Christina Patterson: Sisters, we've let our teenage daughters down

If they studied history and learnt about feminism, they might wonder what had happened to those battles

Share

It isn't on the curriculum, but perhaps it's time it was. Perhaps it's time that teenage girls, who are taught the themes in Of Mice and Men, are also taught what to say or do when a boy they don't like puts his penis in their mouth. Perhaps girls should be taught that a penis isn't something you have to have in your mouth if you don't want to. And that a bag of chips isn't a fee for sex.

Perhaps someone is telling teenagers that sex can be very nice, but only if you want it, and usually only if it's with someone you like. Perhaps they're telling teenage boys that if you put your penis into the mouth of someone who doesn't want a penis in their mouth, or into the vagina of someone who doesn't want it there either, then what you're doing isn't just nasty, or rough, or rude. What you're doing is rape.

If someone is telling teenagers this, they don't seem to be listening. A third of teenage girls, according to a new report from the NSPCC, have experienced sexual violence. More than one in five, according to another survey, think that if a boy spends money on a girl, he has a right to expect sex. Some even think that if a girl has sex with one boy, she should also have it with his friends. They think, according to a young woman called Isha Nembhard, who recently talked about her time in a gang in Peckham, that having sex with a lot of boys, even when girls don't actually want it, is a good way of getting "status". And the police think so many teenagers think like this that they have called it a "mainstream issue".

How did this happen? How did it happen that so many of our children are going to school, and studying maths, and science, and history, and design, and deciding that the best way to get on in the world is to let boys use their bodies? How did it happen that so many of the young people who will be shaping the future structures of our society looked at half the population and decided that what it was good for was sex?

Maybe it happened because, whatever they're taught at school, these children listen, and look, and learn. Some of them listen to music that talks about pimps and guns and "hos", and think that these are the things that will make a boy feel like a man. And if they listen to this kind of music, they might also see that the people who make it like to be photographed with women who aren't wearing many clothes. But they wouldn't need to listen to this kind of music to see women who aren't wearing all that many clothes. All they need to do is not shut their eyes.

They could, for example, look up the article about the girl who used to be in gangs, as I did on Monday, and see that next to it, there are a lot of women's nearly naked bottoms, and a lot of women's nearly naked breasts. They'd see a woman "showing off her curves" in "a sexy polka-dot bikini", and another "showing off" hers in a "barely-there animal-print bikini" and another who "sizzles" as she "ditches her catsuit for lingerie". They'd see that these photos were in a section called "Femail", which is meant to be for women, on one of the most popular newspaper websites in the world.

They'd see these photos in lots of other newspapers, too, and if they wanted to buy the newspaper that used to be edited by a woman (a woman who seems to be in a lot of trouble about a horse) they'd see that it didn't even bother with the bikini. Instead, they'd see nipples and "news in briefs".

If they looked in "celebrity magazines", which are a special kind of magazine without any news, or if they looked on billboards, or switched on the telly, and looked at programmes about models, and plastic surgery, and looking younger, they'd see lots of women without many clothes on, too. They could also look at programmes about politics, and business, and world affairs, but if they did, they wouldn't see many women, and they might wonder why the few women they are seeing are wearing so many clothes.

If they had studied any history, and learnt about something called "feminism", which was trying to give women some of the rights and opportunities that men had always taken for granted, they might be quite surprised. They might, for example, watch a new TV series called White Heat, which starts tomorrow, and shows a woman in 1965 sticking a sticker on a poster saying that it "degraded" women, and wonder what had happened. They might think that that poster looked quite modest next to the ones they saw now.

They might wonder what had happened to those women who had tried to fight those battles, and why the women who had followed didn't seem to have tried to fight them, too. They might wonder why so many women seemed to want to talk about things like handbags, and high heels, and cupcakes, and not about the best way to run a business, or a country, or a world. They might think that what those women really seemed to want was the sexual attention of a man.

They might see that tomorrow is International Women's Day. They might notice that this is a day that's meant to be about "celebrating women's achievement". They might wonder why on earth you'd want to celebrate something that didn't seem to be going all that well.

c.patterson@independent.co.uk; Twitter:/queenchristina_

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Read Next
'Our media are suffering a new experience: not fear of being called anti-Semitic'  

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk
David Cameron (pictured) can't steal back my party's vote that easily, says Nigel Farage  

Cameron’s benefits pledge is designed to lure back Ukip voters. He’ll have to try harder

Nigel Farage
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In my grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel