Lefties are often criticised for being regressive. I’m going to address the most common criticisms against us so-called ‘regressive lefties’: (1) that lefties are ‘against’ freedom of speech in that they tolerate views that conform with progressive thought but shun, ban and label those to voice non-conformist thought; (2) that lefties silence opposition; (3)that lefties are actually the racists and bigots of society, in that they preach inclusivity but give special treatment to certain groups in society such as women and ethnic minorities, thereby discriminating on the basis of race or gender rather than an individual’s merit, character and quality of ideas, and lastly that; (4) meritocracy is better than affirmative action.
So let’s break this down:
One of the most significant criticisms of contemporary left-winged discourse is that we’re ‘against’ freedom of speech, in that we permit discourse that conforms with progressive thought, but any dissenting opinion is shunned. Lefties are also criticised for being regressive because we arbitrarily label those who don’t agree with us as misogynists, racists, bigots, xenophobes and the list goes on.
This idea that lefties are ‘against’ free speech is just simply untrue. We are well aware of the importance of free speech, we know that free speech is essential for the realisation of truth which comes from the free flow and exchange of ideas; we know that free speech is essential for democracy and for self-determination. However, free speech is, and has never been an absolute principle. It is widely accepted and recognised that curbing free speech is necessary in certain circumstances, particularly in order to protect people from harm that can result from certain forms of speech. Australian society already has laws that curb free speech such as our anti-vilification, defamation, privacy, broadcasting and censorship laws et al.
The thing is, while free speech is important to society it can be just as harmful, especially when the harms are felt by certain groups and minorities in society who have been systematically and institutionally oppressed throughout history and in society today, particularly vulnerable groups such as the LGBTI community, women, ethnic minorities and so on. Harmful speech directed at minorities can further isolate, alienate and disenfranchise those who are already on the margins of society.
So, while it may be perceived by some that lefties are ‘against’ free speech, what is really happening is that to the extent that forms of free speech have the very real potential to harm individuals, we err on the side of restricting that speech to mitigate such harms, in order to create a more inclusive society for all.
Let’s break this down further:
2. Silencing Dissenting Opinions
Firstly, this criticism assumes that any dissenting opinion, or anyone who voices non-conformist views are not racist, misogynistic, bigoted or xenophobic. Very often those who are publicly condemned for their ‘dissenting opinions’ are in fact sprouting hate speech under law, or sprouting extremely hateful speech under the court of public opinion. This criticism also assumes that any dissenting opinion or anyone who voices non-conformist opinions should not be banned from voicing that opinion, yet we as a society are already prepared to ban certain forms of speech under our laws that serve to harm individuals and groups in society.
However, is there a culture of ‘silencing’ by lefties? It is not uncommon to hear of the banning of certain speakers from talking at universities by special interest groups who disagree with the views held by such speakers.We saw this last year when Univeristy of Manchester’s Student Union banned Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking at a debate. Even more recently it was announced that Villanova University cancelled an event that Yiannopoulos was supposed to be speaking at, due to left-wing oppostition.
Also, it is not uncommon for comments and statuses on social media to be arbitrarily labelled as racist or bigoted for being unpopular opinions – to some extent we do see this happening with the views of the Pauline Hanson’s, Katie Hopkin’s and Donald Trump’s of the world (Again, doesn’t change the fact that they could be). Similarly, it is not uncommon to hear of people losing their jobs for tweeting and posting Facebook statuses that offend some people.
Having said that, it is not entirely true that lefties are just ‘silencing’ opposition, very often dissenting opinions are not silenced but just met with protest. And rightfully so. We saw this when students from Brunel University collectively and quite literally stood up and turned their backs on Katie Hopkins when she began speaking at a debate. The students didn’t stop Hopkins from speaking, but demonstrated that they didn’t like what she had to say.
If in fact this culture of silencing exists, it is a very worrisome trend that could have serious implications for free speech and could prevent meaningful debate in society.
3. ‘Regressive lefties’ are the bigots/racists
Another criticism of lefties is that we preach inclusiveness and tolerance but only apply this to women and ethnic minorities in society. Lefties are also accused of being racist and bigoted because of schemes such as affirmative action that give preferential treatment to women or members of minority groups rather than on an individual’s merit, quality of ideas or content of character.
Firstly, this criticism ignores the empirical realities that the systematic oppression of women and ethnic minorities makes it extremely difficult for vulnerable groups to even break into social structures, completely ignoring the need of such affirmative action policies to break down such difficulties. This criticism also assumes that all groups in society are on a level playing field and anyone can just enter into our social structures – jobs, politics, access to education, healthcare, welfare, you name it. But this is not the case, our social structures are still dominated by those with privilege. Let’s not forget who are really the ones that have been isolated and excluded from society throughout the ages.
Australian society throughout history and in contemporary times is undeniably based on a social structure that has and is dominated by the powerful voice of those with privilege, specifically white, straight, cis males, who haven’t had to fight for basic civil liberties like other minorities. Privileged peoples are the beneficiaries of a social structure that favours them, whether they want to deny their privilege or not.
