(Hopefully Not) Passing on Rape Culture

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15 November 2013 by not a wild hera

[Trigger warning: if you have experienced sexual assault, please just be aware that rape and rape culture are discussed in this post. Many of the links similarly lead to pages that need a trigger warning.]

Sad, sickened, shocked, triggered, appalled, horrified, not-actually-that-surprised.

Most New Zealanders could tick most of those boxes this week as our national news has been dominated by revelations about a group of teenage rapists.

If you’re outside New Zealand, you may have followed a somewhat similar event last year in Steubenville, Ohio, which sparked horror in the United States and beyond. Many of the questions the cases raise are the same.

The young men in Auckland repeatedly, habitually predated on girls and young women, often intoxicated beyond the point of consent, often under the legal age of consent. They then bragged online about their assaults, even setting up a Facebook page dedicated to this behaviour (with a name that has become shorthand for the case, but which I’m not going to give them the satisfaction of mentioning).

The police told us last week they’d been observing them for two years – two years! – but were unable to act, because no girls had been ‘brave enough’ to complain:

“We would love to take some positive action for these girls and others who may be victims in the future, but without actual evidence my hands are tied,” says Detective Inspector Bruce Scott.

“None of the girls have been brave enough to make formal statements to us so we can take it to a prosecution stage or even consider a prosecution stage.”

Read more from 3 News, who broke the story.

Then it turned out that they had. Four had complained. One had made a formal complaint, two years ago, and had been told by police that her clothing suggested she was asking for it. She was 13.

Two popular shock jock radio presenters – and part-time politicians – called the rapes ‘mischief‘ and told a victim’s friend, herself a teenage girl, that the problem was that ‘a lot more girls who might have consented … might well just line up and say they were raped as well’. (For a full transcript of what the radio presenters said, head to Giovanni Tiso’s excellent piece.)

So now the conversation has moved from plain, distant disgust at these young rapists, to distrust of the police involved, to what kind of culture we are all living in that means these young men think what they are doing is not only acceptable, but so cool it should go online. What kind of culture are we living in that police officers act as if the victims should bear more responsibility than the offenders and that middle-aged men can publicly speak that way to a teenager?

Well, as many people learned for the first time this month, this kind of culture has a name. It’s called ‘rape culture.’ We perpetuate it whenever we imply that rape is the fault or responsibility of anyone other than the rapist or play down the seriousness of a sexual assault.

I am no kind of expert on this stuff, but I’m good at assembling data and spreading it, so what I have here is a round-up of some material around the web that strikes me as insightful or useful for those of us who want this world to be different, and want to be part of making that change, particularly when it comes to how we, as a society, raise our children.

It’s long. Feel free to skim. If it’s helpful, please share it around your networks.

Throw out the rubbish: critique rape culture with young people

As we participate in everyday life and as we influence children and young people in how they see the world, we need to be careful to name rubbish for what it is.

Rape culture is largely about people believing and spreading harmful nonsense, often without realising it. So just to be clear:

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Graph from The Hand Mirror

A cornerstone of rape culture is transferring responsibility away from the rapist, by focusing, for example, on the victim’s dress or behaviour. If you or people around you would like a recap of why this is inappropriate, you might like to read these brilliant pieces on the issue.

First up, from LudditeJourno, writing on the feminist site The Hand Mirror, comes that awesome graph above. We’ll come back to the discussion that follows the graph in her blog post in a minute.

Slamming the point home with poetry, sarcasm, rage and wit is blue milk, in her most popular ever blog post, I think. It’s called Don’t Get Raped. Read it and share it:

Don’t go out and get drunk, it could lead to you getting raped. Also, don’t have sex with someone because it could get you raped by someone they know. Don’t be young, that could definitely get you raped. While we’re at it, especially don’t be a child, that could really get you raped. Don’t be older either, that can get you raped. Don’t be living in a nursing home; women get raped there. In fact, what are you even doing in an establishment like that, are you asking for it?

