Sexual harassment is happening in schools and universities across the country. With all our concern about victims of the past, let's not overlook the present
Damian Green lost his Cabinet job because he made misleading statements about porn discovered on his computer, fleetingly touched a younger woman’s knee and sent her a suggestive text message. Meanwhile, in mixed-sex schools and universities across the country, boys are acting in ways that would make your hair stand on end and next to nothing is being done about it.
According to a study released by the National Education Union and UK Feminista last September, 37 per cent of female students experience sexual harassment by male students and 24 per cent unwanted physical touching of a sexual nature.
“I was in a French lesson in year 8 [aged 12],” one girl told researchers, “and a boy sitting next to me kept groping my bum and tried moving his hand to my front.” “They think they can touch us whenever they like,” said another. “They slap our butts and touch our breasts.” “They lift our skirts up and whistle.” “They touch girls in corridors, at lunch and at break times,” said a teacher. “And they all seem to think it’s just normal.”
Between 2012 and 2015, 600 rapes were recorded in UK schools. “Why didn’t you stop when she was crying?” a teacher asked a 14-year-old perpetrator. “It’s normal for girls to cry during sex,” he replied.
Pornography has made everything normal. Female university students tell me of boys throttling, slapping and violently fingering girls during sex. Pubic hair is out. Virginity is “desperately un-cool”. Girls are meant to be “really experienced”, “fun” and “super-free”. Consent has become a grey area with alcohol muddying the waters. Girls get drunk. Boys get drunk. They end up in bed and then some girls say “No” and some boys carry on. They don’t report them because they don’t want to be called frigid. They don’t report them because they don’t think they’ll be believed. They don’t report them because they want to forget what happened. They don’t report them because the boy was drunk or because they were so drunk they can’t actually remember what happened or why they’ve woken up covered in bruises.
They don’t report them because they don’t realise that what is happening isn’t normal.
It’s normal for a man to place a fleeting hand on a girl’s knee or back to intimate his interest or desire. It may be unwelcome but it’s normal. It’s not normal to feel you have to shave your pubic hair, allow your partner to slap you, lose your virginity at any cost — even, in one case, to the extent of letting a stranger deflower you as you bury your head in the pillow and sob from the pain.
The boys and girls of today merit our attention. How can they know what’s normal if we don’t tell them? How can they know what’s unacceptable if we don’t make it clear? With all our concern about the victims of the past, let’s not overlook the present. The time for action is now.