In Grand Theft Auto V, an R-rated video game that allows players to attack and kill women in the sex trade, I would have been the character who gets left by the sidewalk, bleeding and unconscious. Or hit with bats, run down, set alight still screaming and graphically murdered – for game points, or maybe just ‘for fun.’
I was in the sex industry in my early 20s. But instead of the virtual world of GTA V – the abuse I suffered, while not as extreme as those in the game, was terrifyingly real.
It has taken me almost ten years to get my life back on track and to recover from the sexual violence and abuse I faced. I still live with flashbacks, nightmares, and crippling depression and anxiety.
Last week, together with two other women, I started a change.org petition requesting Target to pull GTA V from its shelves. The reason behind the campaign is simple: that a game exists which makes ‘enjoyment’ out of the kind of abuse I lived through in real life is sickening. For survivors of abuse, it adds insult to injury to think someone could get a thrill out of violence against women, even if it was in a ‘virtual world’.
In GTA V, a new ‘first-person player mode’ feels more realistic than ever. This includes a more realistic depiction of sex acts with women (who are largely represented as prostitutes) – and the options that follow of being able to kill them with machetes, guns or bats to get their virtual money back.
Making it all the more disturbing was having a retailer I shop at which sells and promotes this kind of game. As recently as last week, Target was advertising Grand Theft Auto next to Peppa Pig. This was being marketed at parents buying Christmas toys.
It sent a terrifying message. This is a game that has ingrained misogyny and graphic violence against women. It breeds an acceptance of abuse in our world; abuse from which I’ve been trying desperately to recover – and by stocking this game, major retailers are lending their credibility to it.
Despite potential backlash, I couldn’t stay silent about this. The fact that over 40,000 parents, customers, and advocates got behind our change.org petition showed we weren’t the only ones. The response to our campaign exceeded our wildest expectations – and forced Target to listen to their customers.
Since then, gamers have launched vicious and violent attack on myself and other women who dared to speak up. We’ve had threats of rape and torture. To mutilate us and set us on fire.
One gamer has threatened to locate us and publicise where we live. Another has superimposed the face of a friend onto the body of a murdered woman lying in blood, in a scene from the game.
“I’m going on GTA V right now and pretending every ugly c—t is you”, tweeted another hater to her.
Ironically, these abusers claim this game does not perpetuate violence, and yet they continue to send women horrific violent threats online.
Gamers also argue that games like GTA V have no impact on real life violence, despite research published earlier this year showing violent video games increases aggression, aggression-related variables and decreases pro-social outcomes.
Sadly, many women don’t need studies to tell us that. We know because we’ve lived it. We know how violence can start with ‘playful’ remarks and turn into dangerous, controlling behaviour. We’ve seen the violence implicitly condoned in these games play out in real life.
The ‘thrill and pleasure’ that gamers get off violence against women in GTA V makes the world less safe. Not because every gamer turns into the abuser – but because it breeds a casual acceptance of violence against women.
Stripping GTA V from the shelves of retailers like Target and Kmart won’t change that culture overnight. It’s one step among many — like the recent #takedownjulienblanc campaign – that will help dismantle the culture of violence against women in years to come.
It may not be a popular debate, but it’s one that Australia desperately needs.
1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732): 24 hour, National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault. Lifeline: 131 114
Grand Theft Auto: lesson learned the hard way
By Brendan Keogh
…there is no denying the deeply rooted misogyny and sexism of the series.
Of Grand Theft Auto V’s three playable characters, all are men. The vast majority of the women depicted by the game’s narrative are either passive victims to be killed or rescued, or sex workers to be killed or used. While the series’ supporters have long used the excuse of “satire” to justify the story lines, there is no critique of the social attitudes depicted; it simply perpetuates them…
The petition signers are completely right: Grand Theft Auto V’s treatment of women is terrible. That they would want to complain about this, and that Target and now K-Mart might listen to them is neither shocking nor outrageous.