[Read more at blue milk.]

Applying those ideas to the current news and debate, if you want a concise round-up of the events of the last week or so, and insightful analysis of the way forward, Toby Manhire is your man. Even better, focusing on the myths of rape culture, is Michele A’Court. If you have a teenager in your life, you might like to read one of these pieces alongside them and chat about it:

A lot of questions have been asked about the victims. What was she wearing? Had she been drinking? Why was she there? Was she a virgin before this? All versions of, “Did she behave in a way that made her vulnerable to sexual assault?”

Nowhere – did I miss it? – were any of these questions aimed at the perpetrators. I have no idea what they were wearing, whether they were sober, or anything about their sexual history. And I’m really not sure I need to know these things either because none of them are relevant to an act of rape.

… This might be hard for a middle-aged radio jock to understand so I will write it clearly: A tiny skirt does not mean she wants to shag you. And to men of all ages, let’s say this really clearly: If you want to have sex with her, ask her, not her clothes. And then listen to what she says.

And seriously, it is insulting to men to suggest that women can dress or behave in a way that invites rape or mitigates its criminality to any degree. Do we really think that a short skirt arouses men to such a level of sexual excitement that they can’t stop themselves forcing their penis into someone? If that’s all it takes, should any of them be allowed out, ever?

[Read more at Michele A'Court's site.]

If you have a strong enough stomach for much more detailed analysis of the New Zealand situation, comparable atrocities in North America, and how rape culture is implicated in each, Auckland University’s Dr Nicola Gavey has this excellent, exhaustive, explicit examination of the rapists’ actions and cultural influences, with a particular focus on the role of pornography. Please consider this a warning though, and feel free to skip over the descriptive sections – including extensive quotes from the alleged offenders’ social media pages – to get to the critique.

The even bigger challenge is how to dismantle whatever it is that is supporting the widespread revival of misogyny and ongoing sexual violence that allows these boys to act like this for so long. These acts of abuse reflect a “trend of degradation” according to Peter Boshier from the White Ribbon campaign. The whole idea of masculinity and what it means to be a man in our society has to be looked at. Francis Bird and Kim McGregor have both raised the role of pornography in contributing to this misogynist sexual culture.

Pornography is a mixed bag, but the everyday kind of mainstream pornography that many young men now regularly consume glorifies hostility towards women. Young women are props for male sexual pleasure – participating as second class human beings whose sole purpose is the consumer’s enjoyment. It is essential as part of our efforts to prevent sexual violence that we start talking about pornography, it portrayals of women and men and sex. And asking questions about the ethics of celebrating male sexual domination and female submission and aggression towards women in the name of sexual pleasure.

[Read more at Sexual Politics Now, a site dedicated to asking questions about pornography.]

It’s not a ‘scandal’

Here’s a point that’s mine. Think about your language and what it communicates to young people.

The New Plymouth teenager who has just pleaded guilty to filming his mates allegedly raping a young woman at a party says he just thought, at the time, that the incident was funny.

If we keep talking about the Auckland case as a ‘teenage sex ring‘ or ‘sex scandal,’ as news outlets repeatedly describe it, we contribute to rape culture by minimising what has happened. This is not some exciting, dramatic scandal. It’s not a piece of sexy naughtiness. Girls and women were raped and shamed. If we keep using this kind of language, teenagers may keep on having trouble distinguishing between consensual sex and rape.

This is not a ‘scandal,’ it’s a crime. These people were not part of a sex ring, they were serial rapists. A 13-year-old is not a ‘young woman’ but a girl, in this circumstance – someone of an age the law regards as incapable of giving meaningful consent to sex. A child.

And I have avoided using the name these men called their group on Facebook. It’s demeaning to the girls they raped to keep giving airtime to the image they were trying to portray of being big men having edgy fun. They were raping.

Empower kids to protect the vulnerable

Both the Auckland group and the New Plymouth incident involved rapes in public, at parties. There were a lot of people who witnessed them.

