Myth Busting Rape Boasters

By   /   November 1, 2014  /   34 Comments

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In just one week a case that galvanised a nation into discussing rape culture is now being reframed as mischievous teen hi-jinx.

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In just one week a case that galvanised a nation into discussing rape culture is now being reframed as mischievous teen hi-jinx.

One year ago the Roast Busters case came to the attention of the media and the public. This week we hear the devastating news that the police have failed to gather enough evidence to press charges. In the five days that have followed the dialling down of the language and the reframing of the issue begins again. In fact, after a mere media news cycle, the reframing and altering of the discourse is so complete it would be easy to forget what this case was actually about.

Let’s have a quick recap.

It was about men, seventeen to twenty five year olds getting young, often under the age girls trashed for the express purpose of shagging them and then bragging about it online.
It was about girls, young girls, reporting they had been raped to the police. It was about a failure by police to investigate, due to what they termed as some communication problems. It was about victim blaming by the police and some media. Then this weeks news that the police investigation did not obtain enough evidence to lay charges.
However, what the investigation did not do, in any way, was prove that the men involved were innocent.

Yet within a week the narrative has become about underage drinking and sex education for teens. Those crazy unruly kids. I just listened to Willy Jackson and Deborah Coddington dilute it to a conversation about liquor licensing. Coddington claiming that when she was young there was no access to booze. Too many outlets and too much binge drinking. This was the problem. Obviously Debs and I were raised in different worlds, because when I was fifteen a bottle of Chardon was $4.90 and it wasn’t hard to get. The only thing that’s changed from what I can see is the selection has improved.

But here’s the thing, when I was a teenager and getting drunk I’m positive I knew that it was wrong for anyone to get me drunk and try and have sex with me or my friends. It was wrong then and it’s still wrong and I have faith that a majority of our teenagers know that. In fact I bet those guys who were accused knew that.

Teenagers know that getting their friends fucked up and then having sex with them and then posting about it online, is wrong. What is also wrong is treating them as if they are stupid and have no agency or responsibility. By doing that you become complicit in continuing the practice of diluting the dialogue that is responsible for perpetuating rape culture.

Earlier this year we saw a similar response to the allegations made by Tania Billingsly, whose alleged attacker was sent back to Malaysia. Oops.

The response, like now was to play down the language and then attack Billingsly for speaking publicly. The attacks came from all quarters and they were shameful. It is this same kind of shift in language that we are seeing now. On social media, the msm and of course alive and kicking on the talk back stations is the response of the anti-feminist and the equally offensive equality apologists.The rape culture denial begins again and I am thoroughly pissed off.

I have been angry and getting angrier for a while. While I expect to hear anti-feminist rednecks talking to Sean Plunket or anonymously trolling on the Twitter, there are some places I don’t expect to hear it. Just after the Tania Billingsly case became public I read a blog by an academic that was titled “New Zealand’s Rape Culture Myth.” The article was written by Jarrod Gilbert. I was gutted. It takes a bit of courage to go from citing someone to slagging their opinions, but damn it, I’ve reached that point and really, I think on this topic, he was wrong.

Gilbert’s blog sums up all that is wrong with the discourse around crimes of sexual violence in New Zealand. He claims that the term ‘rape culture’ is being used incorrectly. To para-phrase he basically says yes, we have a problem with sexual abuse but the term ‘rape culture’ is a misnomer. He goes as far to say that ‘by over-egging the cake the people who use the term do a disservice to the important cause of addressing sexual violence.’

Initially I discounted the blog as just another academic splitting definitive hairs over language. But the more I thought about it, and now with the conversation around the Rape Busters being undermined and hi-jacked again, I’m more pissed off that I was before…
The great thing is you can always find a better definition.

Here’s my pick for a definition that describes the rape culture in New Zealand.


‘ A society that accepts sexual violence and the fear of violence as the norm. A society that, knowingly or not, perpetuates models of masculinity, femininity and sexuality that foster aggression, violence and fear.’

