Take Up Space Unapologetically: Tackling Online Abuse

Learning about the tools and ways we can manage our privacy online is incredibly important in the digital age. We should all be equipped with the knowledge to make informed decisions about our own digital footprint. There are a myriad of reasons why people choose to be more private than public on social media, and vice versa.

However, I’m growing wary when general advice is given by online safety institutions encouraging people to manage, control or lock down their privacy settings on social media in order to ‘protect’ themselves from forms of online abuse, particularly image-based abuse, which this piece will focus on.

I argue that such advice may be necessary in specific circumstances, but is problematic as a general course of action because it:

  1. cannot guarantee individuals protection from online abuse;
  2. may mitigate the risk of abuse but often fails to manage victims’ expectations;
  3. shifts responsibility away from perpetrators;
  4. disproportionately disenfranchises certain groups and individuals;
  5. is a short-term fix with long-term consequences;
  6. screams victim blaming under the guise of protection;
  7. is not conducive to creating an online world in which we are all safe and free to express ourselves, let alone exist, without being abused; and
  8. fails to actually address the underlying problem at hand.

At the fundamental level there is no guarantee that one can completely protect themselves in the digital age from certain forms of online abuse, including image-based abuse.

Image-based abuse takes many forms from distributing, surreptitiously recording, or threatening to distribute or record intimate images/videos without consent. It includes non-consensually sharing altered intimate images/videos. In the digital age of ‘upskirting’ and ‘downblowsing’ people can be victimised without knowing it. Peoples images can be manipulated from a LinkedIn profile picture, altered into pornography and shared online. The reality is – some forms of online abuse occur beyond our control, even if we follow the advice of controlling or locking our privacy settings on social media.

The most compelling reason why it may be important or in fact, necessary to advise people to control or lock down privacy settings on social media in order to protect themselves from image-based sexual abuse, is that it may mitigate the risk of abuse occurring or continuing to occur, especially when victims may be in danger. Two points to make here:

First, when some online safety institutions encourage people to control their social media settings, it is not accompanied with the explanation that doing so just mitigates the risk of online abuse, as doing so will not guarantee protection from online abuse.

Failing to qualify statements and calls to lock down your social media, fails to adequately manage the expectations of victims and the public, and what’s more concerning is that it gives victims and the public a false sense of security that they are protecting themselves if they follow such advice.

Second, there are horrific cases in which a victim is in danger or is living in fear of the perpetrator/s. Cases where the abuse is relentless, merciless and unforgiving. Cases where the victim’s safety is of paramount importance and that means doing everything possible to try to keep the victim safe. As a survivor of image-based abuse there were times in my journey where I deactivated social media because the emotional distress was overwhelming. In such cases it may be necessary to encourage victims to manage their social media settings, as sad and unfair as it is. However, I believe such advice should be reserved for specific circumstances rather than a general course of action for the public.

Why? Because as a general course of action, even if it may mitigate the risk of online abuse it places the onus, burden and responsibility squarely on everyone except the perpetrator, it places it on us to protect ourselves from online abuse, when the only people who should be changing their behaviour are the perpetrators who are committing the abuse.

Now, you may be thinking, obviously its the perpetrators who should be the ones changing their behaviour, but there are ‘bad’ people in this world who are going to commit these abuses anyway. Common sense would dictate that an appropriate course of action would be to control or lock down our social media settings. 

While I hear you and understand what you are saying, I would still argue that the defensive approach to managing, controlling or locking down your social media settings is not going to work long-term and is not conducive to creating an online world in which we are all safe and free to express ourselves, let alone exist, without being misappropriated or abused. I’ll explain why shortly.

For now, let’s examine who would be the most affected by such general advice. We know that image-based abuse disproportionately affects certain groups in our society: young women, the LGBTQI community, people with disabilities, etc. So, when you make calls to people to control their social media settings, its these groups who would be the most receptive to such advice, and therefore be disproportionately affected by such advice.

We know that social media is used as an economic opportunity for people to build personal brands or grow businesses, its used as a platform to engage and contribute to social and political discourse, its used to connect with friends and family. Sometimes, using social media is necessary for work and career progression.

There are so many benefits to social media that you are disproportionately locking certain people out of by encouraging people to control or lock down social media settings, further disenfranchising certain groups and vulnerable individuals. It’s these groups who lose out the most from the cultural life of our times, leaving other demographics to dominate the social media landscape.

In the short-term, while generally encouraging or advising people to control or lock down their social media settings may mitigate the risk of abuse occurring, noting there is still no guarantee; in the long term, the consequences of such advice can adversely impact the very people you are trying to protect by impacting the configuration of online discourse that excludes the voices of certain groups and individuals, by socially isolating certain groups in our society, by disempowering and depriving people of economic opportunities, among other things.

