It’s time to stop defaming our boys


The most remarkable news report appeared on Salon and a few other outlets this week. Reporting research by the school of public health at Columbia University, published in the American Journal of Men’s Health, the coverage recounted findings that were so shocking as to take the breath away.

Dr David Bell and colleagues had conducted qualitative research interviews into teenage boys aged 14-16 and found that… brace yourself… they’re actually kinda sweet. The sample of 33 boys came from an economically deprived, primarily African-American community, where there were known to be high STI transmission rates (in other words, this was a group of boys who would traditionally be expected to have some of the most problematic attitudes from a public health perspective). Among the findings were that the boys described a high degree of ‘relationally-oriented beliefs and behaviours’ such as a desire for intimacy and trust in relationships, as against pursuing sex as an end in itself or a status symbol. There was little in the way of sexual objectification, homophobia was rare.

Both sexually inexperienced and sexually experienced participants sought meaningful relationships with nice-looking romantic partners with “good personalities,” a sense of humour, and future goals. Respect was an important characteristic. They reported that in their experience it had usually been the girls, not themselves, who had initiated both romantic and sexual engagements. They described their own vulnerability – emotionally and with regard to their sexual inexperience.

Now of course we should be cautious of reading too much into one study. There may have been something about how these interviews were conducted, or how the interviewees were recruited, which produced these results. But I spent many years doing community media work with inner city young people, including some quite troubled and difficult teenagers who had been excluded from school or who were involved in the youth justice system. I also have many friends with teenage boys and know them and their pals, and this research rings a lot more true to me than most of the coverage we see of young people and their relationships.

Case in point. Last week shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper announced plans for a Violence Against Women Act if Labour wins the next election. (Just for the record, other than a few quibbles I don’t disagree with most of her proposals, but that’s for another day.)

In making her announcement, she wrote a long piece for the Independent with the provocative title “We must educate our sons to save our daughters” which set out her views on young people and abusive relationships. Amid several bold claims, Cooper stated that: “According to the Children’s Commissioner there is clear evidence that violence in young relationships is growing.”

 

I raised every available eyebrow at this. I follow the work of the Children’s Commissioner pretty closely. Over recent years her office has commissioned and published several reports: into young people and sexual consent; on gang-associated sexual exploitation and sexual violence; and into the extent of, and possible harm caused by, the widespread availability of pornography. Not a single one of these reports even attempted to map trends in relationship violence.

I contacted the office of the Children’s Commissioner and a spokesperson confirmed that these reports did not specifically look at whether young people are more violent now than in the past. When I asked if this meant that Cooper was wrong in attributing the claim about relationship violence “growing” to the Commissioner, she replied with a slightly dissembling “As you will have noted from our first statement to you, Yvette Cooper’s comment is a possible conclusion, although we did not feel able to make a similar statement given the other interpretations that would be equally valid.”

I take that to be a very diplomatic version of “Yes.”

Before I proceed let me stress that violence and abuse in young relationships really are a significant and serious problem. Young people are at the greatest risk of all types of violence, including partner abuse. You are more likely to be assaulted by a partner or sexually assaulted between the ages of 16 and 24 than all the rest of your adult life put together. When you shine a light into the darkest corners, into the experiences of vulnerable children in care or in gang-culture, you will reveal horrific instances of abuse and appalling risks of exploitation and harm.

However – and this is the key point – it was ever thus. Is there any actual evidence to tell us whether things are getting worse or better?

Actually yes, there is. It is not perfect or conclusive by any means, but the British Crime Survey (now the Crime Survey for England and Wales) collects detailed data on intimate partner violence, including breakdowns for age groups all the way down to 16-19 year-olds. This doesn’t help us with younger children, of course, nor can we assume that all 16-19 year olds have partners of the same age, but as a rough yardstick measure, it is as good a metric as there is available.

The data, unfortunately, is scattered through the chaotic shambles of the government data archives, and to my knowledge no one has previously assembled this data into one table or graph. You’ll notice some years are missing. I have, however, done my best to include every figure I could find for the three categories of crime most associated with relationship abuse: partner assault (non-sexual); sexual assault; and stalking. The results are here. [click to enlarge]

16to19FemaleTrends

Notwithstanding gaps in the data, it is very difficult to make the case from here that young people’s relationships are becoming more violent. On a crude point to point comparison, between 2004 and 2011, young women aged 16-19 became about a third less likely to be subject to partner violence; about a third less likely to be subject to sexual assault, and about two thirds less likely to be stalked.

(If you are wondering, the trends are very similar for male victims, and for male and female victims aged 20-24. I don’t want to blind you with data.)

That’s not all. Those familiar with domestic violence trends might be aware that the big fall in prevalence of domestic abuse really happened earlier – beginning around 1995. Data from that time are even harder to track down and methods of defining and classifying have changed significantly, so direct comparisons are impossible. This analysis of the 1996 BCS classifies ‘domestic abuse’ approximately in the way we now classify ‘severe violence’ (hit, kicked, use of weapon or similar.) By current data, this accounts for less than 30% of all domestic abuse. Even using that older, strict definition, in 1996 10.1% of 16-19 year-old girls said they had been victims of partner violence. As a very rough sketch, that would suggest that a young woman’s risk of experiencing severe violence from a partner might have dropped by about 70% since 1996.

None of this should come as a surprise, although I do not doubt it will to many. It is entirely in keeping with a raft of other evidence that shows young people are vastly less violent than they were a few years ago. They commit fewer crimes and get arrested less often. They drink less and take fewer drugs. All of this is well-documented with reliable data for anyone who actually takes the trouble to find out.

Against this evidence, claims by Yvette Cooper, much like Diane Abbott’s characterisation of a porn-crazed, ‘Jack Daniels and Viagra’ generation, is tantamount to blunt defamation of a whole generation of young men. What’s worse, considering most of this is coming from the nominal left, is that the negative stereotyping and unjustified damage to reputations this causes will not be spread evenly through the population. The general assumption will never be that these teenage girl-beaters, abusers and rapists are the public school-educated, middle class sons of politicians and journalists – the fear and suspicion will land disproportionately instead upon the working class boys, the black and minority ethnic boys, precisely those who are already struggling hardest against stigma and stereotyping and who are already falling furthest behind in social, educational and economic attainment. As the research from Columbia suggests, this may well be an almighty calumny.

It is time to stop defaming our boys.

Comments

  1. Paul Inman says

    I couldn’t agree more Ally. Keep flying the flag and hopefully one day soon society will start listening to reason again.

  2. Sans-sanity says

    I must admit to feeling vaguely sheepish – all those blood stupid, wholly unrealistic ideas they tried impart to us in school regarding safe behaviour and social respect actually worked out, albeit in the long run.

    Yet at a gut level, the fact that these kids will not have to learn that “Sometimes you have to bash a fucker” leaves me vaguely contemptuous. It sounds soft. Gah, I suppose this is how hazing and bastardisation gets propagated. Wonderful news all round. I hope the trend continues to grow.

  3. marduk says

    I know you’ve commented on this before Ally.

    I’ll dig it out but a Scandinavian study of porn use amongst young people found the same thing.
    The boys had very progressive views and at the same time, seemed fairly romantic in mentality.

    What was interesting about it was the boys had no problem understanding what they were watching was fake and no guide to sexual behaviour. This is actually common in moral panics, the young “natives” understand the true nature of media much better than confused older adults who worry they won’t (e.g., this goes to back to panics around novels but was also true of film, television, rock ‘n’ roll etc). The adult worries the child doesn’t know that what it is on TV isn’t real, it would never enter the mind of the child that it was anything else and the idea of it seems quite old-timey and invokes memories of views diving off their chairs when shown a black and white film of a steam train. This is how kids are about the internet as well now, despite what you hear they aren’t the ones falling for obvious trolls or taking Twitter too seriously.

