The French philosopher, Michel Foucault, observed that as the state imposes restraints on what it considers dysfunctional behaviour, the behaviour being restrained bubbles up in new forms and with new energies. Thus, child abuse, paedophilia, sexual violence, sexism, homophobia and chemical abuse should have disappeared by now, but in fact continue to be issues.
The problem lies in the state (sometimes disguised as ‘community’) campaigns, via which the behaviour being negated is actually given a starring role. Starring roles are about time on stage. You give them time on stage, even while negating them, and they are given power.
This was perfectly illustrated in the last two weeks with the case of the Wellington College boys who posted boastful comments on a social media site about raping comatose teenage girls at parties. Something of a media frenzy resulted and counselors are knocking on the school doors. There’s been a flurry of despairing commentaries on the seemingly ineradicable patriarchal fantasies of the male adolescent, these commentaries articulated within the persecutor, victim, rescuer model.
But there’s been something missing; questions not being asked. Is it okay for adolescent girls at parties to get drunk to the point of unconsciousness? What are we doing with regard to this? When I talked to my daughter about whether this occurred during her teenage years (and I’m sure I’d asked her at the time), she said, ‘Occasionally, but we looked after one another.’ Which makes total sense. Handling booze is a learned skill. When someone is still acquiring that skill, their mates look after them. Should the national media stage not have been given over to the need for girls to look after their mates, given over to the value of solidarity among teenage girls? Should not counselors be knocking on the doors of schools to talk to the girls about the need for such solidarity? And this is not a ‘blame the victim’ line, but rather how to prevent victimhood. And not relying on the educated young male with whom the power is still assumed to lie?
Of course, the media wailing took place within the sphere of scandal: disgust, prurience, class envy (Wellington College is an elite school), subconscious images of the rape… the usual stuff. Solidarity on the other hand, is not scandalous, nor prurient; nor envious. The core value is simple: An injury to one is an injury to all. Imagine the effect of a line of girls picketing the gate of Wellington College with Solidarity signs. Imagine the mass distribution of a badge saying, ‘My mates are looking after me’ to be worn at parties. Already social change is taking place, a movement forming that gathers energy, moving into other areas like pay equity, like representation, like proper funding of organisations dealing with crisis…
Finally, the question was not asked regarding the swamp of pornography through which the young wade. When watching the occasional sporting fixture on Prime, it is easy to switch to the music channel during ad breaks. Virtually every music video is soft porn. And this is mainstream television, itself floating in the ocean of porn on the web. Adolescents will always have sexual fantasies, but now these are colonised by the digital empires. Collective resistance from the colonised must be the first step in getting rid of the empires.
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