It is said, that ‘privilege implies exclusion from privilege,’ and we see this in the systematic oppression of vulnerable and minority groups- We see the systematic oppression of women and minority groups in their lack of representation in parliament and in the workplace. We see the systematic oppression of women, in our child support and social welfare schemes that largely fail to acknowledge the unpaid work of mothers in child rearing, making it very difficult for women who are the primary carers of children in our society to enter or return to the workplace, thereby perpetuating the gender pay gap.
4. But meritocracies would be ‘fairer’ for all
Meritocracies can only do so much in providing opportunities for all in a society where there is a dominant group and where minorities have been and still are systematically oppressed. We can’t talk about being a meritocratic society if certain groups can’t even enter into social structures. Affirmative action is necessary to break down the barriers and for women and vulnerable groups to become included in society’s social structures. How can we have an inclusive society if our discourse is dominated by those with privilege and if the voices of the most vulnerable groups in society are not adequately represented in our law making bodies or other social structures? How can we have an inclusive society if it is difficult for women with children to re-enter the workforce? And so on.
Up until the time that groups in society are on a level playing field where no group is systematically oppressed or as close to not being systematically oppressed, then can the notions of meritocracy come into play.
Lefties are not being racist or bigoted for ensuring a more inclusive society for all, and if a position is reserved for a member of a vulnerable group over one that would usually go to a white, straight, cis male – then for equality moving forward, this would be necessary. Necessary up until society becomes a more inclusive society and certain minorities are no longer systematically oppressed.
For those who still think affirmative action is racist and bigoted- check your privilege.
Featured Image: Zac Quitzau Facebook: Zac’s Doodles
Written by Noelle Martin. This article or a version of this article may appear in Macquarie Street Magazine.
The greatest wars in history are seldom told for they exist in the minds of every living soul that has ever wandered the Earth
Cursed with the human fate branded from the womb, we are born to fight the great fights. like soldiers, we battle to survive
against immortal demons, thoughts heavier than cannonballs feelings sharper than any sword. The haunting of memories and poison with the power to contaminate our mind, drowning our conscience. The enemies within
But our greatest weaknesses are our weaponry still our beating hearts and the strongest of all the all-powerful will.
We fight in deafening silence with wounds unseen screams unheard and sorrow untold.
But when hope dwindles somewhere in the deepest depths of within starts the Great Revolution a rebellion begins, a thirst for victory
with a call for help, we turn to our allies to lift us from the scorching fires, to breathe momentary relief from the currents Until the next war begins
We face the crusades, that tests our very core. That shatters our beliefs Amongst the carnage and bloodshed tempted by Lucifer’s apple of surrender
Not all survive the evils of the mind. Trapped in a straightjacket of insanity. Some lose control. Like lost souls they live to die. The price of peace.
We face the cold war, brewing. Pain and anger, and a hostile fear. But to kill the enemy is to kill yourself So we must suppress with every ounce of our will Or accept our fate
If we’re lucky, we can escape an assault of nuclear proportions, but not all are lucky Something switches, and they fall One by one by one.
Some say that the greatest conflict is with the heart an unstoppable force with desires that can’t be controlled or tamed, and immeasurable pain if not obeyed.
But for every battle lost we gain in resolve, In strength for the next attack. For every battle won we change in ways more powerful than evil –
a little something called empathy. From the ruins of pain, comes happiness and an understanding that we must be allies for inner battles are pain enough.
The greatest wars in history are seldom told But what we do see and hear- is the magic that turns a curse into a gift and a love that conquers all else.
Featured Image: Zac Quitzau Facebook: Zac’s Doodles
Whenever I have broken up with a guy, I work through a standard check list of things to do: I need to collect all my belongings from his place, return anything of his I still have at mine; I need to change my profile picture and relationship status where applicable; I have to eat pizza and drink a lot of cheap white wine with my friends.
Oh, and I have to ask him to delete my nudes. This is a priority.
Even if we don’t talk about it, many of us worry about what will become of the risqué pictures we have sent over the weeks, months or years. And when you consider the cruelties of blackmail, revenge porn, parasite porn, morphed porn and celebrity nude photo leaks, it’s easy to understand why we are worried about what could happen to our pictures after we’re gone. So we politely ask that any sensitive content we have passed on be deleted, and we pray that they aren’t lying when they say they have.
So if our nude photos are such a cause for worry, why do we bother sending nudes in the first place?
A recent study published by Plan entitledDon’t send me that pic revealed some startling statistics about Australian teenage relationships. It found that young girls felt they were exchanging nudes and other sexual favours for love and affection. What’s more frightening is that the same study showed that 81.5% of girls said they do not think their boyfriends should ask for naked pictures, yet 51% of girls feel pressured into sending naked or ‘sexy’ pictures of themselves to their boyfriends anyway. For young girls it seems, peer pressure is the reason they take nude pictures.