    The primary finding of concern was that owing to media stories, girls were worried they would have to emulate acts in pornography that the boys meanwhile said they didn’t expect them to emulate. Which in turn means that “data free” analysis and writing by people like Gail Dines is actively harmful to young people rather than helping them.

    These assumptions are harmful and can only be dealt with by asking people, not theory!

  4. pikeamus says

    Can I post a short anecdote (that’s rhetorical, I’m going to anyway)?

    The house where I used to live was a small run of 6 that was accessible only by entering through an arch (ten feet wide and fifteen feet long) from a more major road on an estate. A group of local teenage boys, maybe a dozen or so in number, started using it as a place to hang out, smoke weed and tinker with the scooter that one of them owned.

    One of my neighbours, the first time he was home and found them here, shouted at the boys for blocking the only path in and forced them to leave. A day or two later they were back again.

    This time I went out, on the pretense of collecting a bin that had been left out, and had a discussion with them. I only just about managed to stay civil, because frankly it’s hard to keep a level head when you feel threatened, and a couple of them seemed incapable of being honest with me (claiming that it was the first time they’d been there, for example), but I tried reasoning with them.

    I pointed out that this was the only path into the houses, and that by putting themselves here they forced anybody that wanted to go home or get out to walk between them. I said that this was intimidating, especially for the women that lived in the row of houses. I asked them if they could understand why it would be intimidating, and asked them if they could be more considerate. They didn’t move right away, it was drizzling a bit, but they did move later that day.

    We moved house about three months later, but after that day we never found that archway occupied again.

  5. Ally Fogg says

    Nice anecdote, Pikeamus.

    I remember chatting to a friend who is a very senior child protection social worker about that kind of thing. We were discussing that phenomenon of walking past a group of teenagers and worrying about whether or not to give them a wide berth for your own safety.

    He pointed out, entirely correctly I think, that if you are over the age of about 21 you are all but invisible to them. They are entirely focussed on other teenagers (whether as potential threats, potential friends, potential dates or whatever) and the only thing they want from adults is to be ignored.

    Of course there are exceptions, but I think that covers the vast majority.

  6. says

    It is time to stop defaming our boys.

    Funny how you only seem to notice the “defamation” perpetrated most recently by a relatively small group of women, without mentioning the far more pervasive, and longstanding, stereotyping of boys by MEN: piss-poor male role-models; macho rhetoric; ridicule of “mama’s boys,” “good boys” and boys who didn’t hate school; demeaning attitudes toward women, and contempt for boys who showed too much respect for them (“henpecked” and “pussy-whipped”); and let’s not forget the hate and contempt shown in places like this for males who show signs of “female brains” or “white-knighting.”

    The “defamation” you complain about is nothing more than a recent response (albeit a clumsy one) to the results of something that men have been passing on to boys for centuries.

  7. mildlymagnificent says

    None of this should come as a surprise, although I do not doubt it will to many. It is entirely in keeping with a raft of other evidence that shows young people are vastly less violent than they were a few years ago. They commit fewer crimes and get arrested less often. They drink less and take fewer drugs. All of this is well-documented with reliable data for anyone who actually takes the trouble to find out.

    You’d think people would learn to _take_ credit where it’s due.

    These oblivious fools can’t even make the link between very active, very public, very persistent advocacy of non-violent child-raising approaches. One of the things that people arguing against corporal punishment in schools and no hitting children at home used as a prop was that when we bring children up with less violence they will, in turn, be less violent.

    Miracle of miracles, it seems to work out exactly as predicted.

  8. Ally Fogg says

    I could not agree with you any more, MM – a point I make often and always cheers me to see others make it too!

  9. mildlymagnificent says

    I suppose I should say that I also like teenage boys, by and large. They can be bloody irritating and annoying when they choose to, and the jokes are downright boring when you’ve heard them all before. But they are also engaging and friendly and funny. And hardworking and nice to their parents and all those other admirable qualities we like to see in young men as they grow up.

    Best of all, when they get older they’ll happily call out to you when they see you at a cafe or shops or wherever _and_ stop and tell you all about how their life has gone since they last saw you when they were still at school. That’s deeply gratifying.

  10. mildlymagnificent says

    Sans-sanity

    That man!

    He’s been a blight on education policy from the moment I first heard of him. I even looked up some of his earlier stuff when the name came to my attention. I didn’t read very much before my temper got the better of me.

    My husband is the actual teacher in this family and he knew more about him for much longer. (I presume he hadn’t raised it with me because he wasn’t in the mood for a hatefest whenever it occurred to him.)

  11. says

    I grew up in Bookbinder’s Derbyshire, where corporal punishment was phased out quite early compared to the rest of the country.

    Whenever anybody older than me tells them corporal punishment “never did them any harm”, my reply is always the same: “Yes it did. It taught you that violence was a good way of solving problems.”

  12. Ally Fogg says

    I’m always impressed whenever there’s public debate on corporal punishment on TV, there’s invariably someone with wild staring eyes, going red in the face with veins bulging on their temple, saying “THRASH THEM! BEAT THE LITTLE BASTARDS TO WITHIN AN INCH OF THEIR LIVES! NEVER DID ME ANY HARM!”

    Anyway, probably a bit off topic now. (Note to self!)

    If anyone wants to debate the consequences of physical punishment, the open thread is next door.

  13. karmacat says

    I am curious about what has led to a decrease in domestic violence among teenagers. I work in the mental health field. I have noticed that younger men (20’s to 40’s) are better at describing their symptoms of depression and anxiety than older men are. Women of all ages are generally good at describing their emotions. I don’t know if this is relevant but I find it interesting.

  14. Ally Fogg says

    karmacat

    I’d guess it is almost certainly part of a piece with broader declines in violent crime of all sorts.

    There are a load of different theories.

    The one I personally attach greatest significance to is the one described well by Mildly Magnificent above. Our tolerance of violence towards children is far lower than it was (corporal punishment but also bullying and fighting etc)
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/feb/07/uk-safer-party-politics-crime-statistics

    I also have a theory which is that we are basically reverting to trend after a few atypical decades when we were traumatised by successive generations of world war, genocide and slaughter
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/hetpat/2013/07/19/goodbye-baby-boomers-the-most-criminal-generation-of-them-all/

    Other theories include the civilising influence of the liberal rights movement and the Leviathan of enforcement (See Pinker’s book)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Better_Angels_of_Our_Nature

    The evidence for environmental lead poisoning is getting stronger all the time (I was very sceptical at first but even I’m coming around to it)
    http://www.monbiot.com/2013/01/07/the-grime-behind-the-crime/

    Most probably it is a combination of all these things and more. I think the most important thing is that violence creates its own momentum. As we are violent to each other we make each other more violent, and make the next generation more violent etc etc. For some reason, eventually there was a tipping point and things started going the other way.

  15. karmacat says

    I have seen the evidence about lead poisoning. I also know there is some evidence that legalizing abortion has also helped. It helps when parents are able to have a baby when they are ready and to be able to space them out which leads to less neglect.

  16. mildlymagnificent says

    I also know there is some evidence that legalizing abortion has also helped. It helps when parents are able to have a baby when they are ready and to be able to space them out which leads to less neglect.

    Forget abortion, I’d say the availability – and acceptance – of contraception for virtually all women virtually all of the time is a much bigger influence. Having a much smaller family unless you personally have decided that you want an army of ankle-biters in your home makes for an easier life all round for parents and children alike.

