Corporate media: Blame it on the alcohol

Written By: - Date published: 8:30 am, March 15th, 2018 - 87 comments
Categories: alcohol, feminism - Tags: , ,

Yesterday’s herald featured this cartoon, which may have set me off on a rant elsewhere:

One News also broadcast perfectly innocent footage from the party for some unfathomable reason, violating privacy of people completely unrelated to this incident. (fortunately, you can no longer find the footage online for TV One, but if you feel like violating the privacy of a bunch of people who presumably did not in any way enable this situation, you can for some reason still find the footage at Newsroom, its original home, or The Herald)  There have also been gleeful headline attempts to paint Megan Woods as somehow irresponsible for forwarding on the concerns of a young woman who attended the Young Labour camp, which is absolutely unfair. (RNZ’s article previously had a similar headline, but has been updated, if people want to see how it’s done) However even RNZ has had many hours of making the same mistake as commercial media and treating this like some story about Political Crisis Management, rather than about sexual assault, what causes it, and how public and private organizations can properly meet their duty of care and prevent it, or support people who have survived it. (An illuminating example is listening to Guyon grill Labour on Morning Report about not reporting the incident to the police, and then later on in the same show they had an expert on who informed them very casually that actually letting survivors lead the process and decide when or if to contact the police, their parents, etc… is the least harmful thing to do for their particular case) It is also worth noting that apparently this story broke without any warning to some the survivors of the sexual assault, which really to me seems like the very least a reporter who thinks they’re doing this story for good reasons should do. This reporting has, taken as a whole, monumentally failed to respect the wishes and centre the interests of the people it is supposedly trying to help.

Now, I don’t know if any of this is nefarious, (and to some degree the blame surely belongs on the first-first-first management incentives imposed on online news environments, which we can discuss later) and I’m not trying to imply any particular biased motive here so much as a failure of reporting to be socially responsible and helpful, but while the camp organizers admittedly made a mistake by not sufficiently supervising the camp to prevent underage drinking, and an exploration of the dark sides of NZ’s boozy social culture is long overdue, (really, we could have another every year and not be doing too many) it is by all accounts not the heart of this story, and in fact the strong narrative around Alcohol from the National Party and its integration into all these stories strikes me as a mischievous distraction from caring about these four young people who have been sexually assaulted, and stopping future assaults. This isn’t to say the survivors might not want it addressed too, but it is to say that the focus on it is already unhelpfully out of touch and unintegrated with the other social problems involved.

The core problem as I see it is that a fifth young person, although not as young, thought it was okay to do this. A drunk person might be more likely to sexually assault someone than a sober person, sure, but, and here’s the key bit: It will never happen unless they think, on some level, it’s okay, or funny, or not-such-a-big-deal, to touch someone sexually without their enthusiastic1 and ongoing2 consent.

This was also a much older man than the four survivors involved, which suggests he also didn’t consider that he has an extra responsibility when he is attracted to people significantly younger than him to treat them with care and respect due to the implicit power imbalance.

None of this happens without young men growing up in a society that believes, on some level, it is normal to touch people without consent. It is normal to disrespect their agency, and their ownership of their bodies. It is, sadly, normal to harass, assault, or rape people in New Zealand. There is a word for that, and that word is rape culture. (yes, those are all different links, from the actual top of my head, and boy would I love to hear some people in news linking these things together and suggesting the same things might be behind all of them)

The idea that just getting drinking out of environments for young people will fix sexual assault to the degree we need to seems laughable. It will move the places young people are drinking around, not eliminate them3. People at these places will always be impaired, and will always therefore be at increased risk of sexual assault, and while I agree we should have supervised drinking if at all at any event containing young people over 18, you will note nobody is suggesting careful supervision and parental consent for situations in which young people might be similarly impaired, such as when they’re grieving a loved one’s passing, or have just broken up.

People who need impaired victims to commit sexual assault will still find them among sad people, high people, and lonely people. People who will only commit sexual assault while impaired will still do it, even if we magically eliminate all drinking in the culture of young New Zealanders, (and that is definitely a hypothetical) because they too can find or happen to be in situations that will impede their judgement. There are arguably a few people out there whose unconscious attitudes are unhealthy, but whose conscious mind checks them, who will maybe be stopped by ensuring responsible parties for teenagers- but those people will still grow up to an age at which they can’t be supervised, and may still manage to sexually assault someone if the primary cause of their being willing to do so is not addressed.

So let’s all agree the contributory factors are relevant, (and do deserve to be discussed on their own merits) but are not the heart of the story. What can we do to address the real causes of sexual assault?

With thanks to the-day-before-yesterday’s thread and numerous other sources, I have a laundry list of things you can do, and they largely involves changing our culture as boys and men: (I make no claims that it is exhaustive or even contains the best solution in it)

