Amanda Rishworth moves Notice of Motion in House of Representatives
Earlier this month Federal Member for Kingston (S.A), Amanda Rishworth, moved a Private Members Motion acknowledging the findings of the UK Government’s review Letting the Children be Children on the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood.
It is heartening for those of us involved in this issue to see MPs like Rishworth take the lead on speaking out in Parliament and recognising the harm of sexualizing children. Rishworth urged governments, industries, regulators and the wider community to act.
Supporting Rishworth’s motion were: Jill Hall, Shortland NSW; Kirsten Livermore, Capricornia Qld; Sophie Mirabella, Indi Vic, Lib; Kelly O’Dwyer, Higgins Vic, Lib; Laura Smyth, Latrobe Vic; Luke Simpkins, Cowan, WA, Lib; Deborah O’Neill, Robertson, NSW, ALP; Jane Prentice, Ryan, Qld Lib.
I am pleased to rise to move this motion, because the increasing sexualisation of our children is a trend that concerns me greatly, as it does you, Madam Deputy Speaker Burke.
I have raised this issue publicly before, both in national debates and in this House, and I have received extensive support from people in the Australian community who share my deep concern about this important issue. One mother from Brisbane, Bridgette, was among many parents and teachers who contacted me to express their support for action on this matter. In expressing her concern about driving past inappropriate billboard advertising with her children in the car, Bridgette said, ‘I feel powerless to control these kinds of images.’ It was a common theme in the correspondence I received on this matter. While many parents want to be the ones who control their children’s exposure to adult content, they feel it is almost impossible to do so. While I understand that this is a complex and difficult issue to address, I believe it is high time that we as a society start to take stock of these significant concerns and work together as a group to ensure that our children can grow and develop in a positive and healthy way.
The motion before us today acknowledges the findings of the Letting children be children: the report of an independent review of the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood commissioned by the government of the United Kingdom and released in June last year. This review draws on evidence collected from the survey of a sample group of 1,198 parents as part of a wider evidence-gathering process. It revealed significant public concern about the sexualisation of young girls and boys through the media and the commercial world.
The American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualisation of Girls defines the process of sexualisation as one where a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal to the exclusion of all other characteristics; a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness with being sexy; a person is sexually objectified or sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person. The Letting children be children review found that children are growing up against the backdrop of a culture that is increasingly commercialised and sexualised. The evidence pointed to widespread public concern in the United Kingdom about children’s almost constant exposure to sexualised imagery through billboards, magazines, pre-watershed television programs containing adult themes, music videos depicting sexually explicit dance routines or provocative lyrics, and adult material available on demand through the internet and through the commercial world in the form of advertising and marketing. Images of this kind convey to children a clear message that suggests that women and girls are nothing more than sexual objects.
The report found that many parents felt that these images were becoming increasingly sexualised and gendered and they expressed concern about the influence from exposure to these images on the development and attitudes of their children. As this motion states, the review also found that parents are very concerned about the clothing, services and products being specifically marketed to children, which often reinforce gender stereotypes and portray children as being more sexually mature than their age would suggest. Parents were particularly concerned about the sexualisation of clothes designed for young girls, listing items like padded bras, bikini swimwear, clothing made from fabrics like animal prints and black lace, high-heeled shoes and clothing incorporating suggestive slogans.
Lastly, the review noted that parents often feel their concerns are not taken into account and that little effort is made to assist parents to control what their children are exposed to, despite the fact that they feel they are in the best position to say what is or is not appropriate for their child. As I stated earlier, many parents want to take charge and limit their children’s exposure to what they see as adult content but feel powerless to do so.
As stated in the motion, I believe, along with many Australian parents, that the sexualisation of children is a growing issue not just in the United Kingdom but also here, in Australia. A number of reports into this issue conducted by both the Australia Institute and the Senate Standing Committee on the Environment, Communications and the Arts found a high level of public concern about the premature advancement of the sexuality of children caused by their frequent exposure to highly sexualised images of adults as well as pressure to consume products designed to directly sexualise them.