    Abortion for most people is about failure of contraception (or failure of pregnancy) rather than about “spacing them out”. That’s what contraception is for.

  17. Ally Fogg says

    I think the abortion theory, which became popular after the Freakonomics book, is the one that’s been fairly comprehensively debunked.

    One example here
    http://www.boston.com/community/blogs/crime_punishment/2011/06/abortion_and_crime_-_a_missing.html

    But there are several others.

    I think the biggest reason to doubt it is that there were similar falls in most other developed countries around the same time, including those that didn’t have a change to abortion laws.

  18. Jacob Schmidt says

    I think we need to get the adults in boy’s lives (and, perhaps just as important, maybe moreso, the boys themselves) to encourage this behaviour. Regardless of what the data shows boys feel, I regularly see boys acting in ways problematic for themselves or others. I suspect that this is where “masculinity as performance” comes in, with boys acting against their own and other’s interests because they feel like they’re expected too, or that there’ll be backlash if they don’t.

    The house where I used to live was a small run of 6 that was accessible only by entering through an arch (ten feet wide and fifteen feet long) from a more major road on an estate. A group of local teenage boys, maybe a dozen or so in number, started using it as a place to hang out, smoke weed and tinker with the scooter that one of them owned.

    Heh. My mother once came home to find a large group of about a dozen men outside her doorstep. Most of them were wearing torn jeans, black metal tee-shirts, etc. A somewhat intimidating group. Coming up to the door, she realized she’d known many of these men for years, some for over a decade, and that they were in fact teenagers: friends of mine, come to invite me out for a some pool at a nearby pool hall.

  19. Lucy says

    “The general assumption will never be that these teenage girl-beaters, abusers and rapists are the public school-educated, middle class sons of politicians and journalists ”

    That would be my general assumption, but then I went to a sixth form boys public school. A good proportion of the boys there were evil misogynists and so were the teachers. The precursors to the Internet hoard.

  20. Lucy says

    “What was interesting about it was the boys had no problem understanding what they were watching was fake”

    Particularly given that what they’re watching isn’t fake. Those are real live women and girls, really doing real things.

    What proponents of porn’s sex-abuse-combatting powers consistently fail to recognise that a great deal of porn IS sexual abuse.

    “and no guide to sexual behaviour. ”

    Which runs contrary to every single interview I’ve ever seen with young boys and women who describe how porn is extremely influential on sexual behaviour. And contrary to the reports on various trends from the trend in women removing their pubic hair, to the trend in men ejaculating on girls’ faces and choking them during sex, to the growing trend in anal rape and filming and sharing videos of assaults on social media.

    “The adult worries the child doesn’t know that what it is on TV isn’t real, it would never enter the mind of the child that it was anything else and the idea of it seems quite old-timey and invokes memories of views diving off their chairs when shown a black and white film of a steam train. This is how kids are about the internet as well now, despite what you hear they aren’t the ones falling for obvious trolls or taking Twitter too seriously.”

    Which is presumably why empathy is at such a deficit on the Internet and things like Jada Pose happen, because kids can tell the difference between reality and fantasy.

  21. Lucy says

    “They get arrested less often”.

    I suppose it helps that sexist hate speech, extremist sexist music, video and literature, school bullying and harassment aren’t illegal. That’s one way of keeping the stats down.

  22. Ally Fogg says

    I suppose it helps that sexist hate speech, extremist sexist music, video and literature, school bullying and harassment aren’t illegal. That’s one way of keeping the stats down.

    It keeps all the stats lower, but since those things have always been there, some of them in far more abundance in the past, it doesn’t affect the trend.

  23. Gilgamecha42 says

    Lucy

    “Particularly given that what they’re watching isn’t fake. Those are real live women and girls, really doing real things.”

    No, it’s fake. It’s as real as reality tv.

    “What proponents of porn’s sex-abuse-combatting powers consistently fail to recognise that a great deal of porn IS sexual abuse.”

    Haha. If you don’t like porn, just say so. There’s no need to channel Dworkin.

    “Which runs contrary to every single interview I’ve ever seen with young boys and women who describe how porn is extremely influential on sexual behaviour. And contrary to the reports on various trends from the trend in women removing their pubic hair, to the trend in men ejaculating on girls’ faces and choking them during sex, to the growing trend in anal rape and filming and sharing videos of assaults on social media.”

    “No guide” to sexual behaviour does not mean that one is not inspired to try them out. “No guide” means you can watch porn and understand you don’t have to follow it to the letter. There are also so many different categories of porn nowadays, one has to wonder what to be influenced by. And this thing about “anal rape” being a trend? Come on.

  24. 123454321 says

    “Case in point. Last week shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper announced plans for a Violence Against Women Act if Labour wins the next election. (Just for the record, other than a few quibbles I don’t disagree with most of her proposals, but that’s for another day.)”

    Yeah, but I wonder how many men and boys are thinking along the same lines as this geezer:

    (don’t watch if foul language offends you)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00i-VTVq3cM

    Oh yeah, just to clarify, I agree with her proposals too, but she’s missing out half the fucking population, which is obtusely offensive and excruciatingly boring as well as out of date and consequently completely Sucks with a capital “S”.

    No vote from me. Sorry about that Yvette.

  25. mildlymagnificent says

    Which runs contrary to every single interview I’ve ever seen with young boys and women who describe how porn is extremely influential on sexual behaviour.

    Somebody should do a compilation of the observations of schoolteachers who have to deal with questions from girls about sexual matters.

    I’ve seen several reports from women teachers – on education sites – who’ve had to respond to girls asking whether they should comply with their boyfriends requests for sexual activities that they’re uncomfortable with or outright dislike – which suggests that whatever mention or discussion of consent has happened in school or home, it’s not been enough to counteract the influence of porn on teenage boys ideas about sex. Even worse, it turns out that boys are asking/ insisting/ demanding that girls of 15 or younger have surgery to change their breasts or their genitalia to conform more to their expectations prompted by their experience of porn.

    This won’t be fixed by trying to restrict access to online porn. The only way to deal with it is openly and honestly – explicitly – about sex and relationships. It’s not enough to simply say that real life sex with another human being is not like a performance in a porn flick. We have to tell kids in words of very few syllables how respect, desire, concern, passion, humour, excitement, kindness, patience and lust combine in real-life relationships, including during the physical acts of sex, not just in the ordinary daily activities of a relationship.

  26. Lucy says

    Ally Fogg

    “It keeps all the stats lower, but since those things have always been there, some of them in far more abundance in the past, it doesn’t affect the trend.”

    How can you possibly know this if they aren’t illegal and the stats have never been collected in the past or now?

    In the past girls and boys were segregated more, boys didn’t get a chance to bully girls at school, public places were better policed with guards on trains and buses and wardens in parks and people were more reserved so men had less opportunity to sexistly harass, we didn’t have the Internet or TV or radio or mass media so there were fewer opportunities to disseminate sexist hate speech in the form of trolling, pornography, rap, Hiphop, torture porn and slasher horror. So in all likelihood as abundant as they may have been in the past, they’re more abundant now.

  27. Lucy says

    Gilgamecha

    “No, it’s fake. It’s as real as reality tv.”

    Except with real dildos and real multiple penetrations and real prolapses and real anaesthetising creams and real choking and real gagging and real misogynist hate speech and real surgery and real depression and real anxiety and real inability to form relationships and real exploitation and real abuse and real girlfriends and wives getting really practised on. The only things that aren’t real are the fake meaningful consent and the fake emotion and the fake sexual arousal and the fake fortunes to be made by the cheap labour.

    —-

    “Haha. If you don’t like porn, just say so. There’s no need to channel Dworkin.”