I’d even go so far as to argue that encouraging people with general advice to manage, control or lock down their social media settings to protect themselves from online abuse is akin to telling people to lock themselves in their houses because the real world is full of dangers.

It’s well-meaning but it screams victim blaming under the guise of protection.

We see victim blaming all the time. It’s the kind of attitude that attacks and criticises the conduct of the victim, instead of the perpetrators of a crime. It’s the kind of attitude that shifts accountability and responsibility away from perpetrators and places it on the victim. It’s the sentiment that somehow the victim is at fault for the wrongdoings committed against them, or worse that the victim deserves the harm.

Victim blaming attitudes are rife in discussions of rape, image-based sexual abuse and family and domestic violence:

If she wasn’t wearing such revealing clothes she wouldn’t have been raped. If she didn’t send nude photos, he wouldn’t have uploaded them online. If she didn’t post “revealing” photos to social media, they wouldn’t be photo shopped into porn. If she was being abused at home she should’ve just left him.

Attitudes that shift responsibility away from perpetrators of crime are dangerous for so many reasons, but I believe the most concerning is that it is not conducive to creating an online world, let alone a world, in which we are safe to express ourselves, let alone exist, without being abused. To illustrate this, I’ll go back to a point made earlier, that essentially there are always going to be ‘bad’ people in this world who commit atrocities, so common sense would dictate that a good course of action is to control or lock down our social media settings. To which I would concede that you’re right, there are always going to be people who perpetrate harm onto others, but I fail to see how anything will stop if you keep advising people to control or lock down their social media settings in order to protect themselves from online abuse.

  • To what end are you advising people to do just that?
  • Are we just going to keep retreating while perpetrators may or may not be held accountable for their actions?
  • And even if we retreat by controlling our social media settings and perpetrators are also held accountable for their behaviour, we’re still the ones who lose out all round. 

If this path continues, I see no end. We’ll be stuck in a cycle where we are forever on the defensive, thereby fostering an online world of fear which makes space for perpetrators to our detriment. We can’t just stop living because there’s bad people out there. We can’t just be stuck in the house because there’s dangers in the real world, and we shouldn’t be missing out on fully participating in the online world because there are people who perpetrate online abuse. I say:

Take Up Space Unapologetically

Lastly, general advice encouraging people to manage, control or lock down their social media settings does not address the underlying problem at hand. It does not address the reality that perpetrators are treating the people they prey upon, commonly women, with no regard for that person’s humanity or dignity. It does not address the motivations behind why perpetrators commit online abuse. Frankly, efforts should focus on holding perpetrators accountable rather than encouraging people to do this, that or the other to maybe safeguard themselves.

While equipping people with the knowledge to make informed decisions about their digital footprint is important; general advice encouraging people to manage, control or lock down their social media settings in order to protect themselves from forms of online abuse is problematic. And I would urge leaders in the online safety space to reconsider doing that.


Featured Image: Photo by William Iven on Unsplash






The Morning After Pill: A Breakdown

Babies and children aren’t for everyone. Sure, some are great. I mean, we all have that favourite younger family member who is cute, (mostly) clean but if chaos were to ensue we know that we can just give them back to their guardians. Sometimes though, all you do see is the smelly, screaming, temper tantrum throwing goblins running around the shopping complex with little to no regard of the world around them. Dragging what were once fully functioning adults – but are now Disney and vomit clad zombies, with vocabularies limited to 3-syllable words and internally polarised vaccination opinions, behind them. While I have been promised parenthood is a very rewarding and fulfilling experience, for those content being the tantrum throwers themselves, here’s how to avoid a baby:

Many of you (hopefully) know that the most reliable form of contraception is pairing a form of birth control (like an oral contraceptive or IUD) with barrier protection (condoms or a diaphragm) as neither of these are 100% effective against everything. However, this article is going cover what to do when these fail. I’ve sat down with UC Alumni, Megan Jackson from Priceline Pharmacy Gungahlin to give us an idea of what to expect when trying to access the morning after pill, how it works and what will go on ~down there~ when you use it.

If you’ve missed a pill, had a condom break or just haven’t used contraception for whatever reason, and want to avoid pregnancy your best chance is to go immediately into a pharmacy to access the morning after pill. Megan tells us that the morning after pill works by preventing the egg from leaving the ovary, delaying ovulation. It’s basically a one-time version of the oral contraceptive pill and it’s highly effective when taken quickly.

As the morning after pill is an over the counter medication, you don’t need to see a doctor for a prescription. Because of this, many women and their partners are often quite confronted to find they have to fill in a questionnaire. Many pharmacies provide a counselling room for privacy. It’s important to understand that you should never feel ashamed of yourself for seeking assistance with a sexual health issue, just as you wouldn’t for a general health issue. The questionnaire requires you to fill out your name and contact details, and although Megan assures us that at most pharmacies these are shredded, some may keep them on file in case you have an adverse reaction.

