Friday, April 8, 2011

Because this is what women are for

Journalist Jacqueline Maley in today's Sydney Morning Herald:

Although the sex between the two air force cadets was consensual, the alleged collusion of the group of male cadets in broadcasting it against the knowledge of the female cadet was sinister and disgusting. ... It is hard to imagine anything more degrading than being unknowingly broadcast having sex, and it's unsurprising the alleged victim was physically ill on reading the witness statements of the men.

Certainly is unsurprising; I've been throwing up in my mouth a little bit myself, just reading about it.

I have now seen or heard several different men being surprised by the fact that I and other women have reacted so strongly to this case. To my horror, these men seem to think it's either minor or normal, or both. In the case of setting up a woman to have sex with her and film it without her knowledge, I've heard, among other things, 'But there are much worse things' and 'But everybody does it' and 'But it's normal.'

If any (much less all) of these things is true, then the situation is much worse even than I thought.

Something I've not seen commented on yet is the overtly homosocial but presumably subconscious homoerotic dimension to all this; why is it, exactly, that this young reptile wants his little mates to see him naked and f*cking? What's that about?

I know it's been a bad few days in the news, with uncontrolled testosterone well to the fore – killing swans by throwing rocks at them (yes there were a couple of girls involved there, but I said 'testosterone', a hormone women also have in some degree, and anyway they were not among the rock-throwers, and hey, look on the bright side: all that stuff about raised oestrogen levels in the water is clearly a crock), shooting a dozen or so schoolchildren to death (if they're going to kill themselves anyway, why don't they just do that first?), beating up a grieving ten-year-old boy because he's been on television and in the paper for losing his mother and brother in the Queensland floods (because that follows, doesn't it? I mean, of course you and your gang would bash a kid years younger than you for, erm, being on TV and in the paper, I mean, erm), murdering your only daughter because you hate her mother (though the youngest child, one of two boys, would have been a great deal easier to lift up and hurl over the railing to his death), and now the setting up of an 18 year old girl to provide unwitting entertainment and titillation for the sniggering hordes – but I'm beginning to wonder if there is any common ground at all between men and women on the subject of sex.

That marathon thread down the page a bit would seem to suggest there isn't, even between intelligent people of goodwill. We will always, to paraphrase something Helen Garner once said about something else, be left speechless with our mouths hanging open, gazing at each other in disbelief.

Helen Garner, again:

The barman went out the back to look for the Campari, and she picked up off the counter one of those little four-page bulletins on duplicator paper which announce the results of inter-pub darts and pool competitions. There was a joke at the bottom of the page. She read it.

'Gynaecologist to dentist: "I don't know how you can stand your job, smelling people's bad breath all day."'

Her legs surprised her: that old, almost forgotten sensation, as if all the blood were draining rapidly out of them, leaving them fragile and chalky, unable to support her. They do hate us, she thought. The weight of disgust that loaded the simple joke made her bones weak. She thought, I can't bear it, I can't. She thought, I should be able to bear it by now. It has just caught me off guard. She thought, Dexter would think it was funny.

-- The Children's Bach, 1984.

Got that? 1984. Last century. Almost 30 years ago. Doesn't seem like 30 years, does it.

And before anyone turns up here trying to either deny or defend, as it seems they are bound to do, here's the reason I think you do it: you do it because at some level you know that what we say is true, and fear to believe it.


Mindy said...

I loved my husband just a little bit more when he condemned those slimy bastards.

Anonymous said...

Well it might disappoint you slightly to have one less (possibly imaginary) foe, but let me assure you that insofar as I understand this issue (which probably isn't completely), then yup, I'm on your side all the way.

But I'm not going to comment further so as to be sure not to make a stir.

Not that it matters but just so you know (as a data point)... my relations with pretty much all of the women important to me in my life (and they aren't few) are healthy, jolly, fun, mutually appreciative, supportive, bantering, et cetera, and I wouldn't trade their company for majority ownership of Facebook.

Just so you know there actually are healthy human beings out there despite what pure thinking might imply... it might be slightly reassuring when you hear of dark weirdness like what's in the post.

And that'll be it from me, just to be totally sure nothing from this direction causes you any grief.

