Rape in NZ: Kiwi bloke needs a 'do-over'

Last updated 12:30 17/12/2013
Fairfax NZ

RAPE CULTURE: Education needs to go beyond safe sex.

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I live a block away from where Carisbrook used to be. One evening in 2011 I was travelling to the other side of Dunedin by bus when there had just been a rugby match there - perhaps the last one ever.

The bus was full of loud young men. Half a dozen of them started a song, the old "our team is the best and we always win" kind of thing. Soon I was one of just two men on the bus not joining in.

Then they got up to the verses that were pretty graphic about what they would do to 'all the ladies'.

At that point the other man who wasn't singing rang the bell and got off in disgust. I would have followed him if I hadn't still had to get across town.

To anyone who doubts the existence of rape culture in New Zealand, what else would you call that?

Why do some people commit rape? Because they feel they're entitled to use others' bodies for sexual gratification, without the other person's consent. It couldn't be clearer than that rugby song: to those men, at least while they were singing it, women were merely objects to be used.

For some of them, hopefully, most of them, it would have been just a joke. But statistically that number of men must have included at least one or two who really did treat women as objects to be used, and to them the song would have meant: this is normal, this is just being a guy, what I do is what all men do. That's rape culture.

Somebody is going to make the excuse that craving sex is just a natural part of being human.  Craving sweet and oily foods is also natural to humans, yet we manage not to mug passers-by for their chocolate bars and hot dogs. 

Bringing back the days of sex being taboo isn't going to help either. Those values placed women's purity on a higher pedestal than their consent and imply it's not so bad to rape a woman who's not 'pure' any more, who's had a couple of boyfriends, who's posted a topless selfie online, who's wearing a short skirt and drinking a lot.

The flip-side of viewing women as prizes or possessions is that other men become competitors and thieves, hence the need to be a big, tough hero who gets the girl', as the patriarchal myth (from Homer to Hollywood) has it.

I'm convinced that this is the main driving force behind male-on-male violence, but that's an argument for another time.

What can we do? We need good sex education. Consent is even more important than condoms. I disagree with the abstinence-only people, but they do have one good idea - we need to teach teenage boys that pressuring girls into sex is not manly. Real men respect women.

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That message won't mean much coming from the sex ed teacher who comes around for two weeks in the school year, if they aren't getting it from the men around them as well.

Painful as it might be, we're going to have to give the concept of the Kiwi Bloke a right old do-over.

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