It’s not every day you get a magazine and a song dedicated to you.
But this week, my friends and I received both.
Now defunct Lad’s Mag Zoo Weekly devoted its final issue to us with this cover.
Apparently, protesting the objectification of women and messages promoting violence against women (drunk girls are a ‘green light’, for example) makes you a killjoy now. We didn’t find much joy in the mag’s pages, as documented in Collective Shout’s storify.
Young designer and activist Laura Pintur, 23, led our campaign. It was great to see her face on ABC’s Media Watch Monday night, in an extract from the video she made for The Guardian. The facts she presented stand in contrast to the depiction of the mag as just for a laugh and ‘schoolboy humour’. Such nudge-nudge-wink-wink depictions trivialized Zoo’s actual content. The kind of content which caused 20-year-old Coles employee Shannen to protest to management through her union.
When asked by a journalist on twitter for her reaction to Zoo’s final cover, Laura replied:
Zoo’s closure was reported on our website as follows:
Goodbye Zoo Weekly, you won’t be missed
We were pleased to report that after our successful campaign to get sexploitation mag Zoo Weekly out of Coles supermarkets Bauer Media announced the sexist lads mag was closing.
This week Zoo Weekly released their last edition ever. We’re glad that pornographers will have one less outlet now to push porn to underage boys. See content from inside Zoo mag (warning, graphic).
ABC’s Media Watch referenced our campaign, quoting Collective Shout’s Laura Pintur.
In May a young woman called Laura Pintur began a campaign backed by Collective Shout to persuade Coles and Woolworths to take Zoo off their shelves on the grounds that it was fostering hostile and aggressive attitudes to women:
“LAURA PINTUR: A British university compared lads mags with comments from convicted rapists. It found that people could not distinguish the source of the comments. That is, Zoo users’ language practically indecipherable from that of sex offenders. It also asks readers to send in pictures of their girlfriends’ breasts to win a boob job.” — The Guardian, 21st May, 2015
Coles stopped selling the magazine two months ago as a result.
And when news then broke of the decision to close Zoo altogether the campaigners were quick to claim the kill.
“Collective Shout takes credit for hastening Zoo’s demise: Coles dumping title was ‘catastrophic for sales’”
Here’s an extract from Tyler the Creator’s (@fucktyler) new release ‘Fuck It’. (I was interviewed by Jon Faine on ABC Melbourne Tuesday about the song. So replete is this ditty with expletives, our national broadcaster could only play a six second extract). Here are some of the lyrics:
Tell Australia I’m sneaking in with a mic in my damn hand
Instead of the vegetables that I packed in my backpack
When Marshall had this problem what the fuck was they telling him?
Is it cause of status or his melanin lacks black?
Huh? I think people love to be mad
How can I be misogynist? I love titties and ass…
Only thing they gave me was an opportunity and a pen
Look, freedom of speech, my freedom is breached
Border Patrol put me on streets immediately
For shit I said when I was a virgin repeatedly
Posted on Hypebeast cause nobody would listen to me
Collective Shout’s campaigns manager Caitlin Roper gave these comments to media:
Tyler has had an opportunity here to pause, reflect on his behaviours and promotion of misogyny, and make a commitment to real change- to creating art that doesn’t rely on the exploitation of women to generate profits.
Instead he’s essentially had a tantrum to music.
While he may have been a young man when he wrote music describing raping women, mutilating their bodies, locking them in his basement and raping their corpses, he’s not a child anymore, and he is yet to grow up and take responsibility for what he has put out into the world.
Our calls to deny Tyler a visa were never solely based on his sexually violent and misogynistic lyrics, but his real life behaviours- his history of inciting violence against actual women. It was only a few months ago that he singled out and tagged Collective Shout’s Coralie Alison in a tweet, blaming her for his cancelled tour and essentially directing his 2.5 million fans to go after her with horrific threats of violence. He sat by and watched, and finally denied he held any responsibility.
We too would like to know why Eminem was granted a visa. Collective Shout partnered with a coalition of domestic violence organisations in 2014 calling on the government to deny Eminem a visa.
