News Colette Browne

Friday 22 August 2014

Young girls are scapegoats for our double standards on sex

Published 12/07/2014 | 02:30

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Picture posed. Thinkstock Images
Picture posed. Thinkstock Images

I assume by now you have heard the shocking story of how 24 young men debased themselves during a holiday in Magaluf.

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Surrounded by a baying crowd and egged on by the catcalls of a DJ, they engaged in a sex act with a woman in the middle of a nightclub.

Footage of the debauched incident has now gone viral and some of the Internet commentary about them has been vicious – they have been vilified, demonised and their characters torn to absolute shreds.

The Magaluf Men have been called 'dirty sluts', 'vile whores', 'vermin', 'scum', 'dirt' and 'trash'. People have wondered if they have any morals, any dignity or any self-worth.

To compound their disgrace, their faces were splashed on the front of tabloid newspapers and screen grabs of their drunken sexual exploits were used to illustrate online news stories.

The men, some as young as 18, were depicted as personifications of the crumbling moral edifice of modern society, embodying all that is wrong with today's depraved youth culture and its obsession with cheap booze and cheap sex.

Eventually, even their parents were tracked down to find out if they could ever find it in their hearts to forgive their odious offspring.

Meanwhile, the middle-aged organiser of the pub-crawl the men were on when they were filmed, Paul Smith of Carnage Magaluf, absolved his company of any responsibility and said he was "disgusted" by their lewd behaviour.

And, with that, the men's public trial and reputational execution was complete, although the indelible evidence of their infamy will remain permanently online, ensuring that they can never really escape their notoriety.

Their two-minute sex tape, recorded and released by organisers of the pub-crawl in order to drum up business, will permanently blight their lives.

Actually, wait. The men who engaged in group-sex in a seedy club have faced no backlash whatsoever. No-one knows who they are and no-one seems to care.

Do a Google search for 'Magaluf Men' and the only results that pop up relate to lads holidays. But, if you put 'Magaluf Girl' into the search engine, 3.1m results instantly appear.

These kinds of double standards, when it comes to male and female sexuality, are nothing new, but the public shaming of an 18-year-old girl who performed a sex act on 24 men should make everyone deeply uncomfortable.

Lost in most of the appalled commentary has been any discussion of consent and whether the video is evidence of a sexual assault.

Smith has denied the girl was drunk, and insisted she was a willing participant, but his company promotes pub-crawls that offer "four hours of unlimited drinking, four hours of unlimited shots".

According to some reports, she was so inebriated that she thought she would win a holiday when what was actually on offer was a €3 cocktail called a Holiday.

Given what transpired, it's hard to imagine that she wasn't intoxicated – but was she drunk enough to willingly indulge her inner sexual exhibitionist or so drunk that she was incapable of consent?

Did she know that she was going to be filmed or that Carnage Magaluf was going to publish the footage online and brag about it on Twitter, retweeting messages like; "for the best oral sex games and a whole lot more get on the @carnagemagalluf bar crawl"?

We don't know any of these things.

What we do know is that she is very young, presumably very naïve and found herself in a very intimidating situation.

Standing in the middle of a nightclub, music blaring, a DJ shouting demands, a baying mob cheering her on and no one, apparently, willing to intervene to see if she was fully aware of what she was doing.

A heady mix of youth, peer pressure and gallons of cheap cocktails have resulted in a hangover from which it is going to be very hard to recover.

She is not alone. Mamading, which entails ossified young women being cajoled by jeering crowds into performing public sex acts in exchange for alcohol, is apparently an increasing feature of resorts like Magaluf.

While no one wants to return to a past in which sex was deemed dirty and sinful, base promotions like this can quickly morph from sexual liberation into sexual exploitation that is captured by smart phones and disseminated online.

Those who think they can protect young people from these kinds of malign influences by cosseting them at home, and refusing permission to go on a sun holiday, have clearly forgotten about last year's Slane Girl controversy.

If we spent more time teaching teenagers about the nature of informed consent, and less time denigrating young women like 'Magaluf Girl', it would go some way to combating confused attitudes about sexual violence.

 

Colette Brown

Irish Independent

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