‘This book helps parents understand how we can win back girlhood – happy, wild and free. It’s the core of individuality and self-belief – and is the new feminism that we want for our daughters’
Globally renown psychologist and author Steve Biddulph has been a remarkable support for our movement Collective Shout since the earliest days. He not only cared about the cause, he cared about us, as the individual activists at the forefront of this new grassroots campaigning movement against sexualsation, objectification and pornification. I recall one of our first gatherings as a core team in Sydney, Steve leading us in a session not on how we could change the world, but how to look after ourselves while attempting it. Since that time, eight years ago, Steve has continued to check in, with wise advice and wisdom about self-sustainability for the long haul.
I was honoured when Steve asked me to write a chapter on ‘Girls and the online world’ for his 2013 book Raising Girls, a follow-up to his million-copy best seller Raising Boys. Now Steve has again featured my work in his latest title 10 Things Girls Need Most: And How They Will Help Her Throughout Her Life (Finch Publishing). This new title, available through Booktopia, is already on the best seller lists.
The book is interactive. “These interactive tasks immediately get you thinking about your own life, your family and, of course, your daughter… It provides the very best information that we have about girls growing up today – and, alongside, are interactive tasks and self-exploration practices will help you to put that into practice”, Steve says.
Steve describes the aims of the book:
“Firstly, to help you understand how daughters grow and thrive, and to be confident in raising your own. To lay down the foundations of good mental health early in your daughter’s life, and to keep her strong all the way through. And secondly, to enlist you in the new wave of feminism, fighting against a world that is so toxic to our kids.
We have the potential to change the world our daughters face. Girls are being exploited. We need to challenge the companies worldwide that profit from making girls insecure and compliant through manipulative marketing.
This book helps parents understand how we can win back girlhood – happy, wild and free. It’s the core of individuality and self-belief – and is the new feminism that we want for our daughters.”
Here’s an extract from the chapter describing my work with young people:
A VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS
Melinda Tankard Reist is standing before an audience of two hundred girls aged from twelve to eighteen. Neat in their school uniforms, they are seated in curved rows on the floor. Uncharacteristically for this age group, they are utterly silent. Melinda is the founder of Collective Shout, a national network of young women campaigners against the sexual exploitation of women and girls. She will criss-cross to schools across the country giving this talk about ‘sex, porn and love’ dozens of times a year to girls of every ethnicity and demographic. When Melinda finishes speaking, the girls erupt in applause and besiege her with tearful thanks for her message. They will tell stories of their own experience – of being touched or assaulted by boys or men on public transport, of being leered at or spoken to obscenely in the schoolyard. Or, in their relationships with boyfriends, of feeling pressured into doing things they didn’t want to do, and of sexual encounters entered into happily and trustingly, where nice boys that they thought they could trust became aggressive, spoke demeaningly or physically hurt them.
When Melinda talks to boys about these issues, they often express shame and regret, recognizing they have acted in these ways, but not seeing how harmful and disrespectful their behaviour has been. They literally thought this was how you were supposed to treat girls.
The world our kids grow up in today sexually is not a happy place. Sex has been so misused, in advertising, the media and in music videos – and most powerfully of all in the torrent of online pornography – that it has badly distorted what young people think about how it works, and how it can be part of a caring, gradually unfolding relationship.
A recent study by the Burnet Institute in Sydney, Australia, found that 90 per cent of boys and 60 per cent of girls had encountered pornography between the ages of thirteen and sixteen. Thirteen was the average age of first exposure for boys. Forty-four per cent of older teenage boys watch porn weekly, and 37 per cent daily. This indicates a fair bit of exposure. Pornography is a vast and highly profitable industry. Our consumer society is industrializing sexuality, and the kids are its first trial run….
…for the boys who see these depictions, the women in pornography are paid to act as if they like and enjoy this treatment – slapping, strangling, hair-pulling, and being called abusive and demeaning names. For a fourteen-year-old boy the mislearning about what sex is like is bewildering, if not dangerous.
Here is what Melinda (and educators like her) report from talking to adolescent girls:
1. They are being increasingly and persistently pressured into sexual acts that they don’t want or enjoy. This pressure often becomes the central focus of the relationship with boys who they thought liked them or wanted to be with them.
2. When once teenagers enjoyed hours of kissing, or had a relationship consisting of talking, laughing, spending time together and snogging, this now doesn’t happen at all. It’s too much a delay in getting to the goal.
3. Sex isn’t really sexy any more. There is no sensuality, no body pleasure, no tenderness. You are meat to be used. The sex girls have with boys is fourth rate.
