Why I don’t want women to become ‘equal to men’

Written by Jessica Eaton

04 August 2018

 

We need to stop saying that women want to be equal to men – or that we are striving for women to be seen as the ‘same as men in society’.

 

After many a frustrating conversation with people who have somehow managed to mix up egalitarianism, equalism and feminism, this blog feels timely.

There’s only so many times we should have to explain that feminism is NOT a movement to make women equal to men. Feminism undoubtedly means different things to different people, but can we stop watering it down now? The dumbing down of feminism has gone too far in the third wave. I have heard feminism defined as everything from ‘the belief that all people are equal’ to ‘feminists believe that women should be the same as men in society.’ What? Nah.

Feminism is not ‘for the equality of all people’. Feminism is not ‘the belief that women should be treated the same as men.’ Feminism is not ‘the movement to make women equal to men in society.’ Feminism is not equalism.

Feminism is the liberation of women and girls all over the world from the patriarchy and misogyny that continues to harm and oppress them as a class of people. Feminism centres women unflinchingly and unapologetically. Feminism is the conversation about women’s issues in the world; without having to add some tokenistic sentence at the end acknowledging that men also experience some things too. Yah, we know. But we are talking about women right now, so hush.

The problem with saying that we are working towards women becoming equal to men is that it frames men and male cultures as being the optimum culture or the ideal goal that women should reach to become equal.

I’m here to say: what a crock of shit.

For women to be valid, whole human beings in society – feminism has got to move beyond this notion that women are striving for what men already have. I don’t want anything men already have. None of it. It’s a mess.

If we take modern men and male experiences as the ‘goal’ level for women to achieve in personal life and society, what would success look like?

  • Would success mean that women’s suicide rates rise to the same levels as the male suicide rate because as women reach ‘equality’ they must follow the patriarchal value of eradicating ‘feminine’ emotions and expressions, including talking about their feelings and seeking help?

 

  • Would success mean that women’s cancer mortality rates rise to the same rates as men because as women finally reach the almighty peak of maleness, they also stop seeking help for medical issues because of embarrassment, and just like men do now; they begin waiting until a health problem has become unbearable before they seek help, meaning cancer has usually spread and is more complex to treat?

 

  • Would success mean that women significantly increase their rates of violent crime and interpersonal violence to match that of men around the world?

 

  • Would success mean that women increase their murders of their partners and ex partners by at least 200% to match the rates of women killed by male partners and ex partners each year?

 

  • Would success mean that women increase their rates of sexual violence, trafficking and exploitation of men and boys at an unprecedented rate never before seen in history to achieve ‘equality with men’?

 

  • Would success mean that women become the most likely group to die in gun and knife violence with other women all over the world?

 

  • Would success mean that women working in aid roles begin abusing, sexually assaulting and sexually exploiting boys in deprived areas to match the male role model we currently have?

 

  • Would success mean women in power developing regimes in which baby boys were murdered or aborted because no one wanted a son?

 

  • Would success mean that women must begin carrying out many more terrorist acts and mass murders all over the world, especially school shootings – to claim equality with the men?

 

Is this what we mean by ‘feminism is the movement to make women equal to men’? Or when we say this, do we just mean the ‘good’ bits like higher salaries and more power in society?

It’s not. This is the stuff of nightmares. No one wants this. Even people who claim to hate feminism and claim that women should be equal to men in all arenas don’t REALLY want to see this level of sex equality. No one wants this in the world. No one wants women to step up to match what men already have.

I don’t think we’ve thought through this whole ‘we want women to be equal to men’ thing. I don’t think we have realised that we have framed male issues and experiences as the goal we are all supposedly striving for, and what that would actually mean for us all. All sorts of people hark on about how women finally being ‘the same as men’ in society would mean that we were respected, paid higher wages and would be safer. It’s bollocks.

The reality is, we cannot assume that what men in have society is the standard we should be striving for as women. Men are miserable and harmed daily by the patriarchy – they just haven’t figured it out yet. Men’s rights activists kick off on twitter about male suicide rates but don’t look into the way male gender role stereotypes they support; are harming them every day. Campaigns argue that men and boys are also victims of rape and that is absolutely true – but do not admit that the vast majority of perpetrators of those crimes are men. Activists argue that men are significantly more likely to be killed in violence than women which is also correct – but the fact that more than 97% of violence and murders are committed by men seems to escape them. I’ve even seen campaigns from men’s rights activists arguing that family courts are biased against fathers and men – and there is some truth in that claim – but to them I say this:

The laws about family court weren’t written by women. The legislation about children remaining with their mothers was not signed off by women. The majority of all judges are men. Legislators were men. Policymakers were men. The research that the majority of family court attachment and bonding theory was based on came from JOHN Bowlby. A man. A lot of the legislation and policies were developed in a time where men were the breadwinners and women were the childrearers. It made sense to the men in power that women should take care of the babies and men should go out and do important man things. Nowadays, MRAs are positioning that as ‘reverse sexism’ – but actually, its a legacy from the patriarchy. The assumption that you wouldn’t want to play an active part in your kids’ lives, dreamt up, supported by, signed off by and judged by your fellow patriarchal family court judge. Think about it. Women were not in influential positions at the time these systems were being developed. Women did not orchestrate these patriarchal systems. Men did.

All of the things wrong with society at present (and all of the things that even MRAs hate about society), were created by, funded by, legislated by, demanded by, invented by and sold by men. Therefore, why should feminism support a movement of women ‘becoming equal to men’? In fact, why should we be using male experience and cultures around the world as a blueprint at all?

There is something important to be said here. Feminism is the movement towards liberation of women and girls from the oppression and control of the patriarchy – but actually, the real change will come for the world when we rise up and dismantle the patriarchy together. The destruction of patriarchal and misogynistic values benefits everyone.

As a woman who is proudly radical feminist, is a specialist in the psychology of sexual violence against women and girls – but is also the Chair and Founder of the first male mental health and wellbeing centre in the UK, serving around 150 men per month – I can see that the patriarchy is killing all of us.

Men come into our centre having been abused, neglected, sexually exploited, having suffered with mental health issues and lived in misery for decades and they sit in front of us and say ‘I thought I should just shut up and put up – be a real man and not ask for help.’ Men so harmed by gender role stereotypes that they cry in therapy and then apologise for crying because it means they are not a ‘real man’.

The best way I have found to explain it to people is that the patriarchy harms men, but oppresses women. Often times, men hear us talk about the patriarchy oppressing, killing and dehumanising women – and when we say ‘patriarchy’ they hear ‘all men’. Hence the annoying phrase NAMALT (not all men are like that!).

My view, is that if men could detach themselves from the patriarchy and see how it harms them and makes them miserable, they would stop fighting against feminism as a movement. However, and this is important, it does mean that we have to actively challenge the warped current wave of liberal feminism which oftentimes completely contradicts itself and props up the patriarchy in a number of concerning ways. Not least by claiming that these gender role stereotypes are real, innate qualities and not social constructs that harm us all.

To explain how the patriarchal values of our world harm men and women, I’ve made this handy table:

(You can zoom in on this image if it displays too small)

2018-08-04

The point is this:

Men are not the blueprint.

The current epidemic of male violence cannot be the standard we all strive for. Men are coerced into, are propping up and are being harmed by patriarchal values. They don’t have it right. We should not be trying to emulate that. We should not be striving to become equal with men in their patriarchal misery – we should be challenging and dismantling the patriarchy and its global values until we can revolt.

True change in the world will only come with revolution. Revolution is not possible if we perceive male privilege and male experience as the ‘goal’ women should be working towards in the world. We don’t want to be the ‘same as men’. Why would be want to replicate a broken system? Why would we work towards total misery and increased violence?

I don’t know about you, but my vision for women is not that we become more violent, more misogynistic, more miserable, less able to speak about our emotions, less able to seek help, more likely to bully each other for ‘feminine traits’ and so confused that we begin celebrating the same toxic masculinity that is harming us every day.

That’s not my feminism. That’s not my vision for us all.