Emilie Buchwald (1993) Transforming A Rape Culture. Minneapolis,MN: Milkweed Editions.


Gilbert’s last sentence is the claim that the use of the phrase is ‘not just inaccurate, it’s also unhelpful.’ Unhelpful to whom? Why do you want to down play it? Who benefits from redefining the discourse, Mr Gilbert?

For those that will argue my definition in terms of New Zealand culture, perhaps arguing that as a society we do not accept sexual violence, let me say this. Every time we don’t condemn it, by either our actions or our language, we condone it. Every time we don’t name it for what it is we fail to own it. If we fail to own it we will never change it.

It isn’t just Gilbert the academic. There is also the guy on my Twitter feed who said


@WayneJBurrows: girls and boys engaged in underage sex. Who are the victims?

So let me make this clear.This blog is about language. It is about the language that is being used to manipulate and control the discourse around rape and sexual abuse. It is about people not wanting to attribute an ugly name to an ugly act, but lets be honest. This wasn’t kids messing around on a voyage of self discovery giving each other hickeys.
This was abuse and humiliation perpetuated by older men on vulnerable girls.
The only people that benefit from reframing this as a teen prank gone wrong are those that accept this behaviour as the norm. That is a rape culture.

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34 Comments

  1. st99 says:

    Yes a very interesting discussion, there are so many facets to this topic. But the most publicly visible is that of language. How language is used to transfer responsibility from everyone, the individual people, involved, and sweep it under the rug into the floorboards which cannot be held accountable. Great article Kate. Will there be a part II on this subject?

  2. Dirk says:

    That the elite culture’s drones in the media feel the need to defend rape culture confirms the lack of empathy inherent in our culture. When we blithely exploit workers around the world, accept grossly unequal wealth distribution and despoil the planet while setting up future generations for climate chaos and catastrophe without a care it is easy to understand that it is not just easy to blame girls for their being raped, but a necessary part of a culture which relies on exploitation. Our culture sees all as an opportunity for self gratification without regard for humans or communities.

  3. When we have a government that practices the political equivalent of Rape in it’s passing of recent laws, it’s of little surprise then that the real ghastly deed is ‘Normalised’ in classical kiwi style.

  4. Crikey says:

    “This was abuse and humiliation perpetuated by older men on vulnerable girls”
    ……and even older men cheering from the sidelines (police, radio presenters etc), whilst older women who could have stood up for these girls, turned a blind eye, just like the old days eh girls?
    “Rape Boasters” sums up these feral young men, and thankyou Kate for articulating our disgust.

  5. Ovicula says:

    The vile racist Coddington is three years older than me, but I had ready access to alcohol from 14 on, and my parents were not drinkers. I don’t know what society Coddington lived in. Oops, society doesn’t exist according to her type. No wonder she never noticed.

    As for Jarrod Gilbert, what credibility does he have? Having been one of the people he did his thesis about, I know that rape culture exists in Aotearoa. I know the extremes it can take in some sectors, and I know how it’s endemic, right through to the courts and parliament. For him to dispute the helpfulness of the label is stupid and unhelpful.

    • Kate Davis says:

      Where did Coddington live as a teenager? Perhaps she was in a different country? Or on an island?

      In regard to Dr Gilbert ( my bad on that one, sorry Jarrod) , normally I’m cool with his stuff on gangs. I was married to a former member & still have friends & contact with the club. The culture around rape has changed within the club context during my lifetime. It is dissapointing that Dr G thinks naming it the behavior isn’t helpful.

  6. I am so angry and enraged by the lack of justice for the young girls especially by the police – the media comes a close second. How can the intentional act of collective youths getting an under age girl inebriated for the purpose of sexual intimacy that is recorded in demeaning ways on social media be legal? Where is there justice for the victims? Why are sexual female victims of so little account in NZ law?

    • Sozare says:

      Police don’t create the law, nor should they act as some vigilante force executing societies lust for vengeance. So why are you angry at them because they didn’t waste hundreds of thousands of our money and risking being sued for unlawful arrest and detention, on charges that couldn’t stack up in court?