  • If you’re a parent, ensure your boys have age-appropriate, comprehensive sex education, preferably a typo that’s not hetero- and cis-normative so they don’t also assault queer people. Advocate the value of this to parents you know if you can do so in a socially appropriate manner.
  • Push for said comprehensive sex education to be made available as the default sexual education in all New Zealand schools. (petition in the link) For those who don’t know, comprehensive sex education is fact-based, non-ideological, and for those with more conservative politics, it also encourages everyone to respect decisions not to have sex, as well as being proven to reduce teenage pregnancy and even abortion rates more than any other type of sex education. Comprehensive sex ed is one of the least controversial social policies out there among people who accept evidence on social policy, especially as New Zealand still lets parents opt their kids out of sex ed lessons if they have ideological objections. The Villianesse and The Wireless recently teamed up to do a series coming from this same perspective, if you want an example.
  • Become a feminist, and encourage men you know well to do so, too. Respect for women and rape culture are water and oil- they don’t mix, at least not if you’re genuine about said respect. This is the best way to fight rape culture, but yes, it is ideological. The radical ideology that women are people of equal value, too, but I suppose for some that is a bridge too far.
  • Don’t allow your workplace or family to disrespect women, or your other peers for that matter. As above, there is a huge overlap between misogyny and rape culture, to the point that many men who rape men do so while using misogynistic language. Allowing people to say things that objectify women makes them think you’re not really willing to oppose rape4. If you wouldn’t say it to a woman’s face in cold blood, don’t say it at all. If you could include all the various types of queer/rainbow people and other races in your anti-discrimination measures too, that’d be extra great.
  • Accept that if you or someone you know is attracted to someone younger than them, they have a duty to be extra sure that the other person is consenting freely, and that they’re making their partner’s life better by being in it. (even if it’s just for a very short time) Acknowledging consciously that there’s a power imbalance will help set their subconscious right. This is one way the young man who caused this whole upsetting saga could have avoided it. There are obviously situations this rule also applies to, and the rule generally works well: the responsibility is on the person with more power in the relationship to be conscious, careful and considerate of the power dynamic.
  • If you or someone you know is attracted to someone at work, or at an event that’s not primarily social, maybe they should just ask for their number and spill their feelings/make your move in a more social environment, preferably when they’re sober. That increases their chance to be sure if they say yes, respects their boundaries, and helps you be sure you’re on firm ground. This is another way the young man could have avoided hurting other people.
  • Accept that many women are much more intimidated by potential partners than men when you assess if your behaviour is appropriate. Things men would think of as not a big deal if someone did to them, like walking behind them for a long period of time, or stopping them on the street to talk when they don’t want to stop, can be perceived as threatening or creepy. If in doubt, ask a women (or appropriate other person for issues not about male-female dynamics) who you trust to tell you if you’re out of line whether you would give the wrong impression doing something. It is better to ask and be maybe a little embarrassed than to hurt someone and potentially feel guilty when you figure out why.
  • Do address New Zealand booze culture, but accept that it’s actually a mostly-separate issue that only makes this one a bit worse in some cases.
  • Do address that hormones can be difficult to deal with sometimes, but don’t imply to young men that they don’t have to be in control of themselves or their hormones, or take responsibility for their actions.
  • Do address inappropriate work culture or hookup culture in other places, but don’t stop at the drinking or office in-dating and procedures around it. Work should be a place everyone feels comfortable doing their job. Likewise for certain other non-work activities that are possibly necessary, like say, political parties.

In short: Let’s not let the mainstream media distract us by trying to make this story about how much people were drinking. It is about four young people who were hurt by the actions of a fifth young person, whether those four were appropriately cared for, (which I think we all agree is a “no” now in at least some respects?) what actions we’ve taken to specifically address the behaviour of the fifth, (yeah, he’s being charged, but has anyone considered offering him some education to give him tools to better control his behaviour in the future?) and to address the systemic risks that led us here, both in the running of any future camps associated with the Labour Party, and in the culture in general as per this post.

And, seeing you got through the whole thing, here is your reward courtesy of the multi-talented Stephanie Rodgers:


Footnotes/Cleanup
1 Compare: “Okay, yeah.” vs “Oh, yes!” Contrast one affirmative signal to several, in succession. You get the picture. This is why “mixed signals” isn’t a problem you should be talking about regarding consent- mixed signals mean no until otherwise clarified, and aren’t an excuse for harassment.
2 One “yes” or affirmative body language or incident of enthusiastic participation is not an indemnity against someone changing their mind, people. When you are at traffic lights, you check that the light has stayed green as you approach the intersection, you don’t check it was green once then never look again.
3 Although there is good research saying trying to minimize youth drinking does minimize harm, my point is it won’t completely eliminate places where under-age drinking occurs, and that’s all you need for people to commit sexual assault. Anything less than complete prohibition is just moving this problem around to the degree it’s intentional or systemic, and many women seem to think it’s at least one of these two in basically every case. There may be some incidental gains, but the biggest gains will be in preventing to harm caused by drinking.
4 This is where the often-misquoted feminist argument “every man is a rapist” comes from- it’s actually “every man is potentially a rapist,” as in, there is literally no way to find out for sure if a man won’t rape someone when you’re experiencing rape culture, other than by giving them a chance to. Even some men who were vocally anti-rape have committed rape in the past, and tried to excuse it, and the appalling prevalence of this problem will continue until all men are very clear that it’s not okay, not even a little, to dehumanize anyone, but especially women.

(for an example of “moving the problem around”: Young Labour or any other organization bans drinking altogether at any camps they organize or associate their organization with, but takes no steps to reform the person who did this, and the government makes no aggressive moves to help curb the causes of sexual violence- whoops, the next incident just happens somewhere else, possibly even with the same young man causing it, and all we’ve done is maybe have one organization wash their hands of the problem, and even then, maybe only temporarily)

Pic credit: Amin Allen Tabrizi

87 comments on “Corporate media: Blame it on the alcohol”

  1. Sam C 1

    God Matthew, give it a rest. We get it. You’re sorry for being a man.

    Meanwhile, the rest of us will just get on with life, trying to find a way through this macho, white male, privileged, enabling etc shithole that must be NZ.

    [No, I won’t give it a rest. I’m not actually sorry for being a man, (although I may be sorry that certain other people are) don’t put words in my mouth. The rest of your comment, though clearly intended as ironic, is actually quite correct. Don’t troll. Kia ora. -MjW]

  2. Carolyn_Nth 2

    Very good post, Matthew.

    I do think the corporate media has handled this issue quite badly – as you say more from the kind of news values that dominate mainstream media’s attempts to attract clicks and ratings.

    Catriona MacLennan’s piece on Spinoff this morning is also worth a read: NZ’s failure on sexual misconduct is much, much bigger than any one case

    She refers to various cases in NZ over recent years, from ponytail pulling to Russell McVeagh and the Young Labour Summer Camp.

    MacLennan identifies 5 common threads through all of them. Most of them add up to not taking the issue seriously enough, and to diminishing it’s importance – even though more attention has been given to it in recent times.

    She concludes nothing much will change because, ultimately it’s about power – and too often it’s being reinforced by those who prefer to keep women in a secondary social and economic position.

    • Matthew Whitehead 2.1

      Oh cool, Catriona and I must have been working on this at the same time! (I drafted this yesterday, but waited to run it by Weka so I wasn’t unintentionally bulldozing any concerns of women on the site)

      The Spinoff is doing progressively better coverage, I just haven’t made a habit yet of browsing it given previous focus on Auckland and a sort of blue-green moderate millenial focus in the past, but maybe I should reconsider that given recent performance.