Imagine for a second, if we did dismantle the patriarchal beliefs and cultures centuries of male power have created for us. A world where men can show their emotions without worrying that someone will call them the ultimate insult: a woman. A society where women are not objectified as sex toys to be used up and thrown away when they get older or imperfect. A world in which teenage boys are not having to visit therapists and doctors about their erectile dysfunction and addiction to porn. A society in which rape isn’t a constant threat to women and girls all over the world – and a joke told about men in prison. A life in which men can participate and enjoy parenthood in equality with the mothers of their children because they believe their role is just as important. A workplace where a pregnant woman isn’t managed out of her job because she is perceived as unreliable – but where a man whose wife is pregnant is promoted for becoming a ‘responsible family man’. A world where women can become the main breadwinners and not make men feel insecure about it. A community where men can stay at home with the kids admiring the tenacity of the mother of his kids who rakes in the cash in a job she loves.

A world where the patriarchy no longer controls women, kills female babies because they were unwanted, hacks off vulva and clitoris of women, revels in porn, excuses everything with rape myths, positions ‘woman’ as the ultimate insult to men, sells women’s bodies and denies women the right to healthcare and advice about their own reproductive systems.

True feminism is revolution. Feminism is the liberation of women from the values and systems of the patriarchy. Feminism is the movement to challenge and dismantle the patriarchy, raising new generations of humans that do not fall into the same tropes we have. Feminism is not about centring men in our discussions or our events – but feminism will inevitably support men to be healthier and happier.

I don’t want to be ‘equal to men’. I want to rip up the blueprint and smash up the patriarchy and start again with our new generations. I want us all to take a step back, breathe and realise that the patriarchy harms all of us, and claiming that feminism is about women working towards being ‘the same as men’ in society is us moving in the wrong direction. And yet, the patriarchy in power are scared of women becoming more networked and more influential – because they know it will dilute the power of the patriarch.

With all the harm done to men by the patriarchy, I find myself asking men – what are you clinging on to it for? What is it about feminism that scares you? What is it about femininity that makes you feel so insecure? What do you stand to lose if we one day break down the patriarchal powers in the world?

Once we can answer those questions honestly and with integrity, we can take the first steps to breaking down the patriarchy and the patriarchal values, myths and messages being communicated all over the world.

 

Written by Jessica Eaton

Founder of VictimFocus http://www.victimfocus.org.uk

Tweet @JessicaE13Eaton

Email Jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

Why education will never stop rape

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Content warning: discussion of rape and abuse 
Written by Jessica Eaton – VictimFocus

05/07/2018

This blog is long overdue. I have been talking about this issue for about 18 months now but I am learning that the myth that rape and sexual violence comes from a lack of education is a strongly embedded myth in the UK (and maybe abroad but I only have limited experience working in other countries).

It doesn’t matter who I say it to, professionals recoil with horror when I tell them the following things:

  • Educating children about sexual abuse will not reduce sexual abuse
  • Educating women about rape will not stop them from being raped
  • Educating men about male rape will not reduce male rape
  • Awareness raising campaigns about sexual violence will not end sexual violence
  • Education about being sexually exploited will not change sexual exploitation
  • Educating children about being groomed online will not reduce grooming online

I said these things recently in a couple of national workshops, at a conference and in some meetings and the response is generally the same: shock, and then anger.

So I am writing this blog to set out the problems with assuming that education can solve rape, sexual violence and abuse – from both angles, by educating victims and by educating perpetrators. Education is clearly not the answer and yet we are ignoring all of the warning signs.

Before we go any further, I am NOT saying that education is useless or irrelevant. I write and teach sex and relationships ed myself. I even teach children about porn and sexual abuse. So, I am pro sex-ed from the earliest possible age.

However. And this is a HUGE HOWEVER.

I do not do my job, believing that educating those children, women or men – will protect them from a calculated and motivated sex offender. And herein lies the crux of this blog.

Here are my 5 main arguments of why education will never stop rape:

1. Education is not preventative or protective for victims

Education is a wonderful thing. We can teach children and adults about relationships, respect, sex, their bodies, their development, their identities and even teach them about their perspectives on the world.

We can teach them about abuse. We can teach them about rape. We can teach them all about domestic abuse and familial abuse. These are all great steps forward for a society that still regards abuse and sex as taboo.

However, we have taken a bit of a leap of logic over the past few years in a desperate bid to appear like we are doing something positive or to look like we have all the answers. We started to sell packages of education to each other and to victims of abuse and rape (child and adult) that assume that the REASON the child or adult was raped or abused, was because they couldn’t identify abusive behaviours and grooming tactics. Some companies and individuals got fat off the profit – some still are. They sell programmes to schools and tell the school that their work is ‘preventative education’ – to ‘reduce the risk of being abused’.

This is absolute bollocks. There is no way this can be proved – but also, this ignores the fact that it doesn’t matter how educated you are, if a sex offender can overpower you physically or psychologically, your education disappears. That’s why police officers and rape specialists can still experience rape. That’s why qualified social workers working in social care can still be in abusive relationships at home.

I once worked on a case of a very successful female solicitor who specialised in domestic and sexual violence. Her husband was an extremely dangerous abuser. He would lock her in the house and cut all the phone lines, smash her phone up, cut the electricity off, abuse her and keep her there for days with no contact with the outside world. Then he would blackmail her with her job and telling everyone about her, knowing it would ruin her career. At one point, he locked her in a place outside with nothing but a tent.

This woman was at the pinnacle of her career. She knew everything there was to know about domestic and sexual violence. But education and knowledge did not save her from such a dangerous and controlling abuser.

Think about it. Education is educative. It is not preventative or protective. Education will not protect any of us from a sex offender or an abuser in our inner circle.

 

2. Education has not solved a social problem or oppression yet

This is really important but this is also the point that annoys me the most. We often claim to be evidence based in our work – which would mean drawing on evidence from the past and from parallel issues. However, we don’t seem to do this much.

Education has attempted, and failed to solve lots of serious social issues and crime types. Education has not reduced the statistics of domestic abuse at all. Education and awareness campaigns has not reduced the statistics of women being murdered every week by their partners – in fact, in our age of wokeness and information, its gone up! Education has not reduced racism or war or genocide or terrorism or misogyny or… anything really.

Education has certainly raised our awareness of the issues. Maybe we can all converse about it. Maybe we know what FGM stands for and we know what radicalisation is now. But has that awareness translated into safety for humans around the world? Did we all have epiphanies with our new knowledge and stop harming each other? Nope.

This is arguably because these issues are not from lack of education. You don’t call an entire generation ‘cockroaches’ or ‘bad hombres’ because you need a bit more education. You don’t hold a child down whilst you abuse them because you missed the awareness raising in Coronation Street the other week. You don’t drive a truck into a group of Muslims because you didn’t have enough information about Islam.

Come on. Education is vital, but we have to stop pretending that it is the magic bullet.

 

3. Educating victims and then expecting them to protect themselves is victim blaming

This was the first time I think I ever blew my stack at work. It was when I realised that we were sitting children down who had been repeatedly raped and abused by adults and getting them to learn about consent and healthy relationships as a way to ‘reduce their CSE risk’. I couldn’t think of anything more damaging or patronising. It partially led to my #nomoreCSEfilms campaign – in which films of rape and abuse were being shown to children as an educative or preventative method.

In exactly the same way as the domestic abuse field had to learn that leaving a woman and her children to be raped and battered by an abusive partner whilst we taught her about keeping herself safe and what a healthy relationship looks like was completely inappropriate and a form of victim blaming; here we are in sexual violence.

We are investing left right and centre in sessions for school children about how to reduce their risk of being raped or abused. We are putting on workshops for women going to university. We are talking to girls before they transition up to secondary school. We are making police force campaign posters with images of unconscious women with their knickers around their ankles that say ‘Don’t drink too much tonight’.

We are heavily psychologically invested in telling victims what not to do, so they stay safe from a rapist or abuser. So heavily invested in fact that when activists or victims stand up and say ‘Why don’t you tell the rapist not to rape people instead?’ its either met with shock or it is laughed at as a stupid approach to sexual violence, because victims have a ‘responsibility to keep themselves safe’.

Someone said to me last week:

“If we know that a certain sex offender operates in a local venue, and we educate all the kids that the sex offender is there, they can protect themselves from that sex offender because they were educated. We can educate kids about where sex offenders hang around and how they will target them – so education does work.”