4. As a result, by sixteen or seventeen, girls are often totally disillusioned about sex, put off it by the dismal lack of skill, awareness or connection offered by the boys in their lives. It becomes a routine, dreary chore to put up with if you want to be in the company of a male. (How progressive and modern!)
5. Sexual relationships that start at fourteen or fifteen rarely last beyond a few weeks, often less. They create a lowered bar, a kind of resignation, and drift into multiple, equally empty relationships.
This doesn’t just affect the girls who are sexually active. The effect on the social world that all our daughters move in – at school, university or going out in public on the street – is that it is constantly sexualized in an invasive and uncomfortable way. A girl finds she is being ranked and compared on sexual criteria on social media or even to her face. Some boys feel that they are entitled to touch or grope girls, harass them or worse. Some men gaze invasively at girls without any sense of respect or protectiveness.
Girls lose a sense of agency or that their needs matter. Melinda hears girls talk about their first sexual experience, being anxious only about how it was for the boy. ’He seemed to like it.’ ‘I hope I looked OK.’ There is nothing about their own enjoyment.
By mid-secondary school, requests for naked ‘selfies’ come thick and fast. Boys expect this from a girl they are friends with. Girls ask: ‘How can I refuse without hurting his feelings?’ But those photos may be traded among boys, used as revenge, or to blackmail them into having sex, then shared anyway. Girls in many countries have taken their own lives because of the humiliation or betrayal they experience, the sense of having their selves taken away.
Another sad side effect, is that non-sexual, actual friendships – once a great part of being young, and a stepping stone to greater confidence – have almost disappeared as everyone thinks they are supposed to be sexual.
SO WHAT TO DO?
In the face of this avalanche of hurt, the answer that educators and activists are giving girls is on multiple fronts, but has a central core. It’s the thing that sends girls at Melinda’s talks into empowered assertion of their own feelings. You Don’t Have To. Your own sexual wishes, enjoyment, values, and choices, are what you have a right to stand up for. You aren’t in this world to satisfy boys.
The Para Hills West Soccer Club in Adelaide seems to have missed the memo.
By Coralie Alison
With a new focus on objectification of women, abuse, violence, sexism and misogyny, Para Hills West decides not only to host a ‘Men’s Night’ fundraiser – but advertise it at the club for all the junior boys to see.
Para Hills West is making sure boys learn early about what women are good for. It seems to have ignored amateur soccer’s own code of conduct.
Boys may wonder if their dads and coaches who they look up to, will take up the invite. (it’s just lads banding together to show their support for the club right?)
Not only does its display contribute to a culture that treats women as objects but it also normalises a behaviour that contributes to violence against women.
Sporting clubs have to work hard to turn the tide in sexist attitudes towards women. The culture of sexism in men’s sport is deeply entrenched. For this reason the AFL players association has partnered with The Line, an initiative under the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010 – 2022, delivered by Our Watch to combat sexism and promote respectful relationships.
Our Watch explain in their submission to the Inquiry into Domestic Violence and Gender Inequality that:
“Sexist and stereotypical ideas about masculinity and femininity may increase the probability of violence against women because they… can cast women as targets for exploitation, based on the idea that women are ‘naturally’ passive and submissive, combined with objectified and sexualised identities….”
Make the link, a Gippsland Women’s Health initiative, states on their website that:
“Violence against women is based upon a foundation of unequal power between men and women, something that has been embedded historically in our society and in our relationships. We see this imbalance acted out in many ways, even today. It is in the jokes we tell, the language we use and in the way that men and women are represented in all types of media. ”
We no longer subscribe to the old phrase ‘boys will be boys’. Our boys deserve better than that. Schools across the country are rolling out respectful relationship programs to help young people to have healthy, respectful and equitable relationships and address gender based violence. The actions of this club undermine these efforts.
It also makes women and girls feel excluded. What message does this event send to the women and girls involved in the club? We know that hyper-sexualised representations of women in advertising are directly associated with a range of consequences for girls, including higher levels of body dissatisfaction, greater self-objectification, eating disorders, and even self harm. These factors will not lead girls to participate in sport themselves but rather avoid it.
“Respect the rights, dignity and worth of every person, regardless of their gender, ability, cultural background or religion”
Women already face sexism in sport. This culture of sexism breeds in clubs that facilitate events such as this. How can we create an environment that is welcoming for all when sexually objectifying posters are plastered around the venue?
The sexualisation and objectification of women is the wallpaper of society, from billboards, to magazines, to music videos. This fundraiser means the club is endorsing this treatment of women. The club has an opportunity now to send a strong message to the community that this type of treatment of women is not okay.