If one day my son goes to a party where something like this happens, I really want him to have the skills and character to do something about it. Equipping him to stand up for people who are vulnerable – starting with the kid in the playground when he’s 6 or 7 – is part of my job as his mother.

You may know that one of my favourite posts from Glennon Doyle Melton at Momastery is about the talk she has with her kids when they start the school year:

We do not care if you are the smartest or fastest or coolest or funniest. There will be lots of contests at school, and we don’t care if you win a single one of them…

We don’t send you to school to become the best at anything at all. We already love you as much as we possibly could. You do not have to earn our love or pride and you can’t lose it. That’s done.

We send you to school to practice being brave and kind.

Kind people are brave people. Brave is not a feeling that you should wait for. It is a decision. It is a decision that compassion is more important than fear, than fitting in, than following the crowd.

Trust me, baby, it is. It is more important.

Don’t try to be the best this year, honey.

Just be grateful and kind and brave.

[Read more at Momastery.]

Maybe this TED talk by violence educator Jackson Katz will be more up your street, particularly if you are helping raise a young man. The blurb says:

Domestic violence and sexual abuse are often called ‘women’s issues.’ But in this bold, blunt talk, Jackson Katz points out that these are intrinsically men’s issues – and shows how these violent behaviors are tied to definitions of manhood. A clarion call for us all – women and men – to call out unacceptable behavior and be leaders of change.

For more on the role of men in changing rape culture and protecting people from rape, see the possibly controversial advice from Yes Means Yes:

The thing is, rapists absolutely need one thing to operate.  They need people to believe they are not rapists.  Stranger rapists do that by trying to hide that they are the person who committed the rape.  Acquaintance rapists do that by picking targets who won’t say anything about what happened, or by using tactics that, if the survivor does speak up, people will decide don’t really count as rape.  If you want to do something about rapists, make sure people know they are rapists.

…[Y]ou can tell everyone you know that the person is a rapist.  You may not be able to say how you know, because you may not have the survivor’s permission to talk about it.  But you can quietly tell your friends.

[This may seem controversial. For more context, head to the full article at Yes Means Yes.]

The day I hear that my son has stood up for someone being bullied, or hurt in any way, will be the day I know I’ve done a good job. It’s my gold standard of parenting.

If you have ideas on how I can parent him so that dream comes true, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Build a culture of consent and empathy with little ones

After her awesome graph above, LudditeJourno has a great discussion of how building empathy in little boys helps them practise empathy as young men.

Teaching little boys about empathy, teach them to try and imagine, by reading to them and talking to them, how other people feel.  All the time, about everything.  So when they are starting to explore being sexual with other people, that’s in their kete of skills.

Let’s stop telling little boys, big boys and men to ‘harden up.’  Last week I was playing in my vegetable garden, and the next door neighbour’s children were hanging out with me, weeding.  The three year old boy was heaving on some tall weeds, and fell on his bum, face crumpling up.  I asked him if he was ok.  His six year old sister said ‘Yeah, he’s tough.’ I said ‘I think you can be tough, and things can still hurt.  Are you ok?’

And he had a little cry and a little hand squeeze with me, then jumped up to do some more weeding and talk about favourite biscuits (his: tim tams; mine, on that day: toffee pops).

If we encourage boys to express all of the feelings they have – including vulnerability and sadness and sometimes just not knowing – we will grow men who have a range of emotional options available to them, not just anger.  And that will help them navigate the tricky waters of life, where anger being your default expression seldom leads to great relationships.

[Read more at The Hand Mirror.]

Since Lucy linked to it months ago, I have been thinking about HisFeministMama’s post, Building a Culture of Consent in our Youngest Children:

Putting it simply: If we teach children that we honour their bodies and choices (and our own) from the moment they are born, they will see the value and necessity of consent as they develop into adults. Alternatively, if we disregard the body autonomy of children, if we don’t model a culture of consent, how can we expect them to seek consent of others or demand that partners seek their consent in moments of intimacy? [Read more at Our Feminist Playschool.]