  7. maddz says:

    Remember when David Cunliffe made a speech at womens refuge addressing domestic violence…

    • Cagey says:

      Yes, a shame so many man concentrated on half a sentence instead of taking up the call for action expaused by it.

      But wait the majority only ever heard the “..sorry I’m a man…” phrase – I wonder why…

  8. Kate Davis says:

    On Q&A this morning Paula Bennett comments addressed to the young women of West Auckland. Her message.
    It’s hard to be a young women, it’s confusing & messy, with alcohol and popularity. Know what a healthy relationship is & value yourself.

    At any other time this would be positive messaging. In the wake of the case it is not. Once again, it is shifting the discourse to examining the behaviour of the girls. It is suggesting that this was caused by confused, drunk girls with low self esteem.

    Where is her message to the men?

    • Without a doubt the “Minister of Patronising” has once again made a “Gosh” moment out of this Societal Tragedy – “Gosh, it’s hard being a girl” “Gosh, boys shouldn’t do that” “Gosh, girls are moving in and out of being raped every day” – The Government need to take Responsibility for this Debacle. NOW!

    • Crikey says:

      “This was abuse and humiliation perpetuated by older men on vulnerable girls”
      Exactly Kate, and Paula Bennett is supporting the even older men (e.g radio commentators a,d police) who in effect, were cheering the feral behaviour from the sidelines.

  9. Lynda008 says:

    I totally agree that rape culture is alive and well in our society. When a ‘friend’ of my parents was found guilty of sexually assaulting a 13 year old girl twice my mothers response was “it was her own fault for going there the second time.” I despair for our society that thinks along these lines. As for those “boys” (25 is still a boy?) someone needs to teach them a few hard facts of life. To have sex with anybody without their consent is rape!! no ifs buts or maybes about it. I don’t care how old you are if it were up to me you would lose the ability to reproduce rapidly. (I am not talking a little nick either)

  10. So Kate invited me to post a comment. Reluctantly I enter the fray. Reluctant because of my past experience of outright abuse from other commenters and from Martyn Bradbury, who seems to refuse to uphold the when those being abused have different views than him and the abusers he is sympathetic to – “This site will be tightly moderated, I am just not interested in vile personal attacks or abuse.”

    Kate asked to quote my tweet and she did so. I was happy to be quoted, although a little less so for the above reasons when I found out where the blog was to be published. I said sure but I would like an answer to my question. The question being “Who are the victims?”. The context being we had, for at least some of the time covered by the ‘Roast Busters’ investigation both under-aged girls and under-aged boys engaging in sexual activity. The presumption was and is that the boys were willing. There are reports from other girls that the girls were willing and even came back for more. Obviously this is problematic. Willingness seems synonymous with consent. However we know and it is well accepted that those under-age cannot consent. It is problematic because at times both the girls were under-aged and the boys were under-aged. Hence if neither can legally consent to sexual activity, “Who are the victims?” Are both the boys and the girls victims? Are neither the girls nor the boys victims? Are only the girls victims? Are only the boys victims?

    For better or for worse, our legal age of consent in this country is 16. In some situations you may need to be 18. The United Nations considers any one under 18 to be a child. Whatever, in most cases in this situation we had teenagers, children, boys and girls engaging willingly in under-aged sexual activity. If we accept the laws age of consent, this is bad for the boys and girls involved.

    Yes there are reports that say the boys got the girls drunk but there are other reports, from some of the girls or their acquaintances, that say the girls engaged willingly in the situation – alcohol included.

    Most of the discourse on this topic has been that our girls have been violated, raped, sexually abused, lost their innocence. Those girls should be protected by law and its enforcers, the police. And I agree, yes they should be protected and if they were wronged something should be done. However our boys also and equally need protecting. They too are or should be protected by the law from any sexual activity. Just as the girls are protected by virtue of their age even if ‘willing’ so too should our boys be protected by virtue of their age even if ‘willing’. If someone, young girls, engaged in sexual activity with boys under 16 then those girls should be treated similarly by the law and by those calling for condemnation or accountability to how boys who engage sexually with girls under 16 are treated.

