‘What goes on tour, stays on tour’…a few reasons why this sort of thinking is so dangerous.

boyabuse Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is undoubtedly one of the more insidious social problems of our time. Whilst it’s generally presented as a modern problem, CSA has certainly always existed- though in the past it was considered more of a familial problem, than a wider social issue pervasive of many areas of modern social life. 
It is argued by many that any social institution which has children as its focus, will inevitably act as a breeding ground for perpetrators of CSA, but if this is true, how then do we address the problem so we can make safer, these institutions?

Mike Hartill’s article ‘The Sexual Abuse of Boys in Organized Male Sports’ (2008) provides a critical view of male-oriented sporting institutions, so that we may try to better address this issue. Statistics regarding the proliferation of  CSA are difficult to ascertain due to the very nature of the abuse, being imbibed with concealment and therefore likely to be hugely underreported. However, from the analysis of reported data roughly one in six boys experience sexual abuse (and one in four girls).

Analysis also shows that the abuse of boys is more likely to occur from within a student-teacher relationship, as it is from one based inside the home, and importantly, as the role of teacher/coach is held in such high regard by the wider community, the likelihood of reporting of CSA is low (as it is more generally). http://www.aifs.gov.au/nch/pubs/sheets/rs7/rs7.html

Additionally, institutions are likely to hush instances of CSA to protect their reputations, lay blame on individual perpetrators and victims, and indeed are structured in such a way as to facilitate this secrecy. http://0-irs.sagepub.com.alpha2.latrobe.edu.au/content/29/3/287.full.pdf+html

Indeed, in this case study cited by Hartill, one can see how although CSA may become evident to those within the institutions, action upon this knowledge is less than prevalent. http://www.silent-edge.org/kennedy.html

Hartill argues that not only do organised male sporting institutions provide an ideal breeding ground for CSA, but they also enable the perpetration of CSA in the wider community via(essentially and dangerously) dominant constructions of masculinity, such is their  influence in the boy-man relationship reflected both within and without. Indeed, effective coaching methodologies in male sporting organisations not only necessitate (often painful) physicality, but have long been seen to include forms of psychological control and manipulation, which in itself, allows the abuser to select and subject (or to ‘groom’) their victim in such a way as to ensure secrecy- even when a parent has questioned the validity of obviously abusive methodologies. http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/sexualabuseinsport-excerpt

Although developing and implementing better policy to deter and deal with CSA within these institutions is certainly necessary (http://www.safetocompete.org/ ), the larger social problems of the ‘commodification of childhood’, and rampant sexism and secrecy within male sporting institutions, are a few places in the world view where we may affect cultural and attitudinal change and therefore, prevention.

Try googling ‘male + sport + secrecy’, see what I mean?

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“The Price to Pay for our Common Good”

Whenever I hear the phrase “for the common good”, I shudder. I don’t wish to have any person prescribe to me, a way of living that they have determined for me, one that I haven’t self-determined. Which is actually a bit problematic, given we (pretty much have to) live in societies, which have laws. I have come to terms with these facts in my own way by choosing to obey what I can, when I can. I know, anarchism comes from deep within me- but I’m also a practical person, and recognise that laws are useful…for the insane perhaps, but useful nonetheless. Having said that, even I know that essentials such as breathing, food, water and shelter are basic human necessities…but that is exactly what they are, necessities which don’t change from culture to culture, and society to society.

In this vein, we come to the problematic area of genital modification, which I touched on in an earlier post with Anne Fausto-Sterling.
Nikki Sullivan’s essay titled ‘”The Price to Pay for our Common Good”: Genital Modification and the Somatechnologies of Cultural (In)Difference’ (2007), asks us to reexamine how we (specifically as white, western society) determine what constitutes circumcision, mutilation, and/or genital surgery? Who gets to make these determinations, and to whom do they apply? I thought I was reasonably educated about the practises of body modification before researching.

I was wrong. You only need to google-image ‘body modification’ to get a glimpse into how diverse it is, and widely practised, even as an ancient form of human expression. You may want to hold off on breakfast though. This picture is tame compared to what’s out there…

Is this type of modification (done upon genitals) allowable by law? Not in Australia, IF you are female. When legislating against female genital mutilation (FGM), our government determined that surgery that is not performed by a medical professional, for the purposes of gender reassignment, or birthing, or is necessary for the health of the person, should be illegal. (See full terms and conditions here- http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_act/ca190082/s45.html)
The law even specifies that particular pieces of tissue, such as the labia and clitoris, may not be excised nor mutilated.
How does this kind of FGM…


…compare to this….http://images.google.com.au/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4ADFA_enAU470AU473&q=labiaplasty&biw=1366&bih=552&sei=sWt0UdzaKsqpiAe6wICQDg&tbm=isch#imgrc=880610kV7LdtuM%3A%3BxgSRbIAugedXoM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.truemd.com%252Fwp-content%252Fuploads%252F2012%252F07%252Flabiaplasty-before-after-gal7-set4.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.truemd.com%252Flabiaplasty-images-before-after-gallery-7%252F%3B650%3B366

…and to this? http://oii.org.au/348/medical-normalisation-intersex-newborns/

What about male circumcision? Performed by non-medically trained people, such as Jewish Mohalim? How is it allowable if FGM isn’t?