For our family, this means things like asking or telling our toddler we’re going to touch him, change his nappy, whatever – the same way you would an adult in a hospital bed, perhaps – and letting him know he’s in charge of things like whether he gives anyone a kiss or cuddle.

Talk about sex – and rape

I’m not remotely ready to talk about how to talk with kids about sex. My boy turns two next month! But until that day, here are few things I’ve read recently that might be useful in your own thinking. Or not – no worries.

Emily Maguire encourages people to think of sex as dancing not fighting. You can invite someone to dance, but there’s no point trying to coerce them – it won’t be real dancing if you have to move their arms and legs for them.

There is a better way to talk and teach about sexual negotiation and consent, a more realistic and ethical approach that would, I believe, also be more successful in reducing sexual assault. It begins with thinking of sex as the outcome of a collaboration rather than a battle, as dancing rather than fighting.

Consider it: if you ask someone to dance and they say no, there is not an awful lot you can do about it. Sure, you could nag or threaten them or ply them with double-strength drinks, but even if that works you will know they are not really into it. And what if they stop part-way through the song? Are you going to take hold of their limbs and force them to move? Shake their hips for them? You could dance at them while they stand there, I suppose. Is that fun? Would you not rather try to find someone who wants to dance? And failing that, well, the cool thing about dancing is that you can do it alone. It may not be as fun as doing it with a willing partner, but it is better than doing it with someone who does not want to be there.

[Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald.]

It seems some men have trouble telling when they’ve got consent for sex. I find that astonishing, myself, but it’s clearly the case.

There’s a concept people are writing about called ‘enthusiastic consent.’ If everyone knew that this is the standard, not just ‘she didn’t say no’ or ‘he didn’t seem to mind’ then maybe we’d make some progress. Here’s one person’s take on the concept:

Enthusiastic consent is about welcoming. “Yes, I would like you to.” “I would love it if you did.” “Your presence here is not an invasion, nor just benign, but a welcome addition to my life.” It says something to welcome another person’s touch, verbally, openly. It’s an affirmation of affection. Openly expressing consent clears the air of mistrust and anxiety on whether we are doing something wrong, paving the way for further intimacy and trust. And to get enthusiastic consent, one has no choice but to ask.

At the same time we discourage violence against each other, we can also encourage affection towards each other. Enthusiastic consent is part of that encouragement. It’s not, obviously, the be-all and end-all, but for all the “no means no” we expound on, we need to further the idea that “yes means yes”. The more positivity we present to the world, the easier it is to identify negativity.

Plus, next to “yes” in a lineup of affirmative expressions is “yay”. And “yay” is a very useful expression indeed! [Read more at Ecstatic Days.]

Don’t just model, but commentate on your values

As I wrote in my guest post on kids and spirituality at Lulastic and the Hippyshake, it seems to me that most kids don’t automatically pick up on the values we hold and live out daily if we don’t also talk about them.

You might be a pro at finding God in everyday life, or seeing the spiritual angle of your routines and choices. In my observation, many kids don’t notice this in their parents. Churches I have been part of are full of kids who would be astonished to know why their parents actually follow Jesus, because the subject simply hasn’t come up. If you want to model spiritual stuff to your kids, you’ll have to live it out loud.

We are developing language in our family to do this. When I see the first glimpse of sky in the morning, I instinctively, habitually, think of God’s goodness, which is, in the words of the Bible, ‘new every morning.’ But my son can’t know what’s going on in my head, or make these connections without help, so when we open the blinds in the bedroom in the morning, we say, ‘Good morning, Wellington! Thank you, God, for a new day.’

Similarly, as well as having ‘thank you, God’ routines for mealtimes and bedtime, we say ‘God speed that ambulance’ when we hear emergency sirens. When his dad leaves for work at the hospital, we call it ‘going to help people for Jesus’ to make the connection between work and spirituality obvious.

[Read more at Lulastic and the Hippyshake.]