    I don’t like porn. It is the perfect storm of patriarchy and capitalism. Because most of it is misogynist hate speech, a good proportion of it Is filmed sexual abuse either of paid employees with inadequate protection and even less adequate capacity to demand it or hapless girls caught up in misogynist social media. A significant proportion of it doesn’t even have the thin justification of extracting consent for the abuse meted out and us filmed rape and assault shared by the perpetrators. The rest is of dubious value to humanity. Men and the smaller group of women who watch porn have blood on their hands and an inability to take personal responsibility. So adept are they at telling fantasy from reality they believe the marketing hype of the multimillion pound porn trade companies and their paid representatives giving interviews outside their sanitised, high- profile trade shows.

    —-

    ““No guide” to sexual behaviour does not mean that one is not inspired to try them out. “No guide” means you can watch porn and understand you don’t have to follow it to the letter. There are also so many different categories of porn nowadays, one has to wonder what to be influenced by. And this thing about “anal rape” being a trend? Come on.”

    I have no idea what you’re talking about. There may well be different categories of porn nowadays, but the most predominant category, the category promoted by the dominant 5 players in the industry is of dominant males treating women dismissively, aggressively, selfishly and sexistly. A significant minority of it involves blurred or crossed lines of consent albeit with cute euphemisms like “sleep sex” and “force f*ck”. And unsurprisingly that’s exactly what teenage girls report is happening to them in real life.

    Come on what? Anal rape as a characteristic of sexual assaults is being reported in greater numbers.

  28. Lucy says

    Gilgamecha

    “There are also so many different categories of porn nowadays, one has to wonder what to be influenced by. ”

    A recent analysis of best-selling pornography found:
    • 88 per cent of scenes contained physical aggression
    • 48 per cent of scenes contained verbal aggression

    Physical aggression included:
    Gagging in 54 per cent of scenes
    Choking in 27 per cent of scenes
    Spanking in 75 per cent of scenes

    Physical aggression:
    • Was directed toward women in 94 per cent of incidents

    But the targets’ responses make the aggression difficult to recognise:
    • In 95 per cent of incidents, acts of aggression were met with either a neutral or positive response

    http://www.deakin.edu.au/arts-ed/education/teach-research/health-pe/project/area-study-7.pdf

  29. Lucy says

    The number of men paying women for sex has nearly doubled in a decade, UK research suggests. Surveys of 11,000 British adults in 1990 and 2000 found the rate increased from one in 20 to nearly one in 10 men. Are these included in the British Crime Survey stats?

    75% of women involved in prostitution were drawn into prostitution when they were children.

    74% of women cite poverty and the need to pay household expenses and support their children as a primary motivator for entering prostitution (Melrose 2002).

    Up to 70% of women in prostitution spent time in care, 45% report sexual abuse and 85% physical abuse within their families (Home Office 2006).

    Up to 95% of women in prostitution are problematic drug users, including around 78% heroin users and rising numbers of crack cocaine addicts (Home Office 2004a).

    More than half of UK women in prostitution have been raped and/or seriously sexually assaulted. At least three quarters have been physically assaulted (Home Office 2004b).

    68% of women in prostitution meet the criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the same range as torture victims and combat veterans undergoing treatment (Ramsey et al 1993).

    The mortality rate for women in prostitution in London suffer is 12 times the national average (Home Office 2004a).

    9 out of 10 women surveyed would like to exit prostitution (Farley 2003).

    Four out of five women working in London brothels are thought to be foreign nationals (Dickson 2004).

    http://www.object.org.uk/the-prostitution-facts

  30. Lucy says

    Ally Fogg: “Both sexually inexperienced and sexually experienced participants sought meaningful relationships with nice-looking romantic partners with “good personalities,” a sense of humour, and future goals. Respect was an important characteristic.”

    That’s a shame because as various experimental studies among adult men find, exposure to narrow ideals of female sexual attractiveness in pornography contrains men’s appreciation of and intimacy with female partners:

    “exposure to to pornography… leads men to rate their female partners as less attractive … to indicate less satisfaction with their intimate partners’ attractiveness, sexual performance and level of affection … and to express greater desire for sex without emotional attachment.” (APA 2007: 29)

    Men’s consumption of sexualised media also influences how they actually treat and respond to real women in subsequent interactions (APA 2007: 32).

  31. Lucy says

    Marduk: “I’ll dig it out but a Scandinavian study of porn use amongst young people found the same thing.
    The boys had very progressive views and at the same time, seemed fairly romantic in mentality. What was interesting about it was the boys had no problem understanding what they were watching was fake and no guide to sexual behaviour. ”

    Yes please do dig it out.

    In a study among 300 young men aged sixteen to twenty-four visiting a genitourinary clinic in Stockholm, Sweden, 53 percent agreed that pornography had had an impact on their sexual behaviour… Various studies find correlations between young people’s actual sexual behaviour and the consumption of sexual media… Five studies among Swedish young people find that young men who are regular consumers of pornography are more likely to have had tried to perform acts they have seen in pornography. A third source comes from experimental studies… Young men may be learning from pornography that anal intercourse is normal, desirable and enjoyable for women (even though most young women in the Swedish studies above did not enjoy it and did not want to do it again).

    Flood, M 2010, “Young men using pornography”, in K Boyle (ed.), Everyday pornography, Routledge, Oxon: 164-178

  32. 123454321 says

    Lucy – as per usual you are only looking at this from one side and you obviously have no intention to do otherwise. You’re adopting the same old spin that feminists always do by taking a particular aspect, such as porn, and preaching the same old tactical lines to make men and boys look like the evil perpetrators and women and girls look like the vulnerable little victims. You come out with a whole load of stats that have been built by people with one-sided views like yours and are consequently, in the most part, probably garbage. There are plenty of women who like porn and plenty of girls who watch porn and make similar comparisons with their men-folk. They have similar expectations and disappointments, many of which deeply affect the men and boys in their lives in many ways. You refuse to acknowledge that men and boys have feelings and that porn can be damaging to them too and you move forward with blinkered vision with only one primary aim which is to promote the fact that men and boys are big, bad and evil monsters.

    “It is the perfect storm of patriarchy and capitalism.”

    Excuse me but women CHOOSE to go into the porn industry and they make far more money than their male counterparts so perhaps you ought to redirect your little quibble somewhere else.

    That pdf in post 31 is nothing more than hate preaching. It’s riddled with one-sided views with cherry-picked arguments and evidence that makes the male sex look like disgusting, uncivilised primates. It’s pure brainwashing material because it has NOTHING counterbalancing. The quotes quoted (apparently by boys) are totally misrepresentative and out of proportion with reality, and thus extremely harmful. It makes out that all boys are rapists and only polarises the sexes at a very young age. Disgusting. This is not fucking education.

  33. 123454321 says

    And for the record, Lucy, I agree that pornography is damaging and should be controlled far more rigorously.

    It’s just that i’m not a fucking bigot and can see how pornography can be damaging to EVERYBODY, including men and boys.

    But you have your fingers in your ears so it’s like talking to a brick wall!

  34. Lucy says

    123

    “It’s just that i’m not a fucking bigot ”

    Well that’s not true now is it. You’re a sweary, aggressive one.

    “And can see how pornography can be damaging to EVERYBODY, including men and boys.”

    Fascinating, I’m not sure how that’s relevant to anything I said, but thanks for sharing.