The motion recognises that the sexualisation of children and, in particular, of girls has been associated with a wide range of negative consequences, including body image issues, eating disorders, low self-esteem and mental illness. We all know that viewing images that depict an unrealistic standard of beauty can make us all feel bad. I often feel bad when I open up a magazine and see unrealistic images of women. However, the important point is this: unlike adults, children have not yet developed the cognitive ability to objectively analyse these kinds of images, and so they are particularly vulnerable to this kind of content. While adults are able to determine whether something has been airbrushed or is unrealistic or a person has had their body altered, children are unable to do this.
The report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualisation of Girls presents a summary of the significant body of evidence linking exposure to highly sexualised content with a process of selfobjectification, whereby young girls internalise the sexualising images of the culture in which they are developing and start to criticise their own physical selves for failing to conform—which is often impossible—with what is a narrow concept of attractiveness. The report notes that constant attention to one’s physical appearance caused by self-objectification can often have a disruptive effect on performance in a range of areas, including schooling, because less time and energy is available for these other tasks. I saw some reports that showed that young girls were unable to attend to their school work because they were obsessing about their bodies.
The report highlights studies showing that young girls exposed to sexualised and gender stereotyped content in magazines and through television can experience low self-esteem and become extremely dissatisfied with and anxious about their bodies. These feelings of inadequacy can then lead to serious health concerns, such as disordered eating.
In addition, research shows that the sexualisation and objectification of girls in society can have significant adverse effects on the attitudes that boys have and on the ways that they perceive and interact with females throughout their lives. Not only can this lead to men struggling to maintain intimate relationships because they have unrealistic expectations of women but it can also teach young boys negative messages about how it is appropriate to treat and interact with girls. Worst of all, it can cause young boys treat women purely as sexual objects. There is little doubt that the frequent exposure of young children to sexualised content leads to a whole range of negative consequences.
The motion before us today urges governments, industries, regulators and the wider community in Australia to take note of this report. But it is also time for action. I believe that as a community, we in Australia, including industry and government, need to work together to address the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood in Australia. We are living in an increasingly sexualised and commercial world. While adults have developed the skills to navigate this—not always successfully, but a lot of the time we are able to navigate, analyse and critically evaluate this material—children can be extremely vulnerable to these influences. As a result, these influences can affect how they develop and determine what kinds of adults they grow up to be. I do not think that it is any one group’s responsibility, and that has been the trouble—one group of people has not been responsible, because it is complex issue. But I believe that we need to raise awareness of this issue.
We need to work together. Industry, government, parents and the community need to work together to ensure that as a society we deal effectively with this important issue so that future generations of Australian boys and girls can grow and develop in an environment that promotes positive and healthy messages. Unfortunately, I feel that we are going the other way. I strongly believe that we need to prevent the increased sexualisation and commercialisation of our children.
That is why I am moving this important motion. I notice that there are quite a few speakers on the list. I hope for their support on this motion. I commend the motion to the House.
Deb O’Neill, Member for Robertson (NSW), also recognised the importance of corporate social responsibility, making these comments:
I really do want to speak about the importance of the industry coming to some sort of understanding of their responsibility as important corporate and social citizens. Businesses do not exist outside and beyond the ethical practices; businesses sit within communities and they rely on communities to succeed. We need an ethical response to what we can see is an increase in eating disorders, an increase in challenges to a sense of body image, increases in students’ and young people’s sense of identity, at a particular time they are growing in their understanding of sexualisation. These are pressures that should not be brought to bear on young people unnecessarily. Some businesses are very much responsible for pushing the envelope way too far.
Of course, we are still waiting for the review of the Senate inquiry into the sexualisation of children in the contemporary media environment, which was meant to have happened by December 2009. It seems to have disappeared.
Dr Emma Rush summed up the issues in an earlier piece I published here, titled ‘The market is eating our children’. It’s a must read for anyone interested in understanding and advancing this issue. Dr Rush writes:
But what can government do?
• It could start by conducting the now overdue December 2009 review of industry’s response to the Senate Inquiry recommendations, which would put clearly on the public record the failure of industry self-regulation to promote children’s interests.