    That is gender equality, which is what I am repeatedly told feminism stands for.

    To treat the under-age girls as victims but not the under-age boys is to bestow on the girls a privilege that is not available to our boys. A privilege to be protected by our laws and by the members of our society.

    • Tom says:

      You’re wasting your time here. These folks are more interested in promoting weird ideology than in doing anything about sexual assault.

    • Cagey says:

      I’m not exatly sure where your position of victimhood for the underage boys engaged in this is. Yes, underage boys and girls do engage in sex together and – if it is fair and equal – then maybe you could say no victims involved. However if this sex is a result of grooming by an older boy on a younger vonurable girl – or a girl encoraged into intoxication by a boy of whatever age who then takes advantage of this- the clear victim is the girl. Unless you have other information, the girls who put in the police complains were from the later group. We should not allow boys of whatever age engage in preditory behavior and then offer them protection from the concequences under the law because of their age (remembering the age being 15, in very few of these predators).

  11. Lara says:

    It’s being reframed as “sex” and as “made mistakes”.

    The family of one of the boys pictured (sorry, I forget his name) actually thinks he’s been vindicated, that the police refusing to press charges means he must be innocent.

    I’m not surprised… but I’m saddened.

    They didn’t just get underage girls drunk to shag them. Its way worse than that. What they did to those girls was gang rape them, and not one after the other, two at a time. Look up “roasting”.

    Its truly horrifying. Absolutely horrifying that its being reframed as “sex” or a “mistake”.

    Some of those girls were just 13. Children. They were children.

    Now those boys and their families are just okay with all of this. And other boys out there now think its okay too.

    My heart breaks for those girls, and for all the others who will also be raped. We need a national conversation about consent. And we need it yesterday. We need respect.

    • Some of the boys were children. Shouldn’t we treat the boys and girls, the children the same?

      • Lara says:

        Are you suggesting that children who do horrible violent and hugely damaging things to other children should be treated in the same way as victims of gang rape?

        No. No I don’t think they should be treated the same.

        But if they were children (under 16) at the time of the offences, then yes, they should be treated as children. But they still need a consequence for their actions and they still need to learn the concept of consent and some respect for women and girls.

        The oldest man was 25. What of him?

        • 1. No gang rape has been proven.

          2. Some of the girls and others (also young women) have said that the girls were willing.

          3. When you say the oldest man, you mean the oldest man interviewed by the police and not necessarily the oldest man who committed any crime.

          4. What makes it that girls need protection from boys who have sex with them but boys do not need protection from girls who have sex with them?

          Sorry I just do not get why our girls deserve protection but our boys do not.

          • Destructo says:

            “4. What makes it that girls need protection from boys who have sex with them but boys do not need protection from girls who have sex with them?”

            If both parties are underage and no force is used, there shouldn’t be a difference.

            The Roast Busters case however involves the predatory behaviour of older boys/young adults. Even if some appeared willing – a dubious claim considering the circumstances – that doesn’t mean all or most were.

          • Lara says:

            Your comments prove the point that this horrible case is now being reframed as just sex.

            And where on earth did you get the idea that I’ve said our boys don’t need protection?

            Stop trying to put words in my mouth. I’m not biting.

            No, nothing has been proven, and it may never be because police will not press charges. But that does not mean it did not happen.

            • I put no words in your mouth. I asked a question “What makes it that girls need protection from boys who have sex with them but boys do not need protection from girls who have sex with them?” There is no quote of anything you said explicit nor implicit.

              In fact, it is the very fact that you and others didn’t and haven’t said anything about boys being victims that prompted my question. The monologue has been of girl victims with no concern for the boys, children, who were also involved. Boys who were under aged and therefore incapable of legally consenting to sex.

              • Wayne, there is something disconcerting in your comments. It’s as if you’re attempting to minimise the problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”) but referencing boys into this discussion.

