Amidst all the handwringing, anger, disgust and blame that has come with the revelations about the self-proclaimed Roastbusters, I have not been aware of any commentary on how we raised these sexual predators within the bosom of our community.
I have no intention of providing a lengthy treatise on the historical foundations of our rape culture; clearly neither Pākehā society nor Māori society could escape such an examination unblemished, as their patriarchal structures and use of sexual violence as a tool of control are well documented. Despite the back slapping about the 50-50 quota for the Labour Party and the crass attempts to positively spin our gender wage gap, Aotearoa New Zealand hasn’t moved far from these foundations, as demonstrated by JT and Willie’s despicable Radio Live interview on this very topic.
I have seen a few blogs that have asked variations on the question, what has led to this? A pertinent question, and probably the more important question if we are to prevent the continuation of this type of sexual violence. It has given me pause to consider my own formation as a heterosexual male.
I attended a single sex Catholic college. I enjoyed my schooling, and got some very positive things out of it, in particular the Catholic social justice doctrine. Yet, I know as man now, the education of boys in our country is fundamentally an act of violence. Physical and verbal violence between peers and between student and teacher was normal. It was a practice for moderating behaviour and for establishing hierarchy. Despite the amendment to Section 51 of the Crimes Act, I suspect the same practices continue in most schools and I know they exist in most kura.
Sexuality and gender are weapons in these environments. Difference is frowned upon, and any expression outside of strict heterosexuality is treated harshly. Of course, the punishment for perceived sexual deviance in the college I grew up in was itself homoerotic, involving nudity, sexual abuse and labelling.
The condoned forms of community are strictly patriarchal and operate outside polite society on a “what goes on tour stays on tour” mentality. In the Godfather it was called omerta, a code of silence. Those forms of community were primarily sports teams and peer drinking groups. They included regular objectification of women, peer violence, peer pressure, and initiation through extreme binge drinking and drug consumption.
And holding all of this together for most young men is the false and damaging expectations of sexual performance, virility and disassociation from women that are modelled in pornography. This often goes from extreme to extreme as young men seek out the dopamine that is inherent in this dysfunctional but powerful pantomime of human sexual behaviour.
The rapists involved in Roastbusters were raised in an environment not so different to the one I have described. Their fathers and grandfathers were raised in this environment, and transmitted the values and mores of rape culture every time their son heard them devalue or objectify a woman, every time they found their pornography stash, every time they sat whilst their wife got dinner, children and household ready in the evening, every time they cursed a feminist and said she needed a good root. Every time.
I am not ashamed of being a man. I just recognise that there is a dark side to my masculinity that was fed in our patriarchal, individualistic society. The strength I bring, the firm positions I take, the drive I demonstrate, and the directness of my leadership all have a shadow.
So how could this happen? To my brothers, the real question for us is: how often have I been a part of this happening?