It probably wouldn’t occur to most of us to spell out, in advance, why it is wrong to get someone drunk so you can have sex with them. But given that there are currently lots of teenage boys, in Auckland and New Plymouth, in the US and Canada, in the news and in court on rape charges, and many more of their peers aware of their behaviour and saying nothing, it seems that these things do need to be spelt out.

The idea that anything other than screaming ‘no!’ equals consent needs to be countered, out loud.

One of the values that SBJ’s dad and I hold strongly, and we will have to speak about with him, is that sex is best situated in marriage. We can’t just rely on ethical osmosis. When he is surrounded by pop culture and peer culture that push in other directions, we’ll need to make sure he can at least articulate what we value and why.

Whether or not he decides to follow that path himself, I hope our conversations will leave him under no illusion that filming some mates having sex, or raping, at a party can just be ‘a joke.’

It’s one (terrible) thing to choose to do something you know is wrong. It’s another to do something that seems edgy or kinky or maybe even a bit dodgy, but you don’t realise is actually harmful and criminal. That may be the position some of the rapists currently in the news are in, partly thanks to rape culture. Maybe some of them just didn’t know the difference between rape and ‘mischief.’

Giving them the tools of empathy, education, culture critique and bravery I hope at the very least that we can equip all the kids in our lives to know the difference.

Given the subject matter, I welcome sensitively worded comments below and will be tightly moderating them. Please do give your responses and your ideas on how we can raise respectful, safe children. 

Please feel free to share this post around your networks using the buttons below, if you have found it helpful. And you’re always welcome to join the Sacraparental Facebook page for daily links and resources beyond what goes on the blog.

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30 thoughts on “(Hopefully Not) Passing on Rape Culture

  1. Angela says:

    I know of a young man who, when he was a teenager, went along to parties with his brother. When they noticed any young women (I mean, girls) getting overly drunk and possibly at risk, they bundled them in to their car and delivered the girls home to their front doorstep. Many parents jaws dropped. This is the young man I want my son to be and, yes, I’d love to learn how to bring him up to be this. I think Jesus has something to do with it.

    Really great work here Thalia, well done. X

  2. Leanne says:

    This is a really sensitively written post and I would like to link to it in my recent post on the subject touching on what we, as parents, need to do to raise responsible children, if you are happy for me to do so? I received some really great suggestions from other parents if you would like to view them here:

    http://papermoonliving.blogspot.co.nz/2013/11/raising-responsible-children.html.

  3. SKATERAK says:

    This is well written. I must confess to a little skimming to be honest but it is a situation that has been on my mind a little as both a Kiwi and a parent of young boys.

    I would like to make a statement but before I do, I’d like to be very clear that I am not victim blaming at all. With a little experience of the NZ courts many years ago, I know that the victim is often last on the list when it comes to being supported and understood.

    We (all the grown ups in the whole world) need to educate young people better about the consequences of their actions. We have all seen young teens dress in ways which is definitely going to turn on teen boys. This sex drive is a monster and it doesn’t take much to provoke it.

    Such girls don’t deserve to be mistreated in anyway and I am not suggesting that for a jot. But, if parents let their daughters go out into mixed circles wearing short skirts, skimpy tops, anything tight or revealing… and so on, they need their heads checked. I am yet to parent teens so can not imagine the difficulties managing such situations, but surely this story in the press highlights the urgency.

    Nobody deserves to be mistreated. People who are irresponsible and disrespectful are certainly responsible for these crimes. But, if I had a 15 year old daughter who was going to a party or out with 15 years old boys, it would be only on the condition that she dressed responsibility. She may not be the coolest in the group and may lose the attention of the boys, but her sense of responsibility will serve her well for life. By wearing certain clothes, whether it’s her intention or nor, she is lighting a fire. To argue, say, that this is sexist or is just another step closer to the rules of extremist organisations, is to misunderstand my point and the power of a teen boys drive.