      I agree the intent of anyone deliberately not doing joined-up thinking here is minimization, ignoring women, and deflection. I don’t think that necessarily means nothing will change this time, although it may mean that the change we achieve isn’t enough to actually fix the problem entirely. I hope we can make some meaningful progress though.

      • weka 2.1.1

        I read The Spinoff mostly off people tweeting something from them, so I’m probably getting a different bias.

        I think there is potential for Labour to change and use this current issue as an opportunity to drive that, but agree it depends on whether they truly want to address the power dynamics, and my sense is that Labour still predominantly operates a base line hierarchy that may be at odds with that despite there being lot of good people in the party wanting to do the right things.

        The deeper issue of why the person assaulted others is largely outside of Labour’s control, although they have a lot of power there to effect societal because they are in govt.

      • Carolyn_Nth 2.1.2

        Like weka, I got the link from a tweet in my twitter feed today.I don’t usually browse Spinoff.

        the whole issue certainly has a lot to do with power and control.

        One thing I’ve been thinking about, with respect to power and control, is the ambivalent position in this respect for 16 yr olds.

        Most sexual abuse organisations say it should be up to the young person to choose whether or not to go to the police or tell their parents.

        Some, from I suspect, a parent’s perspective, want the parents and/or police to be told whether the 16 yr old wants it or not.

        eg Bomber Bradbury did a post that was all about the parents being told. Yesterday –Finlay Macdonald had an OP published (on RNZ) about the responsibilities of adults in supervising teenage parties, much of which I would agree with.

        However, Macdonald implies that it was putting too much responsibility on 16 yr olds for them to make the decision to inform the police:

        withholding information, shifting the option to report an alleged crime to the young victims

        Allowing the victims to make the decision should be OK if they are given adequate support.

        The Labour Youth Camp abuse seems to have arisen in a situation where Labour gave a lot of control to young people. I can see good reasons for doing this.

        So, it does involve some judgement about recognising 16 yr olds are adult under some laws, not others. And it needs recognition of the balancing of their autonomy, rights and responsibilities, with the times when supervision from an older person is appropriate.

        Beyond that, in keeping with Matthew’s post, it’s also about adults providing models of appropriate behaviour in social settings.

        • Matthew Whitehead 2.1.2.1

          Yeah, that last bit about modelling behaviour and setting clear boundaries against unwanted outcomes is well-supported for parenting in general and alcohol harm reduction, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it applies well to fighting rape culture, too.

  3. Cinny 3

    Thank you so very much for this post, it’s awesome.

    Have been sexually assaulted by sober as well as drunk men as a teenager. As an adult I’ve been sexually assaulted by sober men only, often in the work place, as well as up town.

    Yesterday we put up a poster at home about saying no and touching etc, on the fridge where everyone can see it, all the kids come here to socialise, they all raid the fridge, poster will generate conversation.

    What to do… speak up if you see it happening. Make it unacceptable.

    Example, was out clubbing in Wellington not so long ago, headed back to the car to meet up with friends (yup sober driver), saw this woman giving a guy a really hard time, following him, harrassing him, he was holding back, she wouldn’t stop. So my girlfriend and I did something about it and stuck up for the poor fella, told her to leave him alone, he was rapt, we stayed with him until she was long gone. Gender doesn’t matter, if you see it happening, do something about it, doing nothing is not an option for me anymore.

    • Matthew Whitehead 3.1

      Cheers, and a fair point that emotional abuse is also not okay. Kia ora.

    • Tracey 3.2

      This ^^^^^^^^

    • Tracey 3.3

      ALL disrespect and devaluing of others is not ok. Good on you for standing by that chap, many would not.

      • Cinny 3.3.1

        Someone had to, she had him cornered against a wall. Will say it’s easier to say something when you’ve friend with you or if one is confident.

        We need confident youth, youth that feel good about themselves, youth that can find their ‘passion/calling’ at school. Diverse education, not just english/math etc. So looking forward to the changes in our education sector, long, long overdue.

  4. Draco T Bastard 4

    This reporting has, taken as a whole, monumentally failed to respect the wishes and centre the intersts of the people it is supposedly trying to help.

    The reporting was never for the victims but attacking Labour.

    and in fact the strong narrative around Alcohol from the National Party and its integration into all these stories strikes me as a mischievous distraction

    From the fact that it was under a National government that alcohol became far more readily available and deregulated in the 1990s which then went on to cause a huge amount of harm?

    None of this happens without young men growing up in a society that believes, on some level, it is normal to touch people without consent.

    What makes you think it’s only men?

    At work the other day I had a woman come up to me, grab me by the arm, rub her breasts against me and then leave with a snarky comment. She obviously thought such actions were normal and acceptable.

    But we do have to consider context. There’s the business schools that teach people to touch to ‘build rapport’ to make the deal easier. And then there’s the cultures where touching is far more prevalent and a normal part of the culture but which has far less sexual assault than NZ.

    What about NZ makes it so bad? Is it the social disintegration caused by capitalism and radical individualism? Hyper-conservative social attitudes that has normal human interaction hidden from children?

    • JohnSelway 4.1

      “The reporting was never for the victims but attacking Labour.”

      Would you say the same if the exact same thing happened but involved the Young Nats? All the same variables – just change the party affiliation? I think we both know what your response would be – however much you lie to yourself

      “From the fact that it was under a National government that alcohol became far more readily available and deregulated in the 1990s which then went on to cause a huge amount of harm?”

      Got a cite for that?

      “At work the other day I had a woman come up to me, grab me by the arm, rub her breasts against me and then leave with a snarky comment. She obviously thought such actions were normal and acceptable.”

      I went to party in my youth and there was a woman there I had turned down on many occasions but she wouldn’t take a hint. She proceeded to ply me with alcohol then “help me home” after I had too much. She had sex with me while I was half conscious and had no idea what was going on. The next morning I felt terrible about the whole thing and could barely look at myself in the mirror. I’m sure a lot of men have a similar story

      • Draco T Bastard 4.1.1

        Would you say the same if the exact same thing happened but involved the Young Nats?

