‘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 focus has to be on the predatory behavior of boys who would decide to build a website that facilities the illegal trade in images and the online exploitation of girls
In the latest incarnation of porn culture, at least 2000 images of schoolgirls from 70 Australian schools have been traded through an online site set up by young Australian males. The men put girls on “wanted” lists for “hunting”. Bounties are placed on the heads of high demand girls whose images – sometimes with home addresses and phone numbers – are shared without consent. Some of the girls targeted have been reported to be as young as 13 and 14.
The explicit swap meet site was exposed by Nina Funnell writing for News.Com this week. . I’ve been responding to media requests since. (I’ve visited a number of the schools involved).
The men treat the images as trophies and conquests. The thrill is in the lack of consent. The language of porn is employed in their hunt for desired images. Some boys offer “hottest little teens”, another asks: “Who has nudes of this bitch?” Some girls have begged for their images to be removed, only to be mocked and humiliated further. It is clear the ring enjoys the ritual humiliation and shaming of the girls. They are violating consent for sexual thrills. As this writer observes: “They get off on your violation…owning a piece of you against your will.
And look how they are trying to cover their tracks. I hope so much that the law enforcement catches up with them soon (it’s not enough to say the site is registered ‘offshore’. Police cooperate across international borders on so many things – why not this?).
While we have seen a tonne of victim blaming, the focus has to be on the predatory behavior of boys who would decide to build a website that facilities the illegal trade in images and the online exploitation of girls.
What we are witnessing is yet another example of the destructive and degrading of porn and rape culture which is producing boys/men like this. Without addressing root causes, nothing will change (as some of us have been saying for about a decade).And here’s a change.org petition to sign to get this site taken down.
Site shut down at last
THE website of an international pornography ring targeting female students at more than 70 Australian schools has been taken down thanks to the bravery of an underage girl who appeared on the sick forum.
She was just 15 when an explicit photo of her that appeared on the site was taken, and is still below the age of consent.
Acting Children’s e-Safety Commissioner Andree Wright today praised the girl as “brave”, saying that the office had contacted the site’s registrar over her case, and is aware the website has now been removed.
More than 2000 non-consensual sexual images of schoolgirls and other women were traded by Australian members since the group began operating in December last year.
There was a national outcry over the vile porn-sharing site used by young men as well as teenage boys targeting their peers, which has now been replaced by a regular porn website. Read more
In exposing the breast of a 17-year-old fan, Madonna sets back campaigns for respect and consent
There were the tired and predictable sexual props.
The pole dancing. The sexualised dancers dressed as nuns.
The on-stage spanking by her dancers, crew and band (all 19 of them) as she lay face down across the knees of one of them before her skirt was wrenched up.
The porny pantomime of bending-over for maximum genital exposure; the de rigueur playing with her crotch.
But this time – at the Australia end of her 7-month 4-continent, 82-gig, $1.31 billion-earning Rebel Heart tour – Madonna introduced a new sexual prop.
A living one. A fan, 17 years of age.
The 57 year old mega star acknowledged a star-struck Gold Coast barista and aspiring model, by pulling down her corset top and exposing her left breast to the audience – and to the world (forever).
Madonna told the audience that the young woman – two years younger than her own daughter Lourdes – was ‘the kind of girl you just want to slap on the ass and pull’. (‘Pull’ is helpfully defined in Urban Dictionary as ‘Word used to describe the successful act of attracting a person to such an extent that you would be able to snog or perhaps bone them if you so desired’).
Given Madonna’s declaring of such a fantasy toward the young woman, talk of what followed as being an ‘accident’ is barely believable.
Madonna, having essentially ‘groomed’ the teen by telling her she had the body of a Victoria Secret Model, then aggressively exposed the girl’s breast.
‘Oh s—. Oh sorry, sexual harassment. You can do the same to me, good luck,’ Madonna said flippantly.
In these few seconds the material girl gave an ‘up yours’ to global campaigns around respect, consent, bodily integrity and the right of any woman anywhere to say ‘no’.
This is the same woman who derided Janet Jackson’s infamous 2004 Superbowl ‘wardrobe malfunction’ by saying: ‘You don’t have to show your nipples to be interesting, and it doesn’t mean you’re cutting edge if you do.’
But exposing another woman’s nipples is OK and cutting edge, apparently.
This was an intrusive, non-consensual act, with all the elements of abuse present. An archetypal gesture of sexual harassment, played for entertainment.