• It needs to recognise that what is happening today is sexualisation ‘by a thousand cuts’. One sexualised billboard, one television show or advertisement, one internet site, one toy, one child’s magazine: none of these alone cause the problem of child sexualisation. It is the combination of many sexualised billboards, television shows, advertisements, internet sites, toys, magazines, and so on that cause child sexualisation.
The ‘case-by-case’ approach to regulation which is currently used by both government regulation and industry self-regulation will not work for this issue. We need an integrated regulatory approach covering all relevant industries, with the expertise of child health and welfare professionals structured into the regulation process, and regulation enforceable by law. Read full article here
As a young woman in recovery, seeing others succumb to such behaviours is triggering, distressing and saddening
Three years ago, if you had logged onto my computer and looked at my recent history, you would have discovered I frequently trawled through pro-eating disordered websites. There are communities of males and females of varying ages on sites such as Live Journal, Tumblr, Facebook and MySpace all promoting anorexia as a lifestyle choice, rather than a mental illness.
These websites, filled with “thinspiration” tips and tricks to achieve weight loss, fuelled both my Anorexia and Bulimia and significantly harmed my health. Many of the eating disorder sufferers only support weight loss for others, to receive the same support in return.
After struggling with my body image for years and engaging in eating disordered behaviours, I now eat regularly, do not over-exercise, do not manipulate my diet in any way, do not binge and purge and do not abuse laxatives. I am still in recovery from my eating disorder, but have come a long way in the last six months.
Doing some research on common misconceptions about eating disorders for my recovery-focused blog R is for Recovery (and Rebekah), I stumbled across a webpage called [site name removed]. The website claims not to be a “pro-ana” site, but rather a “pro-skinny site.” Basically the site host uploads pictures of very normal and average sized celebrities and models, labels them as fat and uses insulting and crude language to articulate their hurtful (and in my opinion, downright wrong) opinions.
The site also has a “Starving Tip of the Day”. This website is not unique – there are a number of similar pages on the internet condoning eating disordered behaviour – websites that individuals frequently visit. They are harmful to everyone – not just young women or young men; not just those in recovery from eating disorders; not just parents or teenagers or children – but harmful to all those who are at risk of believing such lies about their bodies and then engaging in eating disordered behaviour.
So, after I contaced Melinda about my concerns around these sites, she posed this question: “How, as a young woman in recovery, do these sites make you feel?” Outraged! I am so angry that these sites exist and that young adults are buying into the lie that being thin should be a high priority. The fact that we disrespect our bodies; the fact that we struggle to comprehend all bodies are different and the fact that we manipulate food to love ourselves more – does it not all seem a little wrong to you?
As a young woman in recovery, seeing others succumb to such behaviours is triggering, distressing and saddening. Why do these websites that encourage restricted diets and treating our bodies in such an awful manner exist? The point is that they shouldn’t. The point is that we need to monitor what our young people are exposed to on the internet. The point is that we should be in favour of healthy bodies, healthy minds, healthy lifestyles – none of which are reflected in an eating disordered lifestyle.
I am blessed to have a wonderful support network – it has been one of the biggest and most useful things for me throughout my recovery. Having people I can be accountable to and be honest with about what was (and occasionally still is) going on in my eating disordered mind has saved me from so much. Once these friends were aware of my frequent visits to eating disordered sites and my eating disordered Facebook account, that was the end of that! Internet sites were blocked, Facebook passwords were changed and I learnt to break some of the bad habits I had been indulging in.
I also attended an outpatient program at RPAH in Sydney, and a day program associated with the hospital. Seeking medical treatment is a must for all eating disordered patients. The day program in particular helped me to normalise my eating patterns and realise I was responsible for my own choices, I could not possibly live the rest of my life entrenched in the eating disorder and I really needed to, as well as deserved to, change and deal with what was going on in my life. And so I’ve done that. Also, as I began to eat regularly and feed my brain and body again, I started to think more clearly – it’s definitely part of the process of ridding oneself of the ‘ED voice’ once and for all.