And I said:

“But 97% of rapes and sexual abuse occur at home with their significant others or family members as the perpetrators, so what are you gonna say to them? Don’t go home? Leave? How do you educate a child or adult to ‘keep themselves safe’ if their rapists lives at home with them? Can you educate them out of that situation?”

The reality is, education as a method has good intentions and we shouldn’t abandon it as a universal right to information and education – but telling children and adults who are already being harmed, raped, assaulted or abused that they can protect themselves once they have the education is a horrible form of victim blaming. It positions the victims as uneducated or unaware, and therefore reframes them as culpable because they ‘didn’t know enough’.

4. Educating sex offenders hasn’t worked out too well for us so far

The opposite argument to all of this, is that we should educate offenders – and potential offenders about sexual violence and consent so they don’t commit a crime (or any more crimes). Most people I teach come to this conclusion before really thinking it through. They assume that if teaching victims is negative, the positive outcomes must come from placing responsibility on the sex offender and educating them to stop raping and abusing children and adults.

I wish it was that simple. So did many others. In fact, I think it would be fair to say that thousands of people working in forensic psychology, prisons, CJS, criminology and psychiatry all thought the same. Much research and development was done over the past thirty years to look at education of sex offenders to look at things like sexual schemas, rape supportive beliefs, cognitive distortions and so on.

In 2016, the USA released a report that showed that the Sex Offender Treatment Programme actually increased sex offending in the men who went through it – and less than a year later, the UK released the same findings. The SOTP was dropped from every prison and community programme and we were back to square one. Why would an educative programme fail like this? Why would men who had committed sexual offences and then spent weeks in a SOTP become more dangerous?

The truth is, the SOTP was designed to be an individually tailored, one-to-one programme based on the offence and characteristics of the offender. When it was expanded and watered down by government and prisons, it turned into a classroom based group programme where lots of sex offenders spent time together talking about their offences, feelings, beliefs, thoughts and sexual schemas. Instead of education, we caused collusion. We caused normalisation and minimisation. The same has more recently been found in domestic abuse perpetrator programmes that have group elements.

Education is not the answer here, either.

Sex offenders who are motivated to harm others, will do so. They didn’t end up in prison for raping six children because they needed some education and some workshops. They did it because they wanted to and because they created an opportunity to do so. And so it becomes glaringly obvious that we have missed something vital in our calculations…

 

5. Sexual violence is so much more than a misunderstanding or ignorance of consent

Someone said to me last month:

“Most men in university who rape young women do it because they don’t understand consent and misunderstand when women say ‘no’.”

Yah. Sorry but I call major BS on that. Sexual violence is not a lack of education. It is not a low awareness. It is not misunderstanding or ignorance. It’s not that these people don’t know what ‘no’ means.

Sexual violence is a global social phenomena wrapped up in misogyny, hypersexualisation of society and children, economic factors, power struggles, porn culture, rape myths, weak laws and… individual motivations.

The uncomfortable truth is that our education cannot undo the damage our society has already done – and we cannot use education of individuals to change the way our entire society of millions of people have absorbed messages from porn, advertisement, patriarchy and the media.

The true way to combat sexual violence is to begin to reflect on the world we have created for ourselves. No point in blaming society when we ARE the society. It is us who allow porn to feature children, violence, rapes, torture, strangling, suffocation and abuse. It is us who allow our children to become sexualised by the media, by marketing and by popular culture. It is us who allow entire generations to be oppressed and harmed by a second powerful group. It is us who are so desperate for power over each other that the heady mix of sex and power gets mixed together to form an influential rape culture that is celebrated and accepted everywhere.

Education alone cannot solve these issues. We need drastic, human, individual and collective change. Educating children in a school hall or adults in a small group therapy about abuse and expecting them to be able to keep themselves safe – and then sending them off into that society we have created for them is WHY none of this is working. Educating sex offenders in prisons and community groups and then sending them off into that very same rape-supportive society we created for them is WHY none of this is working.

A message to professionals and commissioners:

Lots of professionals and commissioners are terrified when faced with the prospect that what they have been told to do won’t actually protect children or adults from sexual violence and to them, I say this:

  • Sometimes, you cannot fix a huge global issue like this – but you CAN fix the way you or your organisation responds to it. You might not be able to end sexual violence or abuse or CSE – but you can vastly improve the way you interact with victims and the services you deliver
  • Telling someone that the reason they were abused, raped or assaulted was because they didn’t know any better and that knowing more about abuse or rape could have stopped it from happening to them is abhorrent practice – make sure no one in your team says or believes that
  • Do we make daft promises like ‘We aim to end murder by 2020’ – no, we don’t. We know that won’t happen. But we are making massive promises like that in abuse and sexual violence. ‘We aim to end child abuse!’ ‘We aim to end CSE’. Good for you, but, you won’t. So stop chasing the impossible dream and focus on what you CAN do. Stop making promises we can’t keep. Stop selling products that don’t do what you say they do.
  • Stop commissioning education of victims as preventative or protective method. It’s patronising and it’s unethical. Focus on asking them what they need from you or your organisation. Support? Advice? Practical help? Someone to offload on? Someone to help them with a criminal trial?
  • Do not use education as an excuse to blame victims of sexual violence and rape. Education would likely not have made any difference to what a sex offender chose to do to them. The victim is not the problem here, the offender is.
  • When you are thinking about the problem of sexual violence, think bigger. Look around you. See adverts, music videos, porn, upskirting, forced marriage, laws, policies, campaigning, imagery, film plots… you live in a sexually violent society that celebrates forced sexual activity and the objectification of women and children
  • Remember that you can do a brilliant job of educating children, adults, professionals and even offenders – but to do so you must accept that you can’t predict or control sexual violence perpetrated by offenders you don’t even know.
  • Your education might have a positive impact on the people you are teaching, but please do not assume or expect it to protect them from rape or abuse – and don’t blame them if they are attacked after you educated them.
  • Outcomes measurement is important here – do not mix up your values and beliefs with true outcome measurement. If you educate 500 teenagers – the outcome is that you provided education to 500 teenagers. The outcome is not ‘we reduced the risk of 500 teenagers’ or ‘500 teenagers are now educated in sexual violence’ or ‘500 teenagers now better understand how to protect themselves’. You provided information, that is what you did.

 

Jessica Eaton is the founder of VictimFocus and the VictimFocus Charter to reduce victim blaming in professional workplaces and organisations. http://www.victimfocus.org.uk

My Post (1)

 

I’m leading the heathen uprising – Jessica Eaton 

Written by Jessica Eaton 

21 June 2018 

 

I’m leading the heathen uprising

We’re the kids with a solution

Our experiences are synchronising

Come join my revolution

 

The underclass can be the thunderclass

Come make a noise with me

 

I’m influencing our women and girls

We’re the females with a voice

Time to shake up and show the world

My revolution is no longer a choice

 

The pussyclass can be the pushyclass

Come get aggressive with me

 

I’m corrupting the corrupt system

We are the motormouth youth

We all know why you missed them

My revolution knows the truth

 

The youngerclass can be the hungerclass

Come get food for thought with me

 

I’m bringing them from the estates

We are demanding back control

We won’t fall for your news clickbaits

My revolution is for the prole

 

The nowhereclass can be the fanfareclass

Come write a symphony with me

 

I’m shouting louder for the survivors

We’re the ones that they call broken

We support him and revive her

My revolution is outspoken

 

The silencedclass can be the diamondclass

Come shine your light with me

 

I’m leading the heathen uprising

We’re the millions with the solution

No more compromising

We need a revolution

Come join my revolution

Become the revolution

***

I wrote this in a few minutes this morning whilst thinking about the way I can be perceived and written about. I was also thinking about how the masses are positioned as powerless against dominant narratives and ideologies. The way they are silenced and the way they are minimised because their perspectives are not valued. The way their community leaders are discounted as ‘not real leaders’.

I’m me. I know myself and I know who I am, what I am, how I am and why I am. I love myself through and through – and that’s no mean feat. I couldn’t have said that to you a few years back, when I was doubting myself and wondering who I was and where my life would end up. But the more confident I got in who I was and what I am here to do, the more problems people had with me. It made me realise that they preferred me when I was less sure of myself. They preferred me when I kept my words in my mouth. They preferred me when I second-guessed myself and assumed everyone else could do a better job than me. They preferred me when I avoided the difficult points because it made their life easier. They preferred me when I wrote an essay fourteen times and then deleted it because I told myself I would never be good enough.

