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There’s sex and there's love - but not always together

By Barbara Biggs - posted Monday, 13 November 2006

Like most Australians, I was outraged by the Mufti’s comments likening women to uncovered meat. But in the shadow of the media outcry, I wasn’t brave enough then to express my views about the way young girls dress. It seems that some fundamentalist Muslim views are creating an environment where we have to polarise. You’re either with or against comments like these.

While it’s clear the Mufti’s expression was vulgar and insulting to women, for me, the way girl’s dress, is a much more complex issue.

I think any woman should be allowed to walk down the street wearing skimpy clothes, or nothing at all, and be free from the fear of rape or harassment. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.


As a victim of rape myself, I find it disturbing the way girls are enticed by the fashion and music industries to dress in a sexually available and seductive way.

Nobody tells girls that boys their own age have 18 times more testosterone than they do. And for that reason, boy’s sexual drive actually makes them physically ache for relief from that urge.

I think that neither young boys nor girls, are really taught, or have the life experience to know, what their sexual drives mean to each other and how to handle them in a way that honours themselves and the other person. Nor are they taught that dressing seductively and presenting, through dress, as sexually available, can, whether we like it or not, be dangerous.

Nobody tells adolescents that there’s sex and love, and sometimes they go together and sometimes they don’t.

Is it any wonder that girls who grow up watching video clips of other girls seducing their audiences with gyrating hips, bare midriffs and pouted lips begin to internalise this as what’s expected of them to be grown up, attractive and cool? And certainly, nobody tells girls that boys are going to be interested in them anyway, no matter how they dress. That’s just the way boys are built.

But what hope do you have of convincing them of this when even once harmless kids clothing catalogues are presenting ever-younger images of girls in sexy poses.


Don’t we all remember how it was when we were pubescent, with one foot in childhood and that desperation to cross the threshold into adulthood? Don’t we all remember looking around for clues among our slightly older peers and in our culture about what it meant to be grown up, desired and popular?

Seeing images of moist, pouting lips, bare shoulders where the top had carelessly fallen down, wearing enticing lingerie in magazines and music clips all rubs off.

As a feminist, I want to shout out to young girls, like an onlooker in a pantomime, watch out, you’re being had.

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First published in the Herald Sun on November 8, 2006.

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About the Author

Barbara Biggs is a former journalist and author of a two-part autobiography, In Moral Danger and The Road Home, launched in May 2004 by Peter Hollingworth and Chat Room in 2006. Her latest book is Sex and Money: How to Get More. Barbara is convenor of the National Council for Children Post-Separation,

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