Thing is,  it’s not even a matter of consent, according to the law. As an adult woman, I am not legally allowed to choose to have my ‘normal’ and ‘healthy’ clitoris removed (should I have my brain hijacked and I decide I want to). Nikki Sullivan asks if it is a form of racism and inverted sexism, to judge FGM as morally, ethically, and legally wrong from a white, Western perspective? In the same way that education regarding the harmful effects of smoking has led to it becoming more and more socially unacceptable, and has seen massive decreases in numbers of smokers, would it be best to educate against FGM done upon infants?

The question of consent is pretty clear for me, at least. If I want to mutilate my genitals, as a relatively sane, human adult- let me.

If I want to mutilate a child’s genitals, DO NOT LET ME unless I can prove it is absolutely necessary to the preservation of life.

An interesting case study…


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…And Justice For All…


There’s an argument that second wave feminism, somewhere along the road leading to the new wave or third wave feminism, or the whatever-ism (just pick one, though quite a few will do)…became so embittered (presumably from protracted battlement) that the protagonists became somewhat elitist.


Now, bell hooks (author of ‘Feminism Is for Everybody’, 2000) may not go as far as I have just now, but I couldn’t tell you because I haven’t read that book (though I intend to in the next few weeks), and all I have to go on at the time of writing is inherent curiosity and an excerpt from the earlier work ‘Feminism: A Transformational Politic’ in Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black, 1989.

What hooks says in ‘Talking back’, is that we’d far be better served as a species, to work at undoing injustice wherever we may find it, especially in the places where so much of it actually resides- as do the equally timeless quests for racial, religious and economic equality, amongst ‘others’.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXaKprN-y9I (the music-quality version)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsvK8WCPj1Y (the crappy audio-visual snippet of the brilliant film, The Color Purple)

These are the best quality recordings I could find in a short time, but given they were made ages ago,  to get the best result I promise you that you should watch the actual movie and that it will mark itself upon your psyche-  The Colour Purple.

Sexism, hooks reminds us, needs to be considered an injustice on par with any other, or else to be feminist in this way actually contributes to the mantle of inequality, by pitting one against the ‘other’. I find this a more palatable version than a more philosophical scrutinising of the ‘other’, however it might be envisioned. The point is, sexism is there, in many versions of itself(racism included). Still, I’d like to think we’re smarter than that.
Is it too simplistic to plead, protest and debate injustices everywhere, even if special consideration is given to racism, social inequality and sexism (in that order)? Or would we best scrutinise the structures in place that serve to perpetuate the same, so that we may (somehow) deconstruct those structures? Is the latter merely lip service, designed for the tête-à-tête of the supposed intellectual elite, to placate their wronged sense of justice, via a questionably, quasi-lived agency?
I’d like to think hooks has it pretty square-on. Mixing platitudes to my own advantage, as my Anglo-Euro-mix background tends to make me do without my even trying…if you’re going to hate, hate everybody equally. If you’re going to fight, fight for the justice of all.
***In my attempt to find an illustrative case study, I was becoming angst-ridden.
So, this is what you get. em


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To cut, or not to cut? Surgery or mutilation?

Now that we are able to conduct frank discussions around gender and sexuality, we can examine the issues within the more private sphere. Specifically, where sex and gender intersect with medicine and surgery. Whether we’re talking about binary gender normative, transgender or intersex people, particular issues arise time and again, as they have throughout history.
Some cultures have traditionally offered more positive positions than others, yet all seem to stubbornly adhere to the gender binary, which, it is argued, is inherently violent in nature and practise and no longer fits our evolving social identities.

Genital surgery for cultural, medical or personal reasons is widely practised, arguably more prevalently than ever before, but the question of consent is crucial.


Dr.Anne Fausto-Sterling (Professor of Biology and Gender Studies) has contributed greatly to the voice of opposition to unecessary surgery upon intersex infants, and more widely, to the broader issues around gender categorisation.
In ‘That Sexe Which Prevaileth'(2000), Fausto-Sterling explains in more detail WHY she advocates for (ultimately) an end to specific gender assignment.


It may seem abhorrent to some, or contrastingly as a necessity to others, that routine ‘corrective’ surgery is still conducted upon intersex infants soon after birth. Even without parental consent.


Despite lacking a medically-necessary cause. Even without the consent of the child, who will one day become an autonomous adult.

Despite the oft occurence of complications, need for subsequent follow-up surgeries, physical pain, mental anguish, diminished sexual function and trauma experienced by patients who, quite often, wished they had been left intact.