Surely there are alternative avenues for sporting clubs to fundraise in ways that are respectful to all people in the community. The Para Hills West Soccer Club has a long history. Does the club now want to add sexism to that history?
Rape victim Katrina Keshishian says she ‘couldn’t believe my eyes’ when she read about a ‘simulated’ rape project
MTR comments on Melbourne artist who filmed her ‘rape’ for art installation
Australian writer and advocate for women, Melinda Tankard Reist, told news.com.au the project is “commendable” but “misguided”.
“She humanises this appalling human rights violation by turning some impersonal statistic into a real human face — it’s hard not to humanise her when you are staring into her face for three minutes,” she said.
“But I have some concerns and feel the project was misguided. Rape survivors may well ask: ‘What woman orchestrates and choreographs her own rape for an art installation? Is any art project really worth physical and emotional injury and life-long trauma?’”
She said the fact that she orchestrated and planned it also is not realistic.
“As a side question, if she had a camera that was visible could the man have considered it ‘consensual’ and acting out a fantasy? Also how would this be perceived if she ever wanted to press charges? It’s hard enough already for women who were raped not only to report but to see justice.”
She said the project has the “potential to reinforce the myth” of stranger rape.
“This kind of rape plays into rape myth that rape is when a stranger attacks you. By setting it up this way, inviting a stranger into her home, it plays into myths that women fantasise about being raped.”
One of the most moving experiences I have had a speaker addressing young people around the country, took place about a year ago when a Year 11 student in a WA secondary school stood to his feet during the discussion time following my talk on how our culture shaped boys views of themselves in negative ways.
Visibly distressed, this young man recounted that his brother had just taken his life with a drug overdose, that he had been bullied every day of his life, and that he had no friends. He began to cry.
From the front of the hall where the boys were gathered, another student stood, walked to the back of the room, and hugged his crying classmate.
I had to leave the room for a while to pull myself together.
It is rare to see this display of emotion – and the open expression of care – between boys and their peers.
However, my colleagues and I are increasingly witnessing more boys wanting to connect with their emotions, looking for permission to be allowed to express themselves, wanting to rise up against culture norms which train them in a brutalised version of masculinity.
Now comes a film which will help them do just that.
The Mask You Live In, by US documentary filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom, follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating society’s narrow definition of masculinity. It follows on from the ground-breaking 2011 film Miss Representation, which put the spotlight on female stereotypes and which Collective Shout helped bring to Australia).
Pressured by the media, their peer group, and many adults in their lives, young men in the film confront messages encouraging them to be cut off from their emotions, devalue authentic friendships, objectify and degrade women, and which teach them that they can solve problems through violence.
As well as the boys themselves, we hear from experts in neuroscience, psychology, sociology, sports, education, and media, offering empirical evidence on the “boy crisis” and tactics to combat it.
The film explores how common phrases like be a man, be tough, don’t be a pussy, a win-at-all-costs sports culture, violent video games, and lack of emotional vocabulary, is encouraging boys to repress their emotions.
Newsom examines the frightening results of those messages. Her film looks at the high rates of violence, alcohol and drug abuse, mental health issues, suicide, and poor relationship skills, affecting many young men.
Asked what impact Newsom hoped The Mask You Live In will have on people, she replied:
I’m hopeful and pretty confident that The Mask You Live In is really a catalyst for a national conversation around healthy whole masculinity that we’re in dire need of having. Masculinity has increasingly been about aggression, dominance, control and power, and so many young boys find that unnatural and uncomfortable but feel this pressure to conform. The more we as adults model healthy masculinity, the healthier our boys can be. Ultimately we have to really support our boys and help them not to repress their emotions and help them to stay true to themselves. We’re all born sensitive and we’re all born empathic. Some studies indicate boys are born more sensitive slightly at birth than girls, but then we socialize that out of them. So it is critical that we not socialize our boys in a way that’s ultimately destructive or harmful to them being themselves.
I’ve seen the film twice now, in Melbourne and Adelaide. It is the most powerful examination and exploration of this issue of masculinity I have seen to date. As the co-author of Big Porn Inc: exposing the harms of the global pornography industry, (Spinifex Press, 2011), and involved in running workshops with boys on the issue, I was especially pleased to see the film include a segment on how pornography is shaping and moulding men and boys attitudes and behaviours toward women and girls and how it is destructive of respect-based relationships.
But The Mask You Live In doesn’t just showcase the crisis in masculinity in our culture – it goes on to explore positive ways forward. Men and boys are depicted exploring their feelings and sharing openly, in the moving final stages of the film. I kept thinking of all the men and boys, including my 21 year-old son, who I wanted to see it). While the film was made in the US, it is of great relevance in Australia.