-- j_p_z

The Elephant's Child said...

Oh. It all makes my heart hurt and my eyes leak. And yet we are told that there is no longer any need for feminism. Aaaaah.

Casey said...

And then there is Leonard:

Mindy said...

@ jpz - that's why we argue with you and PC doesn't just put you automatically into moderation. Also Fyodor. It's why we care.

Mitzi G Burger said...

I'm really interested to see what kind of sentence the judge puts on the broadcaster.

The timing is just awful, isn't it? The criminality of the young male cadets is more than enough to put me off ANZAC Day.

Stephen L said...

The thing that gets me is that cases like this go way past simply not caring about the woman and treating her like an object.

Consider: The soldier who broadcast sex to his mates had to realise that if Kate found out it would guarantee he was never going to have sex with her again. (Hopefully not it is public he's not going to have sex with anyone again, at least for a long time, but he wouldn't have expected this publicity). So it was pretty clearly against his self interest. Presumably the people higher up in the ADF (and the police) who didn't take it seriously realised that events like this were likely to put Kate off sex for a very long time.

So even if they took the attitude that her pain was totally irrelevant, rather than protecting some sick male brotherhood they were acting against the interests of men in general.

I say this, not because the loss of opportunity for other men is at all significant compared to Kate's pain, but because it demonstrates just how deep the hatred runs. To do something cruel when it benefits you/your friends is one thing, but to do it when it actually does some damage indicates a level of misogyny that's truly terrifying

Link said...

The depth of hatred towards women across the globe is deeply disturbing. All we can do as women is try to be who we would without it, if that's at all possible and I'm not so sure that it is given the level of societal inculcation we've all been subjected to. It makes no sense for half the world's population to deride, denigrate and abuse the other half. One can only hope that such an overt 'nonsense' will soon be seen for what it is. I'm not holding my breath and I don't think we'll see it in our lifetime, but we must keep insisting that it happen.

I think the ADF is an enormous waste of money that we could well do without but maybe it's time for a segregated Defense Force? Split that crippling budget down the middle and see who gets more bang for our bucks. Stephen Smith has every right to 'interfere', indeed he is obliged to.

Link said...

Mitzi I tend to think all women should be put off Anzac Day on principle. Why should we support the institution that birthed the digger-mate, the cornerstone of bigotry and sexism in Australia? Yeah yeah, lots of young men gave their lives, made the ulitimate sacrifice for the Empire, but most had no fucking idea what they were getting into and those who did survive largely claim they would never ever do it or advocate for it again.

Women who glorify the legend of the Aussie-digger-mate-Anzac are almost as pig-ignorant as the men who connived to get them onto the battle fields in the first place.

Kate H said...

What can you say, really? Today I unfollowed someone on twitter who made a joke about Kim Kadrashian's *searches for spam filter friendly word* lady-parts being like roadkill because she's presumably a woman who has had relationships with a number of men.

It's just exhausting and constant and mainly you tune it out otherwise you'd go mad, but sometimes...

Nabakov said...

I try to even things up by encouraging women to make jokes about my small penis.

But yeah, I'd horsewhip the little pricks. And as for the purient media coverage such as the Oz mediablog thing you fingered on Facebook, one really wants to ask them if they'd comment like that if it was their daughter or sister.

All I can say beyond that is that the more I see of what women have to put up with day after day, the more my admiration for their strength and courage grows.

On a happier note, an old mate of mine is an Archibald finalist.
Go Sonya!

Nabakov said...


"Go Sonia!"

I feel a right ingeadm (WV) now.

fmark said...

Dr. Cat mused:

"Something I've not seen commented on yet is the overtly homosocial but presumably subconscious homoerotic dimension to all this; why is it, exactly, that this young reptile wants his little mates to see him naked and f*cking? What's that about?"