… it is not a case of censorship, and it is not a case of an ignorant mainstream being paranoid about a medium they do not understand. Rather, it is a group of people with legitimate concerns about an incredibly popular cultural work perpetuating toxic politics, and taking the reasonable approach of directing their valid concerns to retailers who often explicitly market such adult products directly to children. If videogames want cultural relevancy, they need to deal with cultural responsibility… Videogames no longer exist on the margins of popular culture, and if they are going to uncritically present problematic material, they need to be ready to face the consequences. Read full article
The Video Game Industry Has Only itself to Blame for Misogyny and Harassment
The thing is, it’s not just a vocal minority. It’s a vocal minority that actually participates in the cruelest harassment, but we’re kidding ourselves to think they are somehow separate from a culture characterized by video games. Just play a match of more or less any competitive online game and listen to the number of times you hear the word “rape:” despite what we may think, this is not normal or inevitable. What it is, however, is a natural byproduct of the games we play.
We all know, at least on some level, that games have a massive problem with depictions of women…
It’s not a tremendous leap to assume that a community of consumers and producers is going to develop some intensely dysfunctional aggression and misogyny when this is the cultural background that we’re interacting with… It all comes from somewhere. If the “gamer” community is defined by playing certain games, then it will inevitably be colored by the content of those games. This recent virulent hatred directed towards women in the industry should serve as some proof. Read full article
The petition win is all over the media right now: on ABC News, news.com.au, Sunrise, Guardian Australia, Herald Sun, even reaching international outlets like AP, Forbes, UK’s Telegraph newspaper and others!
This is a huge win. For years, games like Grand Theft Auto have got away with this in-game misogyny and sexual violence.
It’s games like this that normalise rape and sexual violence. You’ve helped send a message to family retailers and brands that their consumers have had enough, and they’ve started listening.
We’re now asking outlets like Big W and Woolworths whether they’re going to stand up against Grand Theft Auto’s violence against women as well.
Yesterday on its Facebook page, White Ribbon wrote: “Target & Kmart have taken Grand Theft Auto V off the shelves. What are your thoughts?” With the question they posted a negative piece from a gaming site about the response of these corporates to our campaign (they posted no neutral or positive pieces). This was my response late last night:
Melinda Tankard Reist: What are OUR thoughts? Like you can’t actually take a stand on this yourselves? And you post a negative piece about the Change.org petition written by three women survivors of violence? You have nothing to say about the mainstreaming and normalising of violence against women, about treating the abuse of women as a game and as entertainment, about the importance of corporate social responsibility and ethical business leadership? We have often asked your support on campaigns and get nothing. Why are you in this for? What do you actually represent? Many of us – including women survivors of violence – are asking this question.
This morning White Ribbon has posted this:
White Ribbon believes that all forms of violence are wrong and we do not condone any form of entertainment that features violence against women. Thank you for sharing your opinions with us about Grand Theft Auto V – open conversation is the first step to raising awareness of men’s violence against women and changing people’s attitudes and behaviours.
We are in discussion with leaders in the games industry about this issue, and the broader issues of violence against women and the representation of women, as we have with the sports industry. This is an ongoing and long-term discussion that we have been engaged in for a while now. Achieving change is a long process and is most effective when we work together.
GTAV ‘discourages violence against women’ claims SMH journalist on The Drum.
Very disappointed with the coverage of GTAV, Change.org petition of 45,000 signatures and Target and Kmart response on ABC The Drum last night. (view from 18:00).
Did you see it? SMH journalist Kate McClymont quoting gamers against actual survivors of violence against women who wrote the petition. She said of the game “It’s actually discouraging violence against women.” And Paul Bongiorno saying it may have been a “stunt” and commenting on the“amazing graphics”. Couldn’t the producers find someone who actually knew what they were talking about? I expected more than this poor quality coverage.
This is how GTAV discourages violence against women
‘They referred to their abuse as a game’
Anita Sarkeesian speaks about her experience of online harassment and cyber mobs. It’s two years old but a must see.
Women survivors of violence are calling on Target to withdraw Grand Theft Auto V from sale, a “sickening” video game that encourages players to brutally murder women for entertainment.
In a change.org petition that has attracted 30, 000 signatures so far, Nicole describes the various ways players can enact their fantasies of committing extreme violence against women, including punching women to the point of unconsciousness, killing them with a bat, gun or machete, running them down with a car and setting them on fire as they continue screaming.