In the words of one of my radfem friends, I have had ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ thrown at me to try to shut me up. I actually can’t think of something that has not been said about me yet. All the normal sexist shit a vocal woman would get. Plus some other personal stuff when they had ran out of ammo.

‘You’re too critical, you need to be nicer.’

‘If you challenge people, you won’t have any friends left.’

‘You’re aggressive and nasty.’

‘You’re fat/ugly/disgusting/you’re hair is shit/*insert appearance based insult here*’

‘You’re common.’

‘You need to learn to be more diplomatic.’

‘You lie about your career experience, you’re only 27, you cannot have done those things.’

‘You’re not good enough to do this.’

‘You are a know it all.’

‘You don’t even have your PhD yet, you shouldn’t be giving speeches.’

‘You are emotionally unstable.’

‘You’re proud that you’re from a council estate.’

‘You bring the field into disrepute by talking about your real life.’

‘You can’t challenge police and authorities as an academic, you have to do it behind closed doors.’

‘Activism and academia don’t mix.’

‘You’re covered in tattoos.’

‘You swear too much to be a professional.’

‘She was raped as a child and had a baby, so she can’t be a good professional.’

I’ve literally heard it all. And you know what? All this says much more about them than it does about me. You know what else? 30,000 readers of this blog a month and 11,000 followers on twitter, thousands of views on YouTube and over 1800 followers on facebook with thousands of downloads of my reports every year and a diary that means I am fully booked until next year means I’m doing something right.

I don’t have to conform to be a good leader or role model. I don’t have to be a smiley, pretty, well-dressed, clear-skinned, diplomatic, well-spoken, perfect-history fucking automaton to make a good point about a social issue. I don’t need to be all of those things to know the solution to a problem. I don’t need to be an academic poster-child chasing a postdoc to be an expert in my own right.

This point is important to me and important to the poem. To have your point heard, you have to be a certain kind of person in our messed up world. You can’t be young. You can’t be black. You can’t be female. You can’t be from an ethnic minority group. You can’t have mental health issues or trauma histories. You can’t be disabled. You can’t be gay or lesbian and bi. You can’t be a survivor. You can’t be poor. You can’t be an immigrant. You can’t be too old either. In fact, as long as you aren’t one of those things, you can pretty much say and do what the fuck you like without much judgement. But if you do rise up and talk or act – and you are one or many of those things, you will be judged on those characteristics, and not what you say or do. We have powerful rich white men and women in power who can do and say whatever they like, then turn on a sixpence, then lie about it or deny it, then pay someone to make it all go away with a news story scandal that will distract the masses from what they said or did.

We cannot allow this to continue. We must create a society where diverse voices are heard and what they say is not equated to their characteristics or experiences. ‘Oh you’re just saying that because you’re lesbian.’ ‘Oh you only raise this point because you’re black.’ ‘You are only doing this because you’re on benefits.’ Every time we do this, we minimise the power of the masses. This in-fighting leads us nowhere.

The poem talks about groups of people in poverty, our youth generation, our women and girls, our huge population of adults and children who have suffered abuse and neglect and our communities in deprived areas with less opportunity. Those groups are not exclusive.

There is a quote I love which says ‘the people don’t know their true power’

Image result for the people dont know their true power

And the reason I love it so much is because it is true. It reminds me that if we were ever organised and strong enough to turn our backs on certain ideologies, narratives, systems, governments, organisations or individuals – they would have no power left. At present, the people are effectively controlled, oppressed, minimised, silenced, humiliated, stigmatised and divided to ensure that they never work together to rise up and change their own world. Whilst they are busy in-fighting, they can’t organise.

We know that people are being oppressed. We know that families are relying on foodbanks. We know that women and girls are being raped. We know that the youth are being demonised and failed by us. We know that academia and access to higher education is becoming more and more elite. We know that the right wing media position people on benefits as lazy and useless in society. We know that hatred of immigrants and ethnic minority groups is deliberately spread in the media. We know that the working classes are being convinced that they are ‘middle class’ so they don’t identify with those people who are struggling. We know that our institutions and our authorities are racist and classist. We know that ‘working hard’ is not enough. We know that our society is based on a hierarchy where white rich men are the winners at every event.

But what do we do about it?

The internet has given us the platform to revolt, to campaign, to protest, to get involved in activism. Right now, our media use is becoming more and more monitored and policed. It is likely that we will eventually move towards models used in other countries where the internet and electronic communication is heavily policed and censored.

Before that happens, we need to work together to change what we don’t like. We have to call out the truth. We have to support the whistleblowers. We have to lift each other up in challenge. We have to allow space for the controversial points. We have to have the difficult arguments. We have to organise together. We have to empower our youth. We have to uncover our hidden communities and give them a platform. We have to teach others to become media-critical. We have to hold abusers to account. We have to demand our human rights are observed.

Embrace your unconventional leaders in your own lives and fields of work. Who inspires you to become better? Who inspires you to revolt? Who makes you feel capable of change? Who empowers you to change something that bothers you? Who makes you rethink your whole position? Who makes you feel worth something more?

Those are your true leaders.

‘Beat the pussy up’ – the way we talk about sex with women

This blog contains a discussion of violent language to discuss sex, sexual violence and porn. It also contains the titles to real porn films that a lot of people may find disturbing. Please take care of yourself whilst reading this and seek support after reading if you need to. 

 

As a massive old skool (and sometimes new skool) RnB, Rap and Hip Hop fan, I often find myself experiencing some pretty serious cognitive dissonance to try to enjoy my music without yelling at the radio or crying into my crisps.

As a younger feminist, I used to tell myself that it was okay that women were called bitches and hoes because that’s the way that artist chose to express themselves (I know, I know, so progressive).

As I got older, I started to resent the use of the word ‘bitch’ in my once-favourite songs. I stopped listening to some artists because I couldn’t stand the way they spoke about women and sex. The next challenge was dealing with the rise of female artists using ‘bitch’ and ‘nasty hoe’ to describe themselves. I thought the rise of female MCs, rappers and writers would eliminate this constant woman-hating but it didn’t. Nicki, Cardi B, Lil Kim, Missy Elliott – they made me wanna two-step and cry at the same time.

(Edit: I would just like to add that misogynistic and rape-glorifying lyrics are found in Death Metal too so this issue clearly isn’t unique to my music preferences, but I have never listened to it so didn’t know until someone told me today! Here’s a link http://theconversation.com/death-metal-is-often-violent-and-misogynist-yet-it-brings-joy-and-empowerment-to-fans-91909 )

It is often the case in music that women sing about loving men and men sing about fucking women. And it’s this that I want to talk about.

I noticed recently that the range of ways men sing, rap and talk about having sex with women has become inherently violent. They aren’t talking about ‘getting jiggy’ or ‘having fun’ or ‘doing the deed’ – I mean, they are not even calling it sex anymore. Not only that, but they are not even naming or identifying the woman anymore.

I decided to sit and think about all the violent ways men describe having sex with women these days, and came up with this list in about 3 minutes. I am sure there are many more and people will contact me with others.

List of violent terms to describe having sex with women:

Hit that

Hurt that

Smash that

Smack that

Fuck that

Merc that

Destroy that

Crush that

Beat that pussy up

Beat it up

Ruin that

Bang that

Nail that

 

There are two main points here. The first is that sex is being described in very violent terms and the second is that the word ‘that’ is used in place of ‘her’ to objectify the woman they are talking about. These men aren’t saying ‘I would love to have sex with her’ or ‘I would shag her’ or even ‘I would fuck her’ – they are saying ‘I would fuck that’. ‘That’ is not a pronoun. ‘That’ is not a name. ‘That’ is used for objects. I’ll come back to this point.

The first point is the violence in the language. Hit. Destroy. Ruin. Bang. Beat up. Smash. Smack. Hurt. These are words that describe violence and injury. They don’t describe sex. They don’t describe the type of sex any woman wants to have.