Strangely enough, there was some research done into exactly this topic at ADFA a few years ago. I won't go into detail but will lazily quote from the abstract. From Flood, Michael (2008). Men, Sex, and Homosociality: How Bonds between Men Shape Their Sexual Relations with Women, Men and Masculinities 10(3):

"Homosociality organizes men’s sociosexual relations in at least four ways. For some of these young men, male-male friendships take priority over male-female relations, and platonic friendships with women are dangerously feminizing. Sexual activity is a key path to masculine status, and other men are the audience, always imagined and sometimes real, for one’s sexual activities. Heterosexual sex itself can be the medium through which male bonding is enacted. Last, men’s sexual storytelling is shaped by homosocial masculine cultures. While these patterns were evident particularly among young men in the highly homosocial culture of a military academy, their presence also among other groups suggests the wider influence of homosociality on men’s sexual and social relations."

Fine said...

At least Stephen Smith has totally stood up for the woman and has said all of the right things. That's one little ray of sunshine.

As for the swan killing; things like that are heartbreakers. There's all these choices about what you can do and that's what you choose; stone a swan to death.

seepi said...

Such a sordid and depressing story.

That young girl will never be the same again, and there seems to be no understanding of this at all.

The legalities are incredibly depressing too- apparently it was not a crime, as no sound was transmitted and privacy laws all relate to phone tapping.

The minister is the only one saying the right things. If he hadn't said the purpetraters would be punished I get the impresion nothing would have happened to them at all.

The military say they called in the police, who said there was no crime so that was the end of that.

Both are now backtracking - the police are now saying they didn't have all the facts - what Crap -How can you summarise this case and not mention sex with an 18 year old colleague that was video-ed and broadcast without her knowlege.

seepi said...

And will we ever get the truth of what occurred with the ADFA heirachy?

- Did they take this seriously at the start or not?

- Did the police?

- What exactly are the police doing, if this is not a crime in the ACT?

- Why didn't they start doing it until it became a front page media story?

- Was the girl really asked to apologise to the entire campus for going to the media? And if not, why did the minister say this, then retract?

- Are other cadets really putting shaving cream on her door etc as punishment?

- Is anyone looking after her now???

seepi said...

ps - fascinating comment about en having sex for a male audience - real or imagined.

It is hrd to imagine women having sex with the aim of impressing an imaginary female audience.

men are a funny lot.

Mindy said...

@ Seepi - apparently the thing about being asked to apologise never happened. Not sure what happened there but I have been told on another blog that that one at least was fictional.

Anonymous said...

Mindy, according to Hugh Riminton in today's Australian a senior officer suggested that she apologize. It didn't happen: she received such a hostile reception from fellow cadets that it was abandoned.


Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Yep, the 'asked to apologise thing' was reported in the news yesterday as a furphy, and Smith has confirmed that.

I think a lot of rumours spread at times like this and my beef is not so much with ADFA, though in general it contributes its share to the *whispers* rape culture, along with many of the universities' residential colleges and for many of the same reasons. Caren knows much more about ADFA than I do. But the cadets were first-years and were obviously like that before they arrived. I also noted yesterday in the best and clearest account of events I've read so far that it was a male cadet who initially reported it to ADFA, horrified by what was going on, though so far there have been no reports of him (unlike her) being ostracised at breakfast or having shaving cream sprayed all over his door. Frankly, given what else the little shits seem to be capable of, I'm surprised that it's only shaving cream.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Sorry, TFA, comments crossed, and now I'm going to have to take back what I said. Didn't tag this post 'It just gets worse and worse' for nothing, I guess.

Anonymous said...

Kerryn - I suspect that yesterday's reporting was based on someone somewhere making a very pedantic distinction between 'asked' and 'suggested'.

Worse & worse, yes. But just part of a long-standing history. I recall scandals dating back to the late 60s or early 70s of male-male bullying with strong sexual elements - males cadets being forced into simulated intercourse with bottles and cans; having boot polish applied to genitalia etc.


Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Oh yes, it's not new. Several scarred veterans of that sort of treatment are coming out of the woodwork and telling their stories now too. I'm still boggling at the bit in the article you lined to about the way the head honcho's main concern seemed to be 'But the young men's careers might be ruined'. One of the articles linked to the Hugh Riminton one makes the point that once you've raped someone (male or female) you then get to despise them for being either a slut or a poofter, depending on their bits. The truly appalling thing in that is the way it encourages immediate and total projection of responsibility for your own behaviour onto somebody else, and constructs that as a norm; is this really a psychological pattern that the Army should be encouraging?

