Porn’s distortions need addressing in schools say educators
The ABC filmed me addressing students at Healthdale Christian College in Melbourne last Wednesday. Some of the students were interviewed – hear how well they articulate the issues! (click on image below for link to video)
MELINDA TANKARD REIST, AUTHOR, ADVOCATE FOR WOMEN AND GIRLS: Our boys are looking at porn not only before they’ve had sex, before they’ve even had their first kiss and they think what they’re seeing is normal. …
… Girls tell us that boys expect them to provide what’s known as PSE, the porn star experience. Boys expect that girls will provide for them everything they’ve seen in pornography and that the girls want that.
‘I am more than my body, don’t treat me like a piece of meat’: one young woman’s response to naked selfie ask
Received this Facebook message from Tiffany. Tiffany, hearing from girls like you makes this work all worthwhile. Thank you.
Hi Melinda. I was really touched by what you had to say and you opened my eyes to what sort of world we live in and as a 16 I’m disgusted and amazed and what girls my age have to go through. You said something about being asked for nudes and that and personally I didn’t know what you meant by that as I haven’t been asked to do that… Until today. To tell you the truth I wouldn’t of known what to do about it if you didn’t speak about it and I’m very grateful to you. The boy asked me for a photo or video and I said no that’s when he called me lame but I immediately told him I am more than just my body and you shouldn’t treat me like a piece of meat and instantly blocked him. Thank you for telling me that and I hope I have done the right thing and myself and other girls are taking part in taking action on this case and we want to make a difference. I want to help girls feel like they are worth something. So thanks again you are an inspiration to us all and I hope to join your cause.
How sexualised behaviour has become the new normal
While the content was disturbing, it was encouraging to wake up to the front page of The Australian on the weekend and see the issues myself and my colleagues write and speak about most days, reflected on the front page.
Source: The Australian
A news piece titled ‘Click bait: kids at risk as sexualised behaviour becomes “new normal”‘ by National Education Correspondent Natasha Bita, described how unsupervised internet access was spawning a generation of hypersexualised children who mimicked the adult porn they saw online. It cited warnings from psychiatrists, police and child welfare expects that the scourge of ‘sexting’, ‘selfies’ and social media was endangering children’s physical and mental health.
My colleagues, Melbourne child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg, managing director of the Young and Well Co-operative Research Centre, and federal government cyber safety adviser Susan McLean, expressed their concerns about the impacts on children of early porn exposure. “There is overt and covert pressure on children to behave in a sexualised way,” Ms McLean says. “This shouldn’t be the new normal. The No. 1 issue I deal with in high schools is the enormous pressure from boys to girls to put out sexually through images. ”
Michael Carr-Gregg said online pornography was skewing the way teenagers viewed sex, love and intimacy. “Boys see girls as sexual service stations for their pleasure…I’m seeing it virtually every single time I have a clinic. Their idea of sex is porn sex — it’s a terrible distortion of one of the most precious and important parts of their lives, which is love and intimacy.’’
Central to the piece was the example of a selfie of a 13-year-old girl posed on Instagram last week, with the words ‘Boner Garage’ scrawled on her bare tummy. Australian author and columnist Nikki Gemmell wrote a profound and incisive response, directly to the teen girl. She has kindly given permission for me to re-print her commentary in full here.
‘Boner Garage’ girls, my heart breaks for you
Dear 13-year-old Instagrammer,
“Boner Garage.” Oh, right. So that’s what you’ve just written on your bare tummy, in your child’s scrawl, in black marking pen. You’ve helpfully added an arrow pointing downwards so we get exactly what you’re referring to. That’s what you’ve artfully photographed in your child’s bedroom as your celebratory birthday selfie. You’ve deliberately, proudly, made those two dispiriting words the focus of your shot.
Your glossy blonde hair is across your face so no one can see your features. The room behind you looks utterly normal, middle class; just like any teen’s cherished and girlie private space. I don’t know you, but you have hundreds of followers, boys and girls, and you’ve not locked your account to strangers. Happy 13th birthday. My heart breaks for you.
That you define turning 13 — that wonderful, releasing cusp in a woman’s life — by those two bleak little words. Boner garage. That you somehow get pride out of them. It’s an age marinated in symbolism, a fulcrum into growing up; a time where everything should seem celebratory and wondrous, with the world deepening around you. Symbolically, in many cultures, you become morally responsible for your actions around this age — but I just want to protect you right now.