When I started to search the terms I had heard and read, I easily found memes, articles, discussions and blogs using this language about women in a completely normalised way. Men saying to their friends ‘The girl next door, I would ruin that!’ or ‘She’s gonna get it hard. Beat that pussy up!’ The image of all of the guys saying they would rape the sleeping girl on the sofa. I found hundreds of song lyrics like the ones I have listened to.

Gucci Mane released a song called ‘Beat it up’ about having sex with women. So did Slim Thug. So did Chris Brown. And no, I’m not talking about one song they all featured on, I’m talking about three separately produced songs about ‘beating that pussy up’.

Here are the lyrics from Slim Thug:

Guess what? I’m fuckin tonight

Whether you know it or not, Ima beat that pussy right

Yeah I’m fuckin tonight, Ima beat it up

In song lyrics, R Kelly says he ‘beats the pussy up like Django’ and Lil Wayne says he ‘beat that pussy up like Emmett Till’.

Chris Brown says he fucks women back to sleep in ‘Back to sleep’. I don’t really know why he would want to make a woman he has sex with fall asleep but the song lyrics are creepy as shit:

Fuck you to sleep, wake you up again, I go so deep, beat it up again

Just let me rock, fuck you back to sleep, girl

Don’t say no, girl, don’t you talk

Just hold on tight to me, girl

Fuck you back to sleep, girl.

 

The issue here is that these influential men in our popular culture and music industry are openly using sexually violent references to having sex with women and then every day adults (and children) are singing along to Chris Brown riffin’ about the women he wakes up to make them have sex with him again when they are too tired. We are so oblivious to what we are listening to, this language quickly becomes the norm.

One article I found listed every artist they could find who referred to sex as ‘beating the pussy up’ and they found over 15 current male artists using that term in hit songs. Jay-Z to Lil Wayne – they were all describing sex as harming women.

 

After searching for evidence on each one of the terms I listed above, I found a website discussing what ‘destroy that’ and ‘ruin that’ meant and was surprised to find how open men were when talking about what they meant. I had thought that maybe it was being used semi-consciously by men who were using it in banter, but they were using it literally. One page defined it as ‘having sex with her so rough that you cause injuries, the more physical injuries the rougher it probably was’. One man said he used it with his friends to mean destroying or ruining a ‘nice girl’ by having very aggressive sex with her or by taking her virginity.

It reminded me of a film I watched (and use in my teaching) about mail order brides and the way white, wealthy guys were buying and sexually exploiting women as servile brides from deprived areas. There was this one guy who used military metaphors to discuss meeting and having sex with potential brides. He made my skin crawl.

He is sat in a dark club when he says to the camera:

“Uh, the search and destroy mission for today is to circulate, work the room, identify a target and go for it. If plan A doesn’t work, I retreat, rally the troops and then go out and then try plan B uhh to capture the target.”

He doesn’t even say woman. He doesn’t even talk about humans. He talks about destroying and identifying targets.

This links to the second point I wanted to make – that this language dehumanises and dementalizes women – it reduces them to their ‘pussy’ or their ‘ass’ that the men are going to ‘hurt’ or ‘hit’ or ‘crush’ or ‘beat that up’. They no longer converse about sex in human terms – they talk in metaphors and disconnected, dehumanised language. They refer to women as ‘that’ or they only talk about her body parts. She is there to be used, abused and hurt for their pleasure.

Where is this sexually violent language coming from?

Well, sorry to be the not-the-fun-kind-of-feminist, but its porn and societal misogyny. There is no doubt about where this is coming from. Work by people like Julia Long and Gail Dines has long told us that porn has become more and more violent, with Long (2012) arguing that over 90% of porn now features violence against women including hitting, slapping, kicking, choking, hurting, whipping and deliberately painful and extremely degrading sex acts.

You only have to look at the titles of porn films on Pornhub or X Videos to see the way they describe women in violent and degrading terms to see where this is coming from.

Here are some examples that are on porn sites today (18th May 2018):

‘Passed out slut letting me fuck her brains out’ (this film is of a clearly unconscious young girl being raped on Pornhub)

‘Unwanted painful anal’ (another allowed to stay on Pornhub despite clearly describing a rape)

‘Rip her up’ (the name of a series of videos in which women are raped)

‘Blonde babe gets brutally slapped and fucked’

‘Beauty humiliated and ruined – BRUTAL’

‘Teen gets anally destroyed – hear her real screams and crying’

‘Heavily pregnant teen used by men’ (Pornhub allows this!)

broken sexually

We must talk about the way that violent materials depicting the rape and abuse of women and teenage girls is becoming the norm. Actually not the norm, the goal. The harm of women is becoming glorified, not normalised. When women like Long, Dines, Bindel and Blac talk to us about violence in porn, they are not talking about a light tap, they are not taking anything out of context or exaggerating, they are talking about the sexualisation of choking women, beating women up, raping women on camera and hurting them so badly during sex acts that they cry out for help, pass out or scream in pain.

It hasn’t taken long, but this acceptance and arousal of sexual violence against women has slipped into common everyday language about sex with women. Role models in hip hop, rap and RnB are using this language in their hit songs. Children and adults are singing along to these lyrics. Hit that. Hurt it. Beat that pussy up. Smash that. Destroy that. Ruin it.

In a study conducted in 2006, Fischer and Greitmeyer found that men who listened to sexually aggressive and violent lyrics were more likely to choose for women to suffer painful situations than the men who had listened to normal music lyrics in a controlled study. In a follow up study, men listening to misogynistic lyrics were more likely to subject women to ice-water-treatment than men who did not listen to the misogynistic lyrics.

However, its incomplete to argue that these lyrics and language only affect men and boys – the reality is that these lyrics, language, imagery and porn affects women and girls too. They are also absorbing these messages as normal, and as shown by the work on hypersexualisation of girls by the APA in 2007, girls and women normalise and accept these sexually violent behaviours because they have been taught by society that they are supposed to enjoy them.

Adding sexually violent lyrics to some of the bestselling songs in the world is a clear method of normalising male violence against women and girls.

What can we do about this?

Parents and Carers of children and young people 

If you are a parent of an older child, there is absolutely no point in trying to protect them from these lyrics – they are everywhere! Instead, focus on bringing your children up to be critical thinkers and media-savvy. Teach them that everything they see in the media, music, advertising and news outlets are trying to manipulate them or sell something to them. Teach them clear and positive ways of talking about sex. Teach them to say ‘have sex with’ or ‘make love to’ or even ‘sleep with’. ANYTHING that isn’t negative or violent. Talk to them about the language – use the songs on the radio as an opportunity, a blessing in disguise and start to comment on the language. When something sexually aggressive or degrading comes on the TV, use co-viewing to start a debate or discussion about what you are seeing. Make a comment and ask their opinion. If you don’t teach your children about sex, the internet will. If you already watch a lot of porn, think about how different porn sex is to the real sex you’re having. Do you really want your sons or daughters thinking that porn sex is real? Do you really want your son choking teen girls? Do you really want your daughter to think that being forced to have anal is normal? If you don’t watch any porn and this blog has terrified the life out of you, have a bit of a search and see how quickly you come across violent porn. I bet it takes you less than 60 seconds of scrolling.

Professionals working with children and young people 

If you are a professional, you can do absolutely everything I have listed for parents and you can also make it your mission to educate other professionals about the way language is changing to encourage the normalisation of sexual violence towards women and girls – especially as you may be working with young people you can influence through your direct work, counselling, youth work or in school sessions. I deliver porn workshops to children and trust me, they know WAY more about porn than you think. I learn something new about porn every time I talk to kids about porn. Don’t think that when you deliver your porn workshops in school, you will be shocking those teens – you will be talking to a large majority that have not only watched porn but have been significantly influenced by it. Seriously, I’ve taught teenage girls who have told me that they thought that having pubic hair was disgusting and weird because none of the women in porn have any. If you can’t face workshops about porn, build some on song lyrics and music videos – you will get all the same discussions. Teach other professionals, talk about the impact of porn, consider it in your line of work and if you can, talk to young people about porn and violence.