I think what shocks women in particular in these cases is the close relationship, in so many behaviours, between sex and hatred (example: rape as a weapon of war).

Anonymous said...

"I'm still boggling at ... the way the head honcho's main concern seemed to be 'But the young men's careers might be ruined'. "

Indeed, & with attitudes such as that amongst the senior officers the ADFA's problems are not going to disappear anytime soon.

That close relationship between sex and hatred is something that eludes my own male perspective. Intellectually, I can grasp something of the relationship in terms of dominance behaviour - & in the context of a rigid hierarchy like the ADF that makes some sense - though I have no visceral sense of it. But it's existence is undeniable.


Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

I get it about dominance, repugnant as that is. But the necessity (either psychological or practical) to despise what one dominates eludes me.

Legal Eagle said...

Someone close to me split from her partner. She didn't behave in the best way (was unfaithful), but when it all unravelled, the partner was violent towards her and then smashed property belonging to a third party, creating thousands of dollars damage to the house they were staying at at the time. Three months later he's not really apologised, saying, "I was angry, so that's why I did it." It's the sense of entitlement to be violent and hurt others and their property which really upsets me. Where do these guys get off with their sense of entitlement?!

I have been so depressed about all this - so horrible.

But there are some good men in the world. Like Mindy, I'm pleased that my husband was horrified too, and felt that all these stories made him want to be sick. I hope to bring up my son to be respectful to others too.

seepi said...

I have a fairly close knowledge of ADFA too - or I used to. Even working there is is hard to get a sense of what goes on behind closed doors. I am kind of horrified that perhaps I was naive at the time. But certainly not all female cadets were unhappy. ABC made a documentary about ADFA and they had free access to all cadets and didn't dig up anything like this. I think they should go back to having a woman in charge.

So it seems she was suggested to apologise, then the only reason they backed off was because they thought it might encourage greater persecution of her from the rest of the cadets. Lovely.

I still can't get any sense of why the AFP initially weren't interested, or of what exactly they are looking into now, seeing as this is apparently not a crime in the ACT.

It would be a huge blow to lose 8 cadets at once in week 10. The ADF has a huge recruitment problem, and the last thing they want is to be kicking people out who are otherwise promising.

What the dimbos at the top of ADFA don't seem to have realised is that the negative media coming out of their inaction and failure to support the young victim is going to lose them a lot of future enrolments.

Anonymous said...

"get it about dominance, repugnant as that is. But the necessity (either psychological or practical) to despise what one dominates eludes me."

This may not answer it on mass scales of rape and murder, but here is a perspective that helped me. From my experience of sexual assault, and of dealing with those that assaulted me in the wake of it, and after much discussion with those in the know, I came to this understanding. When the assaulter sees the assaulted walking around after the event, of even when they think of them, they are the living breathing reminder of their own depravity. The assaulter knows it and cannot tolerate it. The assaulted is the witness to the assaulter's depravity. The only witness at times and it enrages the assaulter. It's a psychological mechanism of defence. The assaulter shifts the depravity onto the subject of their depravity in order for their psychological organisation to continue intact. So they become the object of depravity, the target of hate, the slut, the whore, the poofter who asked for it. They are dehumanised so that the assaulter can continue unencumbered by what was done.

Helen said...

Just a little signal boost :-)

Anonymous said...

Kerryn @ 10:03 As I recall that's one of the questions that Primo Levi addressed in The Drowned & the Saved. And though Levi systematically analysed the extraordinary manner in which the Nazis institutionalised their hatred, I'm not sure that he came to a convincing answer re motivation.

Strangely enough, I'd say Callan offered many insights into dominance behaviour. But even there no-one is entirely despised, not even Lonely.

And thankyou Anon @ 10:20. I'm very sorry to hear about your experience.


David Irving (no relation) said...

The arseholes who humiliated that poor young women should be discharged (dishonourably) immediately. As Andrew Elder points out, they've shown themselves to be completely untrustworthy, and I certainly wouldn't soldier with them.

Unfortunately, the young woman won't be able to have a military career, either - this incident would follow (or precede) her to every posting.

tigtog said...

Great post, Kerryn. The spite and derision against others that all these behaviours share is so appalling, and so confronting; and when we as women look at it reflected back to us it's so dispiriting.