There are questions about your regular period, your general health, usual contraception methods and finally why you need emergency contraception. Megan breaks down the questionnaire’s three most important sections to: 1) your last period, 2) medications and health conditions, and 3) the time since the unprotected sex.

“Whilst they’re uncommon medications, different types of HIV and Epilepsy medications interact with the Morning After Pill, if you have malabsorption issues it’s important for us to note. We may have to give you two doses. If you haven’t had your period in three months either, there’s a chance you’re already pregnant.”

The longer it’s been since you’ve had unprotected sex affects its effectiveness as well. While Megan says that she would never refuse someone emergency contraception, it’s effectiveness basically caps at five days.

“In the first twenty-four hours it’s about 95% effective, twenty-four to forty-eight hours it’s 85% and between forty-eight and seventy-two hours it’s 58% effective.”

When it comes down to selecting the reason why you require emergency contraception there’s a box marked ‘sexual assault’. If you have been sexually assaulted, this doesn’t change the way the pharmacist dispenses the morning after pill. It just gives them a chance to refer you to other services such as sexual health clinics, the Emergency Department or a GP if you would like to have a rape kit administered. It means they are able to show you resources if you would like to get help.

In fact, it’s very hard to be refused the morning after pill with nearly every chemist stocking multiple brands of it. Some pharmacists may refuse to serve you for religious beliefs, but are bound by a duty of care to either get someone else in the store to serve you, or call another close store and direct you there. They’re also bound by a code of ethics not to degrade or belittle you for requesting emergency contraception.

“It’s in the Pharmacies Professional’s Standards and Code of Ethics, we have to provide timely advice and information. It should be done in a polite and discreet way. It’s part of their job, it’s what they’re trained to do. Make a complaint to the store manager, it’s unacceptable.”

The morning after pill will range between $20-$40 depending on if the pharmacy stocks a generic or name brand and is best to take straight away. Possible side effects, according to Megan, include; nausea, headaches, spotting, and breast tenderness.

“You’ve basically just put a hormone into your system so the imbalance will make you feel a little PMS-y.”

Your nausea should wear off in three to twenty-four hours, but if you do vomit in the first two hours or so come back into the pharmacy because there’s a chance it wasn’t absorbed properly. The breast tenderness won’t come in for a few days after, but should also be gone in about three days. Although these are the bulk of the side effects, everyone reacts differently and it’s possible for some women to experience bad cramping or heavy bleeding during their next period. It’s also likely to delay your period for up to a week, because of the change in ovulation.

However, if your period is more than a week late or is much lighter than usual it would be best to follow up with a pregnancy test and/or doctors visit.

When it comes to using it again (and again, and again) there’s no real reason why you can’t. Megan says that the morning after pill does not have any effect on current, unknown pregnancies (eg birth defects) and is safe to use while breastfeeding. Its effectiveness is just much lower than other forms of contraception. The oral contraceptive pill for example, is 99% effective when taken properly and is substantially cheaper than taking the morning after pill regularly.

For more information, talk to your GP.


By: Imogen Hughes – A version of this article has been previously published at Curieux, The University of Canberra Student Magazine




How to not be insensitive this Halloween

Halloween is just around the corner! And because I love dressing up and getting candy free of charge, I am very excited. Even though I’m not American (and not a kid anymore) I still love seeing all the spooky decorations and getting my outfit ready; costume parties are my jam. Halloween goes hand-in-hand with dressing up in costumes that vary from the incredibly detailed to the last-minute-rush-as-I-walk-out-the-door variety. No matter which one it is, it’s always great to see what people come up with.

While spooky can be fun, it can also be, well… spooky. Playing dress-ups has become a hot topic lately, with controversies over who should wear what costumes, and whether certain outfits are all in good fun or just outright offensive. For some people the social rules of faux pas can be a little tricky to navigate.

That’s why we’re suggesting these four simple tips on how to not be insensitive this Halloween.

Tip One: Costumes are not consent

Anyone who has been to any of the big pop-culture conventions will tell you that costumes aren’t just worn on Halloween. Cosplayers wear costumes all year round, with people from all walks of life coming together to share in their love of fantasy and sci-fi by dressing up as their favourite characters.

They will also tell you that cosplay is not consent. This is a very common phrase used at conventions that simply means: just because someone is wearing a costume does not mean you can touch them. This rule is incredibly important at conventions, because sometimes people forget that it’s a real person walking around, and not actually their favourite comic book character. It’s also important because a few cosplays can be quite revealing, and some people think this means it is okay to touch the cosplayer.

It’s pretty simple really; costumes do not change the normal rules of etiquette. No matter what a person is wearing, no matter how much or how little skin they are revealing, you do not have the right to touch that person unless they give consent. So this Halloween, no matter what anyone is wearing, do not assume you have the right to touch them. No touchy – sound good?