It’s readily available on a ¬mobile phone and most teenage boys have one. They look at what their mates are looking at. That can mean anal sex, group sex, oral sex — women servicing men in the ugliest, most disempowering of ways.
Porn, of course, is sex with no light in it and the best sex is bursting with light and life. Teens need to be told this bleak and reductive world is not what normal, loving relationships are about; sex should never be violent or degrading and woman are not just sexual objects.
Doctors are seeing teenage girls presenting to them — highly embarrassed — with bowel problems because of traumatic anal sex. Because it’s what they’re ¬assuming they’re meant to do.
As for you, my birthday girl, I just wish there’d been an adult or responsible friend around to stop you posting that Insta pic. Because your electronic footprint lasts, and can be disseminated. People may well be seeing what your 13-year-old self wrote, so proudly and stupidly, in years to come. Parents see the accounts of their children’s mates; as well as friends of friends you have no idea about; teachers and principals trawl; and so, of course, does the dark side of the net, those dubious adults beyond your world.
By scrawling those ugly words on your midriff you’ve already flipped yourself into the dark side of femininity and I don’t think you even realise it. Boys won’t admire you for doing this. They’ll disrespect you, disparage you.
Source: The Australian
But that won’t stop them using you as their so-called Boner ¬Garage. And I guarantee the ¬experience will be bleak, and ¬lonely. You will not feel empowered afterwards, or cherished. You will not feel what you want more than anything in this world — loved. You will feel cheap, and used, and ugly, and alone.
And at the end of that reducing little ¬experience you will ask yourself, is that it? Is that how I’m meant to feel? And that’s why my heart breaks for you. Because I’ve been there. And I can tell you, it’s not what empowering, exhilarating and tender sex is about. Often you have to wait a long, long time to discover that. With someone you love. Where respect is mutual. Where you’re having sex on your terms; talking, laughing, working things out together; saying what you like — and what you don’t. And being listened to.
“Boner Garage” implies none of those things. How passive and inert you make a woman’s wondrous sexual organs sound. Do you think so little of your body that you view it mainly as a receptacle for males to be in? The most common web definition of Boner Garage: “A vagina that has been pounded so much by erect penises that it has become a resting place for said penises.” Pretty ugly, eh?
I wish you courage, whoever you are. Not to dim your light among men; because that light is about so much more than the garage, as you call it, between your legs. It’s about your mind, your spirit, your vividness, your strength and your voice. There are only two ways to live in this world: as a victim or a courageous fighter, and you’re coming across as a victim right now. Of this rampantly sexualised world we live in. Of its female objectification and trivialisation. And of the voracious demands of teenage social media; the craving to be popular, known, that rampant desire to get more and more precious “likes”.
This isn’t the way to go about it. You’re advocating in the most dispiriting of ways a female sexual experience that’s stripped of mystery, of reverence and transcendence and, most of all, tenderness. As Iris Murdoch said: “There is nothing like early promiscuous sex for dispelling life’s bright mysterious expectations.”
Teenage girls and boys no longer seek sex education from textbooks with anatomical diagrams, giggling friends or flustered parents; they can get it from films with titles like Teen Ass 2, which they can access on the smartphones that they carry with them at all times. This week new figures revealed that sexualised images of women on social media have led to an increase in emotional problems among young girls. Researchers from University College London believe the rise in girls aged between 11 and 13 suffering from emotional problems such as anxiety may be linked to stress brought on by seeing images of women portrayed as sex objects on Facebook, Twitter and other websites. Teenagers rarely measure self-esteem or self-worth against personal and scholastic achievements, however brilliant they are, but increasingly by how many people tell them they are ‘hot’ on the photo-sharing website, Instagram, or other forms of social media…
Australian pick-up artist accused of sexual harassing, exposing himself to women: I reported him to Crimestoppers
By Dr Matthew Berryman
Following the online campaign started by Jennifer Li to #takedownjulienblanc, I’ve started looking into the world of “Real Social Dynamics” (RSD), the company Blanc is a part of, and I’m highly disturbed by what I have found. I’m sympathetic to young men who need confidence building and dating tips. I was a shy nerdy young man too. But there’s a massive world of difference between genuine advice and what RSD has to offer. It goes well beyond one video of Blanc doing his infamous “head on dick” sexual assault of Japanese women.