Other adults in society 

If you are an adult in society but you don’t work with women or children or have any children of your own, you are still responsible for making our society safe for women and girls. We all are. Be aware of what you are listening to. Be aware of your language. Stop watching violent porn. Stop watching porn all together. Seek support if you feel you need help about the amount or the type of porn you are watching. If you are reading this and you know someone or you are someone who is turned on by violent porn, look for some support. If you want to affect change, get involved in anti-porn activism and help to change the world. Read up on the famous porn stars who have left the industry due to abuse, rape, drugging and injuries. Read their first-hand accounts of the violence and hatred in porn. Read Anti-Porn. Read Pornland. Read Porn Inc. Read about the abuse and rapes of Jenna Jameson and why she is now an anti-porn advocate. Educate yourself and seek to educate others. We already live in an extremely sexist world, we cannot let the language we use around sex become so inherently violent that the only way men and boys talk about sex with women and girls is to say to each other ‘Yeah man, I ruined her, I beat that shit up!’ If you hang out with friends like that, challenge them when they say it. If you are in a relationship where the sex always seems to be centred around hurting you or causing you pain, please seek help.

I don’t know about you, but I want my sex to be healthy, pleasurable, consensual and safe. I don’t want anyone to beat it up, hit it, nail it, destroy it or ruin it.

Boycott this language everywhere you hear it or see it.

 

Jessica Eaton

@JessicaE13Eaton

www.victimfocus.org.uk

Jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

With special thanks to Suzzan Blac, Julie Bindel, Gail Dines and Julia Long for their tireless and selfless work in this subject.

 

If you have been affected by the content of this blog, please find some contacts you may find helpful below. If you don’t want to talk to a stranger or professional, talk to someone you love and trust. This topic is not easy to stomach sometimes and it is normal to be disturbed by sexual violence and abuse. Please don’t struggle alone.

Rape Crisis

Helpline: 0808 802 9999 (12-2:30 and 7-9:30)

rapecrisis.org.uk

Victim Support

Supportline: 0808 168 9111

RASAC (Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre)

National Helpline: 0808 802 9999 (12-2.30 & 7-9.30)

rasasc.org.uk

Women Against Rape

womenagainstrape.net

The Survivors Trust

Helpline: 0808 801 0818 thesurvivorstrust.org

Women’s Aid Federation

National Domestic Violence Helpline (24hrs): 0808 2000 247

 

Comparing men & women: Who gets photoshopped the most? 

Written by Jessica Eaton | VictimFocus | 08/05/2018

Whataboutery is alive and kicking. You know that, I know that – I wrote a whole blog about whataboutery when we attempt to talk about women’s issues. Read by over 500,000 people, it’s one of my most successful blogs and is still being read around 1000 times a day. People clearly resonate with the observations I made that when we talk about issues affecting women, the ‘what about men?’ and ‘this issue affects men just as much as women!’ comments come out in full force.

The issue with this is that it attempts to create a gender neutral explanation for women’s issues. Sometimes it even attempts to transform sex-based oppression of women into a men’s issue.

Even when we know that a social issue or form of discrimination disproportionately affects women more than men, there are deliberate attempts to move this issue away from women and make it about ‘people’ (men and women). This ignores misogyny, patriarchy and the extra pressures on women and girls to conform to the strict gender role norm they are supposed to perform every day.

One of the examples of women’s issues that frequently receive ‘whataboutery’ is body image and sexualisation of women in the media. I remember posting about the way women are hypersexualised and photoshopped in the media and receiving hundreds of comments (and abuse cos, you know, female on the internet). All of the shitty comments were men telling me that men were also hypersexualised and photoshopped in the media and that the pressure to have a perfect body was as severe as it is for women.

I thought about what I call the ‘hench movement’ which is this recent obsession with men becoming as muscly, ripped and massive as possible. I thought – ‘maybe the guys sending me these comments are right’ (obviously they could have made their point without the abuse but heyho). I started to think that maybe the pressure on women had spread to men – and not content with mind-fucking 51% of the population for decades to make money; the media, fashion and beauty industry had finally gone after the other 49% of the market.

Maybe men were being photoshopped and hypersexualised just as much as women these days? 

That’s why today, I was so intrigued to find a new social media experiment in which a group of researchers sent a photo of an average guy to contacts all over the world and asked them to photoshop him into the perfect male body. I was even more intrigued by this because around two years ago, the same experiment was done with the picture of a woman. The results of the experiment with the picture of the woman were pretty depressing and I instantly clicked on the link to see what the world had done with the picture of the man this year.

I was surprised with what I found, so I have compiled the results here from BOTH experiments to show the ideal body of both men and women all over the world – and how much more sexualised and photoshopped the women are when directly compared to the men.

The results finally put to bed the argument that body image pressure, hypersexualisation and photoshopping is as bad for men as it is for women. It doesn’t just put it to bed, it destroys this myth.

Here is the original image of the woman and the man

img_4772

Key differences for the woman: 

The woman is made significantly (sometimes fatally) thinner in every single photo except one. I mean seriously, some of them are really really really thin.

img_4773
The woman is made much more sexualised than the man in every single photo – some people didn’t even like her white underwear and gave her some sexier lingerie. Interestingly, the man’s underwear was not changed at all except for in Bangladesh where they changed it to more traditional wear. No one put him in speedos or thongs. Shoes were also altered for the women – to make them sexier. No one put any shoes on the man.

img_4774
The legs of the woman are made longer and thinner in almost every image – whilst the legs of the man are left alone.

The arms of the woman are made thinner in almost every image – whilst the arms of the man remain the same in all but 4 images, in which case they are made bigger.

The body ideals of the woman are so much less obtainable than those of the man in almost every photo – I mean, to get a body like some of these female images, you would need so much cosmetic surgery and body sculpting…

img_4756

The woman has her breasts and cleavage made bigger in every single photo – Uhuh. Not a surprise exactly. What interests me about this is that big breasts are clearly from porn culture – something evident all over the world. Some countries only made her breasts slightly bigger but no one made them smaller.

img_4758
The woman has a new thigh gap in every photo but one – and some thigh gaps are terrifyingly big. None of the men were given a thigh gap, although you could argue that was because of his pose.

img_4767
Key differences for the man:

The man’s body is almost left as original in over half of the images, in some images I had to look really closely to see what differences had been made

img_4775

Clearly, having a six pack and looking like action man is NOT the standard body ideal for men around the world, with only 4 countries selecting this as an ideal body.
The man is left with an overhanging belly in 6 of the images, something absolutely not permitted in the images of the woman. The woman is brutally made thinner but the man is allowed an untoned stomach in just under half of the images.

img_4741
The man is allowed body hair, which will come as no surprise to anyone. Only one country removed the body hair from the image of the man – US. Who interestingly were one of the only countries to change his hair and give him a six pack.

img_4750

The hair of the man just doesn’t seem to be an issue for most countries, who left his hair alone. In contrast to the image of the woman, which had the hair changed in 83% of the images. None of the images of women made her hair cropped or shorter in anyway.

bangladesh guy


What can this comparison teach us?



Photoshopping and hypersexualisation of women’s bodies around the world is savage.

Photoshopping and hypersexualisation of men’s bodies around the world definitely happens but nowhere near the level of women. Even when explicitly instructed to photoshop the bodies of the man and the woman to make the ‘perfect body’ – much less was altered on the man. Based on these images from these two studies, I would argue that in a lot of cases it’s much more sympathetic and realistic than what is done to women’s images.

The man was mostly allowed to keep body hair, body fat, his own underwear, his own hair, his own arms and his own legs. The woman was brutally photoshopped until unrecognisable in most countries.

The argument that photoshopping and hypersexualisation of men’s bodies is ‘just as bad’ as women is pretty much debunked here. It’s time to stop this neutralisation of women’s issues in society. Men have lots of sex-specific social issues and we need to talk about them – but trying to make women’s issues gender-neutral or even male-centric is not the way forward.

Please use these images and blogs like this one to start media critical conversations with children and young people. We have to build critical thinking and media critical views into younger generations to ensure they understand how unrealistic and harmful body ideals are.