    Girls must be taught the need to be modest. Flirting and dressing in a ‘sexy’ way when with teen boys does not mean at all that a girl wants or deserves to be abused but it’s about as smart as not wearing a seat belt or a life jacket. It’s going to catch up them one day.

    Boys must be taught respect for others, especially women – and to be heroes. I like your dream for SBJ. We all share it for our young children.

    • Andy says:

      we all own the responsibility to minimise our risk to criminals. we lock doors, we don’t walk alone in certain suburbs at night, we get contracts checked before we sign on the dotted line.

      Criminals are responsible for their evil acts. Individuals can, where possible, minimise their risks. This isn’t to excuse rapists for one second. I’d happily pull the lever on them if we can’t keep them behind bars until reformed.

    • Hi MB and Andy,

      I share your concerns about how to talk to teenage girls about the effects of their clothing choices.

      Can I just push back a bit though, and note a couple of things?

      One, rape is rarely a crime that is about sexual attraction going haywire and more commonly about power and violence.

      It’s true that situations where a romantic mutual attraction precedes a rape, a girl’s behaviour may light the fire, as you put it. But the one thing that would prevent the rape in that case is the offender having proper respect for consent and for his victim.

      As blue milk points out in the Don’t Get Raped piece I’ve linked to above, people are assaulted and abused in so many situations, no matter what their dress or behaviour was, that the answer to rape culture cannot be about changing victims’ behaviour – that alone won’t be enough.

      Second, it’s worth remembering that what’s ‘revealing’ or ‘sexy’ is culturally conditioned. By all accounts a cheeky flash of ankle is pretty in covered societies.

      I absolutely think there is a place for discussions of modesty. If I have a daughter, I will be giving her information about teenage sex drive, and asking her to dress in a way that is kind to her mates who are boys.

      But I’d like to make the distinction of motivation – between wise and kind behaviour (it’s just being nice to your friends to dress modestly) and behaviour that will supposedly keep women safe from rapists – it doesn’t.

      Now, of course, if I have a daughter, I don’t want to stand on these principles and risk her safety. I’ve been puzzling about this all week.

      Here’s what I think: I’d like to educate a daughter to keep herself safe by evaluating her company rather than changing her behaviour to that of someone who is scared or responsible for rape. I’d like to focus on making sure she develops good judgement about who is good to hang out with – who would respect the laws of consent.

      Alcohol and lack of adult presence are also pretty big here. I’ll be much more interested in her judgement about alcohol than about what she wears, I think, in terms of what will keep her safest.

      • SKATERAK says:

        Yes. Modesty is cultural. In fact, I’d bet my arm that most rape and sexual abuse of women occurs in societies when women are normally heavily covered and opportunities for men and women to mix socially are limited. I read a report that said that one reason why women are forbidden to drive in Saudi Arabia is for their own safety as kidnaps and rape attacks on lone women is high in that country. Was I a Saudi father, would I send my daughter off to drive saying she should be safe and it’s entirely the fault of the man who attacks her, or do I keep her safe before she gets attacked?

        I think there are many types of sexual abuses. There is what many people might think of as rape. One person sexually forcing themselves onto another.

        Having thought this through more today I think I was discussing a situation where teens, say, are exploited by their peers – say at parties or even while dating.

        Our children must learn that females and males are different. It’s very PC to claim boys and girls are pretty much the same and do the same things. I don’t believe this is a healthy, honest or helpful way of raising children. Male and female are very different and while it may be safe for girls (or boys) to act a certain way in single sex situations, to grow as responsible adults, I believe they should learn how their behaviour and choices are interpreted and understood by the opposite sex.

        Education about differences is crucial. Not just to get through the teenage years, but for strong marriages and generally healthy relationships through life.

        It is saddening to see the normalisation of crimes and abuse, even among teens. It plays on my mind when I think about my sons being teens before very long. Pornography, alcohol, peer pressure, a lack of a moral compass make secondary schools and the whole transition from childhood to adulthood and difficult place. It’s hard for us as parents to watch. Imagine what it is/will be like for our children to go through.