        I’d be highly surprised if it even got reported if it happened at a Young Nats.

        Got a cite for that?

        Provided in the link that I provided.

        • JohnSelway 4.1.1.1

          “I’d be highly surprised if it even got reported if it happened at a Young Nats.”

          Your subjective opinion isn’t evidence of anything. And doesn’t actually answer the question I posed to you. There is no way, if this were the Young Nats you would think “The reporting was never for the victims but attacking National” – you’d be calling for heads to roll.

          “Provided in the link that I provided.”

          Which link? There are several. Also recent statistics show harm and alcohol abuse is decreasing

          • Cinny 4.1.1.1.1

            Will save you the trouble of researching or browsing the above for links re alcohol and how national allowed booze in supermarkets and lowered the drinking age johnselway. I’m helpful like that 🙂

            This from 1999 under the national government

            “Prime Minister Jenny Shipley called on New Zealand to develop a culture of moderation as the lower drinking age comes into effect.” And how has that worked out??

            Drinking age lowered to 18 years; Sunday trading; Tougher penalties for traders caught selling to underage drinkers, and, instant fines for people underage caught drinking.

            http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA9911/S00633/prime-minister-welcomes-lower-drinking-age.htm

            Funny thing about alcohol… it seems to be NZ’s drug of choice…. explains the usual backlash when anyone talks about raising the age etc.

            This from 21 May 2015..
            “Young men aged 18 to 24 have the worse drinking rate with 43 per cent showing hazardous drinking patterns.

            But the report showed the patterns are even worse among young people with estimates suggesting over one in three people aged 12 to 16 engage in binge drinking.

            Eight in 10 people aged 16 to 17 years had consumed alcohol during the past year, with 71 per cent consuming a large amount at least once and 36 per cent drinking at least once a week, the report said.”

            http://thewireless.co.nz/articles/doctors-say-raise-drinking-age

            • Cinny 4.1.1.1.1.1

              national government votes to keep the drinking age at 18

              http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/7583799/Status-quo-Drinking-age-stays-at-18

            • Psycho Milt 4.1.1.1.1.2

              And how has that worked out??

              Pretty well, really. Try coaxing a middle-class person into getting pissed with you these days, you’d have better luck trying to persuade them to set fire to their cat.

            • Tricledrown 4.1.1.1.1.3

              Police were to enforce this legislation but National cut Police funding.
              The Royal enquiry found that alcohol needed much tougher sanctions and reduction in accesability .
              National failed to implement most recommended changes.

              • Cinny

                So glad they are gone Tricledrown.

                • Tricledrown

                  What’s this govt going to do about the $6 billion damage alchol does to our economy every year and the 550 deaths alcohol causes.

                  • Cinny

                    Really good question.

                  • What’s this government going to do about the fact that Homo Sapiens loves recreational drug use? You might as well ask what it’s going to do about the weather.

                    • Anon

                      Actually Labour already promised to treat the weather (climate) like this eras nuclear issue. And there’s a lot that can be done about recreational drug use: access, quality, education, health care, harm prevention – including reducing the social ills that lead people down destructive paths rather than healthy ones regarding not just recreational drugs, but also sex, gambling, diet, social behaviour…

                    • The weather and climate are different things. Also, the commenter above isn’t asking what the government’s going to do to reduce the social ills that lead people down destructive paths – their intent is a lot more punitive.

          • Draco T Bastard 4.1.1.1.2

            There is no way, if this were the Young Nats you would think “The reporting was never for the victims but attacking National” – you’d be calling for heads to roll.

            I did answer it – I believe it wouldn’t be reported at all.
            The logic is simple:
            Young Nats have get togethers same as Young Labour – chances are that there’s alcohol involved (I recall a pic of DPF at one such party) and some inappropriate behaviour – these have not been reported.

            • JohnSelway 4.1.1.1.2.1

              You didn’t answer it – to repeat:
              Would you say the same if the exact same thing happened but involved the Young Nats? All the same variables – just change the party affiliation?

              (note I say “all the same variables” i.e in the exact same circumstances)

              And whether or not there is inappropriate behaviour that hasn’t been reported is pure speculation and beside the point.

              • Draco T Bastard

                Would you say the same if the exact same thing happened but involved the Young Nats? All the same variables – just change the party affiliation?

                Yes I would – I just don’t think it would be reported at all if it was the National Party in the firing line. If it was reported it would be reported differently, instead of how bad the way that they handled the situation it would be glowing accounts of how well they had handled it and that they’d done everything right.

            • Carolyn_Nth 4.1.1.1.2.2

              Well, the Young Nats is a whole other ball game (sorry pun). George FM infiltrator at a young nats’ ball 2014 – tis a culture of its own.

              And then there’s these pics from the Young Nats’ Ball in 2012 – no one seemed bothered by the old predator ponytail puller dropping in to get some selfies with young women.

              It seems to be a place where many people are there to be seen – so probably on their best behaviour – at least for the cameras.

          • Tracey 4.1.1.1.3

            I agree some would be frothing at the opportunity to score political points over national if they were in this position. None of which will change this from happening again and the perpetual creation of new victims continues.

            I know many women and two men who were sexually assaulted as children. ALL but 1 was raped or sexually assaulted in the absence of alcohol. One rape victim was drunk but her rapist was sober.

            Alcohol isn’t the problem here. Nor is it whether it happened at National or Labour party function, a law firm, after Sunday dinner or whatever. It’s that it happens, and when we get diverted away from source causes to peripheral ones, we make ourselves feel better but change nothing.

            • JohnSelway 4.1.1.1.3.1

              As far as I get it those who act in such a way because of alcohol already had it in them – alcohol just brings it to the surface.

              I used to have severe issues with alcohol so I gave it up however I never acted anything but as a gentlemen around woman, no matter how drunk I was, because that type of behaviour isn’t in me.

      • Tracey 4.1.2

        “I’m sure a lot of men have a similar story”

        Your male friends and family haven’t shared? What do you mean by “terrible”? Did you think to report it to anyone, to tell anyone? To seek help?