“Please Target – we appeal to you as women survivors of violence, including women who experienced violence in the sex industry, to immediately withdraw Grand Theft Auto V from sale,” writes Nicole.
“We have firsthand experience of this kind of sexual violence. It haunts us, and we’ve been trying to rebuild our lives ever since. Just knowing that women are being portrayed as deserving to be sexually used by men and potentially murdered for sport and pleasure – to see this violence that we lived through turned into a form of entertainments is sickening and causes us great pain and harm.”
The petition encourages Target as a so-called ‘family friendly’ retailer to follow the example of New Zealand’s largest retailer, NZ Warehouse group, who chose to put ethics before profits and refused to stock the misogynistic game.
Domestic violence organisations and survivor organisations have supported the call to Target to withdraw GTA V. Brigitte McLennan, manager of SCOPE Domestic and Family Violence Service said as levels of domestic violence were rising the whole community needed to embrace the message that male violence against women was not okay.
Our campaign against GTA V has attracted a lot of attention and comments, particularly from male gamers. There were men who defended their ‘rights’ to live out fantasies of enacting extreme violence against women in the game. They argued playing these games had no bearing on their attitudes towards women. These same men flooded the thread with abuse to women, sexist slurs, hateful language and jokes about violence against women. Apparently the irony is lost on them.
We stand with survivors in calling Target to exercise corporate social responsibility and show they value the lives and dignity of women more than profits.
Target Australia has pulled video game Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V) off shelves over controversy about the game’s depiction of violence against women.
A Change.org petition calling on the retailer to withdraw the game from sale gained more than 38,000 signatures.
The women behind the petition, named on the site as Nicole, Claire and Kat, said as survivors of sexual violence they felt the game sent a dangerous message.
“It’s a game that encourages players to murder women for entertainment. The incentive is to commit sexual violence against women, then abuse or kill them to proceed or get ‘health’ points – and now Target are stocking it and promoting it for your Xmas stocking,” the petition said.
“This misogynistic GTA V literally makes a game of bashing, killing and horrific violence against women.”
The R-rated game has been available on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 for more than a year.
Last month is was re-released on the new consoles, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Target general manager of corporate affairs Jim Cooper said the decision to stop selling the game was made following extensive community and customer concern.
“We’ve been speaking to many customers over recent days about the game, and there is a significant level of concern about the game’s content,” Mr Cooper said in a statement.
“We’ve also had customer feedback in support of us selling the game, and we respect their perspective on the issue.
“However, we feel the decision to stop selling GTA V is in line with the majority view of our customers.”
Target: Withdraw Grand Theft Auto 5 – this sickening game encourages players to commit sexual violence and kill women
Nicole Survivor - Australia
It’s a game that encourages players to murder women for entertainment. The incentive is to commit sexual violence against women, then abuse or kill them to proceed or get ‘health’ points – and now Target are stocking it and promoting it for your Xmas stocking.
This is Grand Theft Auto 5. This game means that after various sex acts, players are given options to kill women by punching her unconscious, killing with a machete, bat or guns to get their money returned.
Please Target – we appeal to you as women survivors of violence, including women who experienced violence in the sex industry, to immediately withdraw Grand Theft Auto V from sale.
We have firsthand experience of this kind of sexual violence. It haunts us, and we’ve been trying to rebuild our lives ever since. Just knowing that women are being portrayed as deserving to be sexually used by men and potentially murdered for sport and pleasure – to see this violence that we lived through turned into a form of entertainments is sickening and causes us great pain and harm.
This game spreads the idea that certain women exist as scapegoats for male violence. It shows hatred and contempt for women in the sex industry and puts them at greater risk. Women in the industry are 40 times more likely to be murdered by a man than any other group of women.
Games like this are grooming yet another generation of boys to tolerate violence against women. It is fuelling the epidemic of violence experienced by so many girls and women in Australia – and globally.
Target, you pride yourself on being a family company, caring for local communities, and have a strong ethical sourcing policy. How can you do this while contributing to hostile and callous attitudes toward victims of violence and, more broadly, to all women?