                The Roastbusters case was about predatory young men and not predatory young women. Trying to change the frame of the discussion suggests an agenda of minimising harm caused to these young women by referencing “Boys who were under aged and therefore incapable of legally consenting to sex”.

                That’s not the matter under discussion.

                Why, exactly, do you feel the need to introduce boys-as-victims into the Roastbusters case?

                Does it in any way reduce the harm caused to these young women?

              • I asked a question “What makes it that girls need protection from boys who have sex with them but boys do not need protection from girls who have sex with them?” There is no quote of anything you said explicit nor implicit.

                I don’t know if you’re trying to be ‘clever’ or what, Wayne, but trying to reframe the Roastbusters case into “girls need protection from boys who have sex with them but boys do not need protection from girls who have sex with them” totally undermines sexual abuse and rape.

                I have to ask why you’re doing that?

                In reality, your question is not only meaningless, but could be viewed as a distraction/deflection attempt from the matter-under-scrutiny; rape and sexual abuse. Will you asking what the girls were wearing, as well?

                • Lara says:

                  Well put Frank. And thank you so much for your comments here.

                  Its extremely upsetting when conversations about something as distressing as gang rape devolve into “but women rape too!”

                • Destructo says:

                  Seems as if Wayne might be trying to imply that what went on was just some sexual experimentation between teenagers. Completely spurious of course.

              • Lara says:

                Yes, you asked me that question, which is completely irrelevant to my comments. Completely.

                Roastbusters were a group of boys, not girls.

                There is overlap in ages, but mostly the boys were older than the girls.

                These boys planned what they did. Took pics and video. And boasted about it online.

                We haven’t said anything about boys being victims in this case because:

                1. no boys have made any complaints of being sexually assaulted.

                2. no boys were publicly “roasted” on their FB page, it was boys roasting girls.

                Again, when children engage in damaging behaviour (such as bullying, or more serious sexual assault) yes we treat them as children, but WE DON’T TREAT THEM AS VICTIMS. They are child perpetrators.

                But thats a derail. Because a decent number of those “boys” were over 16, and a few were over 18.

          • Lara says:

            No one needs “protection from (girls or boys) who have sex with them”

            Rape is NOT JUST SEX. Its a violent crime with hugely damaging repercussions.

            But everyone needs protection from being raped!

  12. bbfloyd says:

    I was drinking at the Strand hotel in Parnell from the age of fifteen.. There wasn’t a single party I went to at that age where alcohol wasn’t available.. (we all got pissed at my 14th birthday party)… To pretend that the ready availability of booze is a new phenomenon is either proof that Coddington was a fully mollycoddled youth, or an outright liar.. As a member of the “ministry of truth”(news media), I favour option 2..

  13. reason says:

    Booze via the form of RTD’s and other sweet lolly water piss is targeted at the young and young females.

    The booze companys spend approx $150 Million per year to push the drug Alcohol at our young and others.

    But it is true NZ has always had a booze and rape culture.

    The booze culture is getting worse with the alcohol pushers using their drug money to buy political protection and infiltrate their product into everything. Steinlager fucking all blacks being just one example.

    Rape and child abuse have never been a priority for the police and although there have been some minor improvements there is still a lack of will, leadership and budgeting to tackle these unglamorous and disturbing crimes.

    2014 ——— brighter future for roastbusters and sellers of the drug booze.

  14. Sarah says:

    Why do we have the concept of an “age of consent” if it won’t be enforced? Even if “rape” couldn’t be proven “statutory rape” is a no brainer in this instance.

    Why do we have laws about kids under 14 needing constant supervision if the parents who allow their 13 year olds to be put in harm’s way have no consequences themselves.

    When my daughter was 13 she was so mortified that I wanted to contact the hosts of parties she was invited to that she declined invitations on the spot. 4 years later those girls issuing the invitations aren’t the kind of girls I wanted my daughter to become while her friends are beautiful, intelligent and ambitious young women anyone would be proud to parent.