Madonna has been hailed for ‘her interpretations of feminine power, gender relations, sexuality and cultural identity. She has been described as a “threat to the status quo”.’
In the scenario on the Brisbane concert stage, the only plausible interpretation of feminine power is that Madonna holds it and a 17 year old girl does not. And a ‘threat to the status quo’? When considering the power dynamics (mega star, young fan), the age difference (40 years), the star’s massive wealth as a global pop culture icon, Madonna’s actions serve to reinforce the status quo when it comes to lauding it over women who have less power in the world.
This was an intrusive, non-consensual act, with all the elements of abuse present. An archetypal gesture of sexual harassment, played for entertainment.
This act conveys that exposing the breasts of a teen girl who only a few months ago would have been deemed a ‘minor’ is now just part of what constitutes entertainment.
It says that any young woman should enjoy uninvited sexual attention. That it comes from another woman suggests how an ascendant ‘lads culture’ is now mimicked by some women.
It allows some men to say – ‘See, women are just as bad’. They’re not of course, but it helps them justify their own behaviour.
The glib comment ‘Oh sorry, sexual harassment’ – mocks what sexual harassment means in the lived experience of women (documented in a book I just launched, Whispers from the Bush by Dr Syke Saunders, about the sexual harassment of women in rural areas). Madonna even featured convicted rapist Mike Tyson in the opening video to her shows, hardly a measure of support or empowerment to victims of sexual violence.
The young woman did not choose to expose herself on stage before an audience. Madonna chose this for her, chose to make a spectacle of the woman and of her vulnerability.
Cue: ‘But she enjoyed it!’
The young woman said she wasn’t ashamed about the incident: ‘Why would people assume I am humiliated by my own breast, nipple or body? I didn’t realise my boob was such a big deal – it was nothing to me.’
Girls are overwhelmingly socialised to put others’ feelings before their own. Girls are still taught to shrug and downplay everything as if it’s no big deal.
Girls are overwhelmingly socialised to put others’ feelings before their own. Girls are still taught to shrug and downplay everything as if it’s no big deal.
The young woman was launched into this very publicly. She has been rewarded with media exposure, thousands of additional Instagram followers, validation and attention for a ‘hot’ body, flights and VIP seats for her and her mum to Madonna’s final Sydney concert, being singled out again by the star (‘beautiful Josephine’), and being thrown – like a bridesmaid – a bouquet of flowers.
How can this young woman complain now? She would look ungrateful. As a whole, Madonna’s conduct takes on the appearance of classic abuse – harm followed by a making up so that the victim feels they can’t do or say anything without being disloyal and ungrateful.
This is not about whether young women should be ashamed of their bodies. Of course they shouldn’t be. This is about an act done to a woman that was uninvited and unasked for. A powerful older woman who should know better has made a decision to have this girl’s name and body exposed forever.
There is little room here for talk of irony, paradox, reinvention, or of Madonna as transgressive. Repeating a mantra that Madonna helps women feel empowered, that she is a feminist patron saint and feminist role model does not make the grade. What we witnessed is the antithesis of empowerment for women.
Lauded of being in control of her own sexuality, Madonna takes it away from others.
Madonna has turned her back on the cause of women.
I had to ask for access to a bathroom once a month because I had my period! So eventually instead of access to a bathroom, they got me access to a Toyota so that I could drive away to a toilet. So the entire crew knew exactly when I was cycling every single month. And … they used to piss in the connecting pipes for me to discover when I got back from the drive. And looking back on it now I also realise that the blokes were also pissing on my boots when I was gone – I see now but at the time I was just so confused and baffled by it all. – Female miner, aged 21
A week ago I had the honor of speaking at the launch of Whispers from the Bush, a new book by ANU academic Dr Syke Saunders (from which the quote above is taken). Publisher Federation Press describes the book as follows:
Australian women are enduring a cultural epidemic of workplace sexual harassment in remote and rural workplaces – the experience is rife, rampant and as hard to contain as any infectious disease. Whispers from the Bush – The Workplace Sexual Harassment of Australian Rural Women is the first book to focus upon the nature, pervasiveness and reporting of sexual harassment in rural Australian workplaces. Drawing upon 107 interviews conducted with rurally located employees and employers about their experiences and observations of sexual harassment at work, it shines a light upon a phenomenon largely hidden or minimised by silence, distance and an atmosphere of ‘saturated masculinity’. The book seeks to give voice to the ‘whispers from the bush’ by exploring themes such as:
• the impact of male dominance and mateship on the nature and prevalence of sexual harassment within the rural workplace;
• the complex survival behaviours adopted by many rural women in response to sexual harassment as it occurs – most surprisingly, extending to women blaming women;
• rural employee and employer attitudes towards the disclosure of sexual harassment; and
• the limited reach and effectiveness of laws against sexual harassment in rural Australia.
