Fiji Time: 2:26 PM on Thursday 22 March

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Sex, sluts and the internet

Lice Movono
Saturday, October 21, 2017

THREE young people took a video one day. A girl and a boy were having sex as a friend of theirs filmed over a minute of it and both fully aware that he is doing so, they even converse with him as he films.

The video makes it to Facebook on a week when Fijians worldwide are already in a social media frenzy over a famous couple's romance.

Fresh, brutal, quick commentaries quickly follows the video as people in the country and elsewhere post and share to anyone who asks.

A few things are clear from watching the video. First is that the three people in the room are very young, second is who the girl is as the camera goes close to her face and her private parts.

The girl is in uniform and so we know where she attends school.

We also know it is daylight outside.

Against a soundtrack of conversation laced with swears and laughter, we watch as they continue the sexual act and we are even taken in for a 'proper' look at her face and her 'lady bits' as one social media commentator calls it.

The backlash that follows was quick as people cast judgment.

The girl was judged for having sex at her age as quickly people form chat rooms to share personal information about her including her name, her family and her age.

Soon the police come calling and as it happens when it's about sex involving young people, everyone comes to lecture, very few to actually understand why children are having sex so young and with the full risks of unprotected sex present.

Sadly, as is common, the girl takes the brunt of shame. Very few even discuss the boy. What of the boy in the sex act, how old is he?

Even less was said of the person filming sex and few ask the why and what for of his recording. Did he commit the illegal act of loading the video online?

Much was said of the Nadi Year 9 itaukei student though as grown women attack her for her body, her body hair and her 'shameful family'. Even at school, she was shamed for bringing disrepute to the prominent Nadi institution famed for its academic achievements.

To be clear, this was what sociologists call slut shaming, born out of the practice of only calling girls to task for their sexuality.

It's a sexist practice where we give boys one standard by which to practice sex and girls another: Boys will be boys, and girls will be sluts.

Sociologist and head of the sexual health research unit of the Fiji School of Medicine within the Fiji National University, Avelina Rokoduru said "as long as we continue to attach shame to sex, the dangers our children face will worsen".

And it apparently does because not too long ago, something similar happened.

It was in Lautoka when a young girl's intimate relationship recorded on her mobile phone was shared after her teacher confiscated the gadget in school.

Shamed and ridiculed at school and elsewhere, the girl took her own life.

As so many of the commentators of the past few days said, times have changed and so have the challenges teenagers content with today.

One thing was clear though that today people are more willing and able to judge you on issues personal. What hasn't changed and is as old as sex was the shame we attach to it.

"We did a condom study in the Solomon Islands and we did it too in Vanuatu. We looked at access and barriers to condom uptake in 2012. Both showed a gendered approach to the use of condoms and sexuality," Ms Rokoduru said.

"For example if women or girls — married, single or divorce — turn up at a health facility to ask for condoms either paid for or free, they are seen as sluts. It's derogatory even though they are taking ownership of their lives and making responsible decisions about what they do.

"When men or boys — married single, divorce or widowed — go they are seen as responsible. They are seen as knowing what to do, looking after their families, preventing STIs and unwanted pregnancies."

That sort of gender-based view on sex is rooted in culture. As we all know, almost all our marriage rituals, at least in the itaukei and Indian culture is attached to shame.

"There is a value placed on virginity and it is only aligned to a woman. We expect this of young women. And so there are dowries, actual economic costs as burdens placed on her to be pure. But then we forget that asides from virginity she's educated, capable and has good values. We only value her according to her sexual experience," Ms Rokoduru said.

"What's there for the man? What's there to expect of him? What does he bring to a relationship. We disadvantage the women right from the beginning and the man is allowed many partners and may even bring sexually transmitted infections."

The shame, she said, was up to us as parents, guardians and nurturer of the next generation. Those of us who are comfortable talking to our children about that can teach them a sex message devoid of sex.

"I take them back to the Bible, God created sex and sex is good.

"I intro that because the next thing we discuss is virginity because our culture and religion values it. Purity is aligned to Jesus and it represents virginity. But Jesus also teaches love, acceptance and forgiveness," she said.

"Our culture and our values perpetuate shaming and blaming. It will disallow the open frank loving discussion about sex and sexuality.

"Parents are so gripped with the fear that their daughter will shame them they can't even talk about the boundaries of sex with the children."

The way forward lies in the revelation that overseas studies have shown that when you teach children boundaries, when you remove fear of shame from the equation, as they do in some western cultures, then you can begin to teach them right, wrong patting/touching — who you kiss, who you touch, these things actually lead to a reduction in unwanted pregnancies and less STIs.

"Children in the West are socialised into the process so when they are adults, they are already aware of sex and all its complexities," Ms Rokoduru said.

"In our culture when there is shame and blame and we are bound by the rigidness of it, we can't even discuss them.

"Yet we expect our teachers to teach using science when they are not comfortable with it."

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