But we must be wrong – he loves titts and arse, so couldn’t possibly be a misogynist!
I responded on twitter. Jane Fraser (@feministbirther) added her wondrous response.
So you’re not a misogynist – because you love titts and arse? Pornographers, pimps, and perpetrators of violence love titts and arse too – so what?
And someone should tell Tyler you can’t bring vegetables into Australia either.
Collective Shout takes credit for hastening Zoo’s demise: Coles dumping title was ‘catastrophic for sales’
Four months ago, young Melbourne activist and designer Laura Pintur, 23, launched a campaign through Collective Shout calling on Coles and Woolworths supermarket to act consistent with their corporate social responsibility, ethical framework, care for communities and commitment to safety and dump ‘men’s lifestyle Bible’ Zoo Weekly. She highlighted the way the lads’ mag promoted coercion, violence, sexism, misogyny and male entitlement. Laura’s Change.org petition attracted more than 39,000 signatures along with global media, including this video for The Guardian in which she argued the well being of girls should come before profits.
Last month Coles decided to discontinue the magazine, after a young Melbourne employee, Shannen, complained through her union that Coles was putting her and other female employees in a hostile workplace environment. “Other young women in my workforce will no longer have to put up with selling a magazine that promotes rape culture,” said Shannen after the decision.
Woolworths however decided to continue to act in breach of its own ethics, holding firm on selling sexual objectification to boys, including minors.
But now there will be no Zoo magazine to sell anywhere because it is ceasing publication. Mumbrella broke the news yesterday. While the magazine was already in decline, we believe we helped hasten that decline. News.com reports that when Coles bowed to public pressure and pulled the publication, this was “a move that would no doubt be catastrophic for the lad mag’s sales.”
Zoo Weekly has certainly grown accustomed to widespread outrage over the years, having been at the centre of a slew of heated controversies.
It had recently been in the firing line of a Change.org petition urging Australia’s major supermarkets to stop selling the magazine, arguing it promoted sexism, sexual violence and used the language of rapists.
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.
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
Encouraged, once again, by a man who cares about the (mis) treatment of women and girls in our world. I’ve published Melbourne writer Guy Sigley before, here he is again, in a perfect follow up to the previously published piece on ‘Hollaback!’, the new campaign against sexual harassment. Dear universe, can we have some more men like this please?
I’m not ashamed of being a man, but I am ashamed of the things men do
Every day, I read the accounts of assault, harassment and public degradation of women through the @everydaysexism Twitter feed. It’s disturbing. No, it’s appalling.
Who are these blokes? What do they think they’re doing?
Here are some recent tweets; and these are typical of what comes through every, single day.
-at a club with friends, guy comes up to me, says ‘get your tits out’ and pulls my top down. Security does nothing.
-To the guy who likes to slows dwn his car & shout at me whilst I walk to work, get a life you perve
-went swimming, man gets into pool & continually asks female lifeguard if allowed to pretend to drown so she can “save” him.
-my 13yo niece was groped in a fast food place at 9pm.”You shouldn’t be out this late then” – His reply when challenged
-2 boys (max 13) ring door + ask if I’ll sponsor them for charity, say no, they then ask me if I’ll shag them instead.
-A stranger tried to lift me up by my waist on the street. When I blocked his attack, he punched me in the stomach
-Man thrust behind me to amuse other male passengers on train. Apparently the idea of sex with unwitting women=comedy gold…
-Friend + I were fondled/pursued by exhibitionist offering us $ for sex at station. Security officer told us to “ignore him”
-walking down road with 12yr old daughter, man leers *hello laaaddiiess* how do i show her a good response?
-NZ friend told they wouldn’t be given the job as she was of childbearing age and they’d need to pay parental leave.
-Woman gets sexually harassed at work, tells boss, sent home pending investigation, no pay. Illegal?
Initially, you think to yourself – ‘Surely these must be isolated incidents, perpetrated by a small, depraved group of boofheads’. Then you read almost identical accounts from different women . . . every, single day. And you start to think, hang on, if this is happening so frequently, does this mean my mates are carrying on with this behaviour?