So my aim today is to create awareness of these sites so that we can take action against them. If you are a parent, please, please monitor your child’s internet history. If you are in recovery from an eating disorder and struggle to avoid opening these types of websites, let someone know. Perhaps ask a friend to block them for you. If you’re courageous enough, block them yourself. If you are a friend or sibling to someone who has struggled with body image and eating disordered behaviour, ask them how they’re going – regularly check in with them and allow them to be accountable to you.
If we can all support each other in this endeavor and choose to steer clear of pro-anorexic and bulimic sites, perhaps it will be one small but significant change to reducing the prevalence of eating disorders – and the terrible harm and suffering they cause.
Rebekah McAlinden, 19, is studying at Mary Andrews College in Sydney. After suffering with body image issues since the age of eight and Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa for the past three years, she now describes herself as “almost recovered!” You can find more of Rebekah’s writing at R is for Recovery (and Rebekah)
Harriet Brown: A Mother’s Plea to Shut the Hunger Sites
…If I could shut down every thinspo Tumblr and blog and site I’d do it in a heartbeat. I’d do it without giving the First Amendment another thought. Because there’s nothing free or authentic about what’s being expressed. Thinspo is not self-expression because it’s not these young women’s true selves that invite emaciation and worship at the altar of jutting hipbones. The longing for extreme thinness, for the self-annhilation of starvation, is not rational. It’s not a choice. It’s the expression of an underlying terror and compulsion that controls a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
The girls who host thinspo Tumblrs and blogs are not merely disordered eaters; they are suffering from eating disorders. How do I know? Because I know the language of eating disorders. I know the rational-sounding rhetoric (“Everyone says it’s better to be thin than fat!”) that masks the extreme anxiety of anorexia. I know that someone can be in the grip of an eating disorder at any weight and long before the signs are obvious to outsiders. I know that once a girl (or boy) falls down the rabbit hole of anorexia, she can’t “choose” to climb back up. She can’t just decide to eat, because eating has become an act fraught with fear and guilt and self-loathing. She can’t acknowledge she’s hungry because if she does, the voice in her head (which may be literal or not) will berate her, excoriate her for hours. She won’t be able to sleep, focus on schoolwork, think about anything but her own worthlessness and fear….
Every one of those girls and young women writing is someone’s daughter. Every one of them is locked in a prison she can’t get out of, in the grip of an illness that can’t be reasoned with or rationalized. In their postings of insect-like women and strategies for resisting hunger, they’re crying out for help. They’re longing to eat even as they can’t bring themselves to do it. Read full story
If you are engaging in disordered eating or think you have an eating disorder and need help, contact:
‘Shine your light by taking a stand, not by taking part. It’s not too late’
US supergroup Switchfoot will be performing and signing posters at City Beach Queen Street store in Brisbane this afternoon.
While band members are at it with the pen and the posters, we’d like them to sign our Change.org petition calling on their special hosts, youth surf store City Beach, to remove porn-themed merchandise from sale.
It is a mystery to us why such a respected band would want to lend its good name to a company which trades in hyper-sexualised images of women and conditions and socialises young men to think of women only in terms of sexual gratification, as always available and ready for sex.
We don’t understand why a band known for its ethics in the industry would want to associate itself with a store selling a t.shirt with the image of a woman with a black eye, crying, under the wording “…It’s only illegal if you get caught”. Or the Hustler t.shirt “Talk Shit Get Hit”.
Why doesn’t Switchfoot come out and condemn these?
And is the band accepting money from the sale of porn and violence-themed t.shirts to do their gig today?
In a response to women who have protested Switchfoot lending their good name to City Beach in this cross promotion, the band says it has asked City Beach to remove porn themed products from the store while they are performing.
I wonder if there will be anything much left after that?
And sticking a pile of pornified tees behind the counter for an hour – what difference will that make? City Beach will be back pimping the same merchandise within seconds of the amps being unplugged.
