promoted research
The study was undertaken by Monash University’s Centre for Obesity Research and Education (CORE). Perhaps not surprisingly, CORE receives an unrestricted research support grant from Allergen, which happens to be Australia’s leading provider of gastric banding equipment.
The lead author and pioneer of the lap banding procedure in Australia is Professor Paul O’Brien, who has previously served on the Allergen Advisory Board. Another author of the study reported consultancy with Allergen and membership of advisory boards that include Allergen, Optifast and Bariatric Advantage – all heavy weights in the weight loss industry.
It seems as though the boundary between commercial methods of weight loss, such as weight loss pills and medical interventions, are becoming blurred. Medicalising obesity to justify surgery creates an instant industry, and there is no shortage of businesses lining up to profit from it. Allergen’s webpage proposes alternative payment options, given the surgery is not covered by Medicare. These include the early release of superannuation savings or bank loans via third party medical finance.
The other side of gastric banding
Gastric banding is framed as a quick fix solution to address obesity. But does it address the real problem? Whether it is compulsive eating, binging due to psychological issues, or poor nutritional education, reducing an individual’s stomach size does not reduce the significance of these factors.
For example, eating disorders are not contraindicated, meaning that many people undertaking gastric banding may have severe psychiatric problems that are contributing to their weight gain or pursuit of thinness. I expect that this is one reason why the weight loss from gastric banding ultimately is short term and generally not sustainable.
Further, there is no standardized screening tool for the surgery. I know of countless cases of people engaging in binge behaviour who are offered the opportunity of gastric banding, at huge cost to their health. In our culture of thinness-at-all-costs, it seems that health is a reasonable trade off for thinness. Complicating this further is the fact that the subtext of our culture is that thinness equals health.
The Australian Medical Association’s 2008 report, ‘Bariatric Surgery: A Weighty Issue’, warned against the potential and inherent risks associated with gastric banding.
The cost to health from gastric banding is huge. Studies suggest that patients require follow up procedures to correct secondary health issues such as hernias, gall stones, bleeding, blood clots, infections, gastritis, correcting loose skin etc. In every 1500 cases there is one death (which can’t be corrected).
Common post-surgery complications include:
Frequent vomiting because the stomach is unable to hold so much food or because food is unable to pass out from the stomach;
Dumping syndrome which occurs when food enters the digestive tract too quickly, leading to adrenalin that results in nausea, palpitations, sweating and diarrhoea;
Nutritional deficiency due to malabsorption. This means that people need to follow a lifetime program of consuming nutritional supplements and vitamins;
Requirement for further surgery due to slippage, repositioning, adjustments and need for replacement of the band. In the aforementioned study, over one quarter of participants required revisional procedures that consisted of removal and replacement of the band or replacement of the access port;
Permanent eating difficulties including: an inability to digest particular foods, requirement for extensive chewing, difficulty in drinking at meal time, difficulty in eating at certain times during the day, and food becoming lodged in the throat.
These associated health concerns are frightening given that gastric banding is framed as the “next step” when diet, exercise and medication have failed. Descriptions on web pages, brochures and even research reports invariably begin with scaremongering about the “obesity epidemic” followed by cartoon-style drawings of the seemingly simple procedure that will not only make the person thin, but will solve all their problems. Not surprisingly, the “success stories” on brochures and the media focus on the life that was “saved” through gastric banding.
The ability of 14-year-olds to make this decision
Given the associated complications, it is not just me who believes that it is unsafe to be proposing this intervention for teenagers. In November 2009, the Dieticians Association of Australia (DAA) released a ’Position Paper on Bariatric Surgery in Children and Young People‘ which concluded that there is insufficient evidence of the surgery as a safe and long-term solution to weight loss in teenagers. Even Allergen normally requires patients to be over the age of 18 to undertake the surgery.
This begs the question: what teenager has the capacity to make a decision so significant, given the health risks and the lifetime maintenance of such a procedure? How can a teenager adhere to the strict requirements necessary to maintain the band? What happens when they experience other significant life changes, such as pregnancy?