I don’t know what percentage of men act this way, but I know enough blokes to fairly assume that at some point in their lives, one or more of them has called out an offensive comment to a woman on the street. Made an unwanted sexual advance at work. Cracked a sexist, degrading joke. Perhaps even committed outright assault.
Who are these blokes?
And what is feeding their belief that this behaviour is acceptable? Is it the ongoing exploitation of women through pornography, advertising, television, movies, mainstream music, clothing – you name the pop culture element, it’s doing it – that teaches the world, men and women, that women are objects? Second rate ones at that.
Does this culture teach us that not only is it okay to abuse women, but they actually deserve it?
That they actually deserve to be called vile and degrading names while jogging on the street. That they’re fair game for shoving your hand down their shirt in a dimly lit nightclub. Or rubbing yourself up against them on a crowded bus. That they can have jobs, of course, but let’s not let them get carried away with ideas of equality. And certainly not a workplace free of sexual harassment.
Who are these blokes?
They’re you. And me. And your mates. And mine. And your husband, and your brother, and your boyfriend, and your father, and your son. They’re all of us in some way or another. All of us in varying degrees, whether we are outright misogynists or complicit bystanders in our everyday sexist culture.
I’m not ashamed of being a man. I’m not proud of it either. I did not earn my gender; it was not awarded to me through some merit-based system. But I can be proud, or ashamed, of what I do as a man; how I express my masculinity. We all can.
So, men. Be not the shameful gender. Be not the brutes perpetrating the everyday sexism that has come to haunt so many women’s lives. Be not the silent bystanders letting it happen.
Be respectful. Be kind. Be role models and advocates. Be loving. Be passionate. Be courageous.
‘We have made huge gains in becoming aware of the realities of many women’s and girl’s lives, and have a greater understanding of what can be done to call men to account and invite them to change’
As readers would know, I’m always encouraged when men decide to speak out against the objectification of women, sexualisation of girls and violence against women. On Wednesday I published a piece by Simon Kennedy on how City Beach acclimatises boys to porn, and his plea for something better. (It was originally sent in as a blog comment, I thought it deserved more attention). Today I run the second piece in a row by a man.
‘If there’s war between the sexes then there’ll be no people left’.
This phrase from Joe Jackson’s 1982 hit ‘Real Men’ has stayed with me since then. At the time I was only a young bloke, but in amongst the turmoil of the Falklands War, fighting in Lebanon, Ethiopia and Somalia, the launch of the then strange but intimidating and short-lived National Action party in Australia and the inner mayhem that is early teenage years, I not only became aware of the young women around me (where were they before?), but also how many young men had begun sprouting muscles, height, pimples and troubling attitudes and language towards and about girls.
From the end of primary school, gender became a reference point to everything. Relationships, sporting prowess, politics, authority, social status – especially through male commentary. Girls were rated on the basis of looks, and boys muttered what they would do to (not with) them if given half the chance. Relationships started forming and breaking, sex was spoken about relentlessly, and boys came to school on Mondays bragging about the number of impossibly pneumatic and athletic older women they bedded over the previous couple of days. All of this of course was bullshit.
Not that I thought there was anything wrong with it. Indeed, I participated. That’s what you did. That’s how you fitted in, in a dire attempt to not be classified as a nerd, gay or both. Boys had to be loud, obnoxious, resistant to authority, and defined by their sexual observations, desires and lies. Of course, not all boys were, or are, but the attention and oxygen such boys demanded seem to prevent other ways of relating into the space.
I never really thought objectively about gender until much later when re-evaluating my career options and found myself volunteering for the Men’s Referral Service.
The training program to become a telephone counsellor was one part counselling skills and two parts being confronted with the realities of the everyday lives of so many women and girls on the receiving end of violence and abuse. Until then I didn’t really consider the realities of the lives of the women around me – the people you associate with are often part of the furniture, until some realities are exposed.
I had initially thought becoming a volunteer telephone counsellor with the Men’s Referral Service was a means to an end – perhaps some further study, a job in a local community service that would do slightly more good for the world than my then soul-destroying corporate gigs. Little did I know that I was on a journey to bigger things.