For the original images and studies please click here for the female study: 

https://petapixel.com/2015/08/15/one-woman-photoshopped-by-18-countries-beauty-standards-revealed/

And here for the Male study: 

http://www.dailyfeed.co.uk/2018/04/this-guy-had-his-body-photoshopped-in-16-countries-to-show-the-global-beauty-standards/?utm_source=VT&utm_medium=Facebook&utm_campaign=photoshoppedman1joeukheaderbidding

 

Written by Jessica Eaton

Tweet: @jessicae13eaton

Email: Jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

Visit: http://www.victimfocus.org.uk

Reductionism, neuroscience & CSE: The brand new bandwagon

Jessica Eaton

Its fast becoming my job to notice and write about some of the strange ways we respond to and seek to understand child sexual exploitation (CSE) (see: #nomoreCSEfilms for example). I have been working in sexual violence for nine years now but I have been involved in CSE work for the past three years. I work all over the UK with everyone from local authority leaders to frontline volunteers in charities – and I have noticed a discernible movement towards reductionist and neuroscientific explanations of child sexual trauma and child sexual exploitation. I want to talk about this because in my opinion, it is yet another turn in the wrong direction in CSE.

In this blog, I give some examples of neuromyths and reductionist arguments that are being used more frequently in the field of social care and child sexual exploitation. I will then explain why they are problematic and how they ignore complex social interactions.

But first…

Keywords:

Neuroscience: any or all of the sciences, such as neurochemistry and experimental psychology, which deal with the structure or function of the nervous system and brain

Reductionism: the theory that every complex human phenomenon, especially in biology or psychology, can be explained by analysing the simplest, most basic physical mechanisms that are in operation during the phenomenon. This includes but is not limited to brain cells, genes, neurotransmitters and neurochemicals.

Okay, so now we have got that out of the way, let normal service resume.

 

Example 1: Teenagers’ brains are addicted to risk taking and that’s why they keep putting themselves in situations where they get sexually exploited

One of the major problems with this type of statement is that it still blames children for being abused, but it is cloaked in neuroscience – so its sounds legit. This is a statement that I hear at least once a week from social workers, police and students. The most recent was when I was lecturing and a professional came to speak to me at the end of the lecture to ask me about this exact topic. I had finished a four-hour session with them about victim blaming and the way we erase the perpetrator from CSE practice by positioning the child as both the cause and the solution to abuse and exploitation.

She said to me ‘I totally get what you are saying about it not being the child’s fault that they are being abused but what about the fact that teenagers we work with are addicted to risk taking? We had someone come and give us a talk recently who said that adolescent brains are so addicted to the thrill of risk taking – that they do really dangerous things like get in cars with unknown adults and take drugs from them and have sex with them…’

This myth comes from misused and overgeneralised findings from neuroscience. Risk taking is individual. Some children take risks, some children don’t. Some adults take risks. Some adults don’t. Some risk taking is excellent and positive. Some risk taking is a learning experience. If indeed, the reason teenagers are sexually exploited is because their teenage brains are so addicted to risk taking – why exactly do adults still get sexually exploited all over the world? If we were to believe that adolescents were categorically different from adults (which is incorrect) then surely, abuse and exploitation statistics would drop dramatically at biological maturation? Surely once the child becomes a mature adult, their ‘risk taking’ would reduce or end?

In this example in CSE, ‘risk taking’ has been pathologized and then used to explain the actions of a sex offender. Not only that, but it positions the child as a ‘risk taker’ rather than a victim of a serious sexual offence perpetrated by a powerful adult. Ergo, this type of statement explaining sexual abuse and exploitation as some sort of neuropsychological issue with risk taking and endorphin release is just buzzword-intellectual-victim-blaming.

Moshman (2011) writes in ‘Adolescent Rationality and Development’ that risk taking is down to individual differences and that we have copious evidence that risk taking is not generalised to adolescents and is certainly not related to being sexually abused. So why are we making these leaps in CSE?

One answer could be that neuroscience can be rather seductive. Seduction by Reduction. Ooh, I quite like that. Seductive reductionism. Ooh, even better.

Rather than us having to explore and acknowledge the complex social interactions, environment, experiences, motivations, cultures and social norms that the child lives in – and rather than accepting that the child was not at all culpable for an adult targeting them and raping them – why not just blame their adolescent brain and do some work with them on ‘reducing their risk taking’? Beginning to see where this leads us?

 

Example 2: Boys don’t disclose their sexual abuse because they have differences in their ‘male brain’ that stop them from expressing emotions like girls

Can we just not? Really?

How we have managed to wilfully ignore gender role socialisation in statements like this is beyond me. I thought we had got past all of this ‘ladybrain’ ‘manbrain’ stuff. The issue with statements like this in our practice in CSE is that it gives us a massive cop out for why boys are being missed – and why they don’t feel able to disclose to us about experiencing childhood sexual abuse.

I urge professionals to reject any assertions of this nature. The key to why boys do not disclose or even acknowledge that they have been raped or abused lies in gender role socialisation and the way our society sexualises children. It has absolutely nothing to do with having a ‘manbrain’ – and to reduce a boy to some brain cells that cant express emotion is unbelievably oversimplified.

In a society where we see sex as a taboo, where kids don’t get sex education until they are 11-13 years old (and it’s shit when they do get it), where homophobia is rife, where we don’t talk to boys about being sexually abused, where we tell boys ‘don’t cry’ and ‘stop being a girl’ and ‘man up’, where all of our sexual abuse campaigns have pictures of girls on them, where we tell boys that they should love sex and desire, where we position men and boys as insatiable creatures of lust that cannot help themselves and should enjoy all sex…. How exactly have we got to a place where we think its progressive to teach professionals that the REAL reason boys don’t disclose their abuse to us is because their brain is missing something? Riiiight.

This reductionism to neuroscience has to stop. It is not improving practice, it is dumbing it down. We cannot understand the abuse and experiences of boys if we wilfully ignore gender role socialisation.

 

Example 3: Young peoples’ brains are irrational and worse at decision-making than adults’. That’s why they ignore our advice to stay safe from CSE.

Ahhh another one that comes up a lot these days. Who is it delivering this stuff to frontline workers? Why would you tell workers this rubbish?

The major issue for me here is that this explanation is way too comfy. Rather than getting professionals to think about why the child might not listen to them, or why the perpetrator can wield so much power over their victim that the child has no escape route at all – we are telling each other that the child’s immature brain is just too irrational and poor at decision making and that’s why they are still being sexually abused and exploited.

Nope. Wrong answer.

David Moshman (2011) argues that there is no evidence for a difference in irrational behaviours, emotional maturity or risk taking between adolescents and adults, with adults consistently being found to be as irrational as adolescents. Very young children are distinct from adults in terms of neuroscience and neuropsychological development, but adolescents are not. Maturity, decision making, risk taking and rationality tend to evolve in varied ways from the age of 10 or 11 onwards and Moshman strongly argues that many 14-year-old children function beyond the level of many 40-year-old adults. Whilst current practice in CSE is ascribing impulsivity, irrational behaviour, poor decision making and risk-taking behaviours to young people, Moshman (2011) argues there are no differences in these cognitive functions between adolescents and adults.

Not only this, but if we are to look at sexual violence as a global, cultural problem – why would we eventually settle at the explanation of brain immaturity and irrationality of children? I think that to tell victims of sexual violence, exploitation and trafficking that the reason they couldn’t escape their abuser is because they were irrational and poor decision makers, is first class victim blaming. Where is the role of the perpetrator and society in these reductionist arguments?

Abuse doesn’t reside in the brain of the child – someone else is doing this to them!

Second, if the reason children cannot leave their abuser is down to brain irrationality, maturity and decision-making abilities that will improve with age – why exactly to millions of adults experience sexually violent, abusive and dangerous relationships from which they cannot escape? What brain explanation do they have for that?

 

Example 4: The brain controls how children and young people react to a rape or sexual assault. They freeze during a sexual assault and don’t try to fight back because their brain isn’t mature enough to process what is happening to them and fight back.

Improving professional knowledge of trauma responses and normal behaviours during a sexual assault is very important to me – and to the work I do around the world. I was very disappointed to hear this exact statement from a professional recently and became concerned about the impact they are having on the field, if they are delivering messages like this.

The first thing that came to mind was that, if this statement is true, why do we know that 70% of all adults who experience a sexual assault or rape, also freeze? (Muller et al. 2017).

If the freeze response is due to lack of mature processing of what is happening to the child – why do adults also respond with a freeze response to danger and violence? Surely at adulthood, according to reductionist arguments of adolescence like this – the adolescent would grow up, become wiser and their brain would become more mature and then they would fight off the rapist or abuser… but we know this to be untrue.