The Women Lawyers Association of the ACT, together with the Women’s Legal Centre and Legal Aid Commission (ACT) hosted the launch as which I, Syke Saunders and Deputy ACT Discrimination Commissioner, Belinda Barnard, spoke.
Reading Skye’s book was an intensely personal experience. I had to re-visit my experiences and those of other women I knew, which I’m only beginning to process decades later. A literary journal has expressed interest in a contribution based on the whole speech, so I’ll let you know when that is published. For now, here’s an extract from my launch address.
When Skye first asked me to write an endorsement for this, her new book Whispers from the Bush, my first thoughts were: at last.
This book fills a gap. It gives voice to women we rarely hear from.
Beyond the romantic notions held about life in the rural frontier – the ‘bush imaginings’, ‘the imagined embodiment of the iconic rural ideal,’ there are stereotypical patterns of male dominance and ‘rampant maleness’ in the rural heart of blokeland – identified in Whispers from the Bush as ‘the dominant male bush construct’ and the ‘masculine architecture of rural life’. This pattern of dominance contributes to female inferiority and submission, discrimination, marginalization, histories of violence and – as this book attests – sexual harassment as a cultural norm.
The highest rates of violent crime such as sexual assault have consistently been in rural Australia. As Skye writes: “The further from the metropolitan capital the higher the per capita rate becomes for violent crimes, such as assault, domestic assault and sexual assault. Numerous other reports have concluded that the rate of crime and abuse in rural and remote Australia are much higher than any set of data has suggested, primarily because of the growing levels of under-reporting.” Recent studies also reveal a “consistent pattern of higher rates of alcohol consumption and consequent harm within regional and rural Australia than in urban areas.”
95 percent of gendered harm is not reported in the bush.
Reading Skye’s book has forced me to confront aspects of what happened to me growing up in a country town.
I am the daughter of a farming family in rural Victoria…
It is only fully now, decades later, that I look back and see the entrenched sexism that, being young and lacking the language to describe, I didn’t know how to deal with.
The editor in chief’s hand on my leg in his car and comments about my breasts (taking me ‘under his wing’ as a work experience student – how do you make a complaint when the perpertrator is the man in charge?), the sexually loaded jokes about my body, descriptions of sex acts I didn’t understand (especially when a male radio announcer and close friend dropped by – he was gay, but that didn’t matter), the male bonding over assessing the bodies of any woman passing through the building, the porny calendars on the walls of the print room (I was so pleased to see Skye include pornography as an expression of sexual harassment in the workplace).
A male editor used a piece about cancer caused by sun exposure as an excuse to publish an image of a topless woman.
Possibly the worst incident was the metal ruler up my skirt. I was made to feel I’d asked for it and told to stay out of the ‘lay out’ room where the man worked night shift, though I had to walk through that room to get to the ladies’ toilet (After the incident I had to walk around the building and climb rough cement steps to access the toilet). When I read Chapter 5 ‘When the boys come out to play’ I saw myself there – a paragraph on the humiliation of women in the workforce included: “rulers are thrust under skirts”.
…To be both young, unformed in feminist thinking and not knowing I had any rights, made speaking out almost impossible
One of the first pieces I wrote as a cadet journalist was about the opening of a women’s refuge in my town. These experiences were the seedlings of my later feminist activism….
I commend Skye for giving voice to women in rural and regional areas whose lives have been harmed by sexual harassment.
May Whispers from the Bush break the silence of rural women.
May it empower and strengthen them to speak out and no longer put up with mistreatment. May it contribute to solidarity among our sisters in dusty, remote places.
All of us who live or lived in these places – and have parts of our heart remaining there even when we have moved on – owe Syke a debt of gratitude.
“[I want] better education regarding sex for both boys and girls [and] information about pornography, and the way it influences harmful sexual practices.”
These are the words of Lucy, aged 15, one of 600 young Australian women and girls who took part in a just-released survey commissioned by Plan Australia and Our Watch. The survey, conducted by Ipsos, gathered responses from the girls and young women aged 15-19 in all states and territories.