There are of course many women who do feel comfortable and happy taking nude photos. In 2014 a Cosmopolitan survey also asked the question: why? Why does one take nude photos? The survey found that 89% of their mostly female respondents had taken nude pictures of themselves. As for why – the responses were mixed. Some women wanted to reclaim their body after suffering with body image issues. Others were responding to requests from their partners, and although they were nervous at first, they discovered they really liked taking them.
So while there are many women who are more than happy taking and sending nudes, there are still so many sending nudes who aren’t. Why?
For men, it would seem. Both sources revealed that women and girls take these nudes largely for the male gaze. Men who ask us for pictures, and gently talk us into it if we feel hesitant. Men who encourage and compliment us when we send the pictures so that we will feel confident and happy about sending more. Men who are pleased with us when we hand over our bodies to them, rewarding us with attention and loyalty. Men who punish us by sharing these pictures, breaching our trust and blaming us for whatever happens next.
Time and time again women are being asked to trust men with their nude pictures – pictures that they aren’t comfortable sending – only to have their trust betrayed. And time and time again women are blamed by society when that trust is breached; told we were wrong to send the pictures in the first place, despite the pressures to do so. We are simultaneously being talked into loving ourselves for sending nude pictures, and then talked into hating ourselves for sending nude pictures.
In stark contrast, it appears men and boys are all too willing to send nudes without being asked. The Plan study revealed 58% of girls have received sexually explicit photos and videos online that were not wanted. Without being asked, men are willingly – forcibly almost – sending nudes to women. It’s like a display of power or dominance, dressed up as a compliment, and we as women are expected to feel flattered that they would brighten our inbox with their unwanted penis. I am sadly sure that many of us are no stranger to the unsolicited ‘dick pic’ that finds its way into our Instagram messages, Facebook inbox and Snapchats.
As long as you are consenting adults, I don’t see any problem with taking or sending nude pictures. It can be empowering to take selfies, be they nudes or not, especially in this world where we are constantly plugged into a mass media machine that tries to define beauty for us. I am all for boosting self-esteem, loving yourself, and promoting body positivity. But I also believe that this feeling should come from within. You should not need the approval of another’s gaze – particularly a sexual gaze – in order to feel beautiful or attractive, or because you think that’s what you need to do to get and keep a boyfriend. We all deserve to feel good about ourselves, always. So I find it particularly problematic that several of the respondents to the Cosmopolitan survey began their answers with this similar sentiment when confessing they had taken the pictures to show to their partner:
‘I didn’t want to, but they convinced me.’
Of course, both men and women are guilty of pressuring people into sending nudes, and both men and women can be victims. But by an overwhelming majority it is women who are sending pictures to men that they do not really want to send. And by a majority it is men who are asking for these pictures. What is going on? Why are women and girls sending nudes they don’t feel truly comfortable sending? Why are we letting ourselves be coaxed into sending nude photos in exchange for loyalty and affection? Why are girls sending nudes when they simultaneously fear the nudes will be leaked on some Reddit forum or shared on Facebook?
And even in the unfortunate circumstance that a woman’s nude photos are leaked, they are blamed for sending them in the first place. We see this ‘victim blaming’ with celebrity nude leaks. Celebrities – usually female – who have their naked pictures leaked are often met with the outdated sentiment that they shouldn’t have taken the pictures if they didn’t want them to be leaked. But this ridiculous notion suggests that we must do all that we can to defend ourselves against the evils of others, because if not then it is our fault. Don’t carry your wallet around in case somebody picks your pockets. Don’t buy a TV in case somebody breaks into your house and steals it. Don’t go outside without chainmail on in case somebody stabs you with a knife.
You see what I mean? Ridiculous.
It sure is confusing for the girls out there.
If you feel truly comfortable sending nude pictures (i.e. you don’t need a guy to talk you into it), then by all means you should continue to do so. I will never outright suggest that you should not take or send nude photos. Owning yourself and your sexuality is incredibly important, and nudes can be very empowering for women; if, and only if, you truly feel comfortable doing so. Equally, there is no shame and no fault in not sending naked pictures of yourself to others. You do not have to buy affections with your body. We should not support those who use naked pictures against others, and we should continue to call out those who disrespect the privilege of our trust. And most importantly, particularly for young girls, we must remember that our self-worth does not depend on the approval of anyone else.
When you’re fourteen you’re not ready
Barely steady, barely standing
Giddy for something
A beautiful anything
To fill in the blanks.
There are sketches on the page
The stage is set
Nothing ready yet for reveal
But someday you’ll finish
A towering feat of humanity and beauty.
You’re a whole universe inside
Impatient and unsatisfied with the wait
To see completion
But you’re fourteen and you’re not quite ready.
But like children who sneak
Down to peak beneath the tree
We are all eager to see
Frantic for the romantic notion of us.
I was fourteen and I was not ready
But you were. You
So much older and already person enough
To decide I was ready to grow up
To be finished –
Before I even knew what I was supposed to look like.
