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Wellington College. Photo: Wiki Commons CC.BY.3.0
Wellington College. Photo: Wiki Commons CC.BY.3.0

SocietyMarch 10, 2017

‘This is what it’s like for us’ – a teenager on Wellington College Facebook comments and rape culture

Wellington College. Photo: Wiki Commons CC.BY.3.0
Wellington College. Photo: Wiki Commons CC.BY.3.0

The attitudes expressed by a group of Wellington College schoolboys are depressing and infuriating – but not surprising, says sexual assault campaigner and 17-year-old Wellingtonian Eva McGauley.

“Fuck women. Not even drunk, pass her out then fuck her job done.”

“If you don’t take advantage of a drunk girl then you’re not a true WC [Wellington College] boy.”

When I first read these screenshots taken from a Facebook group of Wellington College boys, it didn’t shock me in the slightest. When a protest against rape culture outside Wellington College was arranged and more comments were made likening feminism to cancer and encouraging other students to come to the protest and “run them over in cars,” that didn’t shock me either.

Screenshot of the comments made in a private Wellington College Facebook group

Being around the same age as these boys, hearing and seeing these disgusting things has become normal to me. This is what it’s like for us. I have many peers who have been raped in exactly the circumstances that were described and encouraged in these posts. I have heard things like this being said at school and have had similar things shouted at me in public.

For teenagers, rape culture is inescapable. It is normal to see boys watching or distributing porn in the back of the classroom at school. It is normal to be scared walking down the street. It is normal to walk into a cafe and see a bunch of college boys and leave to avoid being harassed.

This is normal but it should not be.

In New Zealand, one in three girls and one in seven boys may be sexually abused before their 16th birthday. In my work with HELP and #EvasWish I have seen those statistics become real people, real lives that are forever altered for the worse.

What has our country come to when this is what our children grow up learning? The public’s reaction has been disgust, but that reaction is inevitably paired with the idea that “boys will be boys”. Wellington College’s principal has said that the comments were “completely deplorable” but followed up by reminding us that “the boys are absolutely distraught at what’s happened.”

And then he said this…

“In the supposed privacy of a chatroom things can be said that they think are either appropriate or funny or whatever without actually stopping to think of the implications.”

When is it ever appropriate or funny to encourage raping women? These young men aren’t encouraging stealing someone’s lunch money, they are talking about a heinous act of cruelty and violence against women. As someone who works with survivors, as a survivor myself and as a woman this attitude terrifies me. It’s a familiar fear, the same fear I have when going about my daily life and worrying when I’ll be harassed or abused.

Wellington College. Photo: Wiki Commons CC.BY.3.0

It’s time to fix this. We need better sex education in schools that actually teaches us the things we need to know – and not just how babies are made. We need to make learning about consent a compulsory part of the curriculum and we need to tell our children about healthy relationships and informed consent.

The government needs to reinstate funding to rape crisis centres, the loss of which has caused them to cut counselling hours and prevented them from going to all urgent callouts. And we need to stop teaching our boys that supporting rape culture is what “masculine” men do.

If your son wants to paint his nails let him paint his nails – let him express himself the way he desires! If your child doesn’t want to hug a relative then don’t make them; doing so is teaching them that it doesn’t matter if you are uncomfortable with something physical and that you have to comply.

There are so many resources out there about rape culture so please take the time to look them up and talk to your children. Sit down with them and ask them what they think about sex and educate them on the subject.

Or, let me make it nice and simple for you. If she says no or she is unable to consent, you don’t touch her. To borrow a phrase from those Wellington College boys: job done.

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