I didn’t think I would need to write a blog post about the Roast Busters because it has been talked about and written about so much that I figured everyone else had it covered just fine and would be able to articulate their concerns more clearly than I could.
I was also mistaken in thinking that none of my friends and acquaintances would think that what those boys did was in any way acceptable…until I went to a birthday dinner last Friday.
The topic of the Roast Busters came up and it started a conversation between myself, a male friend, and a male acquaintance. I felt like I couldn’t get much of a word in, and after a certain comment about the way women dress, I felt so disappointed, appalled and frankly a little upset, that I said, “I can’t be around you right now” and walked away. When I returned, my friend apologised for poor choice of words and said I had misunderstood him (and perhaps I did). Now that I am more sober, and have a little time to put what I was trying to say then into words, I’ll respond to some of the ideas these men expressed. Disclaimer: These are not direct quotes, and I hope I don’t misrepresent them. They are also views I’ve heard expressed by others, but I didn’t think I’d hear them in my circle of friends. My responses are aimed at the ideas expressed in general; I am not speaking directly to the men I mentioned.
- Their behaviour isn’t the problem; it’s social media that’s the problem.
I wrote about cyber bullying in an assignment for my teaching diploma. The one thing that I got from that research is that it is not the technology that is the problem. Bullies will be bullies in any way they can, and the internet is just another way for them to hurt others. The internet can also be a way to do good, spread awareness, fundraise, etc. The Roast Busters just used this technology to share their views and actions with lots of people, and now they are getting more attention than they bargained for.
In this case, it is very much the boys’ behaviour that is the problem, not the technology. These are boys who have little respect for women. They think it is okay to get women so drunk they agree (or don’t) to let several guys sleep with them, then shame them for it online. Maybe some of these teenage girls really did think it would be “cool” to take part in this, and wilfully consented. But I have to wonder, what 13-17 year old girls would be up for this? How emotionally mature are they? How stable and secure are their lives? How high is their self-esteem?
I read a great article (which I will try find) about a woman who had a very troubled upbringing. Her father openly hated her, and she didn’t get much love or attention from her mother either. When she was thirteen / fourteen, she craved love and attention, and found it online in chat rooms. She told men how young she was and they flirted with her, told her she was beautiful, said that they wanted to be her boyfriend, and asked to meet up. She wrote that they’d all use her for sex and then leave, and she’d be left thinking that they were going to love her and be her boyfriend. She consented to the sex, but was not emotionally mature enough to see what was really going on and was very hurt and upset by the way these men treated her. Her point was that just because a fourteen year old girl is capable of consenting to sex, it doesn’t mean that men, particularly older men in her case, should be free to take advantage of any girl from a bad background who is looking for love and attention in the wrong places. These girls need help and protection, not a “you are 100% responsible for every decision you make” attitude that ignores their upbringing, age, maturity, and vulnerability to being preyed upon by people who don’t give a shit about them.
I like to think I am open minded about sex, and I know that when I was in high school there were fourteen year olds having sex, but for the most part it was with their boyfriends at the time. Two young people who love each other and care about each other having mutually consensual sex. Maybe I am being naïve in my little middle class bubble when I say that if a young teen thought getting “roasted” by several guys – knowing that it would be talked about online, knowing that they do it to many other women – was a good idea, they aren’t emotionally mature enough to be making those kinds of decisions, and that the boys who roasted them are possibly taking advantage. It took me until I was in my early 20’s to have enough self-esteem and self-confidence to be okay with casual sex, and even then I treaded some murky emotional waters where I got attached or felt a bit used. It takes a strong, confident person with high self-esteem and a “who cares what anyone thinks, I’m going to enjoy myself and have some no-strings fun” attitude to take part in consensual, group, casual sex. I personally don’t think many teenage girls are there yet. And if they are, they’d be mature enough to want to have that casual fun with people who respect them as a person, respect their privacy, and want them to have a great time. Not a group of teenage boys who get girls wasted, brag about their conquests online and treat the women like meat. On that note…
- The statutory rape laws don’t make sense. Lots of teenagers under sixteen have sex with each other consensually.
Of course they do. There are varying levels of maturity among teenagers. When I look at fourteen year olds now, for the most part they look so young to me. They seem like they are still children. Yet I remember feeling grown up and mature at age fourteen. I remember most of my friends dating at that age (and younger, though intermediate boyfriends weren’t all that serious). But just because fourteen year olds date and sometimes have sex, doesn’t mean every single one of them is emotionally mature and capable of handling all the baggage that can surround sex. Not all of them will make great decisions. Not all of them will be strong enough to say “no” if the pressure is put on (by peers, or by someone they are dating). Not all of them are perfect drinkers who know their limits and know not to let others mix their drinks. Not all of them have high self-esteem, respect for themselves, and high standards for themselves. Not all of them come from loving, supportive backgrounds.
Someone doesn’t turn thirteen and suddenly become totally capable of making great choices. They still need protection and guidance, and they need support when people take advantage of them and prey on them. The law exists to stop people, particularly older people, thinking people below sixteen are okay to take advantage of. The law exists because young teens don’t often know what is best for them. It is not designed to stop two fifteen year olds who are in love from having consensual sex, it is designed to help those who feel wronged or hurt by a situation, or taken advantage of, or raped.
The Roast Busters is a very different situation from two teenagers, in a relationship, having some drinks together and having sex. This is a group of guys who think it is cool to get girls drunk, take turns having sex with them, and shame them online… and girls went to the police over it. It’s two very different situations, and to compare them is pointless. I don’t see how anyone can act like it was just a bunch of guys having fun at parties, when some girls were clearly so upset by what happened that they went to the police.