In the survey report, entitled Don’t send me that pic, participants reported that online sexual abuse and harassment were endemic. More than 80% said it was unacceptable for boyfriends to request naked images.
Sexual bullying and harassment are part of daily life for many girls. Young people are speaking out more and more about how these practices have links with pornography – and so they should, because they have most to lose.
Pornography is moulding and conditioning the sexual behaviours and attitudes of boys, and girls are being left without the resources to deal with these porn-saturated boys.
My own engagement with young women over the last few years in schools around Australia, confirms that we are conducting a pornographic experiment on young people – an assault on their healthy sexual development.
If there are still any questions about whether porn has an impact on young people’s sexual attitudes and behaviours, perhaps it’s time to listen to young people themselves. Girls and young women describe boys pressuring them to provide acts inspired by the porn they consume routinely. Girls tell of being expected to put up with things they don’t enjoy.
Some see sex only in terms of performance, where what counts most is the boy enjoying it. I asked a 15-year-old about her first sexual experience. She replied: “I think my body looked OK. He seemed to enjoy it”. Many girls seem cut off from their own sense of pleasure or intimacy. That he enjoyed it is the main thing. Girls and young women are under a lot of pressure to give boys and men what they want, to adopt pornified roles and behaviours, with their bodies being merely sex aids. Growing up in a pornified landscape, girls learn that they are service stations for male gratification and pleasure.
Asked “How do you know a guy likes you?,” a Year 8 replied: “He still wants to talk to you after you suck him off.” A male high school student said to a girl: “If you suck my dick I’ll give you a kiss.” Girls are expected to provide sex acts for tokens of affection. A 15-year-old told me she didn’t enjoy sex at all, but that getting it out of the way quickly was the only way her boyfriend would settle down and watch a movie with her.
I’m increasingly seeing Year 7 girls who seek help on what to do about requests for naked images. Being asked “send me a picture of your tits” is an almost daily occurrence for many. “How do I say ‘no’ without hurting his feelings”? girls ask.
As the Plan Australia/Our Watch report found, girls are tired of being pressured for images they don’t want to send, but they seem resigned to how normal the practice has become. Boys use the images as a form of currency, to swap and share and to use to humiliate girls publicly.
Year 7 girls ask me questions about bondage and S&M. Many of them had seen 50 Shades of Grey (which was released on Valentine’s Day). They ask, if he wants to hit me, tie me up and stalk me, does that mean he loves me? Girls are putting up with demeaning and disrespectful behaviours, and thereby internalizing pornography’s messages about their submissive role.
I meet girls who describe being groped in the school yard, girls routinely sexually harassed at school or on the school bus on the way home. They tell me boys act like they are entitled to girls’ bodies. Defenders of porn often say that it provides sex education. And it does: it teaches even very young boys that women and girls are always up for it. “No” in fact means yes, or persuade me.
Girls describe being ranked at school on their bodies, and are sometimes compared to the bodies of porn stars. They know they can’t compete, but that doesn’t stop them thinking they have to. Requests for labiaplasty have tripled in a little over a decade among young women aged 15-24. Girls who don’t undergo porn-inspired “Brazilian” waxing are often considered ugly or ungroomed (by boys as well as by other girls).
Some girls suffer physical injury from porn-inspired sexual acts, including anal sex. The director of a domestic violence centre on the Gold Coast wrote to me a couple of years ago about the increase in porn-related injuries to girls aged 14 and up, from acts including torture:
“In the past few years we have had a huge increase in intimate partner rape of women from 14 to 80+. The biggest common denominator is consumption of porn by the offender. With offenders not able to differentiate between fantasy and reality, believing women are ‘up for it’ 24/7, ascribing to the myth that ‘no means yes and yes means anal’, oblivious to injuries caused and never ever considering consent. We have seen a huge increase in deprivation of liberty, physical injuries, torture, drugging, filming and sharing footage without consent.”
The Australian Psychological Society estimates that adolescent boys are responsible for around 20% of rapes of adult women and between 30% and 50% of all reported sexual assaults of children. Just last week , Emeritus Professor Freda Briggs argued that online pornography is turning children into copycat sexual predators – acting out on other children what they are seeing in porn.
A 2012 review of research on “The Impact of Internet Pornography on Adolescents” found that adolescent consumption of Internet pornography was linked to attitudinal changes, including acceptance of male dominance and female submission as the primary sexual paradigm, with women viewed as “sexual playthings eager to fulfil male sexual desires.” The authors found that “adolescents who are intentionally exposed to violent sexually explicit material were six times more likely to be sexually aggressive than those who were not exposed.”
