One in three Australian boys thinks that it’s okay to hit girls; one in seven think “it’s OK to make a girl have sex with you if she was flirting.”
It shouldn’t be dismissed as “boys will be boys” (and I’m wondering if there will be anyone taking that line…) Putting both sides of the picture together is essential – 1 in 3 year 10 girls who are sexually active say they have experienced unwanted sex. As Deborah says at In A Strange Land, that actually means rape, but apparently it’s impolite to say so. So we’re not just talking about attitudes, but behaviours with appalling and often lifelong consequences.
What was interesting to me in terms of the report’s discussion of the causes of violence was the link between “traditional gender-role attitudes” and attitudes towards violence, and the link between “male dominated dating relationships and sexist peer cultures” and actual risk or propensity to commit violence. The report emphasises the positive contribution of gender equality in relationships to fostering a non-violent culture. I think it shows that not only are we not just talking about subjective attitudes which have no real world consequences, but also that as a community there is an enormous imperative for us to put ideological point-scoring aside and focus constructively on the mitigation and indeed elimination of what is an enormous blight on the lives of girls and women, and thus our entire society. A mature and good faith effort to deal with this issue is not just desirable, but urgent. A non-violent culture is in everyone’s interest, but achieving it takes will, work and thought.
Note on comments: If anyone feels inclined to argue that “they’re saying all men are rapists”, you can go away. I’m not going to respond to such comments, and they may be deleted, as may other offensive ones. Please also bear in mind that many women reading this post may have themselves been on the receiving end of sexual and/or domestic violence.