It includes everything from a culture of objectification of women through to making fun of people with disabilities (‘retarded’ in RSD language) to pick up.
The co-founder of RSD is Owen Cook, known as RSD Tyler. Here he appears to admit to raping a woman.
Here he is making a racist slur in a nightclub.
Here he is joking about killing a cat and then sexually assaulting its corpse.
Rape culture is part of the forum, from discussion of rape vans through to this comment on their forum – a sick attempt to justify rape.
“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.”
It’s deeply disturbing how many members that RSD have, and their influence. Last I checked, their insider Facebook groups (now made private) had over 300 members for Brisbane and over 1000 for Sydney. RSD Tyler’s YouTube channel has over 95,000 subscribers, and RSD Julien’s over 43,000.
RSD Alex is an RSD trainer on the Gold Coast. One of his associates is Adrian James Holt, aka Adrian Van Oyen, a candid camera/prank ‘comedian’ with a history of harassing people on trains. Julien Blanc may have been deported but Holt and other Australian men continue to foment and spread pick-up culture activities here.
Some people must find this amusing as he has over a million subscribers. His method has since been adopted as a pick-up tactic by RSD members. Following his train videos video, Lipton decided for a reason I cannot fathom, to pay Holt, who they describe as a “hilarious YouTube sensation” for an advertisement for iced tea.
Shortly after that, in November 2013, Holt released this video where he tries to use sexual assault as a ‘pick-up’ strategy.
Not only is this totally unacceptable and unempathetic, it’s also a crime. I have alerted Queensland Crimestoppers to this with a report made yesterday. Astoundingly, the original copy of this video has had over 2.8 million views.
This whole misogynist “pick-up” agency material doesn’t just lessen women, but it lessens men, and it has to stop. I’m not saying this because I am of the “extreme left” (as one RSD troll said)—I’m just slightly left of centre, and this transcends politics, anyway. Nor is it because I’m pretending to be a nice guy in order to get laid—I’m happily married—it is important to respect others anyway, which may indeed get you noticed by women, but that’s besides the point. Nor is this about’ group think’, I’ve obviously thought about these issues on my own and then decided to campaign. This is all about respect and consent. It’s not hard to understand.
If you are a young man seeking advice, then don’t get it from Real Social Dynamics. There are proper counselling services out there, if you can’t get good advice from mates, or asking your mum (yes, put embarrassment aside for a few minutes, she has advice for you), or even a girl who you are just friends with. Yes guys can be just friends with a girl, and it’s how I got some of my best dating tips.
Dr Matthew Berryman is a loving husband and a dad to two daughters who he adores. By day he works in IT, at night he campaigns to make the world a better place.
Here’s a column I wrote for the Sunday Herald Sun published last Sunday. Looks like this could be the first of a regular gig.
At the end of the week marking International Women’s Day (March 8), a trending YouTube phenomenon lets us know that we haven’t come a long way at all.
Girls as young as 11 are posting clips on YouTube asking the world to judge them by answering one simple question: “Am I ugly or pretty?”
There are now hundreds of Ugly/Pretty videos in this 21st century remake of ‘Mirror mirror on the wall’.
Vulnerable teens and tweens are inviting scrutiny and judgement from a cyber world renowned for cruelty, bullying, and virtual pack attacks. It’s an unlimited offer to vultures and sadists and people who are just plain mean: Here I am, rip my heart and soul out.
While exposing themselves to a torrent of virtual damnation, the girls appear nonchalant, shrugging, with quizzical half smiles, like it really doesn’t matter that much, when you know it means everything.
This past week we should have celebrated women’s achievements. But, sadly, these girls aren’t asking: “Am I smart?”, “Am I good daughter, sister, friend?”, “Can I make a difference in the world?”, “Can I be all that I can be?”
Because in so much that is girl world today, the question that counts the most is: “am I hot or not”?
From the earliest ages girls are learning that looks are what counts, that it is style over substance, that it is their bodies that determine success or failure.
These poignant postings, viewed by millions, have girls like Kendal saying: “A lot of people tell me I’m ugly. I think I’m ugly and fat”. The 15-year-old attracts four million views and 107,000 anonymous responses. One of them this: “Y do you live, and kids in africa die?” And another: “You need a hug… around your neck…with a rope…”.
