Research: new study finds girls view sexual violence as normal [#quickhit: link]

Citation: Hlavka, H. (2014). Normalizing Sexual Violence: Young Women Account for Harassment and Abuse. Gender & Society, 28(3), pp.337-358.


Despite high rates of gendered violence among youth, very few young women report these incidents to authority figures. This study moves the discussion from the question of why young women do not report them toward how violence is produced, maintained, and normalized among youth. The girls in this study often did not name what law, researchers, and educators commonly identify as sexual harassment and abuse. How then, do girls name and make sense of victimization? Exploring violence via the lens of compulsory heterosexuality highlights the relational dynamics at play in this naming process. Forensic interviews with youth revealed patterns of heteronormative scripts appropriated to make sense of everyday harassment, violence, coercion, and consent. Findings inform discussions about the links between dominant discourses and sexual subjectivities as we try to better understand why many regard violence a normal part of life.

Link to full article page on Sage.

HT to lipmag:

A new study titled ‘Normalising Sexual Violence: Young Women Account for Harrassment and Abuse’, published in Gender & Society, has found that girls and young women will rarely report incidents of sexual violence because they view them as ‘normal.’

The study analysed interviews conducted by the Children’s Advocacy Center with 100 young women between the ages of three and seventeen, who may have been sexually assaulted.

According to the findings of the research, it was common for the young women to trivialise their experiences of sexual harassment or assault, and that ‘objectification, sexual harassment, and abuse appear to be part of the fabric of young women’s lives.’

Incidences of assault or harassment appeared to be so ingrained into their experiences that they didn’t see them as particularly unacceptable or inappropriate.

The study concludes that ‘young women often held themselves and their peers responsible for acting as gatekeepers of men’s behaviours; they were responsible for being coerced, for accepting gifts and other resources, for not fending off or resisting men’s sexual advances…’

While the results of the study are disgusting and eye opening, they are unfortunately not very surprising for those who continue to speak out about and struggle against the rape culture that exists in Western society. (lip magazine)

Mamading in Magaluf: this is not a tale of broken Britain. It’s far, far sadder [#quickhit: quote]

Would it all have been fine had she won a real holiday? That’s irrelevant because, in common with all forms of abuse, this young woman wasn’t given a choice. She wasn’t honestly offered the option of “performing” for the sake of some lousy £4 cocktail, which, drunk though she was, she’d probably have turned down. This muddies the issue of informed consent to a disquieting degree. If it’s true about the “holiday” trick, it has vague but creepy echoes of girls from poor countries who are told they are going to get a proper job abroad, but end up being sex-trafficked. Lured with the promise of one thing, but ending up with something quite different.

Barbara Ellen on Mamading in Magaluf: this is not a tale of broken Britain. It’s far, far sadder.

On the devious and upsetting manipulation of the”Magaluf Girl” and the extent to which she could ever have given her full consent to the act. (Note: she certainly didn’t give any consent to being filmed and plastered over the internet.)

The end of hisses, whistles and stares: we need to walk the streets without fear [#quickhit: quote]

But what makes street harassment difficult to tackle in everyday life is that there doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut way to deal with it. Other countries have tried to implement female-only train cars to curb harassment, Italy opened a women-only beach to stop the leering and catcalling and now hotels are even offering floors dedicated only to female travellers.

The message here is that women should change their behavior, not men. And what happens if women-only spaces become the norm and someone is harassed outside of one – will we blamed for not taking our designated train car? We deserve safety in public spaces, not just in segregated “safe zones”.

Jessica Valenti on The end of hisses, whistles and stares: we need to walk the streets without fear,

Two thirds of women in the US have been street harassed

I’m surprised, really, that it’s as low as 65%. That could be indication of how normalised and “acceptable” street harassment has become.

From feministing:

A new study commissioned by Stop Street Harassment reveals just how common street harassment is in the US. No surprise there.

Sixty-five percent of women say they’ve experienced street harassment at some point in their lives. More than half experienced verbal harassment and 41 percent experienced physical aggression. Twenty-three percent have been sexually touched, 20 percent have been followed, 14 percent had been flashed, and 9 percent have been forced to do something sexual. A quarter of men have also been harassed. LGBT men are more likely to be harassed than other men–most commonly with homophobic or transphobic slurs. The vast majority of harassers of both genders are men. And Black and Latin@s are more likely to be harassed than whites.

Rest: Two thirds of women in the US have been street harassed.

The Shame of the Male Virgin

From below: what was most surprising was how ordinary his complaint seemed… the brutal killings at UCSB give us a glimpse into the toxic way that failed sex, misogyny and modern masculinity are intertwined.