You handed me the blueprint
Said to trust it
Trust you to know what my best me would be
And so eager to finish
I let you take the paint brush from my fingers
And paint over me.
Brick by broken brick
I built myself where you stood
Sticking shards together
Cutting my hands on the pieces you gathered
Wearing adulthood like an oversized dress
Not really sure what you saw
But told you knew best.
Each lash of your tongue worked me harder
Mixing colours and mortar
That never quite matched
Scrambling to finish what you were building
A pillar to humanity
On feet not my own
No balance but never falling.
Building walls of stone and finding no safety within
Painting over cracks with flowers and gifts
Stacking stones on my tower
Building higher and higher until I could not see
And I was not ready.
But wasn’t it beautiful
You created me beautiful
And I didn’t dare stop smiling for fear the paint would crack.
I couldn’t take back the blank canvas
So why break it now?
I was finished
And finished is all others saw
Not the canvas beneath
Choking for air
Through the despair of your brush strokes
Tears never smudging pastels
My whole world darkness and chalk dust.
But they never saw past the conjecture of art
Because why not trust a pretty picture?
And you’re not fourteen anymore.
Seven years I waited
For still life to feel like living
Trapped inside but not wanting to leave
Knowing freedom would destroy
Everything that held me together.
We are all artworks only I did not paint mine
This wasn’t art
This was work
This was not my best me
It was his.
I was the sculpture, not creator
Unable to breathe
Unable to move
And I would give anything to be unfinished
Because I was fourteen and I was not ready.
Featured Image: Zac Quitzau Facebook: Zac's Doodles
Society says that once a woman becomes a wife, has kids or reaches a certain age then they are no longer allowed to express their sexuality. Women who breach this outdated social norm are slut-shamed, condemned, criticised and judged for the way they dress, act and speak.
They say ‘Is that dress really appropriate for a mom to wear? What kind of example are you setting for your daughter?’ They say ‘you’re 60, you should cover up.’ They say ‘how does he [the husband] allow his wife to dress like that let alone go out in public.’ They say ‘you’re a bad role model for young women.’ They say ‘you have no self-respect.’
Well, the star who needs no introduction. The one and only Madonna recently posted a number of semi-nude photos onto her Instagram under the caption “Still Acting my Age!!!” accompanied by some choice words:
“How do i know I’m still acting my Age? Because its MY age and its MY life and all of you Women Hating Bigots need to sit down and try to understand why you feel the need to limit me with your fear of what you aren’t familiar with. You know what happens to Bigots? NOTHING! Nothing happens to people who. Think in a limited way. Facts… ” wrote Madonna.
Yaassss girl Yasssss!
Thank you for living your life how you want and not how society says you must. Thank you for fighting against this sexist expiry date that dictates when a woman can or cannot express their sexuality. Thank you for fighting to dismantle the sexist social expectations placed upon women.
But at a time where women need the support of other women to fight the patriarchy and these sexist social expectations- unfortunately, in many cases it’s other girls who are doing the hating. Let’s be real. Girl on girl hate exists. And it sucks.
Girl on girl hate, however unfortunate, is unsurprising. We live in a culture where girls are constantly pinned against each other as rivals. It’s always a ‘Who Wore it Better’ between two women, instead of a ‘They Both Slayed.’ As prominent novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie pointed out in her personal essay We Should All Be Feminists and in Beyoncé’s song ‘Flawless’:
“We raise girls to see each other as competitors —
not for jobs or for accomplishments,
which I think can be a good thing,
but for the attention of men.
We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings
in the way that boys are.”
So, it really is unsurprising that girl on girl hate exists. Seriously though, why does society, men and other women, think it’s okay to police what women do with their bodies? The same doesn’t happen for men, so why women?
What is it about a woman embracing herself that is so disgraceful and so difficult for society to understand? Isn’t there enough self-hate already? So many people are struggling with learning to love themselves, with body dysmorphia, eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression. Yet when a woman shows an ounce of body positivity, confidence and actually embraces herself, society is so ready to bring her down and keep her down.
Another woman who has spoken out about society trying to dictate her sexuality is Kim Kardashian West. Just one scroll through the comments on one of Kim’s photos and you can see the hate for yourself. And you’ve got to hand it to her, despite all the hate, she’s still fighting the good fight for female empowerment and women’s sexual liberation. Earlier this year, on International Women’s Day, Kim posted an essay and hit us all with some truth bombs. She wrote:
“I am empowered by my sexuality. I am empowered by feeling comfortable in my skin. I am empowered by showing the world my flaws and not being afraid of what anyone is going to say about me. And I hope that through this platform I have been given, I can encourage the same empowerment for girls and women all over the world.”
How are these women bad role models? They teach young girls: that there is no shame in expressing themselves. That there is no shame in their sexuality. That they shouldn’t be ashamed of their bodies. That there is no shame in loving themselves and being confident. That they should live their lives on their terms rather than trying not to offend the delicate sensibilities of some people. That they shouldn’t be afraid of being judged by not conforming to sexist expectations of how a woman should dress, act and speak. To me, that’s the message, the fight and the resolve of a powerful role model.