It is my hope this film will be mandatory viewing for every boy in secondary school. I believe this film comes at a critical time and is a major intervention in at least starting a conversation in how we have failed boys and men and the urgent need to redefine masculinity – to help young men value inner strength, integrity, courage, leadership and social bonds, above the aggressive, domineering, anger-driven versions of masculinity which they’re sold now.
If we let it, The Mask You Live In could help us turn this terrible situation around and raise a healthier generation of boys and young men.
It’s like this when I speak about pornography at schools, conferences, and other events. I’m often hesitant to speak of what I know is really happening. People are often so shocked, so disconcerted by the content of my talks, I start to self-censor. Sometimes I gauge the audience as I speak and hasten past slides which I know will be too much for them.
I am picking up information which is so severe, so hard to hear, that I rarely pass it on. So far, I’ve mostly restricted it to medical audiences. However, this article, by London Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson in The Canberra Times, has caused me to reconsider the holding back: everyone has to know this.
What I’m being told, by medical professionals, is that young girls (many under-age) are increasingly suffering anal tearing as a result of porn-inspired anal sex acts, including group acts. Some end up with rectums so damaged they are rendered incontinent and need colostomy bags. Other girls are contracting the HPV virus through oral sex. Some end up requiring surgery for throat cancer as a result.
Girls have a right to know this is how they could end up. But where do they go for this information? It’s hardly mainstream. And online porn presents these acts as standard. Girls who don’t want to submit to anal sex start to think there is something wrong with them. One of their biggest fears is being labelled a prude, or ‘hung up’. This is what Pearson wrote:
I was having dinner with a group of women when the conversation moved on to how we could raise happy, well-balanced sons and daughters who are capable of forming meaningful relationships when internet pornography has changed the landscape of adolescence beyond recognition…
A GP, let’s call her Sue, said: “I’m afraid things are much worse than people suspect.” In recent years, Sue had treated growing numbers of teenage girls with internal injuries caused by frequent anal sex; not, as Sue found out, because they wanted to, or because they enjoyed it, but because a boy expected them to. “I’ll spare you the gruesome details,” said Sue, “but these girls are very young and slight and their bodies are simply not designed for that.”
Her patients were deeply ashamed at presenting with such injuries. They had lied to their mums about it and felt they couldn’t confide in anyone else, which only added to their distress. When Sue questioned them further, they said they were humiliated by the experience but they had simply not felt they could say no. Anal sex was standard among teenagers now, even though the girls knew it hurt.
… The girls presenting with incontinence were often under the age of consent and from loving, stable homes. Just the sort of kids who, two generations ago, would have been enjoying riding and ballet lessons, and still looking forward to their first kiss, not being coerced into violent sex by some kid who picked up his ideas about physical intimacy from a dogging video on his mobile.
… more than four in 10 girls between 13 and 17 in England say they have been coerced into sex acts, according to one of the largest European polls on teenage experiences. Research by the universities of Bristol and Central Lancashire concluded that a fifth of girls had suffered violence or intimidation from teenage boyfriends, a high proportion of whom regularly viewed pornography, with one in five harbouring “extremely negative attitudes towards women”.
The end result is what Sue sees as a GP. Young girls – children, really – who abase themselves to pass for normal in a grim, pornified culture. According to another study of British teenagers, most youngsters’ first experience of anal sex occurred within a relationship, but it was “rarely under circumstances of mutual exploration of sexual pleasure”. Instead, it was boys who pushed the girls to try it, with boys reporting that they felt “expected” to take that role. Moreover, both genders expected males to find pleasure in the act whereas females were mostly expected to “endure the negative aspects such as pain or a damaged reputation”. Read full article here.
I wonder if men like Jackson Katz and Jonah Mix and Chris Hedges (mentioned in this piece by Meghan Murphy and by me in this post on ABC Lateline and ‘sex work’ know what it means to women to have them speak so strongly and unequivocally – and often condemned for doing so- on issues such as sexual violence, equality and the human rights of women? My colleagues and I share articles by these men and others with much enthusiasm. Perhaps it makes us feel a little less lonely? Men like this refuse to stand by and watch as women are trashed physically and emotionally around the world. (They also happen to write really well – of course not as vital a point to make, but it does have special appeal to those of us who live by putting words together). Today I’m reprinting Jackson Katz in a Huffington Post piece on 50 Shades of Grey and how it sets back relationships education with boys, and Jonah Mix twice because he’s so good, once wasn’t enough.