  35. freja says

    I’d love for it to be more acknowledged that most guys are actually pretty decent about most things. But I also think it require more people (especially men) protesting when some jackass police officer says that women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to get raped, as if men were ravenous predators who’d fall on a woman at the sight of bare flesh. Or when some jackass journalists start talking about how tragic is that two rapists have to spend a (relatively) short while in jail, as if being a rapist isn’t choice but just something which happens to perfectly normal and nice guys.

    I hope that in the future, this behaviour which we know is aberrant will get labelled as aberrant more often, instead of being excused as a case of “boys will be boys” (a misandrist statement if there ever are was one).

  36. freja says

    @35, 123454321

    Excuse me but women CHOOSE to go into the porn industry and they make far more money than their male counterparts so perhaps you ought to redirect your little quibble somewhere else.

    I’m not getting into whether porn is inherently abusive or not (OK, I admit I think it’s not), but it’s not always a ‘choice’ for the women. Lots of women get tricked or pressured into it. It’s not unheard of for a producer to promise a female porn actor a specific job, get her to spend her own (unpaid) time and money getting to the studio (fairly standard), only to reveal that the job has changed and now includes activities she has specifically stated she’s unwilling to do. The woman then has the choice between accepting a considerable loss or do things she’s not OK with.

    Women also often have shorter careers than men in porn, because the interest they gather is heavily tied to novelty, while men just have to be able to do their job. And finally, plenty of men in porn need to have, at most, just one physical feature outside of the average (and not a feature most women care that much about), while the women have to fit the same narrow standards as female Hollywood actors, in addition to surgically altered and bleached genitals.

  37. Anton Mates says

    Dr David Bell and colleagues had conducted qualitative research interviews into teenage boys aged 14-16 and found that… brace yourself… they’re actually kinda sweet.

    It’s worth noting that the study’s authors believe their results only apply to boys in this particular age range. They agree with earlier studies that older adolescent boys are much more inclined toward sexual aggression, objectification of partners, glorification of sex for its own sake, etc. So their interpretation of their own results is not that teenage boys are sweeter than we thought they were, but that they become un-sweet at a later age, due to social conditioning

    That said, Bell et al. didn’t actually interview older adolescents themselves, and the one study they cite in support is relatively old (Eyre S.L 1997,”The vernacular term interview: Elicitng social knowledge related to sex among adolescents.”). So while this is consistent with their interpretation, it’s also consistent with Ally’s interpretation that teenage boys are becoming better-behaved; maybe the boys in the 1997 sample had nastier attitudes because it was an earlier era, not because they were older. Or maybe the 1997 study used a different survey methodology; I haven’t read it.

    Anyone know of a study that specifically examines the developmental trajectory of sexual attitudes in adolescent males?

  38. Gilgamecha42 says

    Lucy – So, basically, women performing in porn have no agency of their own. Is that what you’re saying?

    It’s good you’re entering this with an open mind.

  39. Jacob Schmidt says

    Marduk

    What was interesting about it was the boys had no problem understanding what they were watching was fake and no guide to sexual behaviour.

    If you ever do find that study, would you mind quoting the parts that demonstrate this?

    That one recognizes that a given media is fake does not mean one is not learning false ideas. Unfortunately, there can be a vast gulf between verisimilitude and reality.

    A significant minority of it involves blurred or crossed lines of consent albeit with cute euphemisms like “sleep sex” and “force f*ck”.

    I have, uh, “heard”* of a trend where rape porn isn’t labelled rape porn. I have no problem with consent play, or simulated rape, so long as all involved are actually consenting, but the dancing around the subject bothers me. Even sites that ostensibly do not allow rape porn per their own terms and conditions have blatant rape porn, just called something else. The failure to acknowledge what it is, and what seems like a deliberate attempt at obfuscation, really bothers me.

    *What? No, I don’t watch the stuff. Never.

    So, basically, women performing in porn have no agency of their own. Is that what you’re saying?

    *sigh*

    I find this to be an effective heuristic: a summary beginning with a variation of the phrase “You’re basically saying…” or “Are you really saying…” are likely to be strawman arguments; if one finds oneself writing those phrases, double check and, if one is able, quote some instances of that which the summary indicates. Otherwise, you end up writing total bullshit.

  40. Jacob Schmidt says

    Freja

    And finally, plenty of men in porn need to have, at most, just one physical feature outside of the average (and not a feature most women care that much about), while the women have to fit the same narrow standards as female Hollywood actors, in addition to surgically altered and bleached genitals.

    I remember watching a documentary on the porn industry. One of the subjects was male beauty standards: according to those interviewed in the documentary, conventionally unattractive men were deliberately hired to act in porn. This was done because those making porn didn’t want to make men feel inadequate. However, porn involving attractive men sold much better. Their conclusion was that porn was often seen as a self insertion fantasy, and that men preferred to project themselves onto attractive actors.

    Whether or no that’s true, I dunno; it seems quite plausible. I do find it interesting that it used to be industry standard to cater to insecurities about physical features, at least for men.

  41. Lucy says

    “Excuse me but women CHOOSE to go into the porn industry and they make far more money than their male counterparts so perhaps you ought to redirect your little quibble somewhere else.”

    Well:
    A) the ones who are filmed without their consent don’t choose to go into the porn industry
    B) the victims of revenge porn don’t choose to go into the porn industry
    C) people suffering from mental and emotional problems like post-traumatic stress disorder from sexual abuse or working in the sex industry aren’t in a position to give meaningful consent to going into the porn industry.
    D) people with serious drug habits, coercive relationships, limited financial options can’t give meaningful consent to going into the porn industry.
    E) people who don’t know exactly what is going to happen to them in a filmed encounter, don’t understand the implications of what they will be asked to do or who are subsequently coerced into carrying out particular sex acts are not making informed choices or giving meaningful consent.

    AND

    F) choosing to allow yourself to be abused and exploited doesn’t mean you aren’t being abused or exploited. Just as choosing to work for under the minimum wage doesn’t mean you aren’t being exploited, or choosing to work in an unsafe building that subsequently collapses on you doesn’t mean you haven’t suffered industrial manslaughter, just as choosing to sell your kidneys or your children because you are in abject poverty or are greedy or are a masochist or a performance artist doesn’t mean you haven’t been exploited by the buyer, just as choosing to act in a racist sitcom doesn’t mean you aren’t being exploited by its makers and audience. Getting somebody to agree to let you abuse them doesn’t negate your guilt as an abuser.

  42. Lucy says

    Gilgamecha

    “Lucy – So, basically, women performing in porn have no agency of their own. Is that what you’re saying?

    It’s good you’re entering this with an open mind.”

    Agency and being the victim of abuse are not mutually-exclusive concepts believe it or not.

    Women acting in heterosexual porn have precisely the same amount of agency as women working in Bangladeshi garment factories, ie. just enough to provide the product at the right price to the right people.

  43. Lucy says

    Jacob Schmidt

    “I have no problem with consent play, or simulated rape, so long as all involved are actually consenting, ”

    Do you have a problem with it when it is not presented as rape? And when the victim’s neutral, or positive reaction deliberately creates cognitive dissonance? Would you have a problem when you know that studies show this affects the audience’s beliefs and subsequent behaviour? And when you know that this effect is most marked if it is has any of the following characteristics: it is contextless, it watched in groups, it is watched whilst getting the positive reinforcement of an orgasm?

  44. Lucy says

    “They make far more money than their male counterparts”

    Ah well if you get paid well for being abused for other’s entertainment, then there can’t be any exploitation. That argument hasn’t had any credibility since the Victorian habit of entertaining the masses with the Elephant Man, Sarah Baartman, and Mammy. The death throws of that justification were in the 70s with Love Thy Neighbour. At least, I mean, except for women obviously. So long as they’re female and you strip them first, bung em a few quid and it’s exploitative entertainment a go go.