        I’m thinking of moving them to Antarctica for a while.

  4. Thank you for putting this together Thalia. I find myself feeling useless in the face of stories I hear, and this was a helpful reminder of ways to engage. I particularly loved the sections on empowering children and creating a culture of empathy and consent. I have a seven month old son, and one of my many hopes for him is that he will grow up to recognise the intrinsic worth of those around him, and be brave to try to look out for others who are being treated poorly. Those sections in particular were hugely helpful in terms of realising practical ways to engage with him now – and reassuring too, as I realise that my husband and I are at least attempting most of these things already!

  5. Tracey says:

    Thalia, this is a very well written and researched article, and I agree with the importance of teaching our sons to understand what kindness, bravery, and decent behaviour towards girls women look like. However, I’m also the mother of two girls, and so I’m very concerned by some attitudes that I have been reading about (not on this blog). Basically that it should be fine for young women to wear revealing clothing, and go out and get drunk, without the fear of being molested, assaulted, or raped. The reality is that these are not safe choices, and I have full intentions of educating my daughters on the risks of doing such things, also on the art of self defense. Now I need to state that in that I in no way believe that those girls in Auckland, also the girl in Steubenville OH, in any way at all deserved what happened to them. I am praying for their healing, and for justice. But I struggle with the notion that young women should not be taught to use their common sense to protect themselves, and also that they feel the need to dress in such a way. Any young woman – her boobs and legs are not who she is. Neither is the person she becomes when she gets drunk. She should not feel that this is a good way to get male attention. Or that this is how she “expresses herself” – because this is not healthy behaviour. I think that I would die inside if one of my girls left the house (or attempted to) dressed in revealing clothing, because I will have failed in teaching them how special and loved they are, and also how to keep themselves safe. I suppose the question that this article provokes for me is; “How also, should we educate our daughters?”

    • Hi Tracey,

      As I said above to SKATERAK and Andy, I think the questions of healthy dressing and rape culture are actually separate things.

      We can’t solve rape culture by wrapping our kids in lots of clothes. We can solve it by developing a better culture of consent and respect.

      I think they’re separate questions, but still both vital, and I really like your thoughts about nurturing girls’ self-esteem so they have adequate ways to express themselves and develop identity without relying on physical appearance – that will have a spin-off in terms of modesty, if that’s your aim, and also I’d hope in terms of buying into the beauty myth.

  6. Rod Robson says:

    One of my boys and his friends also have this ethic of looking out for girls who have got themselves plastered at parties, and seeing them home. Needless to say, they are never short of girlfriends.

    I have heard it said by the supporters of the young men in Auckland that some of their victims knew what they were getting into, and so had to take the consequences of their choices. ‘Consent’ is very doubtful when you are in a social situation where all the power is held by the other, in this case a group of young that you might be trying to get in with. The same dynamic was present with the Louise Nicholls scenario of a few years ago, can an 18 year old truly consent to group sex with three policemen who are considerably older than her? I see here a failure of parenting, I would like to think that if one of my sons was involved in this that I would be taking him to the police station to confess and to take responsibility for what he had done.

    • Hi Rod,

      It’s just lovely to hear that your boys are living out the kind of teenage years we are dreaming of. Well done.

      I agree about the consent problem. I think teenage boys are well served by discussions of sort-of consent versus enthusiastic consent – there’s a lot of subtle communication going on that some of them may just not be aware of.

      • Andy says:

        Hence the need to say clearly that the safest place to have sex is within a lifelong monogamous relationship (marriage).

        Which isn’t to deny the existence of rape within marriage, only to say that if men treated their wives the way we are called to in the bible, it’d be as common as a truly uncommon thing.

        Can a society exist sanely if it relies wholly on rights and not on responsibilities? You have the right, for instance, to drink alcohol, but you have the attendant responsibility to ensure that your consumption does not expose yourself or others to harm (such as by driving while drunk, or getting into a fight as you’re an “angry” drunk as opposed to a “quiet” drunk)?

