Wednesday 8 March 2017

Bystander Boys at Wellington College

Wellington College hit the media yesterday in ways their leadership team will not be enjoying - two of their boys were posting comments encouraging rape in a Facebook group.

The similarities to Roastbusters won't be lost on anyone, but the issue of rape culture is far more common than the handful of schools who make headlines.

We have the unravelling of rape culture though folks, right here in front of us.  Two Wellington College boys brag about raping drunk girls - and other boys on the page report it, immediately.

People acting as ethical bystanders - intervening to disrupt norms which support sexual violence - is the best evidence base we have for changing rape culture.  That's exactly what the boys who reported this did, and I want to congratulate them, whole-heartedly, for the bravery in stepping forward and making it their business.

After Roastbusters, I asked a question about how we grew boys. Growing consent, making sure all genders know how to seek and check in with sexual partners in an ongoing way during all sexual encounters, plays an enormous role in shifting norms which make sexual violence possible.  But addressing the social norms which undermine consent in more collective ways, from speaking back to jokes about rape to challenging sexist language about girls to standing up to transphobic victim blaming to stepping in if you see an unsafe situation - all of these things are critically important too.

Rape culture isn't just about the individual decisions you make in your bedroom, or anywhere else you like to be sexual.  It's about the collective norms we allow around us, at morning tea at work, in the sports stadium, at the pub - or on the Facebook site where your mates are bragging about sexual stuff that's not okay.

We need to push for universal consent education in all our high schools - evidence based, comprehensive, multi-year, taught by experts who address gender norms and teach bystanding skills.  Quality high school consent education is the best evidence we have that we can change the rape culture and reduce sexual violence perpetration.  Just before Roastbusters, an evaluation of existing school programmes in New Zealand could not give any a pass mark.  This and Roastbusters was the impetus for ACC creating a high school healthy relationships programme.  Mates & Dates - full disclosure, I was one of the authors - is running now, but it is currently not compulsory.  Schools get to "opt-in" around consent education, and they often don't know which programmes are "good".

If we are serious about unraveling rape culture, it might be time to insist on compulsory, evidence based consent education in every high school.

But for today, I will be celebrating those Wellington College boys.  The ones who stood up to their mates, and stopped them bragging about rape.   We need more boys like them.  We need more people like them.  What will you do to stand up against rape culture?


Aaron Chang said...

At the start of the story on RNZ I was happy with the principal. But then he started going on about 'bravado' and boys trying to impress other boys. My first queation was, hang on, does he not actually think that any of the students in his school have raped other students? Because that's a big school. Statistically, it's probably happened. And there are students, boasting that they have. So how about there is some investigation into whether or not there was any rape befor we start talking about bravado? And yeah, I bet they are feeling awful and sorry. Sorry that they got dobbed on and are having to face consequences.

Bravo to the ones who called attention to it. Those kids, at least, appear to have learnt something from the roastbusters incident.

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Sheev said...

What these guys did is hardly praiseworthy. They just met a baseline standard of how to be a non-shitty human being. And now we are supposed to be showering them with praise, while hardworking women toil seven days a week and get nothing? Ugh.

This reminds me of Sophie Trudeau's insistence that on International Women's Day we should be celebrating men. So frustrating!