One young woman said in the article that she had been to see a friend's band at the local hotel, but needed to leave early. Forcing her way through the mass of bodies she felt a man's hand grope at her crotch, with the smell of beer strong as he lurched at her mouth, an unforgettable leer, as she stumbled back, shocked, silent, shamed.
Discussed by such young women is the effect this has upon them resulting eating disorders, abortions, mental illness, infertility, parenting fails and cancer. But until this week, this particular young woman had no idea how many, if any, had suffered such casual abuse.
Laura Bates, the author of Everyday Sexism, describes these events â€" alongside the low-level harassment and discrimination that most women simply endure â€" as "pinpricks". They are experiences, she says, "so niggling and normalised that to protest each one felt facetious."
The articles cites that 17 per cent of women in Australia aged 18 and over have experienced sexual assault since the age of 15, which means we're not talking about isolated incidents, but a significant cultural and public health issue. It concludes that men must tell other men this is simply out of bounds behaviour and more importantly regardless of what they might be wearing.
Flower beds are for viewing only
The other side of the coin
Four years ago in this column I cited Australia's Stab surfing magazine writer Mike Jennings who commented, "You can leer at the 16-year-old as you would an adult woman, so long as you're ignorant. Once you become aware of their age you must look away." (au.christiantoday.com)
This comment was made after Stab had published a picture of a barely-covered young lady on its front cover, and it was later revealed that this local Kingscliff girl was a 16-year old who was anxious to become known as a model. (www.tweednews.com.au)
Jennings reported in his article that although the girl's mother was horrified, the father commented that, if the girl was successful in becoming a model, the family would need to become used to this type of exposure.
The Tweed Daily News contacted Mark Pearson, Professor of Journalism at Bond University who was quoted as saying, "The danger with this kind of thing is, young people don't always realise the longer-term consequences of their actions; that is why all branches of media have to be especially careful of their management of children."
This view was confirmed by an experienced model, Ms Harris, who commented that she was worried that the girl might consider these actions a 'mistake' in years to come; that maybe it might not have been the smartest move. She further stated that models need to draw a distinction between "high-fashion" and "men's magazines".
Stab magazine "is known for its edginess and celebration of parties and sex" and 'leering' appears to be a central focus of the magazine. According to the apparent philosophy, stated above by Mike Jennings, 'leering' is legitimate as long as you're aware that the boy or girl is not under age.
Some things we see are just beyond words
What does it mean?
The dictionary states that leering is "to look with a sidelong glance, indicative especially of sexual desire or sly and malicious intent." (www.thefreedictionary.com/leering)
Stab avoids the most obvious and critical question about who is responsible for determining if the person is under age, and how this is perceived by the reader and purposefully avoids responsibility, as if it hadn't a clue. It seems happy to publish a picture it knows its readers will find attractive, then wash its hands of responsibility by claiming that its readers are at fault if they 'leer' inappropriately.
How can the reader know the age of a well-endowed young woman, particularly with the skill of make-up artists and electronic photo-enhancements? The quotations from community members are equally as interesting, as the girl's mother apparently realises the possible future, unsavoury consequences; however the father seems to accept the path trodden so far is a necessary and appropriate one, if the girl wants to be a model.
On the other hand, an experienced model suggests the sixteen year old wasn't mature enough to realise where that pathway might lead and the academic concurs, and raises serious issues about the wider social consequences of the use of under-age models in the public arena.
This modern real life story illustrates the dilemmas about social responsibility that exist for every young person and parent. There are unspoken and legal boundaries about what is 'acceptable' public behaviour, and if parents are in doubt, there are many advocacy groups that they can turn to who will speak for families in order to maintain a well-balanced society.
If it looks like a duck ….
One and the Other
Angela Mollard with two daughters all too quickly moving to this stage in their lives speaks voluminously against the unwanted touch or physical activity and as one of our New Zealand young writers has written: ".... I hate getting treated as if my looks and my more grab-able appendages are public property. I hate that if I dress up it is assumed I am trying lure an unsuspecting man into my woman-trap ...." (au.christiantoday.com)
And on the other, there is a clear commercial take that young women appearing voluptuously are a sure fire money making venture and if as the audience is the desired aim, knowing they are under 18, they then must look aside – who's kidding who?
I am reminded of Proverbs 5 verse 21: "For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and he pondereth all his goings."
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html