Tip Two: Costumes have no gender

We’ve all seen stories posted online about parents who insist that their little girl wear the Cinderella dress even though they want to be Spiderman. Or the little boy who wanted to be Cinderella but is forced to dress as Spiderman instead. This is symptomatic of a larger issue regarding the division and reinforcement of the gender binary at a young age, of gender normativity, but that’s probably an issue for another post.

My point is: anyone can wear whatever costume they like. Boys can be princesses, girls can be superheroes. And this rule applies to you no matter what age you are. So you’re a 26-year-old man and you’ve always wanted to be Ariel? Go ahead – do it! You have my blessing!

Costumes on Halloween should be about having fun, and taking away a person’s joy because it doesn’t subscribe to your pink vs blue litmus test is ridiculous.

Tip Three: Dressing up is for everyone

While we’re on the subject of shattering ridiculous socially constructed norms, it’s time to open our minds to the idea that you don’t have to be white to dress as Sailor Moon. You don’t have to be skinny to dress as Catwoman. You don’t have to be ripped to dress as Thor. You can be a Timelord and still be in a wheelchair. People can dress up as whatever the hell they want, regardless of skin colour, weight, height, disability, body shape – anything! Whatever makes them happy and comfortable.

It’s important to understand that having fun is for everyone, so don’t be the one to rain on their parade.

Tip Four: Culture is not a costume

This appears to be a tricky one for some people, as was evidenced by the polarised response to the culturally insensitive Maui costume released by Disney earlier this year. The costume, for children, was a brown body suit covered in tribal tattoos with muscle padding. Many people called the costume out as racist for using the dark skin colour, and insensitive for the use of traditional tattoos in the costume design. It was quickly pulled from stores.

People seemed to be either offended by the costume, or offended that people would be offended. It’s fairly indisputable that the costume was cultural appropriation, but this concept is sometimes used as evidence of our world becoming too politically correct (an idea that I take umbrage with, but I digress).

Cultural appropriation is essentially the use of a culture you are not a part of. This on its own may not always be problematic, but it becomes an issue when minority groups – who suffer discrimination simply for being a member of their cultural minority – have their culture used in part by majority cultures. Very often the cultural element or the tradition is taken out if its original context, which is often disrespectful enough on its own. But adding insult to injury is the fact that the majority culture does not face the same hardship as the minority culture does for wearing that culture. If a Native American wears a headdress it’s political statement, but when a white person does it’s ‘quirky and fun.’ Therein lies the issue.

The best way to avoid being culturally inappropriate is to avoid culturally or racially charged costumes. Another person’s race or culture is their identity, not a costume for you to take on and off. While it’s important for you to have a great time, it’s more important not to offend minority cultures in the process.

So there you have it. Four easy, simple ways to not be insensitive this Halloween. Have fun this October, be safe, and remember we’re all just here for the booze and the Fantales anyway.

Eastern Women in the West: Culture or Sexual Liberation?

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

Stop Protecting Rapists

Words: Jessica Sheridan

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



The Silhouette of Slut Shaming

She doesn’t fuck around, she’s a good girl. Ever heard that before? How about ‘look at what she’s wearing, has she no self-respect.’ What about something like, ‘I want a lady in the street, but a freak in the bed.’ Ever heard, ‘she’s elegant and classy, she’s the girl you bring home to your mum,’ or ‘leave a little to the imagination,’ or ‘if you show your legs you can’t show your cleavage, it’s one or the other.’ What about something like, ‘she fucks everyone, she must have some deep-rooted issues.’

What about, ‘she’s a filthy slut’?

All of the above are everyday examples that wreak of ‘slut shaming.’ Slut shaming refers to certain attitudes that criticise, judge and demonise females for violating traditional gender norms about women’s sexuality. It’s the deep rooted sentiment that a woman’s worth is somehow dependent on her ‘flower’ or her sexuality.

Here’s everything that’s wrong with slut shaming:

1- We’re damned if we do, we’re damned if we don’t

When a woman engages in casual sex, she’s a slut. Even if a woman just dates men, it’s assumed she’s sleeping with them, and she’s a slut. Taylor Swift, is infamously known and heavily criticised for dating many men, and she has described herself as a ‘national lightning rod for slut-shaming.’

When a woman says things of a sexual nature she’s a slut- Olivia Melville made headlines when a man posted to Facebook a screenshot of her Tinder profile which contained the rapper, Drake’s lyric, “The type of girl that will suck you dry and then eat some lunch with you,” accompanied with his caption ‘Stay classy ladies.’ Since, the incident Melville has been subject to sexual harassment.

Even when a woman says things that could be inferred as sexual, she’s a slut. When a woman dresses provocatively she’s a slut. Miley Cyrus and Kim Kardashian West to name a few, are demonised for how they choose to dress, to the point that their success and accomplishments are undermined and disregarded.