I have asked girls what messages they might like me to pass on to boys. So far, these messages include: “Stop telling us we are wet,” “Stop commenting on our bodies,” “Stop demanding pictures,” “Rape jokes are never funny” and “Sex before the age of consent is illegal.”
The proliferation and globalisation of hypersexualised imagery and pornographic themes makes healthy sexual exploration almost impossible. Sexual conquest and domination are untempered by the bounds of respect, intimacy and authentic human connection. Young people are not learning about intimacy, friendship and love, but about cruelty and humiliation. As a recent study found:
“online mainstream pornography overwhelmingly centered on acts of violence and degradation toward women, the sexual behaviors exemplified in pornography skew away from intimacy and tenderness and typify patriarchal constructions of masculinity and femininity.”
It is intimacy and tenderness that so many girls and young women say they are looking for. A young woman told me that on dating sites she lists under “fetish” wanting to stare longingly into someone’s eyes and to take sex slow. She said if she didn’t put these desires in the “fetish” category, they wouldn’t warrant a second glance.
But how will young women find these sensual, slow-burn experiences in men indoctrinated by pornography? Psychologist Philip Zimbardo says of young men: “They don’t know the language of face to face contact … Constant arousal, change, novelty excitement makes them out of sync with slow developing relationships – relationships which build slowly.”
It is wrong to leave sexual formation in the hands of the global sex industry. We need to do more to help young people stand up against warped notions of sexuality conveyed in pornography.
Fortunately, the ill-effects of the pornographic experiment on relationships and sexuality are being named out loud. A groundbreaking Australia-first symposium on the issue was held at UNSW last month, to a standing room crowd, and a current Senate inquiry is gathering evidence of the distorting harmful impacts of porn on our young people.
Most importantly, it’s young people themselves demanding change. Josie, 18, is quoted in the Plan Australia/Our Watch report:
“We need some sort of crack down on the violent pornography that is currently accessible to boys and men. This violent pornography should be illegal to make or view in Australia as we clearly have a problem with violence and boys are watching a lot of pornography which can be very violent … This is influencing men’s attitude towards women and what they think is acceptable. Violent pornography is infiltrating Australian relationships.”
Whispers from the Bush: MTR to launch new book on sexual harassment of rural women
I was honored when Skye Saunders asked me to launch her significant and timely new book Whispers from the Bush on Friday in Canberra. I’ll be sharing a little about my experience growing up and working in country Victoria and praising Skye for naming a problem that rarely gets mentioned.
Yesterday, American “pick-up” artist and “executive dating coach” Jeff (Jeffy) Allen had his Australian visa revoked by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.
Allen’s tour – part of a Real Social Dynamics (RSD) global roadshow – was billed as “Meet Jeffy.”
Those concerned about rising rates of violence against women and the callous mistreatment of young women and girls, reflected in groping, street harassment, unwanted sexual demands and all the other manifestations of everyday sexism, decided the only “meeting” Jeffy should get was with fierce opposition.
When Julien Blanc – the big name RSD instructor – known for his choking-girls-around-the-world hashtag – came to Australia in 2014, he didn’t last long. A massive campaign (#takedownjulienblanc) saw him booted out of the country. A number of other countries also refused to let him in.
But then Blanc’s side-kick, Jeffy Allen, arrived to finish what Blanc had started.
Questions of due diligence must surely be raised: how did a man who was in breach of our character tests get in? (Many women see the activities of RSD as warranting the same approach as accorded to terrorists.)
The tour was originally slated to make its way to Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane over the coming months. However, due to pressure from activists – including a 67,000 signature-strong Change.org petition and getting Vibe hotels to cancel two bookings (RSD misled the hotel by using a different name) – tour dates are now off the RSD website.
Allen fled the country before the retrospective visa cancellation, but not before he had passed on RSD’s toxic teachings at one Sydney “boot camp” last Thursday. The image of these men in this Sydney hotel room being taught the art of seduction by Allen, was taken by a young man by the name of Josh.
Pictures of Josh on his Instagram profile show he is young, most likely not out of his teens. Josh is just starting to make his way in the world. He’s learning about masculinity and sexuality and women and how he should treat them. His tutoring now includes the L.A dating company – billed as the world’s biggest dating hub for men – which evangelizes men with the ideology that men are “beasts” and women are “whores.”