        • SKATERAK says:

          No means no. Definitely, but being smart also helps. We had a case here of a Norwegian (I think) lady who travelled here with her boss. Spent the day socialising together, went drinking together in the evening and then went back to share a hotel room. They slept together and in the morning she went to the police accusing him of rape.

          • Pippa says:

            I admit, I checked back in tonight to try and see if someone had found an elegant way to comment on this. Its been gnawing at me since I read it 24 hours ago. I am sorry Skaterak I don’t get what your point is. In my view, everything that happened up until an alleged rape is ok. Why shouldn’t men and women socialise together? Why shouldn’t they drink together? Why shouldn’t they, when staying in hotels go back to each other’s room? You say they slept together as if it was consensual. She went to the police the next day and accused him of rape, which indicates that she does not believe that it was consensual.

            To expand my point, and the issue of rape within marriage has been raised elsewhere in these comments, my husband and I have had sex many times.We may occasionally have a few drinks together. We always sleep in the same bed together. But you know what, if he or I didn’t want sex one day/night, and said no, or indicated in a different way it wasn’t what we wanted, and the other carried on – that would be sexual assault. Why is it different in the scenario you’ve detailed above?

  7. pstyle says:

    I don’t think one can labour this point enough: Rape is not a “sex scandal”. It’s a criminal act. Doing it does not make you “scandalous” it makes you a criminal.

    Thanks for writing this article.

  8. Caroline says:

    Going back to the original story: That’s horrific (hadn’t heard anything about it from the UK). Both the acts of rape and the reaction from the police / DJs. With regard to the police not taking action, surely the question of consent / non-consent is not relevant if the girls are underage – doesn’t that make it a criminal act anyway?

    • Hi Caroline,
      Yes, it is indeed horrific. Some of the alleged victims were underage, some weren’t. The police’s position is that they need any victim to be willing to make a formal complaint for a prosecution to be viable.

      One would think that if they had confiscated all the alleged offenders’ phones and computers in the TWO YEARS they were watching them, they could have found all the evidence they needed without relying on the girls’ evidence. That’s just one of the awful things about the case.

      • Andy says:

        WIth all the recorded evidence, you’d think the police would know the victims and could present to them a package of measures to try to minimise the trauma of testifying.

        without the testimony of a victim, the accused could readily claim that the captured evidence was all bravado and that the sex was consensual.

    • Alex says:

      Thanks for sharing that here, Thalia. I think she is spot on. As both she and you and others have identified, we urgently need a shift in the understanding of the notion of consent away from the absence of “no” and towards the whole-hearted enthusiastic presence of “yes”. I get sick to my stomach every time I hear of a case that is dismissed because it is “not clear” whether there was consent – to my mind, if it was not clear, then there was no consent. (Particularly, “too drunk to say no” can never equal “yes”.)
      I have been following your post and the ensuing discussion with interest, and have nearly leapt in with comments of my own on several occasions. But I have found myself to be less than capable of writing the measured, calm and kind words you have found to articulate most of what I’m thinking, so I am going to carry on censoring myself and will leave the debate to those who are able to remain more rational. Suffice to say that, as the mother of both a boy and a girl, I find this whole topic disturbing beyond measure. Keeping them both safe from this culture will be, I think, one of our hardest tasks as parents. I hope to be able to teach both of them about kindness, respect (of self and others) and decency as they grow. Thank you for offering some practical suggestions on this.

  9. […] “It is astonishing that in light of the nationwide outcry and soul-searching that arose over the Roast Busters’ incident, and the sexual callousness of some young men towards women, Auckland Council is about to allow a […]

  10. […] existing for the pleasure of others (usually men), that makes it harder for them to fight through rape culture to approach women in healthy […]

  11. […] off the top of my head – men’s violence in our culture, poverty and crime, misogyny, rape culture, parenting skills and raising kids who know how to handle their anger and emotions… Or maybe […]

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