Harmless fun? The pitfalls of ‘Rate My Shag’ culture

It’s time to reassess how ‘fun’ some facebook pages really are, writes Jem Collins.

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During the last month, social networks have witnessed an explosion of “Rate A Shag” pages, where users are actively encouraged to rate their partners’ performance for all to see.  As one page for the University of Kent, now banned, asked: “Have any stories about your conquests? A ‘mistake’ you need to get off your chest? Or just want to give credit where its due for a job well done? Well here is your chance!”

It’s simple: just send a private message with the full name of your unsuspecting partner, a rating out of ten and any other notes you wish to add. What could be simpler? The page admins will even keep your name anonymous to spare any unwanted embarrassment. Don’t worry about feeling guilty for divulging private information either – it’s only “bantz, a bit of harmless fun” one student explains to me. Except sexual humiliation simply isn’t funny.

Whether you see sex as part of a long-term loving relationship or simply a recreational activity to fill time on a Sunday afternoon, there’s no denying that it’s one of the most intimate acts possible between two humans. It leaves us almost entirely exposed; and not just in terms of flesh on show. Making love, bonking, getting jiggy with it… Whatever you call it and whatever the circumstances surrounding it, sex is unquestionably an agreement of privacy and trust between two people. It leaves us at our most emotionally vulnerable and, for the most part, what happens in the bedroom should stay in the bedroom.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t talk about sex; on the contrary. Frank and open discussions about intercourse and its implications provide a clear benefit to society. Malicious online shaming, however, does not. One student I spoke to about such pages was aghast. “It’s absolutely disgusting. Firstly there’s no way to prove that somebody has ever spoken to or seen a person, let alone slept with them, and even then it’s a vindictive way of verbally abusing someone.”

Indeed, the whole system is inherently biased towards abuse. Protecting the name of the writer offers a further cloak of cyber anonymity and a clear opportunity for misuse. Of course we should all be free to be as liberal as we like when discussing our own sex lives – but not at the cost of someone else’s dignity.

And sexual humiliation can have devastating consequences. Charities and police forces alike have reported countless calls from “hysterical” teenagers, upset at rumours posted anonymously online. One 22 year old told the BBC she was even approached at work following an online “slut shaming”. She said: “There was a boy who had the webpage up and pointed at me and said, ‘Oh, so if I gave you twenty quid what would you do for me? My main worry was that my dad saw it. The moment he would have seen my name and the word sex by it, I knew that it would have cause uproar. He would fly me to the rest of the family in [the middle east]. It would be all over. I would never see England again and that would be how I’d live.” The girl even said she considered taking her own life.

While the main bulk of sites linked to universities have been shut down, the problem is far from gone. Copycat sites spring up in seconds and the Facebook staff themselves admit they’re having trouble keeping on top of the problem.  Perhaps more worrying, however, is the internet culture that is creating and feeding these sites and millions others like them.

The web may offer countless opportunities, but its very nature distances us from real life and morality. In the cyber world we’re all one step removed from our own identities – we can be whoever we want to be and do whatever we want to do – and crucially we’re one step removed from the consequences of our actions. The internet doesn’t come with tangible faces, voices or feelings, leading to a dangerous breeding ground of abuse, cruelty and humiliation that’s all too tangible for the victims.

So before you press enter on that “hilarious” picture of the weird looking guy to the “Spotted in _____” page, or reveal all on last night’s encounter, stop and think for a second. Would you really drag someone up on stage in front of millions of people to yell that they are crap in bed? Didn’t think so.

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Doctor Who? We need more strong women, but not as the Doctor

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The public needs strong women, but the tokenistic casting of one will not help the cause, writes Holly Stewart.

Whatever one’s views on BBC’s Doctor Who, there is no denying that for lots of small children the Doctor is a terrific role model. He is brainy, never uses violence, and says intelligent things like “Geronimo”. He is a top bloke, if you will.

However, with Matt Smith recently announcing his departure from the series this December, the internet has lit up with the suggestion that the new Doctor be female.

If the show casts a woman as the Doctor it would be hard to have qualms with this in principle, but putting a woman in the role for the sake of having a female Doctor is a token gesture, in the same vein as proving you are not racist by reminding people that you like Bloc Party.