Josh, along with other young men like him, were indoctrinated into the world of the dominant RSD alpha male. Allen drives a van – which he fondly calls his “rape van” – for picking up women. Decals representing women are glued on the van door for every “whore” he’s bedded in it. (You can see him talk about it in a video here, along with other video evidence of the raw contempt for the right of women to be treated as something other than a live “f–k doll” – including Julien Blanc’s infamous routine of grabbing the heads of random Japanese women on the street and shoving them into his crotch).
In RSD “boot camps,” men dominate and women must be made to submit.
All this at a time when there is more focus on the need to address violence against women; when we have come up with a National Plan of Action to Address Violence Against Women; when our Prime Minister says violence begins with disrespect. It is remarkable to me that, in the current climate, the RSD cult-leaders are allowed in the country in the first place.
These snake oil salesmen cannot help boys like Josh develop healthy respect-based relationships with women. He won’t learn how simply to enjoy a woman’s company, her conversation, her friendship. He won’t learn about care, empathy, how to give and receive love. He will learn how to get into her pants then add her to his total score. Such conquests are marks on the virtual bed-heads of RSD’s online forums.
RSD doesn’t bring men and women together – it breeds suspicion. For many women, who experience harassment and unwanted attention from men almost daily, RSD will only make them more suspicious about male intentions. In this environment, every man comes to be seen as a potential pick-up artist.
Fortunately there are men speaking out. Dr Matthew Berryman helped lead the charge against Julien Blanc in the 2014 campaign. He too is tired of the limited and increasingly toxic messages we send men and boys about masculinity. I asked him why he got involved:
“If you think that being a creep and/or actually abusive to women in order to sleep with them is a good idea, then you are not only being unnecessarily disrespectful to others, you’re actually missing out on having an actual, meaningful relationship, with all the rewards it brings.
“The tactics adopted by Real Social Dynamics and other ‘pick up agencies’ are not only harmful to women, they harm the ability of all men to be taken seriously as actual, decent people (and it’s that that will help you meet women and form relationships). Men need to have a healthy approach to themselves and to others. To do otherwise diminishes us all.”
Another, of course, is Matthew Jowett, who initiated the Change.org petition against Blanc. When I asked him why he did it, the 29-year-old IT worker replied:
“Being raised by a single mother and living with a father who was abusive to his spouses, and seeing my sister be abused by successive partners all also shaped an interest in opposing domestic violence and supporting women’s rights. But most fundamentally it comes down to my very strong desire to equality, which I think grew from the seed my mother planted with the often repeated axiom ‘treat others how you’d like them to treat you’. It seems painfully obvious to me that the only way to achieve a society with any real measure of equality is from a culture where everyone is valued and where respect for others is a central pillar.”
Let’s hope that Josh and other young men like him are persuaded by this philosophy and these examples, rather than by RSD’s warped view of women.
The group is renowned for lying to avoid consequences (surprise fkn surprise, right), so many were concerned that they were still conducting their seminars in secret.
However, today, author Melinda Tankard-Reist sent a tweet to Vibe Hotels, who were hosting the seminars. They responded saying that the functions were booked under a false name, and they had cancelled all of RSD’s events.
Julien Blanc was deported. Why are his mates allowed in?
Remember the time in 2014 we combined to get U.S ‘pick-up’ artist Julien Blanc booted out of Australia for promoting violence against women? We’d succeeded in persuading venues who had booked him to cancel. He then sneakily tried to hold his nasty little seminar on a boat off the St Kilda pier in Melbourne. My mate Kirsty Mac found out about it and activists swarmed down to the pier and prevented the boat from leaving, even holding onto the boats ropes and blocking its departure.
I described the action:
Last night a bunch of would be Julien Blanc clones – unable to find a venue on land which would host them – went all-aboard the SS Sexual Assault, RSD pimps having fooled the Melbourne cruise company into thinking this was something other than a ‘My Dick Rules’ training session. But their floating boot camp, run by Max the Menace (Julien Blanc apparently in hiding somewhere – certainly not the Bayview Hotel which had thrown him out after this warning went around ) was ’sunk’ by protesters. It was a great night to be an on-line activist. I barely left my desk, glued to the live streaming twitter action led by those at the protest…
That same night, following our appeal to the then Immigration Minister Scott Morrison pointing out how Blanc was in breach of visa requirements because of his behavior, and the double-standards in having a National Plan of Action to Address Violence Against Women at the same time as handing our visas to men who profit from it, Blanc was kicked out. Other countries followed suit, denying him entry. It was one of the craziest, most adrenalin-fueled campaigns we’d ever been part of and remains one of our all-time favourites. It was a victory for women everywhere (and for men who care about them). View Collective Shout storify here.