A black girl asks: “If you think I’m pretty, still comment… just comment… I don’t care if I’m ugly or not.” How do you think she felt when she saw this: “ALL BLACK PEOPLE LOOK THE SAME…SORRY IT’S TRUE”, and “ur black of cource ur ugly”?
In the online environment, comments are magnified. A girl’s fragile sense of self can be smashed instantly, and what esteem she may have had is left in shreds. As Melbourne adolescent psychologist and Chair of the National Centre Against Bullying’s Cybersafety Committee Dr Michael Carr-Gregg says:
“It is about the deep seated need of many adolescents for reassurance that they are normal, but on a mass scale – the impact of the stream of negativity that they receive in response will not be the same for all – some teens are more psychological robust. But for a minority of vulnerable ones this could be a trigger (especially if they already have a major depressive illness) to self harm, suicidal thoughts and even completed suicide.
Dr Carr-Gregg urges parents to be more vigilant, and step up to the digital plate. With free internet monitoring software available “to allow your young immature offspring online without such monitoring is in my view inexcusable.” he says.
And a message to YouTube – if you have to be 13 to upload videos why are you allowing 11-year-old girls to ask the world if they are ugly?
Where will the people at YouTube be when a girl suffers depression, anxiety, or worse, because the world of anonymous trolls with zero understanding of civilized human interaction chorus back: yes you are, you really are ugly and deserve to die.
But this is not just about what’s happening on YouTube. This is about us, and the world we create in which young girls grow into women.
International Women’s Day celebrates the struggles of women to be accepted as strong, independent and autonomous and for who they are, and what they can be, not according to how they look in the eyes of others.
We have made the world from which Kendal and Faye ask to be judged. Let’s think about how we can re-make the world into one in which they flourish.
This is what I had to say about the issue on Sunrise
Teaching little girls that make up rituals should start early
“Make-up is for everyone!” declares 5-year-old Madison, who has become a You Tube sensation for her video sessions on make-up application, recorded and uploaded by her mother.
A child doesn’t make this statement in a vacuum. As documented over and over on the MTR blog, little girls are imbibing a dominant, all-consuming message about physical appearance equating with worth. This has become much more than a child messing around with mum’s makeup, but is now more a reflection of cultural conditioning and the commercialisation of childhood (so perfectly captured in the book title This Little Kiddie Went to Market). What we are witnessing here is just part of continuum which includes child beauty parlours and toxic child beauty pageants. The beauty rituals which adult women are expected to engage in daily are now being transported to little girls.
Madison’s DIY make-up tutorials have been seized upon by cosmetic companies who appear to be sending her products to spruik. The product placement is now overt and there are links back to cosmetic sites. Madison appears to be becoming a tool of the global beauty industry. Her You Tube videos have titles like ‘Sibu Review’and ‘MAC Lipglosses’. It would be good to see Madison’s bubbly personality and creativity directed in other ways.
Parenting blogger Yvette Vignando and I were asked our thoughts on Channel 7’s Morning Show Friday.
More on the pornification of female artists: MTR on Channel 10
Music industry producer Mike Stock recently came out against the increasingly pornified performances of female artists, an issue I blogged on a couple of weeks ago. In a piece titled Why this pop-porn will damage a generation of children, Stock wrote in the Daily Mail:
Now, however, an entire generation of young girls, some as young as eight or nine, is growing up transfixed by the writhings and thrustings of performers such as Lady Gaga and Rihanna, singing along to lines such as ‘Sex in the air, I don’t care, I love the smell of it’…
Just as worrying is the impact the same material must be having on young boys. What is happening now doesn’t just undo all the good work done by the feminists of the 70s, it drags us almost back to the Stone Age. Women, as seen through the eyes of the music industry, have become little more than sex objects again. Read full article here.
With Miley Cyrus having toured Australia, and attracting media interest for her clothing and performance in an audience dominated by very young girls, Channel 10 asked me to comment. Here’s what I said:
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
“As you read, be prepared to feel both grief and rage.” Robert Jensen
“These accounts are among the most unsettling you will ever read.” Steve Biddulph
“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 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, and the new Wise Guys for the combined discounted price of $250.
‘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.
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“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.