Even when medical necessity dictates surgery, people born with ‘non-functional’ genitals face similar problems as those posessing functioning ambiguous genitalia. The crux of the matter is non compliance with the gender norms, not just the matter of genitalia, as Lara L.’s story tells us.


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Of deviants and madonnas


Sex and sexuality have existed in the public and private domains in different fashions throughout history. Foucault’s ‘The History of Sexuality’ (1978) reminds us that well into the beginning of the seventeenth century, sex and sexuality very much flounced about in the public domain, largely unfettered by moral constraints. However, with the emergence and durability of the bourgeoisie, sex went from being natural, visible and openly discussed to being somewhat oppressed, moralised, and ‘othered’.
Discussion about sex and sexuality was now heavily governed by social and linguistic constraints, relegated to the corners assigned to them, along with the manner in which socio-sexual practise outside that of reproduction-based heteronormativity, existed. As such, Foucault considers the very presence of such discourse, as evidence that the hypothesis of repression is not quite as it seems- the manner in which discourse took place had changed, certainly. What remained important to know was how, and why.

Bring on the sexual revolution! The Swinging Sixties, and the free love movements- opening hearts, minds and legs in the public sphere once more!

Large-scale public displays of peaceful social integration, sexuality and sexual practise meant that (amongst other things), sexual discourse was visible once more (for better, or for worse), bringing back into focus, that which had been forced into hiding for so long;
public acknowledgement of homosexuality, non-binary gender identities, disablity, racial and gender inequalities… hence, the critical examination and initial stages of deconstructing the structures and forces responsible for their sequestration.

Second wave feminism and the gender divide have proven to be uneasy bedfellows, the queerly divisive issue being whether or not it is practicable to keep the binary in order to advance gender equality?

If we need categories of sex or gender, how many do we need?

If they are changeable, and we can examine the ways in which they’re changeable, are we then in danger of an existential crisis?

Does the binary actually even REALLY exist- biologically or otherwise?
Unless we’re discussing human reproduction, do we even need to know if it exists?
Whose business does it then become, to know?

These questions open up a dizzying array of fascinating modern discourses, themselves fraught with debate. We cannot discuss sex, sexuality and gender without in fact, discussing equal human rights.
‘From out of all the many particulars comes oneness, and out of oneness come all the many particulars’ (78). HERACLITUS OF EPHESUS (540-480 BCE)


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“So put me down, punk”- Feminism and Queer Theory

So, there are many, many problems with the ancient construct of gender binary.
In its basest form, the binary presumes only two genders, and in making this distinction, that which is other than masculine is inferior by proxy (structuralism). As explained by Holmes(2007:4), typically, structuralism is itself divided into Marxist structuralism (societal, class, and economic structures) and Linguistic structuralism (structures of language that inform culture, which inform gender binaries, which inform language… as proposed by Saussure, 1983). And around we go.
However, it cannot be ignored that centuries of patriarchal gender binary practise has built an insidious juggernaut, however it’s contructed…interesting that something so all-encompassing can still be so sneakily pervasive- if an elephant was lumbering down the street, I’m pretty sure I’d a) notice and b) be frantically running around trying to work out whether or not the apocalypse or global warming, or gender politics was the cause, and c) I don’t think I’d be too happy about any of those causes being to blame. Examples of this insidiousness are everywhere, and easily found once you understand the nature of the beast- and recognise that you can be influenced by where you’re positioned.

Post-structuralism as a means by which we can understand gender theory, has the emphasis on the fluidity of our connection to these structures (Foucault, c1975), which bring us to the deconstruction of the gender binary via more modernist social movements…

Warning! Responses to the gender binary as via the Feminist and Queer movements, are in themselves deeply complicated.
Some questions to ponder:

(this comes courtesy of B.C.- thanks my lovely)

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What’s in a word?

I’d like to begin with a couple of definitions, because definitions are useful, and doing so somewhat appeases my bent, nerdy word demon. I hope you’ll see why, with these spectacular examples-

Now, I reckon this definition is sorta kinda okay, in that it serves a general purpose (though the bits about chickens, movies with battle scenes and sexing up audiences leave me somewhat baffled and a little queasy). I do however, particularly like that the various options on meaning give us much to work with.
Told’ya- nerdy word demon.

**N.B. These terms and their definitions come with a caveat- definitions found on the net aren’t always correct, and in the world we inhabit, the terms are often used incorrectly, restrictively and interchangeably.
I think this is partly due to ignorance, to the largely (still) unquestioned prevalence of ancient binary gender theory, which probably means lots of people don’t even consider the difference between the two (and if they did, at a quick glance, it’s not always easy to work out conclusively). Interesting, huh? Careful, this simple statement can bend your mind if you let it. Fortunately, there has been much study undertaken in this area (Holmes,M. 2007)(Connell, R.W. 2009)
(Wilchins, R.2004).


Now, in reference to 1a, b, c and d- I hope that muddied things up for you!
As for no.2- well, that’s what caveats are for. Number 3? Love it.
This’ll do for a start, I’ll go into language in a little more detail later on.

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