Remember, this is a store which flogs ‘Two In The Shirt’, TITS brand, which uses famous porn stars on its clothing designs. TITS was also nominated for ‘Best apparel’ award in the pornography industry’s annual awards ceremony, the 2012 AVN Awards (alongside ‘Best double penetration’ and ‘Best young girl scene’, in case you didn’t know).
If you enter the URL on TITS t.shirts you find a series of blog posts of images of women, including one in underwear with a bag over her head with hole in it and ‘free blow job’ written on the bag.
Last year Collective Shout published an open letter urging retailers to stop selling pornographic menswear. Signatories included Child Advocate Noni Hazlehurst, The White Ribbon Foundation and authors Steve Biddulph and Maggie Hamilton.
Here is Switchfoot’s response to our complaints
We received your email regarding the objectionable merchandise sold at City Beach. We appreciate you bringing your concerns to our attention.
Although we are not responsible for what a retailer promotes or sells to its customers, we are responsible for creating an enjoyable atmosphere for our fans. With this in mind, we have asked City Beach to remove these items during our performance.
We’ve always tried to bring our songs of hope across the globe to everyone- regardless of nationality, race, religious belief, or any other categorization. With this in mind, there are a wide variety of people with a wide variety of lifestyles represented at our concerts. That is our goal. And of course, not everyone who attends will agree with every other person there. Even the venues we play are dramatically different from night to night. If you are offended by an aspect of the venue or the crowd, we respect your decision if you choose not to attend; we hold you and your convictions in high regard.
However, we believe that these songs of light were meant to shine everywhere, including the dark. Thank you again for your concern. We hope that we’ll see you the next time we pass through Australia.
They’ve missed the point.
Here’s a reply from activist Nicole. She nails it.
Thanks for your reply.
Your response, however, is incredibly disappointing.
It is not the concert venue which is offensive. It is not even the presence of explicit and degrading material which is offensive. What is offensive, is the notion of a rock band with a youth following, promoting a company which unapologetically and deliberately sells p*rnographic material to Australian teenagers. What is even more offensive, is the notion that this band is doing so in the name of Jesus.
By playing this gig with the merchandise removed, you are creating an enjoyable atmosphere for your fans for one hour. But in doing so, you are losing the opportunity to create an enjoyable and safe atmosphere for them to live and grow in beyond that moment.
Please, look at the links which I have sent you. Consider the message you are sending about the acceptability of the way City Beach make their mark on the minds and bodies of young Australians. Shine your light by taking a stand, not by taking part. It’s not too late.
As Professor of Law at Flinders University and Vice-President of the Australian Council on Children and the Media, Elizabeth Handsley commented yesterday:
Nobody said they were responsible for what a retailer promotes or sells, but they ARE responsible for the retailers they choose to support and promote.
Nor is anybody suggesting it’s about people in the audience disagreeing with each other – like some people are going to be offended by the ABSENCE of porn?
And if you don’t mind me saying so, all this ‘songs of light’ business only clouds the issue.
We’re all into shining light into dark places.
But shining light doesn’t mean a co-branding exercise where lots of young people who come to see you perform are brought into a store trading in porno-inspired images of women and encouraged to see it as worthy of their custom because Switchfoot performed there.
Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation, a grassroots campaigning movement is calling on Switchfoot to withdraw from a planned live performance at City Beach surf store on Queen Street, Brisbane this Thursday afternoon (23rd February).
City Beach, the youth retailer hosting the band, has come under fire for selling clothing with pornographic images, as well as accessories and other porn-themed items including wallets, hats, pencil cases and iPhone covers.
City Beach sells the U.S. clothing brand Two In The Shirt, more commonly known as TITS, a brand renowned for using famous porn stars as the models for their designs. The brand was nominated for an award at the pornography industry’s annual award ceremony last month. TITS brand invited fans via Facebook to come to the Adult Video News (AVN) Expo, where they could meet the porn stars featured on their clothing.
City Beach also came under fire in December after a Year 8 boy brought a pornographic pencil case to school he had purchased from the store. Despite statements from City Beach that the pencil cases would be discontinued, they remain in stores as a part of ‘Back to School’ sales. City Beach has ignored communications from former customers.