Yes, the UCSB tragedy is a story about misogyny and violence. But it’s also a story about the narrow way we still define what it means to be a man.

What’s craziest about the story of the young man who killed six people and himself at UC Santa Barbara over the weekend is not that he was obsessed with sex, or even that he thought he was entitled to it. Reading his 141-page “manifesto” — and the series of YouTube videos he filmed and posted online — what was most surprising was how ordinary his complaint seemed.

Elliot Rodger had never kissed a girl. In a culture of casual sex, he was a virgin — at 22. ​He was lonely, angry, humiliated, depressed, and also likely struggling with mental illness. He couldn’t understand why others got to have what he didn’t; why girls always seemed to go after the “obnoxious jocks,” not the nice guys like him; why he had to see it all around him — from porn to campus party culture — as if taunting him. He was always missing out.


Mental health, misogyny and not all men


I think this one is a no-brainer for anyone who’s seen or read any of Rodger’s views – he hated women. Anyone who says a group of people should be rounded up in concentration camps hates that group of people. Come on now. His own words make clear that this hatred played a part in his decision to attack others. How he arrived at this and rationalised it or how his mental health played a part is a whole other can of worms, and we don’t know enough right now to get into that. We may never.

(It’s worth noting that he also killed and injured men – perhaps women were a scapegoat for his resentment of society as whole or feelings of failure, as is pretty typical of hate crimes. If so, how women came to be the focus is still interesting and relevant, and important. Someone’s own perception of their motivation is not necessarily the whole story, but it’s a place to start. But I digress, and I begin to speculate as I said I would try not to, so let’s move on.)

What’s putting me and plenty of other women of my acquaintance through the emotional wringer in the wake of this story is that although this is horrifying, there is something we recognise in it. It’s shocking, but not surprising – no, that’s not quite the word. It’s not unfamiliar. Men getting angry and aggressive because they didn’t get what they want from women is something that threatens, hurts and kills women every day. For me and other women I’ve been talking to today, Rodger’s words bring back memories of being on the receiving end of an aggrieved sense of entitlement, and turn up to 11 our sense of having had a fucking lucky escape. To paraphrase Margaret Atwood, men are afraid women will reject them; women are afraid men will kill them, and this is why, writ large.

Rest: effie perine.

Excerpt from an excellent post from someone who works with violent offenders every day. Rodger’s problems were not about mental health (convenient as it is for the detractors to badge them as such and, therefore, defend him). He said himself felt entitled to women and hated them for not complying. What exactly is unclear about that misogyny?

Also, you should read Effie’s speech at Durham Women Rising. It’s transcribed here.

Elliot Rodger and illusions of nuance [#quickhit: quote]

Well, guess what? I don’t buy this. Patriarchy fucking well is one-sided. Misogyny is one-sided. I am sick of being told to play six of one, half a dozen of the other every single time women are devalued for being women. I’m sick of being told abortion is a “complex” issue. I’m sick of being told acquaintance rape is a “grey area”. I’ve had enough of hearing that the pay gap is about “women’s choices” and of being told that in terms of online abuse, “women give as good as they get”. I’m tired of hearing that male violence against women is “complicated” because “relationships are complicated”. I’m sick, above all, of being positioned as hysterical and extreme for pointing out that actually, there only is one side, the side that hates women. It is as clear as day and no one wants to say it even when, as is the case with Elliot Rodger, it couldn’t be made more obvious.

- glosswatch on Elliot Rodger and illusions of nuance

Why Your Cat Calling Makes Me Scared to Wear Summertime Clothes

It’s difficult to describe what it feels like to be cat called if it has never happened to you. You feel sick and exposed. You feel violated, worthless, and degraded. You feel as though your intellect and your personality have been entirely squished, flattened and run over by a truck. All of the accomplishments you’ve made in life – in school, at work, in relationships – they don’t matter. You are not a human.

If when you walk by a group of teenage boys or the classic group of construction workers and “please don’t say anything, please don’t say anything” runs through your mind, you’ve experienced one cat call too many (quite literally, one cat call is too many). It begins to creep into your life to the point where good, genuine compliments from trustworthy people can feel cheap.

- Laura Anderson (her twitter and her blog)

On feminspire.

Sexual Assault on the College Campus (research paper)

From the discussion. (I have the full paper if anyone wants it.)