        • AB 4.1.2.1

          Tracey – lots of men have experienced unwanted attention from women including touching. It’s doesn’t happen that often, and for me it was NEVER scary. It can be awkward and hard to handle in a workplace , but mostly it’s just irritating and easily shrugged off/forgotten.
          I think that absence of fear is a big difference, so that’s why I’m a little sceptical of the “it happens to us too” response from men.
          My two cents anyway.

        • JohnSelway 4.1.2.2

          Terrible as in “I wish that never happened” and a feeling like I was dirty and felt used.

          I didn’t speak out

          • Carolyn_Nth 4.1.2.2.1

            Unfortunately, there seems to have been a trend internationally for many women to think it’s cool to sexually objectify men in a reversal of the long tradition of it mainly coming from men. It is seen as being equal I guess.

            But then, I’m an old foggie who thinks it’s not a respectful or helpful way to behave if we want a more equal society.

            I think popular culture probably helped cultivate the image of female equality as in Madonna and Sex and the City – still happily conforming with consumerist ideals and a narrow definition of female attractiveness.

            • Matthew Whitehead 4.1.2.2.1.1

              I think there’s a certain amount of leeway to the reverse trend though given how long it’s not been okay for women to even talk about their own sexual agency in any sort of public way, and I think feminists have in general been really good at gently steering young women away from looking at men in those terms.

              If we’re looking at Problems Caused By More Sexual equality, so far it mostly seems to be that some young men are beginning to get body image issues too, which really sucks.

              • Carolyn_Nth

                Yes there’s some leeway. I hope that’s right about feminists steering young women into more productive behaviour, and that that is how things are going.

                But some of my experiences at the turn of the century, as an ex- 2nd wave feminist, weren’t always like that.

                An unfortunate thing about the late 20th century neoliberal turn was the commodification of a selective version of feminism – plus the extension of personal presentation commercial activities to men. So men are no more encouraged to have cut bodies, etc. Not helpful.

      • Lara 4.1.3

        John, I’m so sorry that happened to you. It sounds like rape. And from one survivor to another, I send you a big hug.

        However, it’s rather a stretch to be sure that a lot of men have a similar story. The research I am aware of would say otherwise.

        It’s rare, but I’m aware it happens. And it’s just as traumatic as when genders are reversed. But that does not mean women are raping men in equal numbers to men raping women.

        • JohnSelway 4.1.3.1

          I just don’t think it is talked about because many men don’t feel it as “rape” and would just consider it a sexual encounter they wish they hadn’t taken part in (but would still jeer about with mates not really thinking anything was wrong – if you follow me).

          Do you see what I mean?

        • Anon 4.1.3.2

          So? So that makes it ok to continue to put all the “blame”, for lack of a better word, on men?

          Males mature at a later age than females, so I have to wonder how many males are learning this behaviour as acceptable /because they’ve been taught by their female peers at a young age/.

          And it’s not the sort of thing men talk about, in a society where even the women would offer up sarcastic concrete pills – let alone what men would get from their male peers.

    • Matthew Whitehead 4.2

      Over at least some of the aspects of their handling of this situation, though, Labour deserved attacking, (how do you lose track of what’s going on with survivors of sexual assault! That should surely be at the top of everyone’s to-do list!) and many media orgs that don’t blindly attack Labour engaged in the same behaviour. Viewing this through a partisan lens in a defensive manner is exactly as unhelpful as viewing it through a partisan lens in an offensive manner.

      It’s not “only” men. It is, however, largely the responsibility of men, this incident was by a male offender, and you are ignoring the systemic aspect of the problem if you don’t talk about men’s role. I agree that sexual assault committed by women is a serious issue, too, as rare as it is.

      I think there’s lots of cultural factors at play here as contributing factors in addition to the main ones I identified above, sure. Individualism can make the concepts involved here hard to understand. We’re also very good at denial here in New Zealand, which plays into people being able to pretend there’s no problem. Consumerism plays a part too- I think it encourages an entitlement culture among those with money. Addressing all those things will help, but I think we need to look at the main issues first, and have a real discussion about them before getting too side-tracked.

      As to whether NZ itself is particularly bad: I don’t actually think so. This is just how bad it is everywhere, and a lot of people who’ve listened to women over the years have known that intellectually, but now we’re discovering the emotional reality of it.

      • JohnSelway 4.2.1

        “Over at least some of the aspects of their handling of this situation, though, Labour deserved attacking, and many media orgs that don’t blindly attack Labour engaged in the same behaviour. Viewing this through a partisan lens in a defensive manner is exactly as unhelpful as viewing it through a partisan lens in an offensive manner.”

        +100

  5. esoteric pineapples 5

    I find the parent-child dynamic in all of this the most intriguing part of all this – the parents’ right to know versus their child’s right privacy. I suspect the general consensus among parents is that their rights are paramount (on the grounds of doing what is best for their child). However, I wouldn’t have wanted my parents getting involved in something like this. It would only have made matters ten times worse. In many cases, I expect the parents would take over and start to dominate the situation. By the time children are 16 they have their own inner private life, and things of a sexual nature are amongst the things they feel most private about. They don’t want their awkwardness and embarrassment over the situation broadcast to the whole world, especially when the experience is politicised and ends up as the focus of the whole country, no matter that they weren’t at fault.

    • Matthew Whitehead 5.1

      Yeah, see I don’t even see any tradeoff there at all. I know parents would want to know, but any parent who is looking after the best interests of their kids should want them to tell them when they feel comfortable doing so, so long as they have adequate support, given the experts agree that forcing disclosure without the survivor’s consent is harmful.

      • Anon 5.1.1

        And yet trauma can be extremely difficult to talk about, and even more so sometimes with people you’re close to. Taking it a step further a good parent in that situation might at most make their child aware that they know, and that they’re there any time to talk about it when/if they want/need to. So the only reason I see not to tell parents are the “bad” parents, and that’s good enough reason.

        I have no idea what the process is. I feel that /someone/ should be offering that initial support, whether it’s to offer support in informing parents, referral to counselling, and/or something else.