- Those radio hosts weren’t out of line for asking if the girls involved actually wanted it. The girls probably did want it.
Firstly, no I don’t think it is some radio hosts’ place to suggest that any potential victim of trauma is lying about it. It’s unnecessarily insensitive. At the time, my response to this was that if the girls were happy about the situation, why had there been three complaints to the police? To which the men replied:
- They probably regretted it the next day so lied and said it was rape.
This is the one I have the biggest problem with. I did a little research on false rape allegations. Data varies, but the general consensus seems to be that the number of women who falsely accuse someone of rape is between 2% and 10% (which is about the same as false allegations of other crimes), however it is likely to be far less than that because, as studies of false reporting in New Zealand found, police can misapply the “no-crime” or “unfounded” criteria. Some officers have fixed views on what a rape victim should look like and how they should behave, and others interpret lack of evidence or a withdrawal of complaint as proof of a false allegation.
Even if we took out all of those variables, and assumed for a minute that it was the higher end of the spectrum – that 10% of women who go to the police and say they are raped are, in fact, lying about it – that would still mean that 9/10 of the women who say they are raped, are telling the truth. That’s a majority. When a woman says that she has been raped, chances are she is telling the truth. So why on earth do people think it is okay to act as if it is the opposite? Why would these friends of mine hear about three women complaining to the police about the same group of teenage boys – boys who “jokingly” refer to themselves as rapists on their Facebook page and write things like “go ahead, tell the police, they can’t un-rape you” – and assume all three of them must be in that very small percent of women who make false claims?
Besides which, how fucked up would you have to be to regret sex so much that you are willing to ruin a guy’s life over it? That you care about your reputation so much that you’d rather a guy went to jail than have to acknowledge that you had group sex? It can happen, particularly in a culture that shames girls for having sex, but it’s just so unlikely a situation that to accuse these girls of doing it seems wildly against the odds.
- Some girls draw negative attention and disrespect from men by the way they dress. They attract people who will treat them like shit if they dress that way.
Maybe this is true. Maybe douchebag guys do target girls who dress a certain way. But even if this is true, what is the point of saying it in a conversation about Roast Busters? Are you making this statement in order to show how shitty society / some men can be in their disrespect of women? Or are you bringing it up to blame a girl for bringing on bad treatment by not dressing conservatively? I’m guessing the latter. If you bring this up you are implying that there are certain situations where a girl is to blame for negative treatment from men, simply because of how she looks. You are saying there are certain situations where it is okay for men to treat a woman like shit. You are letting men off the hook. You are giving them a pass. You are saying it is okay for them to treat another human being badly, simply because of what they wear. You are telling a woman: It is your fault, you deserve this, and you asked for this, he is allowed to do it because of what you chose to wear. This, in my book, is never okay.
Where do we draw the line? We live in a country where a girl having to cover from head to toe in a burqa is considered over-the-top and oppressive, and a bikini is considered okay. So where is that in-between area where you are dressed in a way that invites disrespect? What is an appropriate “deserving of respect” outfit? It’s just silly. How about, instead of telling women to cover up, you tell men that no matter how a woman is dressed, she is a human being with thoughts and feelings and choices? Why should a woman be faced with the responsibility of picking an outfit that will stop harassment, instead of the harassers being held accountable? Let’s also remember that women get raped in all sorts of outfits, as seen by the “this is what I was wearing” meme. Outfits don’t cause rape, rapists do. When a seven year old girl is raped, nobody dares suggest her clothes may have attracted “disrespect”. Why does this change when a girl becomes a teenager?
Men are not untameable beasts, chained to their animal natures with no control over themselves. If a woman isn’t wearing much, it doesn’t render a man incapable of rational thought. If a man sees a skimpy outfit and decides the woman wearing it is not worth his respect then that says more about him than her. It shows a man who does not think all humans are worthy of respect, and will find excuses to treat someone badly. And he can get away with it because some people will say it was her fault for not covering up.
Yes, there are things women can do to help keep themselves safe. Watch your drinks, don’t get drunk, stay with friends, don’t walk alone, don’t sleep over at a party, etc. While this can be useful information, at the end of the day you can do all this and still get raped. You can do none of this and be raped. Either way, it is not your fault, it is the rapist’s fault. You wouldn’t tell a guy who had been burgled that it was his own fault for not having better locks. You wouldn’t tell a guy who had been mugged that it was his own fault for walking down the street with money in his pocket. In the end, advising someone to be safe is fine, but putting the responsibility of avoiding rape on a woman is not. Let’s remember who are the bad guys here – those who made the decision to disrespect and rape women. Or burgle houses, or mug people. Let’s not victim-blame.
- The trial by media isn’t fair.
You know what, I agree with this one. Evidence is needed and investigating needs to happen by trained professionals. I’m not ruling out the idea that the boys didn’t commit any crimes, and perhaps for a lot of it were exaggerating their boasts and joking around, but I still don’t think that that possibility warrants victim blaming of the girls who went to the police, or a culture of disbelief and suspicion of them.
I do think this story is one the public needs to know about. It has sparked many amazing discussions, blog posts and the like, and exposed New Zealand’s rape culture. Whether or not the Roast Busters are rapists, it is still good to see New Zealand (for the most part) making it clear to young people that it is not okay to treat women badly. It is not okay to touch a girl when she is (as one of the Roast Buster’s friends described a girl) so wasted she will probably not remember it in the morning. It is not cool to brag online about sleeping with women as if they are not worthy of respect or privacy. Making rape jokes is insensitive and immature. There has been a big out-pouring of support for victims of rape, including a petition for John Key to do more for rape victims. I hope that this will be a lesson for all young people out there in both how they conduct themselves online, and how they treat their fellow human beings.