Family – or domestic – violence was a term I was aware of but in the abstract. I didn’t think I saw it, nor did I think it affected anyone I knew. It was like considering major disability or some exotic disease – it affected others, but nobody in my world.
But the realities started becoming difficult to ignore. One in three women experience violence in a relationship. It is hard not to immediately reflect on the women in our lives when confronted with this statistic. Partners, daughters, relatives, friends, mothers of friends, work colleagues, shopkeepers, bus drivers, politicians, someone pushing her pram through the park when you take the dog for a walk, another doing the shopping and comparing the prices of mince. Counting one in three became overwhelming – almost threatening. All these people. Why?
Volunteering at the Men’s Referral Service, by its very nature, got me and my colleagues thinking not only about the people who overwhelmingly experience violence within relationships and families, but the people using the violence. The people doing the damage. Almost entirely men.
That meant me.
I can confidently say I have not used violence or abuse towards women, but I became aware that for many of us, our gender identity is our identity. I started thinking about my every day. Dressing, walking, driving, speaking, observing, thinking, assuming, accusing, judging. Why this way and not some other way? What is it about my gender – and that of my fellow blokes – that informs how we engage with the world?
I didn’t know it then, but am much more aware now. The vast bulk of prisoners, users of violent crime, the dead and injured on our roads, sexual offenders, those suspended and expelled from school… are all male. Call it standard male behaviour (simplistic), oversupply of testosterone (erroneous), biologically determined (naïve) or a misguided sense of entitlement (now we’re getting somewhere), but I began to realise that so many men make poor decisions that end up having massive consequences.
In my current role at No To Violence Male Family Violence Prevention Association and the Men’s Referral Service I sometimes think about what life would be like if there was no gender difference in behaving badly – and dangerously. But that’s like wondering what the world would be like without any gender bias – that is, a world where men don’t overwhelmingly hold the power, cash and means to exert control over others – often women and girls. It’s a nice thought, but distant from much of our reality today.
We have made huge gains in becoming aware of the realities of many women’s and girl’s lives, and have a greater understanding of what can be done to call men to account and invite them to change. But it’s slow going.
I think that my career in male family violence prevention over the last fourteen years or so has influenced me as a man, and in particular how I relate to my partner, my children and the people around me. Yet it worries me that this might be because of the impact of my work on my personal life. What of the other men? How are we trying to invite them to consider things differently?
This year NTV distributed ‘16 Actions, 16 Days’ – real, tangible things men can do over the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. It was borne out of a frustration that most men believe that violence against women is wrong, but they struggle to conceptualise what that means in their daily lives, and consider what small things they can do to affect change.
Ultimately, we’re inviting men to think about sexism and patriarchy as reality, not in the abstract. We can think that we aren’t part of the problem, but there are things all around us that suggest otherwise. And we can stop it.
Many would consider ‘war between the sexes’ as a glib and poetic fictionalised perception, but it’s the reality for many women and girls. Actually, ‘war’ implies two sides fighting, whereas with violence against women, it’s mostly one way.
Until we immerse ourselves in their world and their experiences, violence and abuse will continue to be used against the one in three women in our lives – partners, daughters, relatives, friends, mothers of friends, work colleagues, shopkeepers, bus drivers, politicians, someone pushing her pram through the park when you take the dog for a walk, another doing the shopping and comparing the prices of mince.
It’s rare to see a man talk so honestly about how frequent on-line porn use impacts real world relationships. While of course the author appears to be writing from a purely selfish perspective: this is how porn screws with my sexual relationships and why I gave it up for four days – rather than a realisation of its mass industrialised dehumanisation of women – at least it may give other men cause to examine their own compulsive habits. And, hopefully, for women to seek men who want something more than porn sex.
David Rothbart relays how porn re-shaped the desires of a number of men – men who previously had happy, loving relationships with their partners. Here’s what some of them told him.