Essentially anytime a woman expresses her sexuality, she’s a slut. And yes, this is a sexist issue because there is no male equivalent. Women are sluts and men are glorified for the same actions. Slut shaming is a form of sexism and is a sexual injustice.

What’s more, is that for females who don’t necessarily violate traditional gender norms, then their femininity is called into question, they are seen as undesirable and prudish with no sexual desires. So, there’s really no way out for women. We are damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

2- Mixed expectations

The greatest irony of slut shaming is that our culture actively encourages the sexualisation of females. We live in a hypersexualised world where sex sells, yet when a woman embraces her sexuality for herself she’s a slut. So it’s okay for society to dictate how a woman should look, act, dress and behave, but it’s not okay for a woman to dictate how she lives her life. So, really, slut shaming is another way of policing how a woman should live their lives and undermines a woman’s right to personal autonomy.

3- A supposed ‘correlation’ between sex and worth

Slut shaming incorrectly assumes that the way women dress or act is reflective of their self-worth and self-respect. The thing is- women have sexual desires too! Just because a woman sleeps around doesn’t mean they have no self-respect or self-worth, they might just like  sex- it’s really as simple as that.

4- It’s us against the world

Slut shaming can occur at the hands of society, men and yes- women too. Yes- many women, and this is arguably the worst kind of slut-shaming. Women who slut shame other women reinforce this girl on girl hate, when we should be empowering other women, I mean, women already have to face it from the rest of society, we need more female solidarity.  People who have slut shamed others have lost their jobs. A Sydney man Michael Nolan, would call women sluts on Facebook, until feminist writer, Clementine Ford brought it to the public’s attention and he was subsequently fired from his job. But is the court of public opinion in bringing perpetrators of slut shaming to justice enough?  Should there be slut-shaming specific laws in Australia? What would such laws look like? Food for thought.

5- The harm is significant

To be labelled a ‘slut’ diminishes a woman’s worth, respectability, reputation, and reduces her to ‘damaged goods.’

Sadly, it is not uncommon for victims of slut shaming to take their lives because of the harm, humiliation, ridicule and harassment that comes with slut shaming. Advances in technology also make incidents of slut shaming more prevalent and easier to carry out. Revenge porn is a serious example of slut shaming, and involves the spread of sexually explicit material of usually women, typically by ex-lovers, to humiliate and degrade a girl. Victims of revenge porn can experience sexual harassment, depression, humiliation and their employability can be compromised.

6- Perpetuates broader social injustices

Slut shaming has serious social implications as it actually fuels rape culture and victim blaming. The term ‘rape culture’ brings to light how females are blamed for acts of sexual violence committed against them, because of how they dressed or how they behaved. Controversial statements from police officers and politicians have tried to justify incidents of rape by victim blaming a female’s provocative clothing or sexual promiscuity. Which makes the awareness of slut shaming even more important, because it affects a wide range of sexual injustices.

But, things are changing:

Now, luckily there is an emerging movement to reclaim the word ‘slut,’ to rid it from negative connotations and to use it as a tool of women’s sexual empowerment.  Rapper Brooke Candy in a lyric says ‘that it’s time to take the word back slut is now a compliment.’ Amber Rose, a famous player in bringing awareness to slut shaming and reducing the shame around female sexuality created the ‘Amber Rose Slut Walk.’ Furthermore, sex positivity is being encouraged by ‘The Unslut Project’ where people can openly talk about their sexual experiences, free from judgement to work against sexual bullying and slut shaming.

So, if you’re someone who believes that women should have personal autonomy and should be in control of how they live their lives, sexually promiscuous or not, without fear of condemnation and judgment, then slut shaming should be on your radar. Slut shaming affects all women.

For too long women have been told: to be afraid and ashamed of their sexuality; that the sexual woman is the unworthy bad woman. For too long, women have been told how to dress, speak and act. The silhouette of slut shaming is broad, dangerous and not a pretty sight, it is so important to be prepared to speak up if you see, hear or feel it, however trivial the circumstances.

Featured Image: Zac Quitzau. Facebook: Zac’s Doodles

The Nightclub Scene: The Place of Normalised Sexual Violence

I’m literally sick and tired of being groped every time I go out to the clubs.

I went to the club this weekend with my gals ready to dance til’ our heels came off but instead I performed kung fu on the dance floor trying to stop the wandering hands of desperate men trying to smack my ass or feel my boobs. I was groped more than 30 times, easily. They’d stick their sweaty hands on my thighs, behind, boobs and all over my body. My friends and I were literally manhandled on the dance floor, we were pushed around from guy to guy as they tried to grind their packages on us. Like, you don’t know me like that, step the fuck away.