Last year Collective Shout published an open letter urging retailers to cease the sale of pornographic menswear. Signatories included child advocate and TV presenter Noni Hazlehurst, The White Ribbon Foundation and authors Steve Biddulph and Maggie Hamilton. A petition on social change website change.org has attracted more than 1400 signatures calling on City Beach to remove pornographic items from sale because of the message to young people that women are sexual objects for male entertainment, always willing and available for sex.
WA activist Caitlin Roper made a formal complaint against City Beach to the Human Rights Commission last year, arguing that openly displaying pornographic imagery in their stores was a form of sexual harassment. While sexual harassment laws prohibit the display of highly sexualized material in the workplace, City Beach refused to remove the offending clothing from sale.
After ignoring complaints, protests are being scheduled outside City Beach stores around the country. The first protest was held in Sydney two weeks ago.
Spokeswoman Caitlin Roper said Collective Shout was disappointed a respected band like Switchfoot, in Brisbane on Thursday, would associate itself with City Beach.
“We have contacted the band but not had a response. It’s not too late for them to pull out. We are sure there are many stores who believe in corporate social responsibility, and who would be happy to host Switchfoot,” Ms Roper said.
Vote for ‘Naughty Nicole’ and ‘Classy Casey’ and against sexist crap
There are just so many things I love about our Collective Shout activists.
One of these is the creative way our supporters engage in culture jamming and messing with corporate brands.
Take Nicole from South Australia for example. She got fired up about Mossimo’s creepy and sex-industry inspired approach to flogging underwear, so decided to enter the company’s Peepshow competition.
Here’s her entry.
Mossimo made her change her entry because they didn’t like the word ‘crap’in her original message. So she changed it to ‘rubbish’. On ya Mossimo for upholding such high standards regarding the use of language.
Shortly after, Nicole – the clear winner so far – found some competition when ‘Classy Casey’ sent her message.
Vote for Nicole and Casey and help them win a camera. Nicole says if she wins, she’ll donate the camera to Collective Shout to document our nation-wide protests!
‘Corporate paedophilia’ is a worrying global trend on the rise.
For those who might have missed it, Witchery has just launched a new clothing range for eight- to 14-year-old girls called “8fourteen”. In a brilliant stroke of imagination, the launch occurred on Valentine’s Day – because, of course, girls from the age of eight need to understand that male romantic approval, and attracting it through your physical appearance (euphemistically termed “personal style”), is what really matters in life.
The advertising campaign presents two girls from Sydney, aged 11 and 12, as “little sisters” to Australia’s Next Top Model Montana Cox, aged 18. Leaving aside some leopard print, the clothing range itself appears to be mainly age-appropriate (although, curiously, this isn’t well indicated in the campaign). The list of “facts” presented about each girl appears unobjectionable enough (about which, more later). The accompanying films of the girls, however, artistically shot in black and white with acoustic music, made us gasp. Read more>
‘Encouraging teens to wait until they feel ready for sex is not to promote oppression. It is to promote empowerment’
By Dr Emma Rush
Clueless, to say the least. Michelle Griffin’s claim (‘Why teens should read raunchy novels and straight-up smut’) that “teens should read more porn”, not to mention her implied claim that more Year 10 students should be having sex, are the flashpoints of a piece which lacks anything vaguely resembling a clearly structured argument. The lumping together of a ‘reality bites’ book specifically pitched at adolescents, such as Judy Blume’s Forever, with the porn-fest of Nicholson Baker’s “surreally explicit new title”, House of Holes, should alert us to that.
The apparent spur for Griffin’s piece is a recent La Trobe University study finding that despite much talk about the importance of sex education in schools that locates discussion of the biological facts about sex within a broader understanding of healthy relationships, not all Year 9 and 10 students have access to this.
Only one in four hear that “experimenting with sexualities and pleasure is OK”, something particularly important given the potential impacts of homophobia. (At the same time, the research does suggest that at least some teachers are rising to the challenge, and we should all congratulate them for that.)
