ABC news radio reported on the morning of International Women’s Day that a 17-year-old girl had been raped in Brisbane. The newsdesk copywriter must have had a strong coffee that morning because she decided to include the bold description that “ten men stood over the girl masturbating while each of them raped her in turn”.
This snippet of information, plus the inevitable news that the men took photos of the girl while they abused her, provides the clues women need to understand why this rape occurred, and what it means for our lives in Australian society.
Pornography users will immediately recognise the brand of rape the men used against the girl. There is a genre of pornography called “bukake” in which men stand around a single woman masturbating and ejaculating while they wait their turn to orally penetrate her. The anti-pornography documentary Pornography: the musical features footage of bukake scenes being produced, as well as a heart wrenching interview with a woman immediately after being filmed in bukake pornography. Readers can also consult the Internet, of course - it is teeming with bukake pornography sites.
As revolting as we might think it sounds, it’s important to keep in mind that men are watching and masturbating to bukake pornography in the name of pleasure and fun. The pornography industry makes more money than the mainstream entertainment industry, so we can assume it’s not a few men that are enjoying themselves with pictures of men spraying their ejaculate all over naked women.
Consuming pornography is no longer the pastime of a few men on the margins, nor is it an activity that is marginal to the lives of men. Catharine Lumby’s recent study reports that only 7 per cent of surveyed users could imagine their pornography use to be harmful in any way.
It’s hard to believe the ten men would have perpetrated the pack rape on the spur of the moment. The girl was picked up and taken back to an inner city apartment after meeting a man in a nightclub. The man then called the nine other men to come over. It was reported in The Courier-Mail (March 7) that this inner city apartment “had been rented for the night by the group of men”. Presumably they all knew each other - they were all between the ages of 18 and 22. And they must have known each other well enough to trust that no one would feel a sudden pang of conscience and upset the highly organised operation.
How has a rape club managed to flourish in the tropical surroundings of sunny Brisbane? What is leading men to come up with the idea that getting together with a bunch of friends to rape a woman might be a fun way to spend a Saturday night?
Boys from the Melbourne suburb of Werribee hit upon the idea last year, and now, it seems, in Brisbane. Could this be a new trend? Maybe Lumby and her friends could chart the rise of rape clubs in Australian society and even predict new developments in this exciting Australian subculture. They need only look to pornography to find out what these innovations will be.
The 17-year-old girl who had bukake pornography made out of her probably struggles to exist these days. She would have been frightened out of her mind on the night the men pack raped her, and the death threats they subsequently made against her couldn’t have helped her sense of personal security.
She probably worries about her pictures appearing on the Internet, and perhaps even dares to think about the men who will have a good time looking at her abuse. This probably leaves her wondering how she’s going to get through the rest of her life. Her rape club assailants, who were apparently smiling in court during their bail hearing, now face the prospect of jail, but not the prospect of a lifetime of mental anguish.
The girl might take some comfort in the fact that Australian society lurched to offer some response to the crime. The Queensland police worked on the case for six months, and the Crime and Misconduct Commission played a part in bringing the men before court.
On the Monday morning after news of the rape was broadcast on Saturday March 8, graffiti appeared on the wall of a sex shop in Brisbane’s inner city suburb of Highgate Hill reading: “10 man rape: porn imitation?” Feminists have already planned a rally outside the court where the men will appear on April 21.
But none of this will change the conditions that foster rape clubs. Pornography has made it very sexy to hurt and humiliate women. To date there have been few acts of resistance to the sex industry. This has to change.
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