There’s no doubt the sexual harassment of teenage girls continues in schools despite all the public discourse and political rhetoric in Australia over the past few months. We are talking about behaviours that are so entrenched in our schools and society at large that I believe it will take at least a generation or two to clear out (if we are lucky).
At a dinner party with friends recently, I had the pleasure of chatting to a couple of girls in their final year of high school. It wasn’t long before Jamie* was telling me about the discomfort she and friends feel due to the frequent commentary from male peers about their “body count”.
What is a body count?
A body count is the number of girls these boys have had sex with. Apparently, it is common for some boys to boast about this count, ask girls to add to it and so on. This all happens while these teenagers are trying to complete their most important year of schooling.
Rage rose within me as I heard this story and I had to pause to take a deep breath or two. Aside from the appalling language used by the boys – body counts generally describe dead bodies – the fact these girls could not complete their education without sexual harassment is unconscionable.
When I asked Jamie about the reporting mechanisms she could use to have the behaviour stopped, her answers were disappointingly and sadly familiar.
She said nothing would be done about one of the ringleaders because he is a [insert one of the following: rising sports star/father is rich/parent is a barrister] and therefore untouchable. She said the boys had been spoken to previously and nothing changed. Finally, Jamie said there was no point going to Mrs X because, “ She thinks there is nothing you can do about it and will just tell us to ignore it.”
Every woman and teenage girl at the table was familiar with these types of answers because we have all used them. Our reasoning for these responses is sound and based on our real-life experiences. But it is also one of the reasons nothing has changed since I was in high school.
It is a lot to ask a teenage girl to report these behaviours. It requires strength and courage to stand up and call these out in schools. Teenagers can be just as unforgiving as adults when someone attempts to disrupt the status quo.
What are the reporting mechanisms in schools?
Fortunately, after further discussion, Jamie was able to identify an individual teacher who might be sympathetic and more likely to take action. But I was disappointed her school had not yet established or clearly communicated reporting processes to empower their students.Frankly, the school should have had established pathways so Jamie knew who she could talk to. Ideally, every teacher should also be trained in receiving and following through on these complaints so students feel safe.
If you have a school-aged child or teenager, I would recommend asking the school what their reporting and processes are for sexual harassment and abuse complaints by students and how these processes are monitored and assessed. I would also ask how their teaching and administration staff are trained and supported to manage these processes. I know many women in particular are seeking ways to help create the changes we know are needed and this might be a way you can be involved in your community.
Girls should be able to attend school and be safe from harassment. But they’re not. Many of you may feel surprise this is still an issue. You may wonder how it is not solved yet. After all, haven’t we talked about it enough? I am also aware some parents are still indulging in hopeful naivete when it comes to the behaviours of their teenage children. Comments like, “My son wouldn’t even know about that stuff/would never say something like that” are still common.
I understand these reactions and wish it was that simple. But the truth is, this problem is not going away in the near future and it is widespread. Teenage boys are certainly hearing this type of commentary at school even if they are not participating in these behaviours. This is an uncomfortable truth we all need to face directly if we are to change things. We need to have frequent, open and honest conversations with young people about these issues. The time for believing we are protecting them by not discussing things is over – that approach only puts them at higher risk.
On a personal note, I found it interesting that when discussing the issue with Jamie, I did not look towards any man at the table for support in helping her to work out the next steps. It was her mother and the other women and girls I looked to. This was not intentional exclusion on my part and certainly her male relatives were concerned about Jamie’s experience. I suspect my approach was a default response because I have given up waiting for men to step forward to address these issues and indeed, I have no expectations they will. It is still a rarity when I do see a man or boy speak up or more importantly, be willing to act in these situations. I hope this changes in my lifetime but, for now, I know it is women and girls who must continue to be strong, courageous and take the lead in this battle.
It’s been a shocking week in the news or, at least, that’s what a lot of people have said online. They are shocked and appalled by the news of a female Liberal Party staffer, Brittany Higgins, being raped in our nation’s Parliament (there is now a second report from another woman). They are shocked by the flood of sexual assault and rape reports from girls and women who were assaulted by boys from private schools in Sydney. The shock is compounded by the one-year anniversary of the horrific murder of Hannah and her three children at the hands of her estranged husband.