The socio-emotionally disconnected version of sex provided by parts of the education system gives rise to the question: how do teens link this school-based information with their actual lives? The ubiquity of porn may well fill the gap. And researchers like Alan McKee, whom Griffin cites approvingly, seem to believe that the pornography industry is well prepared to fill that gap, a pornography industry that promotes cruelty, brutality and inequality.
Griffin is to her credit concerned about the resulting “shackles of banal commercialised sexuality”. She advocates reading more books over watching YouPorn. That’s great, but she avoids a much more challenging question: precisely which books?
Teens, like the rest of us, are whole people, with rich socio-emotional lives. Some books do justice to the location of sex within a broader socio-emotional context, some do not. But Griffin, apparently relying on a ‘consent makes any kind of sex ok’ philosophy, makes no such distinction (there’s no problem with ‘brutal’ porn, apparently), and in doing so, she sells us all short.
The value of consent rests on the possibility of free and rational choice. The idea that either perfect freedom or perfect rationality applies in messy sexual contexts is a fantasy. All the more so for the adolescent context, where the psychological literature clearly shows that teens are more impulsive and more prone to extreme highs and lows than more mature adults.
Add to that peer pressure and alcohol and you’ve got a heady mix. That’s not to say that some psychologically mature teens don’t have healthy sexual relationships – the literature clearly shows that they do – but consent is hardly all that is required for this. Consent is necessary but not sufficient for a healthy sexual relationship. And actions need to be more than just acquiescence, more than just ‘going along with’, to count as consent.
Let’s face it, even if sex is entered into in a spirit of ‘all you need is consent and no strings attached’, that doesn’t make us flourish. Physical intimacy can all too easily lead to emotional connection and then significant distress when this is not mutual. Who has not seen this happen, even with mature adults? Who does not know how the headspin of even potential sexual attraction can throw everything else out of perspective, even in a mature adult? Who seriously thinks it’s a good idea to encourage in teens the idea that, provided you’ve got ‘consent’, anything goes?
The very idea that you can just ‘consent’ to physical intimacy with someone you don’t have a caring relationship with, in the goal of mutual pleasure seeking, is bizarre. The kind of psychological separation from your body (not to mention the other human being in the equation) you would have to achieve to do that sounds more like the kind of pathology that results from sexual abuse, than any kind of healthy sexual development.
The psychological task of adolescence is to develop a holistic sense of who you are, and to become over time an independent and autonomous adult. Sexuality is an important part of that, but it’s far from the only part.
Reading material that portrays sex as a part of caring, complex, human relationships is one important way of promoting such holistic development. Another way is to construct a loving sexual life with someone who genuinely cares about you – when you are mature enough to form such a relationship. Encouraging teens to wait until they feel ‘ready’ for sex, and to wait for someone with whom they feel safe, is not to promote oppression. It is to promote empowerment. House of Holes seems unlikely to teach anyone that sort of respect for self or others.
Dr Emma Rush is a lecturer in philosophy and ethics at Charles Sturt University. She was a contributor to Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls (ed. Melinda Tankard Reist, Spinifex Press, 2009).
That was the argument put by Age social affairs writer Michelle Griffin in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald this week.
“Steamy airport novels, raunchy teen lit and straight-up smut”, argued Griffin, would help take young people away from “commercialised banal porn”. In her praise of trashy novels and raunchy reads, Griffin recommended ‘House of Holes’ for the school library and family bookshelf.
This is the book described by The Guardian as a ‘wank book’ and ‘porn fest: “Baker’s frogmarches us into an arcade of blaring porn fantasies in which the tropes of triple-X sex movies are celebrated in all their cheerfully gushing banality…” (note to Griffin, porn without pictures can be banal too).
How Judy Blume’s ‘Forever’ and ‘Puberty Blues’ could even appear in the same article commending House of Holes is difficult to fathom.
Especially concerning is Griffin’s comment: “The trouble with much of the porn readily available is not that it’s explicit, or even that it’s brutal, but that it is reductive and samey.”