If we believe in personal autonomy, then there shouldn’t be ANY limit on expressing one’s sexuality. Regardless of whether you’re a wife, mother or an older woman, ALL women should be allowed to decide on their own terms what they want to do with their bodies, free from judgement. If that means wearing a ‘burqini’ on the beach, wearing a sheer outfit or being completely covered, turtle-neck and all- Then more power to you.
So how do we change these sexist social expectations on women? Well for a start we need a lot less girl on girl hate and a lot more #GirlLove. Lilly Singh, the popular YouTuber, also known as IISuperwomanII, launched a campaign earlier this year to give the world more of what it needs #GirlLove, a campaign that is ‘Dedicated to ending and reversing the culture of girl-on-girl hatred.’ Check out her video on YouTube titled ‘Goodbye Hate, Hello #GirlLove!’
But for now, keep fighting the good fight against ‘Women Hating Bigots’ and fighting for more #GirlLove.
This is a cautionary tale of my experiences as a victim of sexual cybercrime. I’m filled with fear, hesitancy and an overwhelming sense of vulnerability at the prospect of writing this piece. I’ve written a little about my experiences before but never as candid as what is to follow. This time around, I’m fighting to reclaim my name and image, a name and image that has been stolen from me and has depicted me as something I’m not.
So here goes…
It all started a couple of years ago when I discovered through a simple Google Image Reverse search that dozens of photos from my social media were plastered all over pornographic sites: xhamster.com, sex.com, cumonprintedpics.com, motherless.com, titsintops.com you name it.
But let me make one thing clear, none of my photos are or were sexually explicit, they were just ordinary images of myself, that like everyone else my age, and everyone else in today’s internet culture, would post on social media.
It’s my understanding after years of dealing with this issue that the picture to the right is the one that started it all, or caught the attention of some pervert out there.
Somehow the perverts responsible had also managed to find out all of my details, which were also posted on these porn sites. My name, where I lived, what I studied- Some people on the thread were even trying to find out the name of my childhood best friend, so they could hack into my Facebook.
What’s more, is that on these pornographic sites were extremely explicit and highly offensive comments about myself that are to this day branded in my mind: ‘Cover her face, and I’d fuck her body,’ and ‘the amount of cum that has been spilt over her could fill a swimming pool.’ I was also called a ‘whale.’
The discovery was traumatising. I was frightened that a perpetrator would try and contact me in person. It was brutal. I immediately went to the police station, but this was before all this exposure to ‘revenge porn’ was dominating discussion in society. The police had told me that essentially there was nothing they could do, as there was nothing illegal going on, because once you upload a photo to Facebook anyone can take it and do anything they want with it, and that I had to contact the websites myself to take them down and just ensure that my social media settings were set to private.
I know now that what was happening to me is called ‘parasite porn’- the term used when ordinary images are taken from a person’s social media site and posted on threads in pornographic sites, usually alongside highly offensive, explicit and objectifying comments.
I also know that there are so many more young women who are victims of ‘parasite porn’ but haven’t a clue and all the while being preyed on by perverted men. The screenshot below is taken from just one website:
For these perverted men, they might argue that what they’re doing may be questionable but technically they aren’t breaking any laws or rules. Unfortunately, they would be right. Under Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, ‘When you publish content or information using the Public setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you.’
Perpetrators of ‘parasite porn’ might not be breaking any rules or laws right now. But it’s not far-fetched to imagine that at some point in the future, society does witness the rise in the incidence of ‘parasite porn,’ and we ask ourselves: how are we allowing this? Is it really okay for others to do anything they want with an image they find online even if it means objectifying, sexualising and preying on the victim? Is this the risk young women have to take to have an online presence? How will we deal with this issue?
So while ‘parasite porn’ might not break any rules or laws, what it does do-is open up the floodgates to an even crazier world. The world of ‘morphed porn’- where ordinary images are manipulated and superimposed on naked bodies or edited to create a more sexualised effect, and posted on porn sites.
This is where my story takes a turn for the worst…
I soon learnt that my face was being photoshopped onto naked women and I was being depicted as an adult actress. Some solo, some with other porn stars and in one image I’m being ejaculated on by two men. Today, Photoshop is so advanced that it’s really not that difficult to morph an image and make it look real- and some of mine do, which has been the cause of so many sleepless nights worrying about my future employability.
The newest morphed image is me photoshopped me onto the cover of porn film, ‘Buttman’s Big Tit Adventure Starring Noelle Martin and 38G monsters’ it says.
From the initial discovery and throughout this process, I contacted all the relevant government agencies and even the Australian Federal Police. I explained my story numerous times but I was always transferred or directed to the next agency or simply not responded to.