Fifty Shades of Grey and the Miseducation of Boys
Much of the commentary about the film’s release has focused on women’s reactions to it, including the message that its mainstream acceptance sends to girls about their sexuality and the lengths of degradation and self-negation that women are sometimes pressured to endure in relations with men to achieve intimacy or great sex.
But my primary concern for now has to do not with girls, but with boys like my son and other young men, who are trying to navigate the rocky shores of heterosexual desire themselves, in a culture that routinely offers them up sexually subordinate, compliant and sometimes self-loathing women at the click of a mouse or the price of a movie ticket.
What do parents of sons say to them about the draw this story has for women? How can we help them make sense of the mixed messages our society sends to them about what women want? That women want men to treat them as equals, even as millions embrace a story that countless battered women’s advocates say more closely resembles an abusive relationship than it does some sort of kinky sex fantasy?…
One of the most important goals of gender violence prevention work is to teach boys and young men that violence is not manly, and abuse is not sexy. To the extent that this movie complicates our efforts, it harms not just women. It also does damage to young heterosexual men, who in the wake of Fifty Shades of Grey’s commercial triumph are left scratching their heads and trying to figure out responsible and healthy ways to relate sexually to women, and themselves.
Not rape just rough sex: consent and victim blaming
Rapists hiding behind the smokescreen of “rough sex” is nothing new. Jian Ghomeshi tried the same approach last year when his pattern of sexual brutality was revealed. It’s not hard to see why so many abusers utilize this defense; a simple mention of the word “consent” and the question shifts from exactly why a man enjoys punching a woman in the face to whether or not the women enjoyed being punched in the face. It’s a classic abuser tactic in which the spotlight of inquiry is shifted onto the victim so the perpetrator can remain unexamined in the dark.
Once you adopt the consent-as-sole-moral-consideration ideology, a man like Dominique Strauss-Kahn restraining a woman, choking her, and then violently penetrating her becomes immoral simply because she didn’t find it sexy – not because fucking someone with your hands closed tight around their neck just might, you know, not be a good way to relate to another human being. When you say that a man punching, slapping, choking, and bruising a woman is wrong only because she doesn’t “consent,” you’re saying that the only thing wrong with men’s violence is that women haven’t learned to enjoy it yet.
There was a time where rapists insisting their victims “wanted it” was considered the lowest insult one could possibly aim at a victim of sexual violence – thanks to BDSM ideologues, it’s become a meaningful defense.
To those who have publicly attested to their enjoyment of [violent pornography], I ask them to consider the lives of those who have endured the same treatment but without the magic word of consent. Are those women expected to watch and understand as their torture is reenacted as a legitimized means of entertainment? What the popularization of violent pornography is telling these women is that they could and maybe should have enjoyed their rapes. After all, if some women have, why don’t they all?
And I wonder: If male sexual violence becomes immoral only when it fails to arouse a woman, why should we attempt to stop predatory men from cultivating the woman-hating sadism that leads to rape when we could just teach women to find it sexy? Why are our anti-rape campaigns aimed at stopping men from violating women when we could just try encouraging women to develop submissive sexual desires? I can imagine the slogan of an anti-rape organization run by male kinksters: Stop rape – turn it into sex! Read full article
When Paternalism is worse than commercial rape: state of extraction and the new manarchist
Accusations of “moralizing” are by definition vacuous. Considering that morality refers simply to a set of standards we have for what ought and ought not be done, literally any political position is in some way moralistic unless it makes absolutely no demands on behavior. Opposition to police brutality or pipeline construction, for instance, are all acts of moralizing, in that they all make universalized prescriptions – that cops ought not enact violence on citizens, that indigenous land rights ought to be protected, et cetera. Chris Hedges’ condemnation of prostitution as abusive, depraved, and unjust is no more tethered to a moralistic outlook than the anarchist dude who rambles on about the evil of cops and CEOs. Both have beliefs about what behavior is permissible and both hold the belief that certain actions are justified to correct impermissible behavior.
The only reason that condemnations of sexual abuse and exploitation are stuck with the condescending label of “moralizing” while other political stances are not is, of course, because the concerns of women are systematically barred from consideration as political concerns. While the oppression of men is seen as an issue befitting the high ideals of politics and justice, the oppression of women is relegated to “morality” – a category most leftists, stuck as they are in the navel-gazing solipsism of post-modernism, see as contemptibly passé.
But accusations of “moralizing” are but one half of the Inane Leftist Dude Objection Power Duo, joined quickly by even more inscrutable accusations of “paternalism” – which, in this case, means the terrible sin of saying that we should have laws that protect women.