Perry, 41, lawyer:
“I used to race home to have sex with my wife… Now I leave work a half-hour early so I can get home before she does and masturbate to porn…Not to be mean, but they’re younger, hotter, and wilder in the sack than my wife…Me and her, we still ‘do it’ and everything, but instead of every day, it’s maybe once a week. It’s like I’ve got this ‘other woman’ … and the ‘other woman’ is porn.”
Stefan, 43-year, composer:
“I’ve got to resort to playing scenes in my head that I’ve seen while viewing porn. Something is lost there. I’m no longer with my wife; I’m inside my own head.”
Ron, 27, architecture student:
“I guess I’ve been fading from her. It’s like all that time with these porn stars was subduing any physical desire for my girlfriend. And, in some weird way, my emotional need for her, too.”
And here’s what one woman had to say.
Sadie, 29 real-estate agent:
“There is no glory in trying to make love to men who only know how to f**k—man after man after man after man raised on porn…A lot of guys have come to expect P.S.E. [the ‘Porn-Star Experience’] as a common thing… A few [women] might enjoy it, but for most it’s harrowing. I think there’s a fear that if they can’t make it happen, their boyfriend will retreat online.”
Porn’s socialising effect on boys: girls pressured to provide naked images
In a piece titled ‘They Know What Boys Wants’ by Alex Morris, the New York Magazine also gave us an inside look at how porn is shaping the attitudes of boys towards the girls in their lives. Rarely is there the slow-burn of a relationship developing: girls are treated as living sexual performances from younger and younger ages. Porn conditions boys to becoming sexually demanding. Girls have to pay for relationships with sexual tokens. In an account relayed to me last year, a schoolgirl was told by a boy: “If you give me [oral sex] I’ll give you a kiss.”
This extract from the New York Magazine piece:
“I wouldn’t mind if they said, ‘Send me a picture of you,’ just a regular picture, with everything on,” says Samantha…“But it’s like the way they ask for it? Naked?”
Tricey nods. “It affects them, the Internet. The guys expect to just chat girls up online, but when y’all see each other and y’all go out or whatever, the only thing that they want to do is get in the bed.”
Star, who’s 14, rolls her eyes. “Yeah, that’s the only thing they talk about.”
“I think they’re pressured by the Internet,” says Tricey. “When you see some of those things, you actually get a negative mind.”
Samantha frowns. “They see a pretty girl on the computer, big boobs or whatever, so they’ll be like, ‘Okay, I want a girl like that.’ ”
Do you relate to any of these accounts? Willing to tell me about it? You can post as a blog comment or contact me through the form at the top of this page.
Kanye West petition update
Well wasn’t that fun. After being attacked and ridiculed in The Punch on Wednesday, I woke yesterday morning to find 2000 additional signatures on our Care2 petition protesting Kanye West’s horror porn music video Monster. Another 3000 were added during the day, which meant we had surpassed our goal of 10,000. There are now 13,500 signatures.
Buddy Franklin and Nena&Pasadena and their porn inspired tees update
The AFL has had nothing to say to my question asking how Hawks star Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin’s porn-inspired t.shirts fit in with the League’s ‘Respect and Responsibility policy. See my piece from ABC The Drum Unleashed here . Hello AFL, we’re waiting! Or don’t you think it matters that your players are flogging t.shirts which reduce women to sex objects?
Dull, derivative, repetitive
While we’re waiting for a response from the AFL, you must read this from a fashion industry insider, posted in comments to my ABC piece:
Fashion Merchandise Planner, 16 Feb 2011 9:07:28pm
You are seriously deluded if you think what you produce is fashion. Having worked in the industry for over 20 years for some of Australia’s leading retailers and fashion houses (both high end and mass market) I can tell you that what you produce is barely a blip on the Australian fashion scene and you wouldn’t rate a mention anywhere it counts… ‘edgy’ give me a break… bogan streetwear more like it. Maybe a Design Degree would give your ‘designers’ a richer troff to plunder from. The t-shirts are dull, derivative, repetitive and would do well in the markets. I don’t normally get personal but to sell your two bit company as an Australian success story is really stretching it. You produce unimaginative dull T-shirts for 20 somethings who think that a naked woman on a T-shirt is an artistic statement.
