Awful Foot In Mouth..

On Tuesday the Wimbledon champion Serena Williams will step out onto Centre Court to start the defence of her title. We must hope that, from now on, she lets her racket do the talking.
Last week Williams got herself into all sorts of trouble when an interview she gave to Rolling Stone magazine hit the net.
In a clumsy comment, for which she was later forced to apologise, she remarked of a young woman who had been brutally raped by two high school football players: "She's 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn't remember ... It could have been much worse. She's lucky."
I have to disagree. In fact, it's hard to think of anything much worse that could happen to a 16-year-old.

The girl did get so drunk she was comatose (she claims she was drugged) but was then raped and assaulted while being hauled around a series of wild high-school parties by two prominent members of the local football team in Steubenville, a rust-belt town in Ohio.
Like a floppy sex doll, she was slung between them. They raped her in a car and in a house and urinated on her. And the reason we know so much about what happened is because the footballers, Trent Mays, 17, and Ma'lik Richmond, 16, filmed and photographed most of it. Videos posted online from the night include a 12-minute film of Michael Nodianos, one of the attackers' friends, laughing drunkenly and joyously about just how "dead" the poor girl looked.

"She's deader than OJ Simpson's wife, John F Kennedy and Trayvon Martin [a teenager shot by a resident in a gated community in Florida]," he giggled. Then, while the girl is unconscious and being assaulted in an adjoining room, he adds: "There won't be any foreplay for a dead girl ... She's deader than a doornail."
When someone off-camera remonstrates with him that it is rape, he responds: "And is it really rape if you don't know if she wanted to or not? She might have wanted it. That might have been her final wish." Laughing uproariously at his own wit, he adds: "Song of the night is Rape Me by Nirvana."

Fortunately, the play-by-play account that the young men posted on social media was to be their undoing. The two have since been sentenced to a year each in a juvenile detention centre for the rape and Mays got an extra year inside for distributing nude images of a minor.

When news of the sentencing flashed up during Serena Williams's interview with Rolling Stone, she commented: "Do you think it's fair what they [Mays and Richmond] got? They did something stupid, but I don't know. I'm not blaming the girl, but if you're a 16-year-old and you're drunk like that your parents should teach you: don't take drinks from other people."
It is incredibly unfair to lay the blame on the victim. Most teenagers have got blind drunk at some point in their lives. But rarely can the consequences have been as terrible as this. I say responsibility lies fairly and squarely with the arrogant, predatory boys themselves and the jock fratboy culture that glorifies and encourages such revolting behaviour.
My first encounter with how extreme lad culture casually demeans women was when a young male friend, back for the holidays after university in America (he was there on a sport scholarship) jovially showed me his favourite abusive porn clips during Sunday lunch. When I remonstrated with him, he laughed. Such material had become so normal for him that he didn't find it remotely shocking or expect that anyone else would either.

Unfortunately, this laddish sensibility is no longer just an American phenomenon. On a recent visit to Bath University, I was approached by a group of female students who told me about the virulent lad culture now thriving on campuses. The beating heart of this new scene are two websites, Uni Lad and True Lad, which promote themselves extensively on social media (Uni Lad has 484,000 likes on Facebook).

Content includes such charming "games" as look-at-the-vagina-and-name-the-porn-star, pictures of naked women "to get a guy over a hangover" and links to Kim Kardashian's sex tape on PornHub.

Women are referred to as wenches and given ratings according to their looks. Last year the website was shut down for a while because of complaints about a pro-rape article: "Assume the slut is up for poking and make your move later on ... And if the girl you've taken for a drink happens to belong to the 25% group and won't spread for your head, think about this mathematical statistic: 85% of rapes go unreported. That seems to be fairly good odds."
Given that 35% of women globally have been raped or assaulted, this is hard to take as a joke despite Uni Lad originally claiming the article was "banter". Facebook fans of Uni Lad have since been posting womanhating defences of the post. Those who object are dismissed as "dykes", or "gays".

This creates a peer culture where not to go along with such sentiment is to appear unmanly. The glee with which so many of the Steubenville teenagers viewed the rape in their midst — and the widespread backlash against the sentencing of the boys that Serena Williams was echoing — suggest such views are common.

So what is fuelling them? I would suggest that such sites and "banter" are a good weathervane for a certain kind of laddish attitude, common in Generation XXX — young men who have been brought up on a diet of degrading and violent internet porn where women are assaulted for titillating entertainment. Last weekend The Sunday Times launched a campaign calling for the government, parents and the internet service providers (ISPs) to wake up to the risk that unfettered access to extreme pornographic content poses to our young people. Last week Maria Miller, the culture secretary, convened a high-profile meeting of all the large internet companies to try to get them to take responsibility for the content they are pushing into our homes.

The outcome was a fudge: more money to tackle illegal images of child abuse on the web, which is of course welcome, but no action in terms of introducing the kind of clean, porn-free internet feed into our homes that 73% of Britons say they would prefer (according to a recent ComRes survey).

Such a system would not stop adults accessing such material — this is not about censorship, it is about ensuring that under-18s whom we shield from adult content in the cinema and with a 9pm watershed on television cannot, with a couple of clicks, see the kind of extreme material that a few years ago would have been available only in the sleaziest sex shop.
I first wrote about this in The Sunday Times Magazine three years ago. Since then, it has come to the forefront of the national agenda and I have had hundreds of emails and tweets from readers who share these concerns. Our aim is to build an online army to lobby the government and the ISPs to tackle this issue.
The problem is that teenagers, curious about sex, go online but what they discover is aggressive, cartoon depictions of brutal sex that traumatise them and set their sexual dial at extreme before they have had a real sexual experience. The casual misogyny of sites such as Uni Lad and the horror of teen rape are the inevitable consequences of a teen culture steeped in porn.

Of course the solution to this is not just a technical one. It is also up to all of us to educate our children about what a loving, consensual sexual relationship looks like. Teenage girls also need to be warned of the consequences of becoming so intoxicated they make themselves vulnerable to predators who treat rape as a game and the victim as a trophy to be posted on the internet for the delectation of their peers.

Last week on The Moral Maze on Radio 4 I was grilled about the porn campaign. One of the panel asked me why I thought porn was fuelling bad behaviour, given that societies for thousands of years have raped and subjugated their women with impunity. That is why we have laws against marital rape and domestic violence.

Unfortunately old habits die hard — extreme internet porn is just the latest mutation of misogyny.

What is depressing is that a new generation of men, raised in what should be the most egalitarian culture yet, are taking up these old attitudes with such alacrity. When I was at university 20 years ago, such laddism was far less acceptable.
It is up to all of us to try to stamp out this laddish culture. One way to start is by signing up to The Sunday Times campaign. As for Serena Williams, she should stick to tennis. Fight back To join the Sunday Times campaign to safeguard children from online pornography, go to thetimes/protectourkids''Teen rape is the inevitable consequence of a culture steeped in porn”


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