We urge you to follow the example set by the New Zealand’s largest retailer, NZ Warehouse Group, in upholding Corporate Social Responsibility and ethical corporate leadership, by removing these games.
This would also set an example to other stockists of GTA V.
Please put ethics before profits and make a strong statement that you do not condone sexual violence, sexual exploitation or the abuse of women as ‘entertainment’.
You can also leave a comment on Target’s Facebook. Let them know you don’t think GTAV helps ‘spread Christmas cheer’.
‘How evil should a video game allow you to be’, The New Yorker
Last month, a user on a Grand Theft Auto V forum asked whether players would be able to rape women in the game. In the post, which was widely shared on social media, he wrote, “I want to have the opportunity to kidnap a woman, hostage her, put her in my basement and rape her everyday, listen to her crying, watching her tears.”
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
A female teacher at a Tasmanian school where I spoke on the objectification of women could not stay to hear the end of my talk.
The images I showed were too confronting, bringing back traumas suffered two decades ago.
”The very acts that have become part of my trauma were there on display as a part of mainstream culture,” she said.
Do advertisers, editors, fashion, music and video-game producers think about how their violent images traumatise female survivors of sexual abuse and degradation?
T-shirts in surf stores depict women naked, bound and splattered in blood. Mainstream advertising shows women pinned down in simulated gang-rape scenes, tied up in cars boots, buried, chopped into pieces, decapitated. Women are shown as passive, vulnerable, often naked and as sex aids.
These images, among 200 in my presentation, took Genevieve back 20 years.
Once an idealistic young person, Genevieve worked hard to turn her love of acting and performing arts into admission to a prestigious performing arts school.
”It went without saying that you did not get in just on talent, but on marketability,” she says.
”I remember consciously dressing in a low-cut body suit and tight jeans aware that my acting skills were only part of my ticket in. From that moment on, I was a commodity and accepted treatment as such.”
Groomed by a lecturer, she ended up drugged and sexually assaulted for three days by five men. Each played out fantasies that were listed in explicit writing on the walls. Because of their power and status, she didn’t go to the police, fearing retribution.
She also felt that being cross-examined in the courts would retraumatise her. She had seen what had happened to other victims.
What Genevieve suffered came back to her as I spoke. Seeing my images caused her to panic. Her heart beat rapidly, she went into a hot sweat and she felt herself dissociating and losing time.
She says she felt retraumatised. ”I could feel a rising wave of fear. I’ve spent 20 years rebuilding my life. Every day I have to make a wall between me and the world. I’m so busy trying to protect myself. Deviant behaviour is now on public display every day.”
Do those who profit from the images they use to sell things even care about the impact on women like Genevieve? She is worried about the normalising of these images to children. ”What hope do my boys have of knowing where the line is? What hope does a girl who experiences these things have of getting understanding and support when she is confronted by constant exposure to images that say it is OK?” Genevieve asks.
Two years ago, Brian McFadden (his fiancee at the time, Delta Goodrem, was an anti-violence ambassador) released a song titled Just the way you are (Drunk at the Bar), which contains the lines: ”I like you just the way you are, drunk as shit dancing at the bar, I can’t wait to take you home so I can do some damage … I can’t wait to take you home so I can take advantage.”
In response, one survivor wrote in a comment on my blog:
”So, Brian McFadden, do you think this is something to poke fun at? Does my story deserve its own catchy tune and rounds of laughter and applause because you were so clever to come up with something witty that ultimately diminishes the trauma of my experience and belittles my feelings about it?”
Such imagery and words, as used by McFadden, create a harmful cultural narrative about what it means to be a woman today. Media and popular culture reflect values. Any reading of the social landscape tells us women are really only good for one thing: to be used sexually.
Anti-violence campaigner and sexual assault survivor Kate Ravenscroft points out that one in three women is a victim of violence, yet the trauma of their experience is diminished and belittled.
The cultural messages that make violence appear sexy are part of the same culture in which victims of sexual assault have to survive.
”Seeing that violence treated flippantly, carelessly, can be devastating,” she says.
Women like Genevieve battle to control rising panic most days, everywhere they go, because the acts done to them are on display so casually, with the tacit approval of governments who love to repeat a mantra that self-regulation is working. It’s not, and it’s real women who are hurt because of it.