This kind of shit is not an isolated one, it happens all the time. I’ve had guys come out of nowhere and stick their tongues down my throat. I’ve been motorboated out of nowhere. This kind of shit happens to ALL girls. ALL the goddamn time. NO, it does not matter what club you go to- this shit will happen in a fancy club, bar, where the fuck ever. Granted, girls will probably experience less of it, depending where they go, but it will still happen. NO, it does not matter what the girl is wearing- this shit will happen even if a girl is completely covered head to toe. NO, it’s not a compliment- we feel disgusted and violated so get your hands off of us! NO, alcohol is just not an excuse. And NO, not all guys do this, but there a lot that do and it needs to stop.

This kind of shit is the norm. It’s almost an expectation. If you’re a girl and you go out to a nightclub, some guy will try and touch you inappropriately. This kind of shit is literally an unenforced, acceptable, normalised form of sexual assault. This kind of shit doesn’t happen to men, how often do you see a girl copping a feel of a guy’s package as they walk past?

As girls, what can we do? Yeah, we can assertively call them out on it and walk away. Don’t fucking touch me! I’d say, but even then, some guys have the audacity to try again when we do. If we make a huge deal about it, not only will it kill our vibe but it happens so often that at some point, one unwelcomed smack on the ass can sadly not be worth addressing. I’ve never tried, but one could notify security but then again it’d kill our vibe, and every 10 minutes we’d be doing so and I assume security would tell us to keep away from the dirty guys, and at best they may tell the culprits to stop or possibly even leave- but I highly doubt the latter. So, really, this kind of shit is just continuing to the point at which some girls are forced off the dance floor because they are being violated too much.

I mean, what the fuck is going through these guys’ heads. Would they like it if this kind of shit happened to their sisters or cousins or girlfr… well, I was going to say girlfriends but I thought again, but then again, again, I wouldn’t put it past some guys.

Realistically, ladies, if this is going to stop, keep calling the culprits out on it. Your friends should also help you in the process. If however, we want to see drastic change, I really think that night club security needs to play a bigger role in stepping up and stopping this kind of shit. I can only imagine how much security would being seeing of this. Friends of guys that do this kind of shit, first off, why on earth would you associate with such people I don’t know, but I hope you step up and stop this. And to the guys that do this shit- fuck right off. Seriously. Enough is enough.

Featured Image: Zac Quitzau Fb: Zac’s Doodles

Slaves to Validation

To seek validation is to seek approval from others or to feel the need to be of value to others. Nobody is immune from the chains of validation, everyone has sought and seeks validation somehow, in some way and to some extent. We seek approval for our decisions, actions, thoughts and everything in between- from our parents, family, friends, employers, colleagues, strangers and broader society. We do it in our everyday lives right through to our online presence. At times, seeking validation is synonymous with attention-seeking. In fact, the role of ‘validation’ in our lives is hardly ever discussed in academic literature, and yet we are all ‘slaves to validation.’

There’s a lot of questions that arise from the concept of validation, like, why does it matter what other people think of us? Can we actually control how others view us? Do we actually own our reputation or is it actually owned by others? What happens to us when we seek validation? Why do we seek validation? Is there a healthy form of validation seeking? Is seeking validation a good or bad thing?

To me, the scariest question of all is, who are we but for what other people say we are? How do we know we’re good kissers but for other people saying we are? How do we know we’re smart or beautiful but for other people saying we are? How do we know our butt looks big in these jeans but for other people’s views? Are human beings inherently a product of the reflections other people have of us?

Let’s examine these questions.

Facebook. Instagram. Snapchat. Twitter. For many, social media is a place for sharing one’s life with friends and family but for others it’s a place for seeking validation from the world. I’m sure some people automatically come to mind. To show how seeking validation can manifest itself online, take Instagram model, Essena O’Neill, who made headlines recently for quitting social media and exposing the truth behind the façade of appearing perfect on Instagram. She said she had a conditional sense of self-worth because she was happy when she looked like the fitness models she looked up to- the beautiful, tan, firm-breasted, thigh-gapped women. Her self-love came from how she looked in photos and posting images was how she validated her life. She claimed that all the world would see is one image, but behind the images are 100 different poses, a good filter, and sticking in your tummy in to appear the way she did on Instagram.

Now, there was a lot of controversy surrounding Essena O’Neill’s “coming out” because people thought it was a scam to get more publicity and a laughable attention-seeking ploy. But even if it was attention-seeking, instead of criticizing her for attention-seeking, we should be asking why she feels the need to get attention, to seek this validation. Why anyone feels the need to seek validation?

There are many reasons why we seek validation, from feeling like we’re not good or that we don’t measure up to society’s impossible standards of what is beautiful or ideal or praise-worthy, or it could come from feelings of neglect during upbringing, bullying, feelings of betrayal from a bad break-up and many more.