We are talking about prescribing this intervention to people who are in high school who are legally unable to drink alcohol or drive because their brain is insufficiently developed to manage these responsibilities.
Frequent vomiting, permanent eating difficulties and soiling pants may not be the alternative to “obesity”’ that teens really need.
I’m just so pleased to welcome Dr.Emma Rush to my blog today. Associate Lecturer in Ethics and Philosophy at Charles Sturt University,Emma is to be commended for kicking off the debate on the sexualisation of children in this country, as lead author of Corporate Paedophilia: Sexualisation of children in Australia and Letting Children Be Children: Stopping the sexualisation of children in Australia, the discussion papers published by the Australia Institutein 2006. Emma also wrote the chapter ‘What Are the Risks of Premature Sexualisation for Children?’ in Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls. Emma makes a compelling case for Government to get involved because of industry failure to act and also asks: what’s happened to the review of the Senate inquiry recommendations that was supposed to take place last year?
Time for government to set standards preventing child sexualisation
It’s great to see bi-partisan concern about the sexualisation of children. I commend those MPs who spoke up for children’s interests in the House of Representatives this week on a Notice of Motion introduced by South Australian Labor MP Amanda Rishworth.
The issue is not about banning little girls from putting on mummy’s lipstick or playing with Barbies – activities Jane Caro claimed critics of sexualisation were wanting to ban, on ABC’s PM program Tuesday night.
It goes well beyond playing dress-ups. There is substantial evidence that sexualisation harms children: it promotes body image concerns, eating disorders, and gender stereotyping. Premature sexualisation also erases the line between who is and is not sexually mature, and as such, may increase the risk of child sexual abuse by undermining the important social norm that children are sexually unavailable. Read the rest of this entry »
Following my blog posts on the death-by-bullying case of Brodie Panlock, I asked my friend and colleague Sarah McMahon, (above), a consultant psychologist and accredited mediator who has counseled many victims of workplace bullying, to provide advice to those who are subjected to bullyling at work.
Keep detailed notes of events- and keep these as matter-of-fact as possible. Should the incidents need to be investigated these notes will serve you well. Therapeutically, including information about your feelings can also be very helpful.
Tell someone senior in the workplace. If you work for a large employer you will probably have an HR department- which is a good place to start. This can be more difficult if your employer is small, however begin by talking to your manager (or their manager if you feel this is not appropriate). Often you will be required to make a formal complaint, which can be daunting. However given that bullying and sexual harassment are serious offenses, this will usually enable an investigation and formal grievance procedure to be instigated.
Seek the counsel of friends and family. Having support from people outside the workplace- particularly if your workplace has a toxic subculture- is invaluable because family and friends can provide some perspective on the events that are taking place. Utilising this support can also prevent you from being accused of unprofessional conduct, such as discussing private issues with your co-workers.
Consult your GP. Being the victim of workplace bullying or sexual harassment can be stressful so it is useful to have the support of someone that can monitor your mental health. Your GP might refer you to a more specialised health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist if they think this is required. If you develop a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression and work is considered to be a significant contributing factor, your condition should be compensable. This means that if you require time off work or psychological treatment due to the bullying or sexual harassment, this should be paid for by your employer’s workers compensation insurance at no cost to you.
Look for another job. Technically you shouldn’t have to do this- it is unfair that you should have to change jobs because of another person’s conduct (and of course there are times when standing up to a bully is important). However changing jobs can often be the simplest, quickest and easiest solution and thus an option that warrants consideration.
These are some of the descriptions of the physical and emotional bullying Brodie Panlock was subjected to by the four men convicted and fined for their role in her suicide.
That’s them (clockwise from top left): Marc Luis Da Cruz, Nicholas Smallwood, Rhys MacAlpine and Gabriel Toomey. I described what they did to her in my last blog. It is a harrowing list which includes putting rat poison in her bag and telling her to take it. Four men acting in a pack against a vulnerable teenage girl.
As Brodie’s mother said today, “They drove her to the edge and they pushed her over.”
For this they were fined a total of $115,000. It doesn’t seem that much really, for what happened to Brodie.
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