At first glance it would seem that choosing Video Hits as a Media Partner for the recently held Australian National Youth Week made perfect sense, all teenagers are into music of some sort. Music crosses the great divide and is accessible to everyone; it can communicate on a level without barriers.

But when we see the latest music clip from American singer Kiely Williams “Spectacular” (The Sex was Spectacular) then the question must be asked: ‘Should Video Hits have been a Media Partner of National Youth Week?’ when it has been clearly shown that some music videos can depict the sexualisation of young people and have a deleterious effect on body image and self esteem, leading to increased risk of eating disorders.

Certain lyrics and imagery also perpetuate the myth that violence, sex, love and rape are all the same thing, where consent is irrelevant and aggression acceptable.

This latest offering by Kiely Williams glorifies a one night stand where rape is questionable. The lyrics are crude and confronting. She doesn’t even know the man’s name or if he used a ”rubber”. In the song being so drunk that you can’t remember anything seems to be an achievement, or at the very least nothing out of the ordinary, as she puts it; ”I was face down, ass up, clothes off, broke off, dozed off”.

The images in the video clip depict nudity and outfits that leave little to the imagination, to say nothing of the graphic dance moves. A video clip like this only perpetuates the rape myth that says it is OK because the girl is too drunk to say ‘no’.

A new book to be published in July by sociologist Anastasia Powell of La Trobe University, Victoria called “Sex, Power and Consent: Youth Culture and the Unwritten Rules” draws on the experiences of 117 young people as they talk about youth sex within popular culture, love, sex, relationships and agreeing consent. She develops a gripping context for understanding the ‘unwritten rules’ and the gendered power relations in which sexual negotiations take place.

Powell says the sexualisation or pornification of society – the preponderance of sexualised imagery in media, music and other popular culture – has done little to empower young women.

”Some things have improved in terms of women’s equality but we’re still hanging on to a whole range of gender norms; ideas about men, women and sex that still place young women in situations when they experience pressured or unwanted sex and sexual assault,” Dr Powell said.

Cyber safety expert and Generation Next Seminar speaker, Susan McLean says “sexting – the sending of naked images, almost always of young women, by mobile phone – and other inappropriate sexual behaviour is widespread in Australian schools. Boys and girls, but predominantly girls, are sharing pictures for no other reason than they can.”

McLean said that once the pictures – or in some cases videos – were out in cyberspace they were almost impossible to remove.

A national survey released on 19 April, “Changing Cultures Changing Attitudes” showed that:
• 13% of people still agree that women ‘often say no when they mean yes’
• 16% agree that a woman ‘is partly responsible if she is raped when drunk or drug-affected’
• 7% agreed ”a man is less responsible for rape if he is drunk or affected by drugs at the time”, and
• 34% of people still believe that ‘rape results from men being unable to control their need for sex’.

Minister Plibersek said the Rudd Government is spending $17 million on a social marketing campaign to promote respectful relationships among young people.

So, given the type of material Video Hits is airing, it is probable that the answer to the question : ‘Should Video Hits have been a Media Partner of National Youth Week?’ is a resounding “NO” – this is not the type of message we want to send to our youth during National Youth Week or at any other time.

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.

SOURCE: Anastasia Powell of La Trobe University, Victoria – “Sex, Power and Consent: Youth Culture and the Unwritten Rules”
VicHealth – “Changing Cultures Changing Attitudes A National Survey on Community Attitudes To Violence against Women”