So because so much of it is similar, that is worse than it being brutal, violent and misogynist? The commercialised women-hating and sadistic brutality that so much of today’s on-line pornographic offerings is less worse than it just being “samey”?
I agree of course with the observations of sex therapists cited by Griffin that “porn is limiting young men’s visions of a good time to mere delivery-man thrusting”. This is well-documented in Big Porn Inc: Exposing the harms of the global sex industry (Spinifex Press, 2011), a book I co-edited with Dr Abigail Bray. I agree that young people have a right to know about pleasure and that sex education programs where only biological facts or a disease model of sex are taught, are inadequate.
But it appears to me naïve to think leaving porno-themed books lying around the house “badly hidden” is any kind of “arming” against online pornography, when 70 percent of boys aged 12 have seen porn and 100 percent by age 15. Even if they read one or two books, the bombardment of sexual imagery and porn online will barely be dented. And it seems foolish to treat porn books and porn online as somehow separate and disconnected.
What is urgently needed is explicit content on radical concepts like love, intimacy and authentic human connection. Girls and young women describe cold, soul-less sexual experiences in which they are expected to be service stations for boys, pressured to ‘put out’, with no concern for her emotional wellbeing.
Sex has become more about f***ing and less about loving. Our response should be to equip and empower young people to make positive choices about their sexual lives. Not throw more porn flavoured stuff at them.
On 16th January 2012 Kyle Sandilands returned to his radio program, the Kyle and Jackie O show, which airs during the much coveted breakfast period reaching millions of Australians on a daily basis. His audience includes young children and teenagers getting ready for school. These impressionable young minds are regularly confronted with discussions on sex acts, murdering transsexuals, as well as Kyle’s insults directed toward any female who is carrying extra weight (including his co-host).
In November 2011 these young minds were also subjected to Kyle’s rants against an online journalist which included the threat “watch your mouth girl or I will hunt you down”. This is not the first time Kyle has threatened a female journalist. In 2006 Kyle stated that he would hire a private investigator to film a pregnant journalist’s family and post it on the Internet. Further to this, in 2007 during an interview with Andrew Denton, Kyle stated he wanted to punch a certain Australian comedian “in the throat”. Kyle Sandilands has a continuous history of verbal assaults and threats of violence against people HE sees have done him wrong.
After the November verbal assault and threats and the December 2011 discussion on “killing the trannie”, a dedicated group of Australians came together and decided enough was enough. We no longer want our kids to be around other kids who think it’s ok to call someone fat and threaten violence. We do not want our daughters dating boys who think it’s ok to “hunt you down” if our daughters disagree with them. We do not want our sexually and emotionally developing teenagers to think that there is anything wrong with being lesbian or gay, we don’t want them to judge bisexual or transgender people, we don’t want them to think that it is okay to “kill the trannie”.
In the past two months the SACK VILE KYLE campaign has been contacting Austereo’s sponsors and we are pleased to announce that 100 businesses have now withdrawn all financial backing of the Kyle and Jackie O show. The SACK VILE KYLE campaign has persuaded them that advertising on the award winning, popular radio program (and therefore contributing to Kyle’s multimillion dollar wage) is not ethical business practice. These companies understand that by advertising on the Kyle and Jackie O show they are supporting this behaviour. They have chosen not to.
Recently the following companies have been contacted via email, twitter and Facebook, and have confirmed that they do not support Kyle Sandilands behaviour and have withdrawn advertising:
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Do you read women’s lifestyle magazines? Have you thought about how magazines might affect you when you read them? Faking It reflects the body of academic research on magazines, mass media, and the sexual objectification of women.
Ruby Who? is the sweet and innocent story of a little girl’s adventure in re-discovering her identity. Ruby wishes for so many things and dreams of being like others. Will she end up forgetting how to just be herself?
Ruby Who? is the sweet and innocent story of a little girl’s adventure in re-discovering her identity. Ruby wishes for so many things and dreams of being like others. Will she end up forgetting how to just be herself?
Defiant Birth challenges widespread medical, and often social aversion to less than perfect pregnancies or genetically different babies. It also features women with disabilities who were discouraged from becoming pregnant at all.