        Of course all of this presupposes that someone other than the perpetrator and victim knows. What support information (advertising?) is out there aimed at 16-18yr olds? Edit: and to add to the trickiness, just how visible do we want that message when it may be triggering? Or do we argue that triggering would at least A) suggests someone needs help and B) encourage them to seek it? So, so many different ways humans can react…

    • Tracey 5.2

      Children aren’t property is a good place to start. When parents start from that premise and the premise that parenting is work, then you can get closer to what MW says below BUT stresses of several jobs, low pay, high bills can make “normal” parenting even harder.

      We had this discussion over contraception. Should girls (mainly girls right guys?) have to get parental permission to get contraception? We worked out after a long time that if they do, they might not get it, and then we have unwanted children or abortions.

      We do not want our children in a position where they are damned if they do and damned if they are not.

      Most things come back to education, in the home and at school. This 3 party government needs to stop kow towing to the prissy and make some really effective programmes compulsory in ALL schools. Let’s teach our children how to behave in and out of relationships, how to say no, how to be safe and so on.

      • Anon 5.2.1

        Children aren’t property, but they are a parents legal responsibility. We should emphasise guidance rather than control, but at the end of the day a childs actions and wellbeing are a parents responsibility and parents are (or at least society says they should be) accountable.

  6. Chris T 6

    There is an issue about this whole thing that I don’t think has been mentioned in these discussions

    There were 50 other young people there and I’m assuming if it is 4 assaults some of them must have seen them. (Unless it was in the bog or something)

    Did they think it was alright? Ignore it? Speak up and were ignored?

    I guess the police investigation will answer

    • Matthew Whitehead 6.1

      We don’t know that anyone actually saw what happened, Chris, and quite honestly, unless the survivors come out and ask us to consider that, I think we should assume that the other people present have a strong right to privacy, especially given some of them were under 18.

      I would, to be quite honest, rather have the dumb, out-of-touch discussion about political management than discuss the behaviour of anyone not directly involved in this incident at that party.

      It also shouldn’t be on other teenagers to isolate the offender, this is part of the importance of having appropriate supervision, and why it’s so serious that Labour didn’t live up to their duty of care in engaging with this camp.

      If someone did see what happened and stood up, good on them, but these are kids who are still learning, not adults. They deserve to learn how to be adults outside of public scrutiny.

  7. reason 7

    Its often easier to blame drugs ( Alcohol ) …. rather than society ( rape culture ) …. a convenient excuse that protects our culture from examining its failings.

    The deviancy or anger of wanting to assault or rape … has to be present for the alcohol to dis-inhibit into action .

    Corporate media are manipulators working to shape public opinion ….. pushing narratives and working against informed educated citizens…. They promote the interests and world view of corporations .

    They were participants and conduits for Nationals dirty politics hit job on the Law commissions comprehensive investigation and recommendations to lower Alcohol abuse. ….

    Alcohol abuse contributes and adds to New Zealands sexual abuse offending rates …

    It magnifies emotions / moods / urges …. while lowering inhibitions and logical thought…. which brings me to touch on anger and resentment….

    I’ve noticed that when teams or groups of people are treated fairly … a good ‘vibe’ or mood is established and it brings out the best.

    But make people think they are being treated unfairly ….. you’ll create anger, resentment, selfishness and disunity.

    I think a person working a 40hr week…and not being able to house and feed themselves, or keep the power on….. is hugely disrespectful by our society.

    Speculators forcing parents to live in cars and garages with their children is hardly fair either…. I’d feel real fucken angry if I was put in that situation.

    A mean society feeds the anger …. that feeds rape culture and other violence.

    Add excessive Alcohol abuse into this culture …… and thats why NZ features at the top for violence and abuse statistics in the developed world.

    Our media is a dishonest dirty disgrace…. they are part of the problem

    • The Fairy Godmother 7.1

      Indeed I think the media is a huge part of the problem particularly when they promote pornography

      • Matthew Whitehead 7.1.1

        Possibly? I think there’s a fair point to sex-positive idea that sexuality (including masturbation and erotica) are healthy, even if you think the way we do pornography is wrong. For instance, erotic literature has a much more diverse set of views on whether sex should promote equality of the sexes and respectful sexual attitudes than photographic or video pornography has had- most of the problem seems to run alongside commercialization, sadly.

        But yeah, pornography is a hugely relevant dimension to this discussion, (especially ensuring the element of domination, if it’s present, is portrayed in a healthy way that doesn’t have implications to equality in wider society) and I will say that studying anti-pornography feminism in university (in the context of a philosophy paper 😉 ) is what made me realize I needed to be a feminist, so it’s definitely something that has value even if I’m not sure I agree with the viewpoint entirely.

  8. The Fairy Godmother 8

    I think a lot of the problem is pornography and the ideas it promotes about women and sexuality in general. It promotes the idea that women always want it even if they say no and men can therefore take what they want in fact the idea is out there that this is what men do. Even if young men do not take this on board they are not getting the social mores of good old fashioned courtship. The idea of asking someone for a dance perhaps sensing there is mutual attraction tentatively asking if the other person wants to hold hands and so on. I think this would go a long way to combating the rape culture promoted by pornography.

    • I also hear a lot of the problem of school shootings in the US is violent video games.

      • Cinny 8.1.1

        Absolutely agree with you re porn Fairy Godmother, the digital world, available 24/7 anything you like, click the box to say your’e over 18, too easy and free.
        It used to be dog earred mags passed around between friends, worn out video tapes etc, now it’s copy/paste/share en masse.

        “Adolescents who consumed violent pornography were six times more likely to be sexually aggressive compared to those who viewed non-violent pornography or no pornography.” (link is for a study on “The effects of pornography on children and young people” via Aussie government

        PM, ‘agent orange’ aka trump has met with gaming executives re violence in gaming (graphic link from the white house). It’s graphic as now days, sordid, rape options, detailed mass slayings, messed up as.

        None of it would be so common if it wasn’t for the thirst of the dollar by creators/publishers etc.

        Digitally programming our youth to be…….. while adults hold all the choices.

        • Psycho Milt 8.1.1.1

          It’s straightforward confusion of cause and effect. Drinking alcohol doesn’t exist because of the liquor industry, there’s a liquor industry because people like to drink alcohol. Likewise, there aren’t rapists because of rape porn, there’s rape porn because rapists like to watch porn.