    And just so you’re aware, they aren’t making more money than the men who own the businesses and sit on the board of the big 5 porn producers. And the women who bear the brunt of the propaganda, the rest of us, we don’t get any financial compensation at all.

  45. Lucy says

    Jacob Schmidt

    “I have no problem with consent play, or simulated rape”

    Why would you?

    That’s like a white guy saying he has no problem with slave/free-slave play or simulated, sexually arousing lynchings. Oddly not big in the entertainment world.

  46. Ally Fogg says

    C) people suffering from mental and emotional problems like post-traumatic stress disorder from sexual abuse or working in the sex industry aren’t in a position to give meaningful consent to going into the porn industry.

    I utterly despise this argument, it is the most patronising, condescending, offensive bullshit that encapsulates everything that is worst about anti-sex industry campaigning.

    Survivors of sexual abuse, people with PTSD, maintain control of their own lives and their own choices. Some react by shutting off the memories and going to work in a shop selling ceramic kittens. Some become child protection social workers or rape crisis workers or volunteers. Some react by exploring and exercising their own sexuality, whether in porn performance and the sex industry or in private relationships, BDSM scenes.

    If you are going to say that victims of CSA are not able to meaningfully consent to working in the sex industry you have to argue that they also cannot meaningfully consent to doing the enormously emotionally demanding work of staffing a rape crisis line. You have to argue that they cannot meaningfully consent to any adult sexual relationship. Etc etc etc.

    You are saying to someone that if you have been abused in childhood, I know better than you do what are the right choices for you to make, and you will be trapped in a victim role with no free choice or agency for the rest of your life. Fuck that shit, big time.

    Anyway, for what it is worth, the only credible study ever done on professional porn performers with a reliable methodology found they were less likely to have been abused in childhood than the general population.

    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00224499.2012.719168?journalCode=hjsr20#.U8uRxuNdV9k

  47. Lucy says

    Ally Fogg

    “I utterly despise this argument, it is the most patronising, condescending, offensive bullshit that encapsulates everything that is worst about anti-sex industry campaigning.”

    Good for you, Ally Fogg.

    “Survivors of sexual abuse, people with PTSD, maintain control of their own lives and their own choices. ”

    Not when they’re still in abusive, traumatising situations managed by exploitative people they don’t.

    “Some react by shutting off the memories and going to work in a shop selling ceramic kittens. Some become child protection social workers or rape crisis workers or volunteers. Some react by exploring and exercising their own sexuality, whether in porn performance and the sex industry or in private relationships, BDSM scenes.”

    And some continue to be exploited by people making money off catering for an audience who gets off on watching people getting abused, before realising in later life that they can’t bare watching their videos because they remember how much physical and psychological pain they were in.

    “If you are going to say that victims of CSA are not able to meaningfully consent to working in the sex industry you have to argue that they also cannot meaningfully consent to doing the enormously emotionally demanding work of staffing a rape crisis line. ”

    Well for one thing people who work in psychotherapy have to undergo psychotherapy prior to and on an ongoing basis to avoid precisely this type of thing. And for another, people who work in rape crisis and other forms of crisis management are screened for precisely these kinds of things. For another, working in rape crisis and getting fucked for money are not the same thing and the fact that you think they are suggests your sex-industry-positive stance should have as much influence as your non-existent stats on sexist harassment.

    —-
    “You have to argue that they cannot meaningfully consent to any adult sexual relationship. Etc etc etc.”

    No, you have to argue that they cannot meaningfully consent to unregulated commercial activities that harm them for financial compensation.

    —-

    “You are saying to someone that if you have been abused in childhood, I know better than you do what are the right choices for you to make, and you will be trapped in a victim role with no free choice or agency for the rest of your life. Fuck that shit, big time.”

    Not only people who’ve been abused in childhood and who are psychologically damaged with unreliable sense of sexual boundaries and vulnerability to exploitation. But certainly including them yes. The issue is that the choice to be a sexual commodity is even on the table for anyone, seeing as it’s a contravention of Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights human – which I didn’t write by the way.

  48. Lucy says

    Ally Fogg: “Survivors of sexual abuse, people with PTSD, maintain control of their own lives and their own choices. ..Some react by exploring and exercising their own sexuality, whether in porn performance and the sex industry”

    The more I read this euphemistic, self-soothing sentence, the more outstanding I find it. The sex-trade as therapy for sexual abuse victims. You’ve jumped the proverbial shark.

    I suppose that logic works when you think of porn as a performance. And you don’t consider that for every seller there is a buyer. And you don’t know that buyers financially remunerating their (random, unregulated, unproven, unaccountable) psychological experiment’s participants, let alone having sex with them, fatally undermines a therapeutic relationship, which is why it’s illegal.

  49. Ally Fogg says

    The sex-trade as therapy for sexual abuse victims.

    I’m not suggesting it’s “therapy” for a moment.

    I’m saying just because someone has been abused doesn’t mean they forfeit their own freedom of choice and lose the ability to offer consent.

  50. johngreg says

    Lucy, some people get hit (and remunerateded!) by lightning too.

    Didja ever think about that?

    *Floosh*

  51. Holms says

    Ally Fogg

    “I utterly despise this argument, it is the most patronising, condescending, offensive bullshit that encapsulates everything that is worst about anti-sex industry campaigning.”

    Good for you, Ally Fogg.

    Was there any point to this comment? You didn’t rebut, agree, or even disagree. This was nothing more than a chance to be snide. Why do so? It is not conducive to discussion, even when disagreeing with someone.

    “Survivors of sexual abuse, people with PTSD, maintain control of their own lives and their own choices. ”

    Not when they’re still in abusive, traumatising situations managed by exploitative people they don’t.

    And what about the people that aren’t in a situation of ongoing abuse etc.? You are either denying thei agency along with everyone else’s, or you are arguing that porn is always damaging by starting with the premise that porn is always damaging; i.e. argument by definition.

    “If you are going to say that victims of CSA are not able to meaningfully consent to working in the sex industry you have to argue that they also cannot meaningfully consent to doing the enormously emotionally demanding work of staffing a rape crisis line. ”

    Well for one thing people who work in psychotherapy have to undergo psychotherapy prior to and on an ongoing basis to avoid precisely this type of thing.
    […]

    …Yes? So the abuse survivor in this job will get the same psychological care as anyone else. They can still willingly take this job; this does not refute his point.

    … And for another, people who work in rape crisis and other forms of crisis management are screened for precisely these kinds of things.

    And if found to be stable and reasnably able to take the job, they can go ahead and take the job. Again, this does not refute the point that they have agency.

    For another, working in rape crisis and getting fucked for money are not the same thing and the fact that you think they are suggests your sex-industry-positive stance should have as much influence as your non-existent stats on sexist harassment.

    Except no one suggested any such thing, rendering this an empty strawman.

    No, you have to argue that they cannot meaningfully consent to unregulated commercial activities that harm them for financial compensation.

    Your argument that the porn industry is always harmful to the female participant is now resting on the assumption that the porn industry is always harmful. You’ve come full circle in assuming your conclusion.

    “You are saying to someone that if you have been abused in childhood, I know better than you do what are the right choices for you to make, and you will be trapped in a victim role with no free choice or agency for the rest of your life. Fuck that shit, big time.”

    Not only people who’ve been abused in childhood and who are psychologically damaged with unreliable sense of sexual boundaries and vulnerability to exploitation. But certainly including them yes.

    So you’re truly stating that once abused, a person never has agency in their own sex life? That’s a big condescending slap in the face for anyone that has ever been abused.