‘The ultimate guide to being yourself’ is about self-acceptance. It offers girls three lessons in how to be themselves: Fall in love with you; Quit Faking It and Get inspired, not obsessed. The first encourages girls to recognise and love themselves for their unique traits. This is well and good. But I don’t think we can ‘fall in love’ with ourselves. We can value our innate dignity and worth, and work to resist pressure to conform to an idealised norm, but ‘falling in love’ is a bit over the top. I don’t think we are meant to be ‘head over heels’ with ourselves – telling girls they should be setting up impossible expectations. I do like the advice to girls to start a gratitude journal and list five things they are grateful for every day, as expressing gratitude is a proven way to improve mental health. ‘Be your own therapist’ also advises girls to organise their thoughts, reflect, be more positive and relieve stress by keeping a journal. I don’t quite agree with the conclusion though: “There’s nothing more empowering than knowing that no matter what life throws at you, you can cope with it.” This puts too much pressure on an individual girl. As I move around the country speaking in schools, I hear shocking stories, including from girls who have suffered sexual abuse and other forms of violence, depression, anxiety, cutting – which has increased by 90 percent in 10 years in older adolescent girls and 60% in girls 12-14 – and eating disorders. Sometimes they won’t get through without significant professional intervention and other support. Read full article.
ON Bookworld’s website, you can find My first cupcake decorating book, Children’s book of art and Children’s book of mythical beasts. But until recently, other beasts lurked among the titles hosted by the online book seller, the rebranded version of Borders.
Hundreds of titles appeared under the heading, Incest, titles far too explicit, not to mention disturbing, to be mentioned here.
Incest is a criminal act of abuse against children. About one-in-four is a victim of child sexual abuse. Yet companies are profiting from selling incest-themed fiction, supporting the views of abusers or potential abusers that it is acceptable to have sex with (i.e. rape) children.
Bookworld says it is working on solutions to monitor content more closely.
‘‘We agree with you that these titles should not be on sale and are very grateful that we have been made aware of them so that we can remove them from the site and ensure none like them will be available on Bookworld in the future,’’ said Bookworld’s Kim Noble.
While their prompt response is welcome, didn’t one staffer notice the titles and ask questions? And while Bookworld says it didn’t market the titles, surely carrying them at all achieves the same thing?
Why no audit checks of the data feeds they were channeling through their site? Why effectively traffick contraband materials without checking they weren’t breaching Australian laws?
It is just the latest example of the mainstreaming of child sexual assault material.
The Federal Government has established a royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse. There are various other state and internal inquiries. Rightly so. The issue is a blight on our nation and everything must be done to stop it. But while millions are spent on these inquiries, we live in a culture which sends messages that child abuse is sexy. There’s no inquiry into the permission-giving drivers which encourage and enable the sexual abuse of children.
Like teen-themed sex toys which eroticised sex with girls advertised through Condom Kingdom; or a Melbourne sex store advertising a ‘‘back to school’’ sale complete with school uniforms, blackboards and apples for the teacher.
Amazon also lists incest titles. Last year, a global campaign forced a recall of A paedophile’s guide to love and pleasure.
Then there’s porn in the corner store. Pictures include one of a girl (allegedly over 18 but posed as a child, which is illegal) on a bed in bobby sox and pigtails, holding a hand puppet.
For years, child development advocates have called for action, sending multiple copies of illegal titles to the Classification Board. Board chief Donald McDonald has written hundreds of ‘‘please explain’’ letters to porn distributors but none bother replying. The board’s annual reports bear that out, documenting ‘‘no reply received’’.
The system is broken. Jeff Sparrow’s new book, Money Shot, reveals the contempt porn profiteers have for the system. Those in the industry say the risks of getting caught aren’t that great. Sparrow writes: ‘‘The adult industry of Australia was almost entirely outside the legal system . . . the remote possibility of a fine was like the spectre of shoplifting, an annoyance that just went with the trade.’’
Why haven’t state and federal attorneys-general, who are responsible for classifications, done anything to intervene?