Sexting, Shame and Suicide: a shocking story of sexual assault in the digital age
This essay was published last September but I’ve only just come across it. I keep thinking of Audrie and her body defaced and graffitied, the images shared and consumed. Her waking in horror to discover the markings all over her body and trying frantically to scrub them off. And the ultimate horror outcome, where she can no longer face the mocking, bullying and shaming. But I must say, it’s not only in the U.S that boys take the view that if a girl is under the influence of alcohol, she deserves whatever happens (some girls take this attitude also).
I have asked boys in the schools I address: “If a girl is drunk how many of you think she’s asking for it?” In many classes, the majority of boys would raise their hands. It is a common view. There is a terrible lack of understanding about consent and the face that if she is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, she can’t exercise it and a crime has been committed if she is taken advantage of. Audrie’s tragic story shows us where that view can lead. My sympathy to her devastated family.
Rape stats may be no higher than in years past, but the numbers are as shocking as ever. Every two minutes, a sexual assault happens in the U.S., and nearly 50 percent of the victims are under the age of 18, according to Katherine Hull, a spokeswoman for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network: “The demographic of high school- and college-age women is at highest risk for sexual assault.” More than half of the incidents go unreported, advocates say. The ability to record and communicate gang-sex assaults has added a new enhancement to an old and ugly crime against women. From Instagram to Snapchat to texting, young people with raging hormones and low impulse control are passing around what amounts to child pornography. And the bodies most frequently watched and passed around are female.
“It’s a perfect storm of technology and hormones,” says lawyer Lori Andrews, director of the Institute for Science, Law and Technology in Chicago. “Teen sexting is all a way of magnifying girls’ fantasies of being a star of their own movies, and boys locked in a room bragging about sexual conquest.”
But as of yet the law provides little protection to the rights of those violated. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act effectively means that no Internet provider can be forced to take down content for invading a person’s privacy or even defaming them. “I could sue The New York Times for invading my privacy or Rolling Stone for defaming me,” Andrews says. “But I couldn’t sue and get my picture off a website called sluttyseventhgraders.com.” Read full article here
Boys Men and Violence
Dr Michael Flood March 5, 2014
Sexual violence is a serious social problem in Australia. According to a recent national survey, about one in six women in Australia – just under 1.5 million – has experienced sexual assault. In the past year alone, 87,800 women experienced sexual assault. Younger women are at greater risk. These are the victims, but what about perpetrators? Various studies show anywhere from 15 to 25 per cent of males have forced or pressured a girl or woman into sex or tried to do so…
Boys and young men are more likely to force or pressure a girl into sex if they have sexist and sexually hostile attitudes – they see girls as sexual objects, as less important or less valuable than males, and they feel entitled to see how far they can push things. The 2001 Australian National Crime Prevention Survey of young people aged 12 to 20 found about one in seven guys agreed that, “it’s okay for a boy to make a girl have sex with him if she has flirted with him or led him on.”
Some of the media consumed by boys and men is implicated in violence. TV, movies, music and computer games often portray women as sexual objects only, put men’s voices and lives at centre stage, and condone or even celebrate violence as entertaining and legitimate. Pornography use is increasingly common among young men, and here callous and hostile images of women are routine. In a wide range of media, boys learn that real men are tough, dominant, and aggressive. Read full article here
Girlfriend’s November issue is about boys. Sort of. It’s more about ‘hot’ celeb boys and recycling gender stereotypes.
What do girl readers learn about the opposite sex?
That they are, disgusting, fart, pee standing up and aren’t just “good for pashing”, they can also be “quite useful” (“they can fix all the things you accidently break”). And here’s a large illustration of their penises with everything explained in ‘The dangly bits’. You’ll find it just a few pages on from ‘A blush-free guide to your first kiss’ and preparing for your first date.
Further helping girl readers understand boys is ‘The most cringe-worthy moments of our fave celeb guys’, ‘Guest guy eds spill on their ultimate man crushes’ and ‘Fictional boyfriends we wish were real’. That should do the trick.
In a piece re-enforcing gender stereotypes, GF gets boys to ’fess up about their girlie little secrets’ (accompanied by a pic of a boy blow drying his hair). Some moisturise (OMG!), one likes chick flicks, one googles pictures of cute baby animals to de-stress, one likes having his hair cut and one even spends “my whole weekend in the kitchen baking cakes and cupcakes”. Why do any of these things have to be labelled ‘girlie’? What’s’girlie’ about a boy in the kitchen? (Hasn’t GF heard of Jamie Oliver?) Actually what’s ‘girlie’ about anyone in the kitchen? Read entire article here.
It rakes in billions, exploits women, and leaves men disgusted with themselves.
