READER REPORT:

No 'rape culture' at Wellington College

IAIN THORPE
Last updated 19:02 13/03/2017
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Jumping to conclusions about a couple of boys on social media is unfair on the rest of the students.

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Wellington College has been in the news for all the wrong reasons this week.

As a parent of a boy at Wellington College and a girl at Wellington Girls' College I have heard a fair bit about it all, and the associated rumours and gossip.

I do not defend these boys or their comments on Facebook in any way. In my opinion, they should be punished by suspension - at least.

However, much of what has been read into the events at Wellington College seems wrong to me. It would be evidence of rape culture if there were any adult support for what these boys said. I haven't seen or heard any of that.

READ MORE:
* Protest at Parliament against rape culture
* Investigation launched over Wellington College students' rape comments
* Wellington College boys threaten protesters

I know a few boys at Wellington College. My understanding is that most of them are pretty angry.

They are angry about the boys who made the vile post, which suggested something about everyone at Wellington College that is untrue and abhorrent.

But they are also angry with those in the media and wider society who rushed to believe that lie. It is an injustice to the school and to the great majority of the boys in it.

As kids grow up they may display a wide variety of behaviours that are wrong and need to be corrected, including: lying, cheating, stealing, kicking and biting.

When kids do these things they need to be corrected. And sometimes they have to be punished.

But that does not necessarily mean they are bad people. And it does not necessarily say anything about the culture they live in.

Teenage boys think about sex an awful lot. They also talk about it with each other, but usually in a pretty superficial way.

Unsurprisingly, they usually don't know what they are talking about and tend to be sensitive about their lack of knowledge and experience.

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Combine this with the poor impulse control and judgement that is generally displayed by all teenagers - boys especially - and all the ingredients for boys to say and do some pretty reprehensible things are there.

I'm not suggesting that we should excuse the kids who say bad things because "boys will be boys". Far from it.

It must be made clear to them how wrong they are.

But I can’t see this as evidence of rape culture. It is just the type of thing that can happen when growing up. Normally, it would be dealt with and not publicised.

If I have to correct one of my children about something, I don't record their transgressions on a large sign on the front lawn.

Does anyone really think Wellington College Principal Roger Moses or the boys' parents would have let this pass by but for the fact that the comments were made on social media?

There is no evidence to suggest that might be the case. I don’t know the boys' mothers or fathers, but I assume they are utterly mortified - and that they would have been mortified however their sons’ comments came to light.

Why wouldn't they be?

The significance of social media here is that the kids using it are growing up in public. Mistakes on social media can receive wide attention.

I think Wellington College is right to emphasise that boys should think carefully about what they post on social media - not because anyone is trying to cover anything up, but because the consequences of immature errors are disproportionately large.

One of my kids asked me this week: "Do you think that anyone will ever give them a job now?"

That would be a gross injustice to anyone as a consequence for saying something reprehensible and stupid as a 17-year-old.


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