Melbourne author Jayneen Saunders wrote Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept about helping children stay safe from child sexual abuse, but she has struggled to get a publisher and has been prevented from reading from the book at public places such as libraries, because of the nature of the content.
Yet, mainstream companies can profit from trading in products encouraging child sexual assault.
All these permission-giving examples undermine child protection. The idea it is acceptable to fantasise about children is given the tick by those who profit from trading in such fantasies.
If we are serious about addressing child sexual assault, when are governments going to address the culture which fuels and feeds it?
Despite the fact the system is stuffed, the Australian Law Reform Commission has endorsed selfregulation.
There are endless complaints about all the above and more, but the system doesn’t change.
I’ll vote for whoever decides to take this seriously.
Primed to accept brutality as normal in romantic relationships
It’s not enough that classic works of literature like Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights are to be given a 50 Shades of Grey makeover (read how Catherine Earnshaw enjoys bondage sessions with Heathcliff!). Or that there are 50 Shades of Grey mother and daughter cooking classes (whip up ’Playroom Pretzel Ropes’ and ‘Bondage Wrapped Shrimp’ with mum!) Or ‘My mummy pretends Christian Grey is my daddy’ slogans on baby jumpsuits complete with charming handcuff motifs.
The ‘50 Shades’ juggernaut rolls on, consuming everything in its wake. Now the latest market is teens who are being targeted with spin-offs from the phenomenon.
We know 13 and 14-year-olds are already reading this ode to sadism, receiving an early lesson in submission 101.
In the multi-million dollar best seller, Anastasia Steele has to sign a contract agreeing to do whatever her lover Christian Grey wants. She must be available on call.
One of the terms is: ‘The submissive shall submit to any sexual activity without hesitation or argument’. This is presented as true love rather than as a powerful man controlling a naïve young woman having her first sexual experience.
Anastasia feels “demeaned, debased, and abused.” But Grey is wealthy and showers her with gifts. Isn’t that so romantic? Cruelty is OK, as long as there is a happy ending.
Now teens are being sold their own versions, promoted as’ erotic fiction’ helping them ‘explore their sexuality’. But what is it that is being eroticised?
One of the most new popular titles for young people is Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire. Here’s an extract about the reaction of main character Travis after Abby sleeps with him and leaves without saying goodbye:
“Travis is a fucking wreck! He won’t talk to us, he’s trashed the apartment, threw the stereo across the room… He took a swing at Shep [roommate] when he found out we helped you leave. Abby! It’s scaring me! … he’s gone fucking nuts! I heard him call your name, and then he stomped all over the apartment looking for you. …he tried to call you. Over, and over and over…His face was… I’ve never seen him like that. He ripped his sheets off the bed, and threw them away, threw his pillows away, shattered his mirror with his fist, kicked his door… broke it from the hinges! It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life!”
Ah, young love. Travis, unhinged, goes around destroying things when he can’t get his way. He tries to blackmail Abby and limit her freedom. Obsession and jealousy are misread as love.
One young reader wrote on the Goodreadings site “I felt like Abby was in danger throughout the entire novel…anyone as needy as Travis is dangerous, in my opinion, especially when alcohol is in the mix”. Smart girl.
We are seeing a trend toward the acceptance of brutality as normal in romantic relationships. I heard a 15-year-old boy say he slaps girls and pulls their hair during sex because he read they liked it. Some girls expect to receive bruises from sex. Why say it with flowers when you can show it with beatings?
The view that ‘erotic’ fiction is an alternative to kids visiting porn sites has not been demonstrated. Even if they read one or two books, the bombardment of sexual imagery and porn online will barely be dented. Average age of first exposure to online porn is 11.
Age social affairs writer Michelle Griffin has argued that kids should be reading porn-themed books, recommending ‘House of Holes’ for the school library and family bookshelf. This is the book described by The Guardian as a “porn fest.”
There is a difference between literature which help teenage girls interpret their natural curiosity in sex and their bodies and literature which seeks to shape or exploit it.
Melbourne mother Helen Parkes wrote to me: “There are 12 & 13 year olds in my daughter’s class reading 50 shades and other ‘steamys’… I don’t think these are positive in any way even as a tool to ‘begin dialogue’. I want my daughter and her friends to spend a few years participating in school plays and sports instead of grooming themselves for men before they even know who they are and what they enjoy”.