A few years ago at the Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas, the biggest porn convention in the United States, Abbywinters.com, an Australian porn company, had one of the largest booths. It bills itself as offering “real, passionate, unscripted” sexual activity by “happy, healthy, regular girls in their normal environments”. The company markets its female masturbation and girl/girl videos as featuring women with “no make-up, no fake boobs, no airbrushing”.
The Abbywinters.com women did stand out from the other porn performers in the room, but their girl/girl action (the industry’s term for lesbian sex tailored to a male audience) didn’t look much different from the industry norm.
With all varieties of cameras, men surrounded the booth, vying for the best angles to record images of women being sexual.
That moment provides an important reminder: pornography, at its core, is a market transaction in which women’s bodies and sexuality are offered to male consumers in the interests of maximising profit. In the end, it’s about attracting the most “wankers” possible. Read full article.
Gail Dines speaks on porn harms at NSW event
In a powerful and unflinching address, Gail spoke to more than 100 people in the Jubilee Room of NSW Parliament House on Tuesday.
What’s happening to our boys?: Maggie Hamilton’s new book
When I first began turning my attention to the sexualisation of girls in the media and popular culture, a book that significantly echoed my own thoughts was What’s happening to our girls: Too much too soon, how our kids are overstimulated, oversold and oversexed (Penguin, 2008) by author, publisher and teacher Maggie Hamilton. Not long after, I approached Maggie and asked if she would be willing to write a chapter for my book Getting Real: Challenging the sexualisation of girls (Spinifex Press, 2009). I was delighted when she agreed. In her chapter ‘The Seduction of girls: the human cost’, Maggie combined research and her own thoughtful observation to analyse the impacts of the onslaught of sexualised messaging on girls. She explored the decline in imagination, slowing cognitive development, plummeting self-esteem, self-harm, performance culture, sexual assault and how girls were socialized to be objects. Since then Maggie and I have shared a few platforms and friendship has developed. I am blessed to have the support of a woman of her calibre.
Maggie has now turned her attention to what we are doing to boys. What’s Happening to Our Boys?: At Risk, how the new technologies, drugs and alcohol, peer pressure and porn affect our boys will be launched in Sydney today at a private event, following by public events during the week.
Increasingly, as I traverse the country speaking about the effects of a toxic culture on the health and wellbeing of girls, I’m asked about boys. What can be done for boys? It has been helpful to be able to point to Maggie’s book and say, this will be a good place to start. What’s happening to our boys? is a major and in many ways overdue resource to help us address the problems boys are facing, which cannot help but improve the situation for girls.
This is an interview I did with Maggie in the lead up to the launch.
Maggie, what inspired you to write this book?
While we’re increasingly conscious that girls are vulnerable to a whole range of issues, we do tend to assume that boys can cope with whatever they’re faced with. But this isn’t necessarily the case.. Parents were constantly telling me really sad and concerning stories about incidents with their boys. Many were distressed they hadn’t seen these issues coming and, because they hadn’t faced these things themselves, were unsure of how best to respond. So it seemed like a good idea to take a closer look at our boys’ lives. I’m so glad I did – it’s given me a much more intimate sense of what boys are dealing with.
What is happening to our boys?
The marketers have realised boys are the last untapped demographic, so they’re spending millions to market to boys. We’re going to be seeing this in everything from the entertainment industry, to fashion and toiletries, to name but a few. Already this push is impacting our boys. We’re seeing a growth in anxiety around looks and possessions from preschool on. The boys as young as eight or nine who I spoke with were very preoccupied with having the right gear, and worried that if they didn’t they’d be seen as a loser. So by the time boys hit their teens we’re starting to see a spike in body issue concerns and self esteem problems. Basically our boys are going down the same track as girls in experiencing anxiety and self-loathing – perfect for advertisers, but not so great for our kids.
We’re also seeing the growth of secret lives as there’s so many ways boys can do their own thing, often right under parents’ noses. The growth in violence in video games is also affecting our boys, as is their growing addiction to online gambling and other unhelpful activities.
Do you think we have been ignoring the welfare of boys?
One of the big problems for boys is that there’s a whole range of issues we hadn’t dealt with for boys before the 21st century issues bit. We still have a long way to go to nurture boys more. Before they can be strong and independent, they have to be nurtured. Yet we tend to be more hands off with boys, which means they have to find their own way. We also need to pay more attention to promoting reading and communication skills from early on in the home. This can make a huge difference to a boy’s confidence, but still isn’t happening to nearly the level that’s needed. Boys also have the right to a rich emotional life, especially as they’re living in a far more emotionally complex world than previous generations. When you then add in the challenges of cyber-bullying, increased levels of violence in games and in the playground, the pressure to look a certain way, act out, concerns around body image, the pressure to drink and how to operate in an increasingly sexualised environment, you begin to realise this is a lot for any kid to deal with especially when parents aren’t up to speed.