I am neither a Christian nor a prude just a highly successful and respected retail professional who has seen people like you come and go in droves. Believe your own marketing spin at your peril.
Lets have this conversation in two years time… or will you like the hundreds of other ‘talented designers’ crying into your beer and complaining that no one understands how you suffer for your art.
You produce unimaginative cheap T-shirts lets just call it what it is. You know sex sells and you are too dull to come up with anything better that tits and arse… congratulations you just discovered sex… like no one has ever done that before…
Came across this father’s day ad in The Weekend Australia magazine.
Right here we have a snapshot of the stereotypes that limit men and contribute to socialising them into standard – and often harmful – ways of behaving.
The ad spruiks six SBS DVDs for dad. The first is ‘The Killing’, the second ‘Erotic tales’ and the next four are soccer matches.
Death, sex and sport. What more does a man need? The heading says ‘DAD. DVD. DONE’. I wonder who is purchasing ‘Erotic Tales’ for their father? “I’ll have an Erotic Tales for my dad thanks. Oh hang on make that two, I’ll get one for grand-dad as well”.
Is this how men want to be seen? The men I know and mix with don’t.
This socialisation into sex and violence starts early. I recently interviewed Maggie Hamilton about her new book What’s Happening to Our Boys? She argues that we are knocking the tenderness out of boys at the youngest of ages. If you read my post on computer games for boys, you will have to agree.
In the same way women are resisting negative and harmful stereotypes about them, men need to as well. Including on father’s day.
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?
Last month I briefly mentioned a Tasmanian case in which a father, a registered sex offender convicted of possessing child pornography, was given visitation right to his two daughters.I thought the story warranted a more in-depth examination, so I asked Caroline Norma to take a closer look. Caroline isa PhD candidate with the Asia Institute at the University of Melbourne. She is a member of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women in Australia, and works part-time with the Policing Just Outcomes Project.
[Trigger warning for survivors of sexual assault and inter-familial rape]
Justice Robert Benjamin in the Robins v Ruddock case of22 January this year awarded a registered sex offender access rights to his two daughters. This was despite the fact that, in his judgment, Justice Benjamin said he believed one of the daughters, a ten year old, who told the court she was scared of spending time alone at night with her father. She had reason to be scared. Her father had been convicted for possessing child pornography, and was listed on the state’s sex offender register. Justice Benjamin believed the girl’s mother who told the court she had seen her ex-husband sexually abusing his stepdaughter. He believed a forensic psychologist who told the court the ten-year-old daughter had also been sexually abused at some point. Justice Benjamin believed the ‘mother was truthful in giving evidence’ (p. 22), and that she was unable to intervene in her husband’s abuse of her daughters because of his violent and controlling behaviour. Justice Benjamin described her ex-husband as having poor impulse control, as being ‘manipulative and disingenuous’ (p. 23), as opportunistic, as engaging in inappropriate ‘communication’ with his daughter, and as acting in self-serving ways. However, despite fully understanding and acknowledging the sexual threat the father posed, Justice Benjamin ignored the pleas of the girls’ mother and awarded a sex offender fortnightly access to his daughters.
How did Justice Benjamin arrive at this decision? The reason he was able to believe the girls, while still deciding to grant a sex offender access to them, seems to rest in an implicit belief in a biologically determinist ‘hydraulic model’ of male sexuality. This is a term coined by the head of the International Center for Research on Women, Geeta Rao Gupta. Gupta argues that even in the 21st century, some men still think their penises operate like hydraulic systems. In technical terms, a hydraulic system operates ‘by the pressure created by forcing water, oil, or another liquid through a comparatively narrow pipe or orifice’. So some men justify their raping behaviour on the basis of an unsuppressible and explosive biological need for sexual release. They imagine their penises function in a similar way to a hydraulic system operating with semen under pressure. They worry about their hydraulic systems breaking down if a vagina (or indeed any hole!) is not found to trigger the release valve.