Scholarship on violence against women has proposed offense-specific explanations arguing that traditional criminology is insufficient to explain this unique form of offending. Schwartz and DeKeseredy’s (1997) male peer support model borrows some concepts from more general, traditional theories but applies them in a unique framework to explain the relationship between male group membership and sexual assault. This type of offense-specific explanation, however, runs the risk of being misspecified if more general explanations of criminal behavior are not considered. For example, Gottfredson and Hirschi’s (1990) general theory of crime has been a powerful explanation of offending. Despite significant criticisms of the theory (see Miller & Burack, 1993; Sellers, 1999), the empirical status of self-control as a predictor of offending has suggested the need to examine its predictive capacity for sexual assault in conjunction with more offense-specific theories, such as male peer support. Accordingly, the analyses presented here lead to three conclusions.

First, although not entirely supported in these results, some of the concepts that capture male peer support had significant effects on sexual assault both directly and indirectly. Group secrecy and peer pressure for sex directly affected sexual assault, and gender role ideology and informational support significantly predicted sexual assault through their impact on peer pressure for sex. Schwartz and DeKeseredy’s (1997) model has identified some important predictors of sexual assault, yet these factors were not necessarily or solely tied to fraternity membership. Specifically, fraternity membership did not significantly affect gender role ideology, informational support, or group secrecy. Rather, the only significant indirect impact of fraternity membership occurred through peer pressure for sex. In other words, fraternity members experienced greater levels of peer pressure to have sex, which, in turn, increased the likelihood of sexual assault. It may be that although the current analysis used fraternity membership to measure the effects of all-male groups, analyses investigating male peer support using different forms of organized male-only peers may produce different results. Indeed, male peer support can operate in other homosocial group contexts, and so results of this analysis should be considered only in the context of fraternity membership. That said, the findings presented here lend support to facets of the male peer support model, but not as it has been conceptually proposed and not without accounting for the role of self-control.

Twitter: Optimised For Abuse

Ugh. The abuse that Caroline Criado-Perez received last year (for being a woman with opinions who fights for gender equality, no less) was disgusting. Sickening. And, frankly, terrifying. In the linked post, she discusses it again, particularly in terms of Twitter’s pathetic and irresponsible response.

On weekwoman:

Last summer I was the target of months of violent, misogynistic abuse. The abuse was widely reported, although the worst tweets (most of the tweets), were never broadcast or printed, because the media deemed them too offensive. This left me in the rather unfortunate position of not only being driven to the edge of a nervous breakdown from the fear and strain of hundreds of tweets  coming in every minute telling me I would be maimed, raped and killed, but also being targeted by people who thought I was being a delicate flower and couldn’t take a bit of off-colour banter, or “dissenting opinion”. Nevertheless, the media pressure was such, that twitter was reluctantly, eventually forced to act. They streamlined their reporting process by including a link on each tweet to report it for abuse, and automatically included the link for that tweet in the report form. For someone who was receiving a hate-filled threat every minute, this function was invaluable. Despite promising to do something about the fact that every time you report someone for abuse, including threats to kill you, you have to tick a box agreeing that your information can be shared with them, twitter did no more once the media furore died down.

Well, that’s not strictly true. They have done things: they’ve made it easier for people to stalk and abuse. In December, twitter displayed their total contempt for victims of stalking and abuse by making it possible for people who have been blocked to follow their victim and retweet them. As someone who has been a victim of stalking online, and seen the way in which abusers use these facilities to incite abuse, I was horrified by these changes. Luckily, there was another outcry, and twitter was forced to backtrack.

Rest here (CW for abusive tweets).

Is football institutionally sexist? Premier League emails suggest so

There’s no shortage of evidence that this is the case, I’m sure. Emails are just the tip of that iceberg.

It will have come as little surprise to anyone with a passing interest in football that Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore referred to women as “gash” and “broads” in his work emails.

The Premier League has consistently claimed to champion equality, and, like all football authorities in the UK, also claims to promote women’s and girls’ football.

On a personal level, this is not a shock to me in the slightest. I’ve written on TFW previously about my PhD research, and in that thesis I’ve demonstrated the evidence for my argument that football is institutionally sexist.

Rest on the F-Word.

‘She had Spanx on’

In one case, a lawyer told a woman who had been raped that they would not be pursuing her case, “particularly bearing in mind the type of underwear that you had on at the time”. The woman, who has asked for anonymity, says she was wearing Spanx – body-shaping hosiery.

‘She had Spanx on’. On the Independent.

Truly and horribly unbelievable.

