Girls, don’t show your ankles on websites

Let me run a potentially revolutionary concept by you: instead of chastising young girls and women for their standard of dress, how about we teach young boys and men that taking and sharing non-consensual photos of said young girls and women is a crime?

Apparently this constitutes fringe thought in 2016, with the news that one of the schools whose students have been implicated in the”schoolgirl porn” siterevealed this month held an assembly during which it heavily implied the burden of responsibility rested solely on female students.

Girls at Victoria’sKambrya Collegewere told to watch the lengths of their skirts, wear less make-up, and not to comply with any requests for “sexy selfies” that boys may make, nor to post any photos of themselves online.

“It doesn’t matter what the girls are wearing, it should be about the choices those boys make and we should be encouraging these girls to be who they are without being shamed,” said Catherine Manning, whose daughter was present at the assembly.

With each new “sex scandal”* (*sexual assault) and “sexy photo site”** (**non-consensual porn archive), I hold out increasingly less hope that something will change: that schools will teach boys about informed consent, or that rape victims won’t be asked what they wore or drank, or that rapists, wife beaters and murderous ex-husbands won’t be describedby friends as “good blokes” who were “having a hard time”.

Just last week, a 32-year-old former Children’s Court security guard was given a good behaviour bond after having sex with a 14-year-old, then living in a Department of Human Services-run residential care unit. County Court judge Christopher Ryan described the girl as “worldly”. The guard “[wasn’t] made of steel”, Judge Ryan said, presumably implying that an adult man was powerless to resist the charms of a child.

I’m as angry as I am exhausted about this continued failure of our young people, about a climate that fails girls and women by placing the burden of responsibility for avoiding rape and assault, and it fails boys and men by assuming that they are, by nature, rapists in the making who need only glimpse an exposed bosom or “sexy selfie” before their inner monster springs forth. It’s heartbreaking that we expect so little of our sons and brothers.

The students at Kambrya will not be the only ones who’ll be advised to drop their skirt hems and avoid selfies over the ensuing weeks, just as more victims of statutory rape will be described as “worldly” or “sophisticated”, and women whose private images are stolen will be told to hide themselves away from camera lenses.

It seems there’s no point repeating the same case studies, analogies and quotes that my peers and I have been patiently disseminating for over a century, because we always end up in the same place: “don’t get raped”, not “don’t rape”; “don’t take naked photos”, not “don’t steal and trade stolen naked photos”.

At times like these, wondering what can be done in the face of such apparent apathy stokes a searing-hot fury. It’s enough to make the corner of your eye twitch as you consider totalitarian measures like throwing the smartphone of every young man who shares a “sext”*** (***stolen nude photo) into an industrial mincer.

After all, they confiscate and wreck hoons’ cars, don’t they?

Clem Bastow is a Fairfax columnist and recipient of the2012 Gold EVA Awardfor excellence in the reporting of violence against women

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