    Ally Fogg: “Survivors of sexual abuse, people with PTSD, maintain control of their own lives and their own choices. ..Some react by exploring and exercising their own sexuality, whether in porn performance and the sex industry”

    The more I read this euphemistic, self-soothing sentence, the more outstanding I find it. The sex-trade as therapy for sexual abuse victims. You’ve jumped the proverbial shark.

    I suppose that logic works when you think of porn as a performance.
    […]

    Actually it makes sense just fine provided you aren’t assuming that porn is inherently harmful. Which is what you’ve been doing all along.

    And you don’t know that buyers financially remunerating their (random, unregulated, unproven, unaccountable) psychological experiment’s participants, let alone having sex with them, fatally undermines a therapeutic relationship, which is why it’s illegal.

    Except porn isn’t illegal in a large number of jurisdictions, and those that consider it illegal typically do so on religious grounds, rather than anything we might consider to be rational. Oh and porn is now a ‘psychological experiment’, what the fuck? There’s nothing so fruitless as arguing with an ideologue.

  52. Silver says

    Lucy @34

    Flood, M 2010, “Young men using pornography”, in K Boyle (ed.), Everyday pornography, Routledge, Oxon: 164-178

    I’ve talked with Michael Flood. He sometimes posts on the Electronic Frontiers Australia mailing list when the topic of censorship comes up in Australian politics. I asked him particularly about his opinions on the critism of the Media Effects Model as presented by David Gauntlett ( http://www.theory.org.uk/david/effects.htm ). What was interesting to me is that his response was basically that Gauntlett raises some good objections that he can’t really answer, but he’s prepared to take a more conservative position in his public positions because it suits his ideology better and there may be something to the Media Effects Model. (Obviously paraphrasing). Personally, I think the Media Effects Model has been the assumption for more than a century, and the fact that there is still no conclusive evidence to support it means that it is an idea that should be abandoned.

    I think it’s a truism that media changes the brain. I think ‘mind’ and ‘brain’ are two words for the same thing, and therefore that any input must necessarily cause a physical change in the brain. It’s also certainly true that exposure to new ideas does open up new possibilities that otherwise would not have been considered. It is clear, for example, that exposure to the beauty of Antarctica has directly led to a increase to tourism to that continent, which is having a detrimental effect on the wildlife and environment there. Similarly, the acceptance and normalisation of gays and lesbians is partially a result of there being more media exposure of gays and lesbians, and thus more people realising that they personally know people who are homosexual. It is simply a truism that some people enjoy anal sex, and it naturally follows that its media exposure has led to more people experimenting. What’s missing, as always, is decent sexual education that teaches preparation, positions and communication to make the experience enjoyable for all parties. I don’t put that blame on pornography, just like I don’t expect David Attenborough to preface all his documentaries with warnings not to travel to the destinations he’s highlighting.

    Lucy @32

    Prostitution “facts”

    Except these aren’t “facts”. While I can’t speak directly to the UK figures you quote, I have personally seen how the New Zealand experience has been deliberately misinterpreted by abolitionists. The New Zealand 2008 review ( http://www.justice.govt.nz/policy/commercial-property-and-regulatory/prostitution/prostitution-law-review-committee/publications/plrc-report/documents/report.pdf ) is readily available, yet I’ve seen it incredibly quote mined in order to paint it as saying the law was a failure, rather than the overall net positive the review’s conclusion actually comes to. Sentences are truncated and taken out of context. All the while there are real improvements in the lives of sex workers, such as a recent court case were a brothel work successfully sued her manager for sexual harassment, and another recent case where the police escorted a non-paying client to an ATM in order to force them to withdraw money to cover the cost of the service (they said they’d done the same for people who wouldn’t pay for food).

    Just recently, in Melbourne, Amnesty International held a meeting as they are currently considering their position on sex work. They deliberately invited sex workers to be involved in the discussion. Even the organised felt embarrassed by the behaviour of the abolitionists present who shouted down and filibusted the sex workers who had been invited to share their opinions on what they needed to feel safe.

    None of which is to say there aren’t problems with the sex industry whether pornography, prostitution, stripping, web camming or even sexual therapists. For me it’s a question of harm minimisation. Reducing police corruption is a great reason to promote decriminalisation as the NSW experience shows. Whereas, the endemic misogyny of the Swedish Model directly led to a sex worker’s death ( http://titsandsass.com/the-bloody-state-gave-him-the-power-a-swedish-sex-workers-murder/ probably NSFW). Sex education in Australia is certainly not everything it could be, but for such an important part of life, we should treat it more seriously then we go about teaching people to drive (and I gather the US case is much worse). It comes down to assuming women (and men) are able to make their own decisions about their own bodies. Any argument against sex work that rests on false consciousness can also be applied to abortion, and there is enough of that crap around.

  53. Jacob Schmidt says

    Lucy

    Do you have a problem with it when it is not presented as rape?

    Go back to my comment and read past the part you quoted. I supported your position.

  54. Ally Fogg says

    Anton Mates (40)

    Sorry, missed this comment earlier.

    It’s worth noting that the study’s authors believe their results only apply to boys in this particular age range. They agree with earlier studies that older adolescent boys are much more inclined toward sexual aggression, objectification of partners, glorification of sex for its own sake, etc. So their interpretation of their own results is not that teenage boys are sweeter than we thought they were, but that they become un-sweet at a later age, due to social conditioning

    That said, Bell et al. didn’t actually interview older adolescents themselves, and the one study they cite in support is relatively old (Eyre S.L 1997,”The vernacular term interview: Elicitng social knowledge related to sex among adolescents.”). So while this is consistent with their interpretation, it’s also consistent with Ally’s interpretation that teenage boys are becoming better-behaved; maybe the boys in the 1997 sample had nastier attitudes because it was an earlier era, not because they were older. Or maybe the 1997 study used a different survey methodology; I haven’t read it.

    Anyone know of a study that specifically examines the developmental trajectory of sexual attitudes in adolescent males?

    This is a really interesting and important point.

    I didn’t go into this at all in the blog, but this is something that gets a very passing mention in the actual paper, but found its way into the press release and then the media coverage.

    In the paper itself, there is the claim that these findings for 14-16 year old boys fly in the face of other findings for older teenage boys. However I have to say it is very poorly supported. It is referenced to just one paper, from 1997, which is a strange little bit of discourse analysis around slang vernacular, which in turn only makes a passing reference to male teenagers typically showing hostile verbal sexism and aggression.

    I get the impression that Bell et al are pretty much taking it on trust and assumption that older male teenagers have more problematic attitudes.

    Seems to me there are a couple of alternative explanations that he is not considering at the moment = one, that actually older teenage boys have also been unfairly maligned, and that if someone were to take the trouble to actually find out, they might discover they’re not typically nearly as unpleasant as usually assumed.

    Or the other possibility is that young men are changing and have changed remarkably quickly in recent years, and that research which was true 15 or 20 years ago is now seriously out of date.

    The strongest thing I think you can say is that there is nothing in the actual paper itself to justify the claim that older boys are markedly more sexist, hostile, aggressive or whatever.

    I might drop the author an email and see what he says.

  55. marduk says

    @Silver

    The question for me has moved on in a way; how do we act in a world where things we know aren’t true are widely assumed to be true and where there is no appetite to change our minds anyway. A contemporary “emperor’s new clothes” tale ends with the little boy pointing out the emperor is naked and everyone else shrugging and carrying on as before. FIN. I think you’d find Guardian editorial to be amazed that anyone could dispute the ‘media effects model’ or really even to discover it is an assumption and has a name it is so ingrained.