The comedic quality of this bizarre ‘hydraulic model’ idea of male sexuality fades quickly into tragedy when the model is applied by judges in familial sexual assault cases. In Justice Benjamin’s case, an implicit belief in a hydraulic idea of male sexuality appears to have led him to think the father would rape the girls only if certain conditions prevailed. Specifically, three circumstances had to be guarded against if the father’s hydraulically-operated sexuality wasn’t going to explode:
First, the father must not come across the girls at night-time when they are less alert and wearing fewer clothes;
Second, he must not come across one of them alone, but only together in a pair (Justice Benjamin explains that he sees ‘the risk of the father acting inappropriately with the children [a]s significantly diminished when they are awake and alert and when the children are together’, at p. 23); and
Third, the girls must not be in the father’s bed.
Justice Benjamin’s judgment expresses a clear idea about what triggers the operation of the father’s hydraulic penis: provided the father doesn’t see his kids in darkness, sleepiness, or alone, there will be no risk of his sexually assaulting them. So Justice Benjamin made court orders designed to prevent these three conditions arising. First, he orders the two sisters to sleep in the same room, and the father to have another adult stay overnight at his house when the girls sleep over each fortnight. This person must be in the house between the hours of 8pm and 7am. Second, Justice Benjamin ordered that there be a ‘door on the children’s bedroom which is capable of being shut at the request of the children’ (p. 19). Third, he ordered that the father must not ‘invite’ the girls into his bed.
Justice Benjamin’s implicit acceptance of this myth of the male hydraulic penis in his reasoning means that the two girls now face real danger. The reality of men’s sexually abusive behaviour is very different from the view crystallised in the biologically determinist ‘hydraulic penis theory’. In reality, abusers go to great lengths to gain sexual access to girls at all times of the day, and often even look for employment that allows them to work with children. They put a lot of time and effort into grooming girls for sexual abuse, often using pornography and animals to instruct them. They document and share with other men techniques of sexual abuse. They go to great lengths to cover up the abuses they perpetrate, and will threaten and harass girls who attempt to speak out against them. To sexual predators, custody rights can seem like manna from heaven, allowing them to abuse their victims in the privacy and convenience of their own homes. In the Robins v Ruddock case, the father now has enough time and space to properly groom his daughters away from their mother so they will never again speak out against him.
The safety of children is endangered when people who appear to believe in hydraulic penises hear court cases involving children. Hydraulic penises are just a myth, and have no basis in reality. Biological determinist myths about male sexuality are dangerous because it looks like they render influential people like Justice Benjamin incapable of taking proper action to protect children’s safety and wellbeing. There are very few powerful people on whom children can call to protect them, and as long as myths about male sexuality permeate the Australian court system, judges will threaten, rather than armour, the human rights of the weakest members of our society.
It’s not sex it’s rape
I’ve written before about how rape is too often minimised in reporting of sexual crimes, reduced to “had sex with” and other lesser depictions.
Lauredhel from W.A, in a piece titled ‘A forensic semanticist on sex and rape’ published on the Hoyden About Town blog, makes the same point. Here’s an extract:
In Trenton, N.J., a group of up to seven guys—a mix of adults and minors—paid a teenager for her 7-year-old sister. They allegedly gang-raped the girl as the rest of the partygoers looked on.
Yet, the lead in the Web site story began, “Police in New Jersey’s capital say a 15-year-old sold her 7-year-old sister to have sex with as many as seven men and boys.”
Breaking news: The 7-year-old girl from Trenton didn’t “have sex with” up to seven men. If there was sexual contact, she was gang-raped. Read story here.
Why isn’t incest rape?
In an older but still vitally significant piece, Caroline Taylor discusses the courts’ refusal to use the word ‘rape’ in incest trials:
In one case, after complaints from the defence barrister, the survivor was threatened with contempt of court charges if they did not refrain from using the term rape when they described repeated acts of sexual penetration by their father. In a discussion between the trial judge and defence lawyer the judge declared that since ‘incest was consensual’ it could not therefore be rape, and so the survivor was wrong to make such a claim. To add insult to injury the defence barrister added that using the term rape suggested some kind of violence was used! Two other cases from the same sample involved legal discussions involving the inappropriateness of survivors or police using the term rape in ‘incest’ trials.’
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