We still have a long way to go in terms of gender equality. An article by founder of “Everyday Sexism” illustrated this with some shocking figures. In the media specifically, we have a problem. Only 250 of last year’s top grossing films were directed by women. And, although the campaign to end page 3 is picking up momentum, the media has a long way to go, even if The Sun does make this decision.

But how much would putting a female in charge of the TARDIS really change things? There is a distinct lack of strong female leads on TV, granted. You can argue that a female Doctor would whoop us into getting used to having powerful women on television, characters that are not seen as one-dimensional objects, girlfriends, wives, or mothers whose wit and intelligence is applauded – rather than just accepted as it would any other male character.

Including women for the sake of including women, or in this case, including women for the sake of Steven Moffat trying desperately to prove that he isn’t a horrific sexist moron, isn’t something necessary to feminism. We can do much better than this. What we need is a new breed of TV show, no more plucky post-feminist lipstick comedies – but awesome television or film dramas, sci-fis, or police shows. Anything, in fact, where female leads do not play the role of the sexy bad-ass.

Sue Perkins Moffat Doctor Who

Many Fans are asking for Sue Perkins to be the next Doctor, but does will this help women’s representation?

Helen Mirren, Sue Perkins and Olivia Coleman would all be fantastic as the Doctor, but they’d also be brilliant in something new and exciting, something better where the BBC are not writing in equal gender representation to fill a gap they have not yet filled. We need to concentrate on writing new TV shows with strong female leads, rather than adding women into dying ones.

Brotherhood of the Travelling Misogynists

Two months later, people are still asking what the Muslim Brotherhood have against the UN’s equality statement. Hind Joucka explains.

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In March, the U.N. Commission issued a draft on the Status of Women, a statement which has been lobbying, since 1946, for the progression of the equality of women. The Commission is calling for the “elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls”.

However, countries such as Egypt, Iran and Russia along with the Vatican are “threatening to derail the women’s rights declaration by objecting to language on sexual, reproductive and gay rights.”

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has specifically proposed an amendment to the declaration on itswebsite saying that articles “contradict established principles of Islam, undermine Islamic ethics and destroy the family, the basic building block of society, according to the Egyptian Constitution”.

“The Muslim Brotherhood calls on leaders of Islamic countries, their foreign ministers and representatives in the United Nations to reject and condemn this document.”

The Brotherhood claims that adoption of the document would “lead to social disintegration”. The movement objects to permitting Muslim women to travel, work and use contraception without the approval of male relatives.

How does one thing link to the other? How will these things cause a direct threat to societal values? How will women who work, travel freely, and use contraception crumble the moral fabrics of a society?

Even more alarming is the fact that according to the ‘Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies’, this position is favoured by many other Arab governments.

The sad part in all of this is that these people are not representing the real Islam. Many Islamic scholars have failed to understand Islam correctly over the years. And many have spread misconceptions regarding different aspects of Islamic beliefs concerning women, marriage, and sexuality.

Believe it or not, this is the list of articles that need amendment according to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt:

1. Granting girls full sexual freedom, as well as the freedom to decide their own gender and the gender of their partners (ie, choose to have normal or homo- sexual relationships), while raising the age of marriage.

2. Providing contraceptives for adolescent girls and training them to use those, while legalizing abortion to get rid of unwanted pregnancies, in the name of sexual and reproductive rights.

3. Granting equal rights to adulterous wives and illegitimate sons resulting from adulterous relationships.

4. Granting equal rights to homosexuals, and providing protection and respect for prostitutes.

5. Giving wives full rights to file legal complaints against husbands accusing them of rape or sexual harassment, obliging competent authorities to deal husbands punishments similar to those prescribed for raping or sexually harassing a stranger.

6. Equal inheritance (between men and women).

7. Replacing guardianship with partnership, and full sharing of roles within the family between men and women such as: spending, child care and home chores.

8. Full equality in marriage legislation such as: allowing Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men, and abolition of polygamy, dowry, men taking charge of family spending, etc.

9. Removing the authority of divorce from husbands and placing it in the hands of judges, and sharing all property after divorce.

10. Cancelling the need for a husband’s consent in matters like: travel, work, or use of contraception.