So I just had to take matters into my own hands. I frantically went about getting the websites removed with varying degrees of success. Luckily most sites obliged my request for deletion. Until one particular site, the site containing the ‘morphed images.’ I had sternly requested this site be deleted, but the Webmaster refused to do so unless I sent him intimate images of me. When I of course refused and demanded the page be removed, he threatened to send the photos to my university and my father. I knew better than to give into blackmail, so I held strong, but the site wasn’t deleted until much later.
Yet again, I know there are so many girls who literally don’t know about this- it’s a terrifying prospect. The screenshot to the right is from just one site.
Now, some of you may be thinking that I should’ve just had my photo settings on private, or that I shouldn’t upload ‘risqué’ photos, or that I should just quit social media forever.
I thought the same for a long time, I was filled with shame, embarrassment and disappointment. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that I shouldn’t be ashamed at all. I haven’t done anything wrong. Like many others, I’m just another victim of sexual cybercrime.
In fact, now I would say that firstly, no matter how careful you are with your privacy settings on social media. There are always ways around it. These perverts can and do look through photos in the club taken by the club photographer, events pages and even your friends’ accounts
Secondly, blaming the victim is the easy option, especially in this culture of victim-blaming. Where victims of ‘revenge porn’ are asked why they sent nude photos in the first place, instead of why the boys posted them online. We should be asking why these perverted men aren’t being held to account for their actions and for the harm they have not only caused me, but all the other victims subjected to sexual cybercrime.
Lastly, while it may be common knowledge that the internet is a dangerous place and we should all be careful about what we put on the internet, NOBODY expects that when they upload a photo onto Instagram or Facebook, that they’ll end up being depicted as adult actress, with their name and image smeared and misrepresented in a sexually explicit and highly offensive way.
Today, the media is dominated by news of ‘revenge porn.’ We know about the harms of revenge porn to victims that they are more vulnerable to suicide, depression, emotional distress, humiliation and the list goes on.What we don’t hear are the issues of ‘parasite porn’ and ‘morphed porn,’ maybe because most of the victims don’t know they’re victims, which is terrifying enough. But an even more terrifying prospect is that you don’t need to have taken or sent a sexually explicit photo to be at risk.
If you discover that you’re also a victim of ‘parasite porn’ or ‘morphed porn,’ there’s hope still. Now, Google allows you to request the removal of certain photos and videos posted without consent from Google Search Results.
Befitting it seems, how relevant the words of Brené Brown are, the world’s most renowned researcher in shame and vulnerability:
When we deny the story, it defines us. When we own the story, we can write a brave new ending.
So here I am, reclaiming my name.
Featured Image: Zac Quitzau Facebook: Zac’s Doodles
For most of my life I thought the talk about ‘the birds and the bees’ was just a thing of movies, where the parents would sit down their children to talk about sex. The year I started university was when I finally got ‘the talk’. Well, sort of, because what I heard sounded very different to the movies. Mine sounded something like this:
Sex happens between a husband and a wife for the purpose of making babies. It should only happen once you are married and never before. You should never let a guy touch you before you are married to him. Even if you truly believe he will marry you in the future there’s a possibility he won’t, and then nobody else will marry you. I know lots of guys pretend like they are liberal minded and willing to marry a girl who has had sex before, but they aren’t. They just say that so they can get a chance to have sex and then leave you. When a man is looking for a wife they only want a virgin girl, regardless of how liberal they might have pretended to be before that. Even if you have never had sex before but spend lots of time dating boys out in public – especially at night time – then society will still think you have had sex and are no longer pure enough to be someone’s wife. Then nobody will want to marry you and you will grow old alone.
What’s more is that these words came from a place of pure intentions and complete love. They told me this because they truly believed that what they were saying was fact. They were raised by a culture that taught them the values of ‘sexual purity’, and they were terrified that if I unknowingly breached those values I might not find a life partner and I would end up lonely. They just wanted me to be happy in life.
When I heard this I thought I knew better than to let their archaic cultural values influence me, to let them define me by my sexuality. I was wrong.
I found myself wasting lots of time wondering if my entire worth as a person was solely connected to my vagina. And if so, why was I bothering to prove myself to be an intelligent and ambitious university student, or a socially just humanitarian? Four years later and I am still trying to decide what percentage of my value is derived from the condition of my hymen.
It can be very confusing for an Eastern girl growing up in the West.
It can often take a significant toll on your daily life. You start getting socially anxious in ordinary situations. You’re regularly questioning how you should or shouldn’t act in order to fit into society. You feel torn between what is right and wrong based on the vastly different social perceptions from two unique cultures. It’s already hard enough finding your identity in this world, but trying to reconcile Eastern perceptions of women with Western perceptions proves emotionally taxing and can lead to depression.
Some of you might be thinking that surely nobody believes things like that these days, because for the most part the West has long since moved away from traditional expectations of female sexuality. However, the East has not. These archaic views of sexuality are very common amongst culturally Eastern communities, regardless of their geographic location. In Eastern cultures it is not possible for women to be faithful to their cultural origins whilst also being sexually liberal.
