On slut-shaming

By Legal Eagle

Hamlet:
Heaven and earth,
Must I remember? Why, she would hang on him
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on, and yet, within a month—
Let me not think on’t—Frailty, thy name is woman!—

Hamlet, Act 1, scene 2

I’ve written before about the schoolgirl who leaked photographs of St Kilda footballers after she was scorned by her footballer boyfriend. Unfortunately, the girl has made the headlines again in Melbourne. This time, she alleges that she had a sexual relationship with Ricky Nixon, football agent and agent of Nick Riewoldt, one of the footballers whose photograph was disseminated by the girl. Nixon is 47, the girl is 17. She provided the Herald Sun with phone footage which purports to show Nixon with her in a hotel room, where they take cocaine and engage in a sexual relationship.

The interesting thing to me is how quickly people become polarised on a matter like this. They like to find a Good Guy and a Bad Guy in these kinds of situations (just like Hamlet above). Perhaps because of the sexual double standard, many people immediately conclude that the girl is a faithless whore. It’s interesting how these situations are often seen to be the woman’s fault regardless of the situation. So when a footballer takes an unauthorised photograph of an undressed woman and it is disseminated more widely, it is the girl’s fault for allowing the photos to be taken, and she’s a slut (I’ve spoken before about the Lara Bingle photos taken by former footballer Brendan Fevola). But when a girl releases unauthorised photographs of undressed footballers, it seems that to many, it’s not the fault of the men for allowing the photos to be taken, it’s the girl’s fault because she’s a slut. Feminists call this kind of reaction  “slut shaming” (see Feminism 101). It is basically a denigration of female sexuality.

The other polar reaction seems to be to exonerate the woman, and say that it’s all the man’s fault. My personal feeling in this situation is that Ricky Nixon was older, knew the girl was emotionally vulnerable and ought to have known better. On balance, I tend to think he is the one who deserves much greater castigation by reason of his greater experience and age, and because of the girl’s youth.

Still, I can’t help thinking that the girl has exploited Nixon too. She seems to have taken photos of Nixon without his knowledge or authorisation with a view to leaking them to the press, which is technically illegal under the Surveillance Devices Act, although I understand the police have released the girl without charge. I imagine his career is totally destroyed hereafter. The latest news is that the AFL Players Association has asked David Galbally QC to investigate the allegations against Nixon. The police are also investigating. I don’t think either of them come out of this equation covered in glory, to be honest.

More broadly, I sometimes wonder if we really should make judgments from this kind of distance anyway. Lately, I’ve been thinking that it’s hard to know the inside workings of an intimate relationship even when you know both parties very well. Who knows what the truth of it is without knowing both the parties and hearing both sides of the story? And even then, it may still be hard to judge. Maybe I’m just not very officious in these things; I tend to think relationships are generally private matters. One can counsel a party gently if asked, but personally, I’d never offer unsolicited advice. Nor would I call one party and tell them off just on the say-so of the other party. I’d try to see the point of view of both people in the relationship before I made a judgment, and I’d give it time. When there are problems, people sometimes take strong positions, then they later back down, and it’s best to leave them room to back away if they want to. Maybe that’s just me: I’m cautious of making snap emotional judgments because I know I’m liable to shoot from the hip and get it wrong.

I had some friends who had problems in their relationship. The guy left the girl for a time. Many of the girl’s female friends turned on the guy and said what an absolute sh!t he was, how he was immature and she deserved better than that, yaddah, yaddah. About six months later, the guy got his act together and the couple got back together. Suddenly, things were a little uncomfortable, because many of our mutual girlfriends had said that the girl should never take this guy back and that he was a sh!t. Actually he was basically a good guy, he just needed a little time to get it all together. Relationships are difficult. Sometimes people make mistakes, sometimes people need to work at relationships or spend some time apart before they get them right. And that’s okay, as far as I’m concerned.

I also don’t like it when people make a decision that a person’s partner is not right for them. I’ve known situations before where friends have said, “We’ve got to get X to break up with Y, he’s really not good for her, we should intervene and tell her.” Now, actually, I don’t think this is a call which friends can make unless X is in physical danger, because we’re not the ones who are in a relationship with Y: X is. Again, we don’t know what the relationship is like in private. It may work just fine and dandy for X and Y, even though it might not be our personal cup of tea. It’s different if X comes to us and says, “I’m not sure about Y, is the way in which he treats me a good thing?” Then we might be able to tell her that it bothers us, and that it is not something we’d put up with personally.

Sometimes you do have to come down on a side, and maybe after the AFLPA has finished its investigations we will have a better idea of who is at fault in the situation outlined above. Still, as I say, I’m wary of making snap decisions on limited facts. I prefer to wait and see.

8 Comments

  1. Miss Candy
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    “I think women also need to understand that for many men, those just to the right of the meaty part of the Bell Curve, controlling lust is scarcely more possible than teaching a bird not to flap its wings or fly. The female equivalent is the maternal instinct, which often leads infertile women to go to extraordinary lengths to have a child of their own. ”

    Agreed. Women should just never leave the house.

  2. Mel
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    “There are issues with underage, unequal consequences, etc but the real problem is the complete lack of respect the young lady was apparently treated with. ”

    Well she has now admitted that even her supposed pregnancy amid miscarriage were lies.

    “Said males can have as much lust as they like: controlling it is required for ordinary decency.”

    Agreed Lorenzo, society must demand control and personal responsibility. I guess my point is about being overly judgemental. I’ve never in my life used the word slut to describe a woman who enjoys casual sex for instance and I try to dissuade others from using such language whenever I here it being used.

  3. Posted March 7, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] Yes, well the young lady is a lost soul in a big way. One of the few times I have agreed with Virginia Trioli. The lack of a sense of respect seems to be universal among all the principals in this sorry saga.

  4. Mel
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    Eek, hear not here. I’m gettin’ sloppy.

    Trioli’s piece was utter crap as she assumes the footballers did something wrong whereas the evidence clearly shows otherwise.

  5. Posted March 7, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] That’s harsh. Her piece reads fine to me regardless of whether the footballers actually behaved badly or not.

  6. Posted March 14, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    theft of money and other items
    Attempted blackmail
    engaged in Illegal surveillance
    fraudulently used another person’s credit card
    production and distribution of illicit pornography, stalked others

    Could you expand on all of those matters Mel in rendering your legal opinion in light of the facts?

    Thanks

  7. Posted September 15, 2011 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    Mel I am not a lawyer and am eagerly awaiting your legal opinion.

  8. Posted September 15, 2011 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    As for the ‘home for wayward girls’ are you implying that prostitution isn’t a respectable profession?

    The LIV may not think being a victim of 9 crimes relating to forced prostitution renders a person fit and proper to be a lawyer but prostitution is a profession is it not???

One Trackback

  1. By Skepticlawyer » A sense of entitlement on April 19, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    […] relationship when the relationship breaks down. As I have said in a previous post, for some reason, people seem to want to take sides. One party is Wrong, one party is Right. But I do not think this attitude is fair. Usually, things […]

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