Why have they been so neglected do you think?
Boys (and men) tend to keep on going regardless, which isn’t always ideal. So when we look at them we assume everything’s fine, when this mightn’t be the case. We’ve also become a little blind where many male issues from health to relationships are concerned. When we neglect our boys, everyone is impacted – families, future partners and children.
What was the most confronting thing you learnt about what boys were doing?
The explosion of pornography and the very easy access boys have to this material – sometimes at home, on their phones or at a friend’s place. It’s more than concerning when you realise just what they’re accessing – everything from bestiality to the deflowering of young girls. Studies show that repeated exposure to porn shuts down a boy’s feelings, and may even lead him to become a sexual abuser. Scratch the surface and you see just how many boys are viewing porn, and increasingly as a group activity. This isn’t just an activity high school boys are into. Increasingly primary school boys are getting into porn, and boys are also watching it together. Porn gives them a new language, a new way of relating, which can lead to significant harm.
I understand you had to take a break in the middle of writing the book because what you were finding out was so disturbing and you weren’t entirely prepared for that. Can you tell us more about what that time was like for you?
This has been a very hard book to write in some ways. I love working with boys and find them astonishingly expressive, but sometimes when you’re aware of what they’re up against it can seem overwhelming. I kept asking myself how come we moved so far from our duty of care? It was a pretty dark time, but then I had to remind myself that we can’t afford to despair. Ultimately I believe there’s lots we can do, but we can’t be complacent. We need to act on everything we see that we know is unhelpful to our kids. It’s not just the seduction of billboards, magazine and movie ads, and MTV clips we need to be concerned about. We need to be aware of how easily young boys can access porn, for example. “We’re now seeing kids sexually active way under ten, because of access to porn, or their parents’ own behaviour”, John, who works with troubled youth, told me. “I’ve seen many cases where porn is readily left around the home, where it’s part of the family culture. Then you’ve got parents who carefully stash their porn away, and kids have a way of finding it”.
How is boys’ behaviour impacting on girls?
I think boys and girls are equally vulnerable – especially in the sexual arena. While boys can’t get pregnant and don’t face the same slurs a girl who is perceived to be overly sexually active faces, and have more ways of protecting themselves, we can’t be naive about the fact that boys are increasingly vulnerable to sexual assault. This doesn’t in any way lessen our concerns around the growing predatory behaviour we’re seeing towards girls. We have to face the fact that boys are now also stalked by determined often aggressive young girls who are encouraged by cultural messaging which teaches them to act in predatory ways . They send countless inappropriate texts to boys to try and gain their attention. It’s not just photos of low tops girls are sending around. This makes it very difficult for boys to know how to respond as it can seem very enticing. At the same time, boys consuming porn can place our girls at risk – and not just teenage girls. In one Brisbane primary school a seven-year-old girl was sexually assaulted over two months by a boy her age. Hitting her and threatening to kill her if she spoke out, the boy repeatedly forced this young girl to perform oral sex. In another school a group of six-year-old boys banded together and were forcing classmates to perform various sexual acts on them. According to one youth worker, “We are now seeing children grooming younger kids for sex, there’s a real seduction pattern going on. A lot of this appears to be exposure to porn”.
What is your message to parents of sons?
Love and nurture your boys, encourage them to be part of all the good things the new technologies and popular culture have to offer them, but don’t be naive about the dangers.
I think there’s no doubt we need more men in the education system. Our boys lack good role models. There’s no substitute for a wealth of good men in their lives. What a wonderful thing it would be to have a positive recruitment drive for bright engaged young men – good for boys and girls.
To policy makers?
More work needs to be done on the 21st century issues boys face and how we can protect them. Making the Advertising Standards Board more accountable and more aware of the new issues we’re facing would be an excellent start. The growing violence in video games needs to be regulated and soon, as does the increasing blurring of sex and violence in games. We also need a strong and clearly drawn regulatory framework with which to deal with pornography now so available to our children.
To the community as a whole?
For too long we’ve seen boys as problematic. We get cross when we see skate-boarders and boys involved in other activities. Strong communities are inclusive. They accommodate and celebrate the needs of their citizens – and that includes our boys. It’s not hard, but it does need time and effort – resources that are well spent. The role of adults has always been to protect our young – that still stands, so we need to have the courage to be good gate-keepers, to question material we know to be harmful to our kids – if we don’t then who will?
Antoinette Jones – Principal – Mitcham Girls High School
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