But the same isn’t true for men. A man’s value and worth are based on their accomplishments. Yet for Eastern women our accomplishments are overlooked if we are no longer ‘virgins’, and our worth is completely diminished. Why must I make a choice that my male counterpart is not required to make? How is it fair that Eastern women are judged by our sexuality when Eastern men are judged by their accomplishments?
Growing up in the West we are taught at school that men and women are equal. Growing up as an Eastern woman in the West I was taught the same, but with a caveat: that our worth as women is solely linked to our sexual purity, or lack thereof.
For Eastern cultures, the extent of gender equality should not stop at sexuality. So why are their words branded in my mind, still so hard to shake off?
How do Eastern women in the West reconcile our cultural roots and our sexuality? How do we change these social views? Or are we required to choose between the two?
Featured Image: Zac Quitzau Facebook: Zac’s Doodles
When I was 18 I was fat. Not as fat as I am right now, but still generically fat. I had some slight issues with self esteem at the time, but nothing too terrible. Just the usual self-doubt all teenagers go through. But for the most part I could see my positive qualities when I looked in the mirror. I liked my hair. My eyes. My boobs. And my boyfriend at the time could see beauty in me too, and wasn’t bothered by my weight. I was in my first year of my dream degree, I had a good circle of friends, and I was recovering from depression. For the most part, I was happy.
Things changed when I met my boyfriend’s mother.
She had already expressed her dislike for me, despite never having met me. She wanted her son to date someone from the same cultural background as her family, which I understood to some extent. But she seemed to get over it with time and eventually asked to meet me in person. I was hopeful and dressed nicely that day. I was polite, I smiled, I even brought a gift for her. But after accepting my gift, she spoke a single phrase in Mandarin and left the room.
I don’t speak Mandarin, but anyone could have guessed something was wrong. Still, it can’t have been that bad, right? I asked my boyfriend what was wrong and he simply replied that she did not like me. How? How could she not like me? We had barely spoken before she left the room, and I didn’t think it was possible to actively dislike someone without getting to know them first. I grew more concerned the longer he refused to explain what had happened. Had I worn too much make-up? Was my gift wrong? Should I have tried to learn some Mandarin before meeting her? It wasn’t until we were outside his apartment and on our way out for lunch that he finally translated what had happened.
‘She said you’re too fat.’
I didn’t know how to respond. I’d been told I was fat before, countless times. Growing up my parents had regularly tried to pressure me into losing weight because they were worried about my health. But whenever I went to the doctor my physical health was always fine. Eventually I learned to take their comments in stride, because I knew it at least came from a place of love. And of course I had heard the occasional comment from kids during school or strangers on the street, but it never had any real consequences for me.
But this had not come from a place of love. This was not a passing comment in the heat of the moment. ‘You’re too fat.’ I knew I was fat. But I didn’t know I was too fat.
I did what a lot of 18 year olds in my position would have done: I cried my eyes out. My boyfriend told me his mother was wrong and tried to brush it off as unimportant – he didn’t care what his mother thought, so why should I? My parents and friends told me that I didn’t have to lose weight for anyone but myself – I shouldn’t let it get to me.
But it did. I became obsessed with my weight. I started hitting the gym every day for hours at a time, sometimes twice a day. I stopped eating altogether at first, but luckily I had a loving family who intervened before it became a habit. Instead I began counting every calorie, skipped entire meals if I felt bloated, refused to go to parties with friends in case I was tempted to drink or eat something unplanned. I was in my first year of a double degree but I skipped class to be at the gym. In the first month I dropped 12 kilograms.
My family was initially happy to see me losing weight, but they saw my obsession and warned me to slow down. My boyfriend didn’t mention my weight loss at all to me, until one day I asked him if he had noticed my body shrinking. He had of course, but it hadn’t changed what he thought of me. I was still me, no matter my size. Everybody who loved me continued to love me just the same. Yet there I was, entirely focused on losing weight to earn the approval of a person who had deemed me not good enough because of my size.
And I was not happy.
It took me a long time to realize that losing weight for the approval of someone else was never going to be the right way to lose weight. It was never going to make me happy because it wasn’t what I wanted. I had exerted so much energy and time and thought into making myself unhappy. Over time I learned that even if I did lose weight, she would never think I was good enough for her son, and in the end he wasn’t the one for me. But it took repeated attempts at weight loss and a lot of self criticism before I learned that I was better off losing negative people from my life than I was losing numbers from a scale.
People, especially women, are often expected to conform to what other people believe is the ideal body type. People are always commenting on our bodies, as though they are an artwork on display for critique and comment. But while we are all artworks, we aren’t on display for the approval of others. I realised that I should not be changing my body to make other people happy. The only person whose happiness should be affected by my body was me. If other people chose to judge my character on my weight then it was their problem, not mine. It was not my job to alter my artwork to make other people feel comfortable.