    Its stark as stark gets when you point out to people what they claim is truth has had absolutely no support from all studies trying to find it conducted hitherto. You’d think that would be a kick in teeth to the point one should probably soften the blow. Not true, everyone just carries on as before, its not even felt you made a respectable argument to be disagreed with, it couldn’t matter less.

    If I could take five years off to write a hefty polemic I’d point out that we’re absolutely fucked now that truth has lost its currency and urgency. You can speak truth to power all day long and it doesn’t matter. We’re “post-enlightenment” at this point. Its a bit like antibiotics, empiricism and the scientific method seemed powerful for a bit while it worked but society has become immune to it somehow.

    I’m not saying this as in any sense a conservative person, I don’t come out in hives when I read continental philosophers, I think constructivism can be quite a powerful tool, I think po-mo is about the only sensible way to think about media etc. And to think I used to temper my interest in evidence-based social policy with a 1950s retro fear of a rise of technocrats. Chance would be a fine thing.

  56. estraven says

    I attended Netroots Nation in Detroit this past weekend. A particularly interesting panel was about the school-to-prison pipeline, which, of course, takes the heaviest toll on African-American boys. It’s obvious to me that stereotypes play a huge part in this. Young black males are often suspended for nonspecific–indeed, non-code-violating–behaviors. Such suspensions speak to me of fear and of control, both involving stereotypes of violence (as well as other things, such as perceived defiance, etc.)

    At another panel on the water shutoffs in Detroit, one of the community organizers made it a point to inform the audience that young black men in affected neighborhoods were going out of their way to bring bottled water to elderly people and households with young children, either by bike or car. She was quite aware of how people think of young men of color.

  57. Paul says

    It may be stating the bleedin’ obvious but irrespective of their background most boys are basically ok.They’re not violent bullying thugs and they don’t grow up to be woman-bashing child molesting rapists.And many of them are and always will be putty in the hands of the women and girls who love them.

    I only have one child-a girl- but i have siblings and friends who have sons.And they should never be made to feel that there’s something intrinsically wrong with being male.However i do believe a ”Lord Of The Flies”mentality can take root amongst boys and young men who are unloved,abused,disengaged from the world of positive male role models and alienated from mainstream society.And i feel boys who’re not set firm but fair boundaries from early on in life can grow up to create mayhem in one form or another and irrespective of their background.But i absolutely reject this idea that the problem with boys is that they’re not more like girls.And i do believe that some of those adults involved in the lives of boys who promote that sexist idea need to be called out over it.

    If some boys and young men are a problem then we need to have an open and honest debate as to why that is.Simply attributing it to an overdose of testosterone and not looking at a myriad of other factors is simply a convenient way of avoiding dealing with certain home truths.Including the pressure males are put under to be a ”real man” and not let on how they’re really feeling.

  58. Lucy says

    Jason

    “Go back to my comment and read past the part you quoted. I supported your position.”

    I read all of your comment. I know you supported my position. I’m grateful.

    But you also said you didn’t have a problem with playing around with pornographic depictions of sexist discrimination and crime, so long as everyone consented. And I asked why you would. It’s easy not to have a problem with things that don’t much affect you and never will.

    It would be more remarkable if you DID have a problem with sexist entertainment and arousing depictions of discrimination and incitement to gender-based crime. Hardly anyone has a problem with sexism because it’s only women and they don’t organise and make people feel uncomfortable like the victims of racist, homophobic, religious, disablist entertainment would. And sexist hate speech isn’t illegal like the other kinds – do you ever wonder why not, incidentally? Could it be because a lot of revenue and tax would be lost if it were banned like the ones directed at men? So without any social or legal sanctions, no risk of personal sanctions, why should you care? Unless you have a surfeit of empathy and don’t feel inclined to chuck other people to the sharks in the name of callous, smug, guff-smelling, self-serving, “sex positive” bullshittery.

    Besides sexism is arousing and nothing arousing can be completely bad. Racism has never been arousing and hasn’t been lucrative since the 70s when it became socially unacceptable. Disability entertainment hasn’t been lucrative since the beginning of the last century when freak shows died out, though it survives in pockets of disability porn and dwarf throwing, but people feel a bit uncomfortable about that so they’re working on making it empowering.

  59. marduk says

    On review I would just like to apologise for derailing the hell out of this topic, I really didn’t mean to.

  60. Gilgamecha42 says

    What in heaven’s name are you blathering on about, Lucy? Porn is not discrimination. Porn is not sexist entertainment. Porn is definitely not the “incitement of gender crime.” (What the actual fuck?) From where do you draw these delusions?

    Porn is where two (or several) consenting adults engage in sexual activity for your viewing pleasure. Usually with a theme or fantasy. That is it. This isn’t the 70’s anymore. There are rules now. Those working in porn are protected just like with any other profession. If there is any sexism and discrimination, most likely it gets dealt with just like with any other profession. It’s not a fucking prostitution ring. Go on, read this Cracked article and you might learn something new.

    (Fun fact: confirming your own bias is actually not how critical thinking works.)

    Seriously, when I said you don’t have to channel Dworkin, I meant it. Sort it out.

  61. freja says

    @43, Jacob Schmidt

    I remember watching a documentary on the porn industry. One of the subjects was male beauty standards: according to those interviewed in the documentary, conventionally unattractive men were deliberately hired to act in porn. This was done because those making porn didn’t want to make men feel inadequate. However, porn involving attractive men sold much better. Their conclusion was that porn was often seen as a self insertion fantasy, and that men preferred to project themselves onto attractive actors.

    Whether or no that’s true, I dunno; it seems quite plausible. I do find it interesting that it used to be industry standard to cater to insecurities about physical features, at least for men.

    I heard about that. The porn I’ve watched usually had fairly average looking blokes in it, but sometimes they were definitely above average, at least body-wise. The women were of the same borderline underweight conventionally attractive kind you’d see in Hollywood. So I’ve always found it strange how some people insist that porn is better than mainstream society when it comes to women but is supposedly proposing unrealistic standards for men.

  62. freja says

    @63, Lucy

    But you also said you didn’t have a problem with playing around with pornographic depictions of sexist discrimination and crime, so long as everyone consented. And I asked why you would. It’s easy not to have a problem with things that don’t much affect you and never will.

    I’m not Jason, I’d like to point out that romanticised depictions of problematic acts are a stable in mainstream media too. There are lots of action movies about loveable criminals, comedies about funny (and often abusive) jerks, and plenty of flawed protagonists whose flaws include bigotry but whom the audience ends up sympathising with. A common problem with war movies is that even when the director wants to depict the cruelty and inhumanity of war, the finished product always inevitably ends up depicting war as cool and awesome.

    Where does the line go between a fun adventure with a gunslinger in the wild west, and an endorsement of gun crimes and downplaying the plight of American indians at the time? Every type of fiction has similar issues, and it’s definitely worth discussing. But going from there to claiming that problematic actions in fiction are categorically inseparable from endorsement of said problematic actions in real life is taking it too far.

    Racism has never been arousing and hasn’t been lucrative since the 70s when it became socially unacceptable.

    I bed to differ. The heavy endorsement of stand your ground laws among white racists in the US is heavily tied with white (or at least not black) men’s idea of being the protagonist in their own private action movie. There is a component of fear of course, but someone who’s truly afraid of an unarmed teenager don’t pursue said teenager after he’s been told to stand down because the police are on their way, and someone who’s truly threatened by a group of people young men in a car is unlikely to go up to said young men and start berating them for playing music. It’s about machismo and a desire to put people (aka blacks, especially black men who’re seen as the main contestants in the fight of male dominance) in their place. It may not be sexually arousing (I’m actually unsure about that at times), but it’s definitely about desire and excitement.

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