This statement and statements like this reveal a really interesting social bias we have as adults: that we are better than, and wiser than, adolescents. Our practice and theory positions adolescents as a subgroup of humans that are irrational, risky, poor decision makers, naïve and immature whilst we position adulthood as the ultimate goal in rectifying those issues. As the adult population, we are writing and speaking as if all humans get wiser, more rational, less risky and better decision makers with age – and this is simply not true.

I mean, come on. I bet you can think of a number of adults right now who don’t fit that description. Yep. Thought so.

There are plenty of children and adolescents I would trust more with decision making and rational responses to social issues than say… Donald Trump.

 

Example 5: Young people and adults who have experienced sexual traumas and now have mental health issues, probably have genes that run in their family or a predisposition to depression/anxiety/personality disorder.

The latest example I saw of reductionism was yesterday. I read an article from a professional stating that depression can be reduced to genes that predispose people to mental health issues. This is yet another example of harsh reductionism of the psychology and human experience of trauma and environmental stresses.

There are those of us in the ‘trauma-informed approach’ movement that have been working hard to ensure that the public and professionals understand the social model of mental health and the way that oppression, trauma, environment and experiences cause trauma. In our movement, we do our best to ensure that the person is not pathologized, labelled or blamed for experiencing and trying to cope with traumas – and that the professionals place appropriate importance on the environmental factors causing the trauma and distress of the person. We argue that giving people medication for depression when they are living in a highly oppressive and hopeless environment is useless. Medicating people in traumatic or oppressive situations ignores the cause of the distress.

Blaming the trauma responses and coping mechanisms of young people and adults who have experienced rape and sexual abuse on genes is a step even further. This not only places the problem within the person, but it places the problem with the genes held in the DNA of the person. You don’t get much more reductionist than that. This type of argument completely ignores the cumulative and life changing traumas the people have lived through; and pathologizes their reactions to those traumas as ‘abnormal’.

 

Final thoughts

In this short blog, I have given real examples from CSE and CSA practice that show that professionals are being taught crude, reductionist neuroscientific explanations of trauma, abuse and human experience. It is not to say that neuroscience cannot give us incredible insights into the brain – but this is not the way to use it. Many of these statements are huge overgeneralisations or a wilfully misused in order to place blame on victims of sexual violence. Social care as a discipline and the large bodies of professionals working with children after abuse need to remain critical towards statements and assertions that claim that adolescents do certain things, respond in certain ways, don’t disclose or are more vulnerable to being sexually abused because of brain immaturity.

In the words of David Moshman:

‘All of these assumptions are false. Let me be clear: I am not just saying we do not have sufficient evidence to support some of these claims. I am saying we have plenty of evidence with regard to all of them, and the evidence shows them all to be false.’

 

Written by Jessica Eaton

30/04/2018

www.victimfocus.org.uk

Tweet: @JessicaE13Eaton

Email: Jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

So you want to do a job like mine: tips for people aspiring to work in psychology 

Jessica Eaton | VictimFocus | @JessicaE13Eaton 

I left school with some GCSEs and a baby on the way. I had actually stopped attending school a year earlier but decided to turn up to my GCSEs and have a bash at them anyway. That was 2007. It’s now 2018 and I have a successful business in forensic psychology, a mental health centre, an international role in the psychology of victim blaming in sexual violence and abuse, two book deals, a resources store and a string of publications – with more exciting things to come.

There are some things I want to tell you.

If you’re working class, you can still kick ass
As the first in my family to go to university, a teenage mum from rape who spent most of my time knocking around a council estate that I had a love/hate relationship with – I was never really meant to end up with a PhD or as the Chair of the Parliamentary Conference on Violence Against Women and Girls. Or anything really.

If you are reading this from a poor background or a difficult upbringing and you are striving to get your qualification to become a psychologist – please remember that your working-class experiences will be a huge advantage one day. Right now, whilst you are studying, holding down four part-time jobs whilst worrying about paying the nursery fees and whether your phone bill will bounce this month, it feels understandably difficult. That’s because it is. Working class students at university face lots of extra difficulties. But your life experiences will make you an excellent psychologist one day if you can just remember these experiences and hold them in your mind when you are working with clients in the future or interviewing people for your studies.

This field can sometimes be guilty of pathologizing the lower classes, minority groups and their traumas with clever-sounding disorders and labels. It is no coincidence that trauma histories are usually intertwined with poverty, debt, homelessness, addiction, unemployment, eviction, oppression and discrimination. 

You can use the skills you have learned as you have grown up to relate to, communicate with and support people who are struggling to be heard. Be proud of your roots, be proud of your accent, your dialect and be proud of the fact that you mispronounce words you have only ever read in books. Remember that traumas don’t define you and don’t allow anyone to bring you down. You’re on your way to something brilliant.
 
Get experience as soon as you can

Ah this one is definitely important. Get experience in psychology, crime or support services of any kind as soon as you start higher education. Volunteer your time with Victim Support, Rape Crisis, Women’s Aid, Probation Trusts, Youth Offending Panels, Magistrates Courts, Police forces and Prisons. Volunteering is the best gift you could possibly give to yourself, others and wider society. You receive excellent training, free qualifications and you give your time for free to people who really need you. Not only that, but you learn unique skills that you can carry into psychology practice and research. 
This is exactly what I did. I started at 19 years old as a volunteer court assistant for Victim Support. It was my job on a Friday to look after the witnesses and victims of domestic abuse trials. I completed numerous training courses for free and learned the intricate workings and politics of the court room. 

That role led me directly to becoming the Vulnerable and Intimidated Witness Manager for 2 crown courts and 5 magistrates courts just a year later – and kick started my career in forensic psychology. It also lit the fire in me about victim blaming. A fire that was sparked from months of watching victims of crime being discredited and bullied by defence solicitors, police officers, social workers and other professionals who blamed victims for everything from their phone being stolen to being raped.

Experience will make you more employable, absolutely – but more importantly, it will give you months of experience of working with real people with real difficulties in forensic environments. That is worth its weight in gold.

If you are not in a position to find a volunteer role or job role, write! Write a blog, start a campaign or make YouTube videos about your favourite psychology topic, research using your library access and forge a role for yourself out there in the world. You’ll build writing and speaking skills as you go!
 

Practice and research cannot stay separated




If I could raise a new generation of psychologists, this would be my core principle. One of the reasons I am unique in my field is that I have stayed in practice whilst also staying in research. I’m not a pure academic. I’m not a pure practitioner. I’m not a pure business leader. I’m not a pure activist. I’m all of them at once. It’s a glorious place to be.

One of the worst problems in the field of psychology is the way research is not taken into practice to change real people’s lives – and the way practice wisdom does not get back into academia. Sometimes, academic research will come up with a brilliant finding or vital evidence and yet no one in frontline practice knows anything about it. Sometimes, things are happening in frontline practice that academics have no idea even exist. This is the ultimate consequence of academia’s traditional role of elite education – it doesn’t filter down easily to the people who need that evidence.

By taking on volunteer roles, keeping your hand in practice, getting involved in campaigning and activism you can pledge to yourself that you will bridge that gap between practice and research – so that education and academic research does not get stuck in those upper echelons of society. Make free videos, websites and blogs about your research or studies – share knowledge with the world.
 
Change the world



Yep. Psychologists have a vital role to play in making the world a better place. You might work with people who have been trafficked, abused, bullied, harmed, imprisoned or have committed great harm to other people. You will learn such amazing (and sometimes difficult) things about humanity and psychology. You will watch politics and governments with a different perspective. You will notice when people are being manipulated or lied to. You will realise when interventions don’t work the way people say they do. You will report people who are putting clients at risk. You will campaign against poor practice or bad policies.

Use your education, skills and experience to lead change. Don’t be scared of activism. Psychologists can change the world. Psychologists dedicate their lives to humans, and therefore human rights. Get involved or just read about as many humanitarian issues as possible. Learn about trauma. Learn about oppression. Learn the history of humans. When you get that qualification on your wall, and you have that title, and you have that dream job, wake up every morning and think:

‘I have the power to change the world today, whether that is for one human or many.’

 
Jessica Eaton – 25/01/2018

Reblogged from PsychAssist