          • Drowsy M. Kram 8.1.1.1.1

            All industries/corporates, and (some?) consumers should share responsibility for the harms caused by the ‘consumption’ of potentially (or guaranteed) harmful products, whether they be beer, tobacco, rape porn, guns, fossil-based fuels or whatever.

            If the liquor industry existed solely to cater to an inherent demand, then why is our media saturated with amusing/attractive ads for alcoholic beverages.

            Could it be that, in addition to meeting an inherent ‘demand’ for alcohol, ‘big liquor’ wants as many people as possible to drink as much of their product as they can?

            The latest “Beautiful Truth about Beer” campaign (it’s not even brand-specific) is particularly inane, almost in the realms of drinking beer to combat climate change, and not nearly as funny.

            http://drinktank.org.au/2015/12/the-not-so-beautiful-truth-about-beer/

            http://beertheobvioustruth.com/

            • Psycho Milt 8.1.1.1.1.1

              Could it be that, in addition to meeting an inherent ‘demand’ for alcohol, ‘big liquor’ wants as many people as possible to drink as much of their product as they can?

              Sure. That doesn’t make it any less of a reversal of cause and effect to claim that the liquor industry causes the consumption of alcoholic beverages.

              • Drowsy M. Kram

                What do you think about regulating the advertising of alcohol/tobacco? Responsible, unnecessary, or somewhere in-between?

                How about the now nearly universal practice of selling alcohol in supermarkets? Wasn’t always the case, and still isn’t in a few places. Why would a few supermarkets choose not to contribute to meeting the human desire to consume alcohol? Such sales would be surely be profitable.

                IMO, ‘big liquor’ is not merely meeting a ‘need’, it’s trying to grow (i.e. create greater) ‘need’ across the whole of society, for financial gain. This is well-established stuff, e.g. developing and marketing products (such as the (thankfully) largely failed alcopops campaigns) to minors, etc.

                I’m not suggesting that alcohol production or consumption is inherently evil, but an honest assessment of alcohol-related harm and the range of strategies for harm reduction should be part of this debate.

                Just one more, OK?

                • Cinny

                  +++ DMK

                • Matthew Whitehead

                  Regarding regulating alcohol- I’m all for treating them like cigarettes and taking away their ability to advertise entirely. It won’t stop them getting customers, but it will stop them influencing our culture negatively through ads and sponsorship. I don’t think we need to hit them with plain packaging yet though. 😉

                • What do you think about regulating the advertising of alcohol/tobacco? Responsible, unnecessary, or somewhere in-between?

                  Wouldn’t have a problem with that, I don’t need to see ads to know what I like.

                  How about the now nearly universal practice of selling alcohol in supermarkets?

                  God have mercy on the political party that wants to force me to make an extra unnecessary trip to get all my groceries, because I certainly won’t have mercy on them.

                  Why would a few supermarkets choose not to contribute to meeting the human desire to consume alcohol? Such sales would be surely be profitable.

                  Some people have a thing about recreational drug use. I guess a few of them own supermarkets.

                  • Drowsy M. Kram

                    PM, if I’m interpreting correctly, you contend that the ’cause and effect’ relationship between alcoholic beverage production and alcoholic beverage consumption is one-way, i.e. consumer demand causes (controls/dictates) production.

                    If so, then we’ll have to agree to disagree – IMO it’s not a one-way cause and effect relationship. ‘Big alcohol’ interests, in the form of lobbyists, ‘bought-and-paid-for’ academic experts, introduction of new products, expansion into new demographics/territories, and generic pro-alcohol advertising campaigns (Beer, the beautiful truth) influence or stimulate consumer demand above what that demand would be without industry influence/stimulus.

                    For example, industry lobbying might delay or even stymie government regulation designed to reduce alcohol consumption and the harm associated with alcohol consumption. Some would even say that happened in NZ in December 2012 under a National-led government.

                    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10853482

                    A simple thought exercise: what would happen in NZ if liquor outlets limited supply so as to gradually decrease product turnover by 20%? There would be an increase in consumption of home-brew, but I doubt that would completely compensate for the decreased consumption of commercial alcoholic beverages. Limiting commercial supply would have an effect on overall consumption – some would simply drink less.

                    In the real world, ‘big alcohol’ is unlikely to voluntarily limit product supply. Some interesting research and ideas about big alcohol’s efforts to influence product demand in the first link.

                    https://maisonneuve.org/article/2017/11/27/under-influence/

                    https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/indusclient.php?id=N02

                    http://www.thejournal.ie/readme/alcohol-bill-lobbyists-3481499-Jul2017/

                    http://iogt.org/news/2017/08/15/australia-alcohol-industry-lobbying-tactics-exposed/

                    • Of course it’s not a simple relationship, nothing involving humans ever is. And companies pay for advertising because it works. However, if you look at the possible cause/effect relationships:

                      1. Humans like to drink alcohol because there’s a liquor industry;

                      Or

                      2. There’s a liquor industry because humans like to drink alcohol;

                      Anyone who picks number 1 has a very confused idea of cause and effect.

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      Sure, if it really was a simple binary. But, as you say, it’s not. Rather, it’s a complex, evolving relationship.

                      For example, option number 3:

                      2. There’s a A liquor industry develops because humans like to drink alcohol.

                      Then , when the global liquor industry (or any global industry) exceeds 10 trillion dollars (or whatever the number is) in annual turnover (and maybe well before then), it flexes its monetary muscles to maintain and grow demand. And anyone who thinks it can’t or doesn’t has their head in the sand.

                      Big liquor, big liquor,
                      How do your sales grow?
                      With lobbying,
                      And marketing,
                      And addiction all in a row.

                    • Tricledrown

                      DrowsyMK you rapped up that with a nice ditty.

          • The Fairy Godmother 8.1.1.1.2

            I agree up to a point but what the algorithms do with anything is give you more and more extreme stuff to keep you hooked. If you go on YouTube looking at vegetarian stuff you will start getting vegan stuff and so on. So they try and keep people hooked basically to sell advertising.

    • Lara 8.2

      I completely agree with you.

