I just wanted to say #ibelieveher. I am on holiday atm and find myself thinking of you a lot. I keep reading up on the reports, trying to find a path through your story that makes sense.
I guess my fixation is two-fold, one is that I teach consent to young people and am currently producing resources for others to teach consent. The other part is that I am a Mum to two boys.
At first I thought my contribution to help would be to make sure my teaching was shit-hot. To really engage every young person with the complexities of consent whilst helping them to seek a simple 'Yes, that's great' repeatedly, enthusiastically throughout any sexual encounter.
It didn't seem enough though. Because as I read the WhatsApp messages sent between the defendants I didn't see the cold-hearted predatory rapists who lurk in alleyways, the ones we were taught to avoid. I saw men-boys, raised on porn and stupidity and peacocking machoism and notching up acts.
I know so so many boys who will be appalled at your story, shocked, declaring it could never happen on their watch. And I truly believe them. But I also believe our culture has no clue of what real consent looks like. A video I get young people to work with shows a young man accused of rape being asked if the young woman responded in any way to indicate that she wanted to have sex with him. He replies 'Yes... no... maybe... But she wasn't upset or anything'. If consent means a partner 'not being upset' that's a pretty low bar.
A 2015 US college survey asked male college students if they would commit rape if they could be guaranteed to get away with it, 13.6% said yes. Which is frightening. But the same group were also asked if they would force sexual intercourse on a woman if they could be guaranteed to get away with it. And 31.1% said yes. Same act, different words. WTF?
This is so screwed. How will we ever unravel consent?
And then I started to think about my two boys. And that maybe as well as teaching young people who are 15+, maybe my real responsibility is to teach my boys who are 9 and 11.
As part of what I teach young women around consent, we look at the idea that parents teach their girls not to get raped but that maybe it's time parents teach their boys not to rape. It's a good conversation with the group, the young women get a bit fired up. But now, because of you, I see the problem with it. It requires parents to imagine their boys as future rapists! Ouch! Imagining your daughter as a future victim must be an horrific feeling that quickly brings on warnings about dark alleyways, short skirts, and getting drunk or high, ffs. But to imagine your boy? Your sweet darling? No, he would never be capable of that.
But he would, in our current culture. He would be capable of one-upmanship, of show-boating to mates. Of ignoring a partner's discomfort or quiet unwillingness. He would be capable of expecting crazy porn activities without asking. It would probably not occur to him to ask if something felt nice, or would something else feel nicer. He would be capable of focusing solely on his own pleasure.
Not because he's the evil predator, but because we have allowed porn and popular culture to teach our boys about sex. And it's left out all the fun, the deliciousness, the mutuality, the giggly rude delight. And we've left you all clueless on what having a great time really looks like.
So my darling girl, I am so, so sorry for the part we have all played in your story. I pray that you go forward from here and heal and grow and bloom.
I will continue to teach. But my promise is to push and agitate all parents to be sure that it really won't be our boys - not because we can't imagine it, but because we can. #notmyboy