Jeff Allen making fun of disability to score women. ‘Can you make him stop rubbing his boner on me?’
But we’ve just learned that somehow, another big name Real Social Dynamics (RSD) ínstructer’ Jeff Allen (Jeffy) has been allowed into the country to take up where Blanc left off. If you want to truly understand the quality of this man, take a look at this video published as part of a piece on my blog by Dr. Matthew Berryman on the tactics of RSD artists.
Yes, this is the man teaching our men and boys how to treat women and girls, right at this very moment.
It’s needs to be remembered that Allen is not acting alone. He is representing his movement – RSD. And RSD promotes rape culture.
“They dream about this. They wanna be tied up and fully succumb to your aggressive masculinity. They want you to push them against the wall, rip their clothes off, put her in a submissive position and call her bitch, slut, whore until their skull can’t take it anymore…”
“See as much as women wanna be raped, they also want to be made feel beautiful.”
And here’s RSD boss Owen Cook on how forcing yourself on women is such a hoot (this video is not on Your Tube anymore but you can see it here).
The ‘tactics’ Julien and his team teach include ‘choking’ women and calling them ‘deadbeat whores’ in order to shock them into submitting to his dominance. Now Julien Blanc’s associate, RSD instructor Jeff (Jeffy) Allen has been granted a visa and is back in Australia to teach men this disgusting, vile violence against women.
They call themselves “pick up artists”, but are nothing more than promoters of sexism and violence against women.
Julien Blanc tried to preach these tactics at ticketed events around Australia in 2014. Fortunately you all stood up and said “hell no” – Australia very loudly said no to violence against women. Then Immigration Minister Scott Morrison revoked Blanc’s visa. This was great news!
But now Julien Blanc’s bro Jeff Allen from “Pimp by RSD” is back – running events which promote and profit from violence. He’s touring Australia right now teaching young Aussie men to choke women and treat them like garbage to assert dominance over women and essentially psychologically abuse women until they submit to these men. Sign here.
There has been some confusion about which RDS instructor was in the country. This Instagram pic taken by a young man by the name of Josh shows Jeff Allen addressing a group of men at a Sydney hotel at the opening event in Sydney last Thursday. (How depressing to see so many men absorbing RSD’s message of disrespect, manipulation and exploitation of women).
“These things happen,” he said. “We have to move on.”
Isn’t it wonderful that Gayle is able to move on and put it all behind him?
Unfortunately for him, a tidal wave of women everywhere won’t let him do that. Because, as women, we can’t just move on from the latest example of everyday sexism. Because it is women and girls who most bear the brunt of this behaviour every day.
Sexism doesn’t just happen. It happens when sexist men make it happen.
And a “sorry” followed by “… if she felt that way” is not an apology. It’s victim blaming. Gayle says there was no harm done even when explicitly told his actions have harmed her (“she’s pretty upset”). He chastises the questioner, “be quiet and let me finish.”
Gayle doesn’t want to hear that this woman didn’t like his advances. His ego is damaged. He believed that because she was physically attractive and on his turf, she had to play by his rules. Her participation in sport as a woman, meant that she was inviting sexually loaded comments.
While others want to dismiss Gayle’s behaviour toward Ms McLaughlin as cheeky, as Gayle being Gayle (reminiscent of “boys being boys”) and (albeit it a short-lived tweet from Channel Ten’s sports account) “smooth,” others, including myself, won’t just let it go. Even when we are painted as overreacting and told to “calm down.” As my colleague Melinda Liszewski responded on Twitter: “Keep calm and let sexism win? I don’t think so.”
This is what Gayle said after being dismissed for 41 off 15 balls in the Melbourne Renegades’ win over the Hobart Hurricanes:
“I wanted to come and have an interview with you as well, that’s the reason why I’m here – just to see your eyes for the first time. It’s nice. So, hopefully we can win this game and we can have a drink after.”
This was not a bit of fun. It was an act of public humiliation on free-to-air television.
As McLaughlin showed her discomfort, Gayle laughed at her displeasure and chided, “Don’t blush baby.” Telling her not to blush was both condescending and infantilising. Also disturbing were the audible sniggers from the commentary booth at Gayle’s performance, demonstrating that this was not one man’s private flirtation with a woman but a public display for the lads.