“His Career Will Be Absolutely Fine”: On Being Molested

I learned a lot that year. For example, did you know that a sex offender isn’t necessarily charged according to the most current Sexual Offences Act? They’re charged according to the act that was around when they doing that particular molesting, “Otherwise,” the lady police officer explained to me, “It would be unfair on the molester.”

L Bear on “His Career Will Be Absolutely Fine”: On Being Molested (the-toast). Emphasis added.

“That a secret fraternity is a breeding ground for rape culture is worrisome…

That a secret fraternity is a breeding ground for rape culture is worrisome, but that it’s happening right in our nation’s capital makes that even harder to stomach. According to Erin Gloria Ryan’s research, one of the men in this email chain now works for a “prominent congressman.” Judging by how much rape culture permeates the political scene in the U.S., with influential politicians saying things like, “Rape is kinda like the weather. If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it,” or that certain forms of sexual assault should be legal, it’s no surprise many women still feel like DC will never stop being an old boys club. Of course not all men (or fraternities) promote rape, but it’s troubling to see so many that do.

Leaked Emails From American University Frat Reveal Prevalence of Rape Culture in U.S. Capital, PolicyMic

Stalked and beaten up: student stories of sexual violence in clubs

I felt a hand move slowly and grope my vagina.

On the guardian:

Nightclubs are a hotbed for sexual harassment, according to an NUS report. Many students even view sexual violence as a normal but unwanted part of a night out – and they say they don’t report it.

This month popular London venues signed a pledge to tackle the harassment of women and lgbt people. The clubs, backed by harassment charity Hollaback, want to give staff specialist training and put posters up that encourage victims to come forward.

But many more club nights around the country continue to make a business model out of sexism and sexual violence towards women.

Last year a club in Glasgow installed two-way mirrors in the women’s toilets. More recently, a Valentine’s Day speed dating night in Nottingham was cancelled after people complained about the “bag a slag” and “grab a hag” theme.

Young people can be particularly vulnerable. Last year a poster promoting a student club night in Cardiff contained an image with the words: “I was raping a woman last night and she cried“. And themes like “rappers and slappers” and “geeks and sluts” are common in student areas.

In this kind of club culture students can experience harassment “every time” they go out.

We spoke to students about their experiences. From a stranger groping a girl’s vagina, to another young woman being pinned against a wall, the stories indicate that sexual violence in student clubs is an issue that must be taken seriously.


Rape and death threats are all too common in feminist circles, just ask Laura Bates

In the first month of the Everyday Sexism project Bates received up to 200 messages a day threatening her with rape and murder. No-one has yet been charged in relation to any of these threats.

On the Conversation:

From jokes to rape, there have been nearly 60,000 posts by women recounting their experiences of sexism and sexist violence since journalist and feminist Laura Bates launched her Everyday Sexism project in April 2012. Now the material has been collected for the first time in a book of the same name.

I’ve been familiar with the project for some time. Yet the sheer pervasiveness and repetitiveness which emerges when the material is presented in book form, accompanied by Bates’ clear, angry, witty, feminist commentary, is refreshing, depressing and enraging. [Rest.]

Sexual aggression isn’t an expression of maleness

Navigating our social world can sometimes be like stumbling through fog: intuiting the impact of our actions on other people often involves a confusing haze of speculative guesses about what they are thinking and feeling. However, some actions are clear as daylight in their intent and impact. Sexual harassment falls into this latter category.

David Foster argued here that blurred definitions of harassment mean people should be wary of ever complimenting anyone, lest it be interpreted as an unwanted advance. However, as Laura Bates articulated in response, generally speaking, most men are capable of differentiating between a genuine act of friendliness or flirtation (an act that intends a positive social outcome), and a hostile act of sexual aggression (oblivious to the impact on its recipient, or even actively calculated to cause distress). So, if there is a grey area between the two, it is very small, and inhabited by few people.

However, given this, a troubling thought then occurs. Many men who engage in verbal or physical harassment are probably aware that it will render their victim distressed, or at least uncomfortable. And yet they do it anyway. The question then is why?

Social sciences are bedevilled by such a bewildering array of competing perspectives that one cannot hope to offer the reason for a given phenomenon. Nevertheless, at the risk of oversimplifying the issue, one explanation for harassment relates to societal power: the perpetrator feeling either a sense of power, or paradoxically, a lack of it. The first type – surfeit – is easier to comprehend. Some men allow the clamour of their libido to drown out the faltering voices of their conscience, and their social position means they can express these desires without concern for the feelings of the recipient, or fear of reprisal. For instance, Lord Rennard allegedly bestowed his advances on people whose relative powerlessness meant their complaints were hushed up or ignored.