First published on Monday the 9th of November, 2015, this piece was the most-loved Villainesse story of 2015.
New Zealand, 2013. A group of young men start a club called the ‘Roast Busters’. They ply young women with alcohol and allegedly rape them, sharing the videos online. The police are called in. Nothing happens.
New Zealand, 2015. A group of young men start a private facebook group. They ply young women with alcohol and drape their genitals over their faces, sharing the pictures online. The police are called in. Nothing happens.
It’s a sickening theme in our Kiwi youth culture, sexual violence. Young men get girls drunk and treat them like sexual objects, existing only for their sexual gratification. They post pictures and videos online, intending to humiliate and bully their young victims while bolstering their own sexual bravado.
Sometimes the police are called. Many times, as crime reporting statistics tell us, they are not. And time and time again, even with a glut of photographic and video evidence, no charges are laid. Men committing criminal acts are allowed to walk free, while their victims deal with trauma and shame, sometimes for years after the fact.
What I really want to know is: what the fuck is going on in our culture that allows young men to think that this sort of behaviour is okay? Is it a sense of security provided by our [seemingly inept] police force? A lack of education? Deeply entrenched sexism or even misogyny? Hyper-masculinity? A sense of entitlement to women’s bodies? What, if anything, is running through these young men’s heads when they act like monsters?
What makes a young man think that it’s okay to drape his penis over an unconscious girl’s face, take a photo of it and post it online? And why the hell would that seem like a good idea in the first place?
Teenagers wanting to have sex is old news, but sexually assaulting young girls is a mind-boggling leap. You can’t tell me that those young men waving their balls around young girls’ faces were acting out of lust. Somewhere along the line the messages about what sex really should be about; connecting with another person, experiencing pleasure, respecting someone, wanting someone who wants you back, perhaps even loving someone, seem to have been warped in the most disturbing way.
Getting girls drunk and assaulting them has absolutely nothing to do with sex and everything to do with power. Having the power to do to someone what you please, then sharing private and non-consensual photographs for your own personal gratification is the behaviour of a predator, not a lustful teenager.
We desperately need to talk about sex. About what it is, and what it isn’t. It is totally normal for teens to want to experiment, but when the lion’s share of information about sex is coming from online porn, movies, TV and the darkest corners of the internet, it’s little wonder that perceptions about sexuality are becoming skewed. Shutting down these streams of information is not the answer, and it's frankly impossible to do so anyway.
What we need to do is educate our young people about sex and sexuality, about consent and pleasure and respect and relationships. We need to create safe spaces for conversations about sex in 2015, equipping our young people with the tools and knowledge they need to make good decisions about sex and relationships. For the sake of both our young women and our young men.
Because the last thing any of us want is for our young men to be facing sexual assault charges. If the justice system ever actually did something about these cases, that is. Teaching teens about consent is vital to protect our young people.
And for those who are discomforted by the idea of talking to teenagers about sex I’ll put it plainly: isn’t it better to educate our young people about how to have sex respectfully, consensually and safely than to send them out into the world hoping that they’ll instinctively know that the absence of a ‘no’ is not consent? Are we acting responsibly when we send our young people out to navigate the hormonally and emotionally-charged minefield of sexual relationships without doing our best to give them all of the information and guidance we possibly can?
Roast Busters was a driving force in the creation of #MyBodyMyTerms and it saddens me to no end that we are now facing a second instalment. As a nation we need to wake up, take responsibility and change our culture. How many more young women [and young men] have to be victimised before we finally act?Support Villainesse