Gayle held her captive. He made a pass at her against her will on national television. She had no choice but to take the humiliation – his admission he’d virtually fantasised about being interviewed by her, his mocking laugher, his verbal touch-up. It’s not enough for him to admire her quietly. He has to make it public and she has to know it.
Channel Nine reduced all this to Gayle and other cricketers being “smitten” in a (since deleted but helpfully cached by Google) tweet. Is it too much to expect that a woman can perform her professional duties without being hit upon?
Channel Ten boss David Barham said he phoned McLaughlin who was angry and upset. Why wouldn’t she be? She turns up to work and gets harassed. Those making light of it don’t know what it is like to have this happen.
Respected Fox Sports journalist Neroli Meadows angrily described what it’s like to be harassed every day in your working life. She blasted Gayle for his behaviour, describing him as a repeat offender:
“He’s done it before, he’s done it to me, he’s done it to several women … It happens, situations likes that, 10 times a day when you’re a female in this sports industry and that’s just a fact.
“We do not need that to happen to us in our workplace because that is what it is, our workplace and Mel has been doing her job for 10 to 15 years and she has done it with respect. Her career now gets defined by this.
“The same thing has happened to me, the same thing has happened to Yvonne Sampson at Channel Nine, the same thing to Erin Molan at Channel Nine. We have successful careers and they get defined by idiots saying the wrong thing, inappropriate and then other people laughing as though it’s the one thing that has ever happened. Of course it’s not.”
An extreme outworking of disrespect for female sports reporters that is endemic to sports journalism, especially in the United States, is a practice where random men shout over a female sports reporter’s live piece to camera “I would f–k her right in the pussy” – which now has its own FHRITP meme.
Gayle’s response give an insight into how high-profile men hate being called out on their behaviour. In essence, his attitude is I’m allowed to be a pig and you’re not allowed to call me on it.
The former Cities Minister Jamie Briggs demonstrated this when he forwarded an image of the young public servant who made a confidential complaint about him, to his mates (one of whom leaked it to The Australian and who knows where else). This was followed by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s “mad f—ing witch” text, sent to News Limited journalist Samantha Maiden.
Women who speak out are to be shamed and made to heel.
We still have a long way to go before rhetoric in high places about respect for women results in a change in behaviour nationally. Sexism continues unabated at every level of culture and we’re still expected to take it as a compliment. Not to do so means you are weird.
Following an interview I did on Channel Seven’s Sunrise program yesterday regarding Briggs and Dutton, I received messages on my public profile Facebook page that my response was an overreaction. That I should preserve my anger for serious matter like rape, abuse and violence. But these behaviours occur on a continuum which begins with a lack of respect for women.
As Our Watch states, the most consistent predictor of support of violence by men is their agreement with sexist attitudes. And Victoria’s Police Chief Ken Lay has said: “Our culture is filled with men who hold an indecent sense of entitlement towards women…”
In most schools I address around the country, girls describe unwanted comments about their bodies, being pressured for sexual images, being touched inappropriately in the classroom and on the school bus. Some of these girls are 12 and 13.
The behaviour of public figures such as sportsmen and public officials trickles down to influence the boys who go onto harm girls. Attitudes affect behaviour. Sexism begets sexism.
That’s why, Chris Gayle, we won’t be moving on and putting what you did this week behind us anytime soon. (Nor, it seems, will Gayle’s club. The Renegades have now lobbed a $10,000 fine on him for his behaviour.)
I’d pretty much just stepped off the beach at Mount Martha (VIC), arrived home, barely had time to drag a comb through my hair (as you will notice) and was asked to comment on the issue of Jamie Briggs MP and his ‘improper behaviour’ towards a young female public servant at a Hong Kong bar last November as well as his subsequent sharing of her photograph with colleagues both before and after she made a confidential complaint, thus breaching her right to privacy (some lawyers argue this was even worse than the first breach).
If that wasn’t bad enough, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton was busted for sending a text message he’d intended for Briggs describing News Limited journalist and editor Samantha Maiden – who had given Briggs a caning in this Daily Tele piece - as a “mad fucking witch”, to Maiden herself. The things men say about us when they think we’re not listening…
The only good to come out of this mess is that, as a result of the complaint made by the female consular staffer in Hong Kong, perhaps more women will decide to complain and speak out against male entitlement and abuses of privilege and power.
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