Everyone is shocked. Except we’re not really shocked because that word suggests an element of surprise, and I’m sure most women aren’t surprised at all. We’re not surprised when it’s reported the Prime Minister and his staff may have covered up Brittany’s rape or that the alleged perpetrator went on to a cushy job in the private sector. We’re not surprised that all those private school boys who assaulted their female peers have apparently gone on to live their lives without any repercussions whatsoever. We weren’t surprised when poor Hannah and her children paid the ultimate price in a society where women are still not safe from predatory men.
Perhaps a better word would be sad. Incredibly sad. A heartbreaking sadness that sits in your chest and never leaves because you feel so helpless, particularly as a woman who wants every woman to be safe no matter where she is or what she is wearing.
It was only when he thought about Brittany as a woman attached to him genetically that he could see her as a human. Anyone who knows this man is record was not surprised at his lack of empathy (remember the bushfires) or support for women,
Meanwhile, social media posts call for more teaching about consent in schools, starting with younger children than we do now. The calls seem to asks our schools and hard-working teachers to take on even more of the social responsibility for how our children turn out. Over-burdened teachers with heavy workloads reply, “Really? When will parents and the rest of society take on the load? How much more do you want us to do?”
Some mutter about porn being the cause and, yes, porn has negatively shaped expectations for many men and boys when it comes to what sex, and girls and women should look like and enjoy. But porn isn’t to blame for the ongoing violence towards girls and women. This violence happened to my generation and all the ones that came before. It continues even now.
There is a saying that rot starts from the top and in this case, I believe the change we need must also start there as well. Unfortunately, for women, this change is something men must initiate – the men who hold leadership roles in our government, schools and communities.
The perpetrators of this violence are male. Boys look to men for cues on how to be men so it is men who must speak up.
Wouldn’t it be great if the Prime Minister stood up and said loudly with no spin or prevarication: “Any man who has sex with a woman without her full, eager and willing consent is a rapist and a despicable human being as far as I am concerned. As such, I would expect them to be pursued and prosecuted within the full scope of the law, and if that didn’t happen, I would want to know why.”
Wouldn’t it be great if teenage boys were also told that by their male teachers and by men in their homes and communities?
Wouldn’t it be great if every man in a leadership role in a football code did the same?
Wouldn’t it be great if they said it, meant it and followed through so every woman or girl could feel safe and know that “good men” really do exist?
In loving and intimate relationships, there are always things you need to negotiate on – where to eat dinner, who is preparing dinner, where to go on holidays, what colour you should paint the walls, how much money you save together for your agreed goals, and so on. These types of negotiations happen in healthy relationships.
Unfortunately, some men believe their female partners should also negotiate with them about other topics like:
What you wear
What you eat
What you post on social media (when he and/or your children aren’t in the pics)
What you wear when you post on social media
What you weigh
The size of your breasts (implants anyone?)
Which other men you can talk to
How much make-up you do or don’t wear.
These topics are NOT negotiation points and if you’re with a man (a term I am using very loosely in this instance) who insists on you negotiating about these, LEAVE.
You may think this advice is rather melodramatic but is it, really? Because I have to tell you, when you agree to negotiate about how you show up in the world, you are on a slippery slope to nowhere good. Your autonomy is not up for negotiation.
And quite frankly, I don’t give a damn about his feelings about this and neither should you. I would also wonder who taught him it was okay to tell you what you can and cannot do with your body. That sounds like a bad case of entitlement and he should get some therapy to resolve that issue while you move onto a man who has a healthy sense of self and respects you as the amazing goddess you are.
The right man will love you as you are and will not seek to control you. He will respect your autonomy and respect you as an individual who chooses her own path. Just like he chooses his.
Lucretia is an author, psychic and intuitive mentor who helps women live their purpose. Need some practical and honest advice about feelings, life or relationships? Visit DearLucretia.com to ask your question. Answers are FREE and your name will always be changed if your question is published.
Yikes! After such a long period of time, I can hardly believe it.
What if people hate it? What if they love it? What if they don’t care? The thoughts scurry through my brain before I come back, for a moment, to a place of inner calm because it’s done now. It’s born. All I can do is tell people about it.