Girls and young women describe cold, soul-less sexual experiences in which they are expected to be service stations for boys, pressured to ‘put out’, with no concern for their emotional wellbeing.
Will these so-called erotic novels help develop respect-based relationships? Real connection and intimacy? I doubt it. Yet that’s what girls say they want. In this months’ Girlfriend, the magazine’s sex survey shows 76% of readers are not sexually active – 56% say it’s because they are waiting for real love.
Reading material that portrays sex as a part of caring, complex, human relationships is a way of promoting healthy physical and psychological development. We should be equipping and empowering young people to make positive choices about their sexual lives rather than training them in domination and submission.
Perhaps it’s time for some explicit content on love and authentic human connection?
Antoinette Jones – Principal – Mitcham Girls High School
“Intelligent, passionate, brilliant, fearless… I could not recommend her more highly”
Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
“You continue to reset my shock meter…”
“As a teacher and parent I recommend all parents, in fact all people, to attend a talk by Melinda- it will open your eyes and awaken your subconscious.”
Heather Douglas – Parent – Pembroke School
“Melinda’s presentations to our parents, staff and full day workshops to students was inspirational, transforming the attitudes and thinking of all involved”
Paul Teys – Principal – Hunter Valley Grammar
“Melinda Tankard Reist’s presentation to Middle and Upper School students at Pymble Ladies’ College was absolutely brilliant!”
Justine Hodgson – English Faculty, Pymble Ladies’ College
“Melinda Tankard Reist has had a transformational affect on our school.”
Ms Stephanie McConnell, Principal – Turramurra High School
Purchase Big Porn Inc, Getting Real, Faking It, Men of Honour, Sexts Texts & Selfies, Raising Girls, Raising Boys, MTR DVD, Ruby Who? DVD & book, Girl Wise guide to friends, Girl Wise guide to being you, Girl Wise guide to life and Girl Wise guide to taking care of your body, for the combined discounted price of $240.
‘The foremost authority in Australia cyber safety lays it on the line and challenges parents to find their digital spine.’ – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
Whether it is problems with friends, worrying about how you look or just feeling a bit down in the dumps – these books are written especially for you – to help you in your journey. Purchase all four together and save $18.50 on postage! Author: Sharon Witt
In this DVD, Melinda takes us on a visual tour of popular culture. “Melinda’s presentation leaves audiences reeling. She delivers her message with a clarity and commonsense without peer.” – Steve Biddulph, author, Raising Boys, Raising Girls
In this easy-to-read updated book, Steve Biddulph shares powerful stories and give practical advice about every aspect of boyhood.
“Overflowing with incisive understandings…a comprehensive and in-depth guide.” – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychologist
Men of Honour -written by Glen Gerreyn- encourages and inspires young men to take up the challenge to be honourable. Whether at school, in sport, at work or in relationships, we must develp our character to achieve success and experience the thrills life has on offer.
“This powerful and humane book is a breakthrough…Big Porn Inc shows us we are poisoning our own spirits.” – Steve Biddulph
“A landmark publication” – Clive Hamilton
Purchase the Ruby Who? DVD and book together for only $35 saving 10% off the individual price.
“Getting Real contains a treasure trove of information and should be mandatory reading for all workers with young people in health, education and welfare” – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Adolescent Psychologist
Do you read women’s lifestyle magazines? Have you thought about how magazines might affect you when you read them? Faking It reflects the body of academic research on magazines, mass media, and the sexual objectification of women.
Ruby Who? is the sweet and innocent story of a little girl’s adventure in re-discovering her identity. Ruby wishes for so many things and dreams of being like others. Will she end up forgetting how to just be herself?
Ruby Who? is the sweet and innocent story of a little girl’s adventure in re-discovering her identity. Ruby wishes for so many things and dreams of being like others. Will she end up forgetting how to just be herself?
Defiant Birth challenges widespread medical, and often social aversion to less than perfect pregnancies or genetically different babies. It also features women with disabilities who were discouraged from becoming pregnant at all.