This was not a lesson I learned over night, and it definitely wasn’t easy to put into practice. In a lot of ways I am still learning that my weight – and my appearance generally – should only matter to me. Some people seem almost reckless in the way they choose to ostracise and bully people for the most obscure and unimportant things. But what these other people think doesn’t matter. Those that love you, and decent people all around, won’t care about your weight. They won’t care about how you look, because they know that it doesn’t define who you are. You can be a beautiful, happy, and wonderful person worthy of love and respect, and be fat.
If I am already happy not being skinny, then I don’t have to be skinny to be happy.
Featured Image: Zac Quitzau Facebook: Zac’s Doodles
This morning I woke up to find yet another headline that has become all too familiar over the past few months: ‘Rapist Walks Free’. I’m starting to forget the last time I woke up and there wasn’t a similar story somewhere on my newsfeed.
A few days ago I read about Kraigen Grooms, a 19-year-old from the US who pleaded guilty to committing sexual acts with a toddler back in 2014. Grooms was 16 at the time of the attack, and the female victim was aged between 12-18 months; more of a baby than a toddler. The lewd act was also recorded on camera by another party. Police found evidence to suggest the attack was premeditated, and that Grooms may have also planned to commit a similar offence against another toddler, this time a three year old boy.
So to sum up: a teenager raped a baby while streaming it online. And he planned to do it again.
I imagine that many of us assume that an offence such as this would carry with it an appropriate sentence, and for most of us I think that a lengthy prison term would satiate our want to see justice done. Sexual violence is after all one of the most heinous crimes that can be committed, and young children and babies are some of the most vulnerable members of society. Surely, for their protection, such an act should be met with adequate justice?
Grooms, who was guilty of engaging in a lascivious act with a child, received a ten year suspended sentence. The only term he served was the two years waiting for his trial, shared between juvenile detention and county prison. The only palpable impact upon his life was the requirement that he register as a sex offender. If he fails to do so, then he will serve his prison sentence. In other words, as long as he follows the rules this time around, he doesn’t have to serve any jail time for his offence.
One can’t help but draw parallels between this case and that of the now infamous Brock Turner. Turner was found guilty of sexual assault earlier this year, and was sentenced to only six months in prison. To add salt to the wound, he only served three of those months, released early for his good behaviour. The Rolling Stone reported that the judge’s lenient sentence was supported by the claim that a lengthy prison sentence would have a ‘severe impact’ upon Turner. Turner was also required to register as a sex offender, which the judge felt was part and parcel of his punishment.
Unlike Grooms, Turner was not a minor when he committed his crimes, and his victim was 22 years old. Still it is easy to see the similar way leniency was shown in both cases. Both offenders evaded lengthy prison sentences, both are white males, and both are required to register as sex offenders. And in both cases there has been public outrage and a call for the sentencing judges to be investigated and dismissed.
But what does registering as a sexual offender really mean? In the US it limits where a sexual offender can live so that they cannot reside close to places with children, like schools and parks. However, as critic Emily Horowitz has noted, not all offenders have committed sexual crimes against children. Turner, for example, attacked an older woman. While protection of our kids is obviously paramount, you have to wonder why the focus is on children even for offenders who have not committed acts against children. The punishment does not seem to fit the crime.
Some might argue that the sex offender registry is designed to forever inhibit offenders whose details are listed publically for employers, neighbours, and basically everyone to see. But if you were hoping that this would be the long term punishment you thought they would receive, then I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed. Although the register does provide details of registered offenders, in some US states only the details of high-risk offenders are available to the public.
And as if that wasn’t enough, the Office of Justice has found no consistent studies demonstrating the effectiveness of sex offender registration in actually preventing further crime.
So what’s the real outcome here? What punishment do Grooms and Turner face for sexually assaulting their respective victims who were both unable to defend themselves? The answer unfortunately is that neither of them will likely serve any significant prison time for their crimes, and the only long-term punishment either will receive is being listed on a glorified name and shame register.
Am I understating the impact on a person’s life of being a registered sex offender? Probably. But both of these men who committed crimes against vulnerable persons will serve understated sentences. So yes, I’m bitter. I’m angry at the sense of entitlement that seems to encourage men to take whatever they want. And I’m angry that the system is letting them largely get away with it. Why should the victim suffer more than the offender?
And yes, both Turner and Grooms will probably suffer at the hands of public outrage. And no, it is not okay to stand outside someone’s house with assault weapons as some people have done outside of Turner’s house – that is not an appropriate punishment either. None of this goes to the core of the issue: neither of these offenders will face a punishment that fits the crimes they committed.
At first we weren’t finding rapists guilty of their violent crimes. We called victims of sex crimes liars and fabricators and victim blamed our way through centuries, blindfolded and throwing punches in the dark. Now we finally accept that these violent sexual acts are occurring, but we refuse to punish offenders because we are too focused on how their lives will be affected in the long term.
We need appropriate sentencing. We need rehabilitation programs. We need justice.
Featured Image: Zac Quitzau Facebook: Zac’s Doodles