When we see people attention-seeking or validation-seeking, we shouldn’t criticize, it should really prompt our sympathy above all else because it is so easy to be caught up in the toxic cycle of validation and the cycle goes something like this:

We are told we are not enough. We become insecure and feel that we are not enough. We try to change to be enough. Even if we change we still feel like we’re not enough. So we seek validation to tell us that we are enough and the cycle continues.

What’s worse, is that the economy and society thrive upon us not being enough. Not being thin enough, not being curvy enough. Not being rich enough. Not being muscular enough. Imagine if we all thought we were enough in ourselves, how many industries would go out of business, especially the multi-billion dollar cosmetic industry.

What’s even worse, is that enough is impossible! Enough is unrealistic. Enough is perfection and perfection is impossible to attain. O’Neill’s story, like many others that fall victim to validation shows us what validation seeking does to us, we change ourselves to try and become the person we think the world wants us to be. We are left feeling empty and instead of being filled with self-love, we are left with self-hate. They say we are our toughest critics and while it can be extremely difficult to please ourselves it is impossible to please everyone because there is one truth about humanity, no matter what you say or do, someone will disagree, someone will not like you. As Aristotle puts it “criticism is something you can easily avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, being nothing.” So this cycle we find ourselves in is impossible to beat, unless you try to break out of it.

Can we break out of it though? Can we control the way we see ourselves without resorting to validation?

I want you to think of your best physical asset or personality trait. Now, think about why you consider your choice to be your best. You’ll find that it has come from some external source, someone told you that’s what they liked about you or maybe society shows you that’s an ideal so you’ve come to like that about yourself. So really, what are we without the perceptions of others?

And if we really are nothing without the perceptions of others. Can we even control how others think of us? There’s this line of thought that argues that our reputation is not owned by us. Our reputation is solely determined by the views of others. Sure, we can try and change the way people view us, maybe by changing ourselves but ultimately we do not own our reputation.

So what are we, but for the ultimately, uncontrollable perceptions of others. Are we validation’s puppets? Slaves to validation? And if so, how do we free ourselves?

Studies show that the happiest people are the people who accept that they are not perfect and embrace their imperfections. They find perfection in their imperfections. They realise they are enough. This may sound clichéd but it’s true. When you realise you are enough, you learn to love yourself from within, and you garner a strong sense of self-love and self-worth that can resist societal expectations and pressures.

When you free yourselves from the chains of validation you no longer require attention from guys to feel beautiful, you no longer need sex from women to feel validated.  Be warned however, that once you learn to break out of the validation cycle and learn to love yourself from within, you could still face what I’m going to coin “Hopkins Hating.” Yes, it is a reference to Katie Hopkins who believes things like “I don’t believe you can be fat and happy,” it’s the kind of hating that says “you’re living a lie,” how the hell can you be happy-you don’t conform to society’s standards.

On the other hand is seeking validation always a bad thing? The need for approval, validation and likability can be extremely profitable avenues in life- in advertising, brand-management, politics, reality television, entertainment. Really, you can find it almost anywhere. Which begs the question, is there anything inherently wrong with wanting to be liked, wanting validation, and wanting approval? It seems as if it’s part of human nature to want to be liked, to be validated. Maybe we’re really all just egocentric people. It feels good. But the dangerous line you don’t want to cross is where your primary source of self-worth is through external validation.

But what do I know, it’s just some food for thought. What do you think?

Featured Image: Zac Quitzau Fb: Zac’s Doodles

Do we need a Men’s Rights Movement?

I arrived at the question of a men’s rights movement as a sceptical, self-proclaimed feminist.  After extensive research, I’ve remained a self-proclaimed feminist, still sceptical of the men’s rights movement, but not of men’s rights. Let me explain.

Throughout history, women and men have been fighting to erode the gender binary. Feminism was established to push the female agenda so females could have the same rights as males. Somewhere along the line, feminist semantics have led to the misinformation of what it means to be a feminist. Feminism has been misconstrued to be synonymous with misandry and male oppression. Now we see feminism divided into what seems like factions, from radical feminism, to feminazis.

Amid the feminist semantics and efforts to push the female agenda in order to gain equal rights to men; two things happened. One, men’s rights were overlooked. Two, we saw the emergence of a men’s rights movement created as a counter-movement to feminism. ‘Why’ the movement was created is an objection to the movement itself, its ideology was not built on pushing the male agenda, in order to ensure gender equality, it seemed to almost be created in spite of feminism, to redirect feminist efforts. The “why” factor has been a huge point of contention for feminists who question the movement. In recent years the movement, according to some feminists, has gained traction by instilling a hatred for women evidenced by their campaign “Don’t Be That Girl”. ‘How’ the movement is carried out has ignited a wildfire of backlash by feminists who question the credibility of the ‘misogynistic’ movement. It’s the “why” and “how” of the movement that casts shade over men’s rights.

The movement is doing a better job at polarising feminists than solving the serious and real issues men face such as the high male suicide rate, inequality in custody disputes, unequal parental leave, false accusations of domestic and sexual violence and the stigma around men as victims of domestic and sexual violence and many more.