      Modern day online porn is very different to what was available before the internet. It’s mostly filmed from a male POV. Very often it involves violent acts to women. There is rarely realistic depictions of female pleasure. Hair pulling, slapping, multiple men with one woman, ejaculating on faces… all things the majority of women IRL would not find arousing and may very well find abusive. Particularly young women.

      Reading through accounts of ex female porn stars is horrific. The average stay in the industry of a porn star is about 6-18 months. Not really that long is it. From the accounts I’ve read I expect it’s because after a few months they’re so traumatised they cannot continue.

      School nurses have reported a rise in young female students presenting with damaged anuses. The cause should be bloody obvious.

      Far too many young people have unlimited uninterrupted internet access in their bedrooms. Lazy parenting.

      I had a very creepy interaction with a young man my teenage son invited over for dinner while my husband was overseas. This young man didn’t want to leave after dinner and proceeded to discuss with me his porn addiction. This was the first time I’d met him.

      Porn is a huge category online. Billions of people view it, many regularly. Some of it is okay, but a large portion is not. Not for the people who make it, nor for those who view it. I’m aware when I venture out into public that a large number of males walking around are regularly viewing porn which depicts women as a collection of orifices. And I’m aware they are probably viewing me in the same way.

      It’s totally disgusting.

      But try to bring this up in a conversation about sexual violence towards women and you will face the usual backlash. Because men love their porn.

      • The Fairy Godmother 8.2.1

        100 + Lara. That’s exactly what I was referring to. Young people are being fed very strong violent images of sexuality. It becomes addictive. It is a corruption of what is good and beautiful. Come to think of it the whole thing has parallels to the corruption and destruction of our planet. I remember back in the day I joined women against pornography at Auckland Uni. This was totally disrupted by a group of workers in the sex industry saying that this was their employment. It is a very messy confusing situation. I feel we have failed our young people by allowing this stuff.

      • Anon 8.2.2

        In your view is it possible to have a disconnect between sexual fantasy and the everyday treatment of women in non-sexual situations? And is civil treatment enough, or is policing peoples private thoughts necessary?

        • Cinny 8.2.2.1

          Anon its when people act out fantasies with out the permission of the other that it’s an issue. IMO.

      • Cinny 8.2.3

        Lara, maybe your sons friend has been worried about his problem for some time and finally felt he was in a safe non judgemental situation to talk to someone.

        Reason I’m suggesting that is it happens here with my kids friends, geez they bring up some tricky stuff with me, I often wonder if they are too embarrassed or scared to talk to their own parents about things, or if some parents simply are too busy in this modern world to talk.

      • AsleepWhileWalking 8.2.4

        “I’m aware when I venture out into public that a large number of males walking around are regularly viewing porn which depicts women as a collection of orifices.”

        ^^^this

  9. Stuart Munro 9

    Though it often abets dubious behavior, alcohol doesn’t make this sort of thing happen.

    I think a deculturised society is part of it – at some times and in some milieus young people have learned how to form relationships more successfully than the perpetrator in this instance.

    The political dimension has blown it up significantly – it’s events like these that potentially deter organisations from running some of the kinds of events that should present opportunities for healthy socializing. I’m not sure the other contemporary options are much better.

    Back in the day NZ had a plethora of local dance halls. They were a venue where a lot of folk met their future partners. I have to wonder what it would take to recreate a regular social gathering of some kind in contemporary communities. Surely the technology that presently isolates us could be used to bring us together.

    • chris73 9.1

      I don’t disagree with these sentiments

    • SPC 9.2

      I always thought that with the introduction of access to licensed venues from the age of 18 there should have been some investment in the provision of under 18 alcohol free venues, so that teens could learn to socialise sober first. What they now do instead is to preen/present themselves to the public via their social media account and then on reaching age 18 move onto dating apps to hook up or go to the other places where alcohol is available …

      • Carolyn_Nth 9.2.1

        Back in the day, guys used to keep crates of beer in the boot of their cars when visiting a dance hall. They then did some trips out to the car park to take a sup. Others used to top up their non-alcoholic drinks with spirits from under the table.

        Young people will always find a way – especially if their role models give them the idea that this is the way to be grown ups.

        Ultimately it’s about how older people talk with young people, and appropriate supervision for those making the transition from pubescence to adulthood.

      • Matthew Whitehead 9.2.2

        Yes, it’s a fantastic point. All the money has gone into over-18 venues now because there’s not a large enough market, even in our cities, to cater to two years worth of teens. We should absolutely be sponsoring alcohol-free gigs so that under-18s can go.

    • Matthew Whitehead 9.3

      Sounds like we’re on the same page. Again though, we shouldn’t let the alcohol discussion distract from the wider-ranging discussion of how to stop people from committing sexual assault and other similar crimes.

      I think we absolutely can create useful social spaces for our young people, and there’s good evidence that creating adequate spaces and activities for young people and aggressively promoting them actually reduces both problem drinking and problem drug use among young people- in effect, if there’s nothing better to do, they resort to recreational drugs and partying, but if they’ve got things they love that keep them busy, they’re more likely to drink or use drugs responsibly. This is how some nordic countries solved their drugs problems.

  10. Philg 10

    This issue is very important, but it doesn’t help that the MSM takes a hyperbolic approach to it. The media is looking for ratings and shock appeal, rather than any edification. The media has become the message, to a large degree. Hosking, Richardson,et al.

    • Matthew Whitehead 10.1

      Yeah, I’ve made the case elsewhere but I do feel like this is a symptom of short-term thinking by the media- credibility is their biggest asset and they keep flushing it down the toilet, even RNZ is not maintaining high standards on initially publishing news atm. If you don’t show you’re at a higher standard than a blog, people will just go to the blogs for news instead, and I actually don’t want that, because although a lot of us writers do care about getting things right, we need news to source what we’re talking about, and it’s really helpful for us when they give us reliable info. It’s exhausting critiquing them and in an ideal world it’d be nice if the only whining we had to do was about political framing from outlets like the Herald.

  11. Philg 11

    The end point of this BS trend is that folk ignore the MSM, or give up altogether. And quelle surprise … Trump!

  12. Sparky 12

    This is why i simply ignore the MSM these days. Having a few too many is no excuse for this kind of behaviour. Suffice to say Labour are hardly covering themselves in glory, first the TPP and now this.

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