So here’s the summary. The Men I’ve Almost Dated is about my life in my 30s, the men I dated (or almost dated), sex, dubious decision-making, divorce and men behaving badly. It’s not a ‘how-to guide’ on getting it right when it comes to men and dating. However, it may be a ‘how-to guide’ on how to get it atrociously wrong. I’ll let you be the judge.
Over the coming days and weeks I’ll be sharing more about my book on this blog and my social media channels – so keep your eyes peeled. But for now, if you’d like to grab yourself a copy, head over to my webpage for all the details. You can buy the eBook version today and the print version will be available in coming weeks.
A couple of months ago my friend Deanna* suggested I try a dating website her friends were using.
As most of you know, my previous online dating adventures haven’t ended well (see http://wp.me/pirqj-1m for the time I fled out the back door of a restaurant to escape my date). So I understandably reticent.
But Deanna* said her friends were actually scoring some good quality dates so I thought, “What the heck!”
I registered, drafted a few sentences for my profile, answered some questions and uploaded my photo.
The deed was done and I sat back to await contact from men who were ‘good quality dating material’.
The site automatically matches you with suitable partners. Well, that’s what they claim. I can’t say that I saw much evidence of it.
Within a day I’d received messages from a few men saying, “Hello!”
Well, sort of.
The messages were not so much “hello” as bad corny pick up lines and some really inappropriate comments.
Some of the highlights (and I use that term very loosely) were, “Hi queen, i think my eyes are stuck..cos i just can’t get em off you…” and “howdy there ma’am…how is thou doin?”
The lowlight was the man calling himself Tofu… who greeted me with “omg can I totally suck ur toes please…”
There were also approaches from men looking for polyamorous relationships. I have no idea what part of my profile indicated that I’d like to join their private harems.
And the things other men said they’d like to do on public transport were quite obscene.
There were messages from some men who appeared to be relatively normal. Donny* mentioned he needed a ‘sleep fan’ to sleep at night. But when I asked, “Wouldn’t that just give you a head cold all year round?” he didn’t respond.
I’m guessing I blew my chances by being a little cheeky (my sincere apologies to all the sleep fan devotees out there).
After a few weeks it seemed that Donny was the best of the lot.
There were other men who sent messages but it was clear from their profiles that we had little in common so I didn’t respond.
One of these guys, Mickey*, was only 24 years old. I didn’t respond because I’d made it clear that my preferred age group was 34+. I figured, why waste time for both of us and he clearly didn’t read my profile.
Anyway, evidently he got sick of waiting for a response or somehow knew that I’d deleted his message because, two days later Mickey sent me a one-word email. It just said, “bitc!h”.
I guess we know why he’s single.
I deactivated my profile the next day.
My score for quality dates was zero. But the site did provide me with some amusement, so it wasn’t a total waste of time.
My search for love continues…and no, you cannot suck my toes.
I had an ex flashback this week. There I was, minding my own business when I looked up and wham! there he was.
Well, it wasn’t actually my ex Gerry. But for a moment my heart stopped because this guy looked just like him.
After my brain registered that it wasn’t him and my heart started beating again, I found myself thinking about Gerry and the connection we had.
It was one of those highly sexual connections where quite frankly, we could have ripped each other’s clothes off at any moment. But sadly, possibly because he forgot to mention he had a girlfriend, our relationship didn’t quite work out the way I hoped.
In hindsight, this was probably a good thing.
I’ve been single for a while now and the Gerry story is not the only negative male-related scenario I’ve come across. In fact, my whole book (The Men I’ve Almost Dated – currently being edited) covers the bizarre and often dysfunctional behaviour I’ve witnessed on the dating scene.
Unfortunately, these experiences have had a rather nasty side effect for me. I now find myself being just a little too cautious and often a little too defensive around men. In fact, sometimes I’m so busy playing defense that I forget to open the door and let the good ones in.
I was out last night and I did exactly that with a man who definitely has possibilities. I shut him down. I was just a little too much of a smart-mouth. It was reflex thing and I’m not exactly proud of it. But hey, like most people, I am a product of my experience so I’m not going to beat myself up about it too much.
Instead I’ve decided to change course and try a different tack.
So tonight I’ve made contact and opened the door just a little so he can walk through it.
Who knows, he could turn out to be rather fabulous. I’ll just have to trust that he’s not another Gerry and wait and see what happens next.