At Macquarie University we can see how the movement itself, casts shade over the real issues men face. Females have a women’s room. Men have no equivalent. Male students have claimed it is sexist that they don’t have a men’s room, when females do. Yes, if men want a men’s room, and women have one, then theoretically it would be sexist to deprive men of that right, but I don’t have to be a male to see that this claim of sexism is fuelled more by spite, than the fact that men have a pressing and real need for a safe haven from females. This kind of tit-for-tat, fuelling the men’s right movement doesn’t help the case for men’s rights.

As I’ve said, I’m sceptical of the men’s rights movement, but not of men’s rights. To answer the question at hand, do we need a men’s rights movement? Certainly, not this one. Feminists should be reminded that the end goal is gender equality, and so fighting for men’s rights should be just as important as women’s rights. I’ll leave you with one final thought, is gender equality even possible, and if it is, what would it actually look like?

(Published in Macquarie Liberal Street Magazine)

Featured Image: Zac Quitzau Fb: Zac’s Doodles

The Unknowing Victims: Revenge Porn, Parasite Porn and Morphed Porn

It was 2am on a Saturday night and unlike my typical weekend of wild partying, I was enjoying a quiet night in. Little did I know that what started off as aimlessly browsing the web, would turn into an even wilder, unexpected three year ordeal that to this day is far from over. That night, my mind turned to something I heard about earlier that day, the Google Image Reverse function, that allows you to upload a picture and find out if and where it is on the Internet. So, out of pure curiosity, I decided to try it for myself. What I discovered made my body ache, like the feeling you get from hearing troubling news, but a million times worse. Dozens upon dozens of porn sites had my face featured on their pages, from xhamster to sex.com and many more.

As I opened up the sites, one at a time, I found galleries of my photos, many had been taken from my Facebook page or my friends’ Facebook pages or from nightclub albums.  My details were listed- name, age, location and what I studied. The comments that were left about me are too explicit and offensive to repeat. “Parasite Porn” is the phrase used to describe the posting of photos stolen from social media websites and repurposed for pornographic purposes.

I called the police that night and I was told to bring screenshots of the sites to the closest police station. Monday morning came and I travelled to Eastwood Police Station with my laptop in hand. There was nothing they could do.  They informed me that once a photo has been posted online anyone can use and do whatever they want with it, even if it meant misrepresenting you on porn sites. I would like to note that none of the photos I had were sexually explicit. I pleaded with the police saying that the lack of consent must make this illegal, but all I could do was to contact the sites myself and request to take them down. I have successfully taken down many sites since, but I am still in the process of removing numerous sites which feature morphed photos of me, that is, photos of me that have been manipulated into a sexually explicit nature, this is an example of “morphed pornography.”

My personal experience is not an isolated one. In a society that is dominated by a vast, under regulated Internet and social media culture, where photo sharing is a commonplace activity, many victims of this sort of cybercrime, predominantly women, find themselves vulnerable and without adequate recourse. Some victims may be able to afford the expenses to remedy the damage, such as lawyers and private investigators. But there is no remedy for the emotional damage to the spirit and dignity of these victims. All too often these crimes are occurring, from the recent celebrity nude photo scandal, where many female A-list celebrities like Jenifer Lawrence had their iCloud accounts hacked and nude photos disclosed, to the very recent incident surrounding 500 Adelaide women who were found to be victims of “revenge porn,” the public sharing of sexually explicit material, often by ex-lovers, for the purposes of humiliation.

It is easy to adopt the view that if you don’t want your photos to end up in the wrong hands, don’t upload them, or if you do upload them you should expect this kind of backlash. This very sentiment was echoed by Sunrise, when in response to the Adelaide revenge porn incident they stated “when will women learn?” not to take such photos.  The comments made by Sunrise sparked outrage when feminist writer Clementine Ford called Sunrise out for “victim-shaming,” when the in fact, these women were merely “victims of crime.”

Repairing the damage done by cybercrime can be very difficult; there are issues of jurisdiction if some websites are outside the Australian domain, not to mention the adverse effect on the victim’s employability and reputation, as she may likely become susceptible to slut-shaming. In my opinion, the most dangerous part of all, is the fact that many victims of crimes such as these, have no idea they are victims until the damage may is irreparable.

Luckily, all is not so grim. Amit Singhal, a senior vice-president of Google has announced that they would remove from their search results, nude or sexually explicit photos that were uploaded without the victim’s consent, although the photos will still appear on the original websites. Whilst Google’s course of action will not solve the issue at hand, it is a huge step in tackling this kind of cybercrime. Numerous states in the US have seen the emergence of revenge porn legislation. Australia is yet to follow suit.

Featured Image: Zac Quitzau Fb: Zac’s Doodles