OPINION: It's the boys who need warnings, not the girls

Journalist and anti-domestic violence campaigner SHERELE MOODY believes telling young women to stop taking nude selfies simply legitimises and fuels rape culture in Australia.

WHEN I was a teenager - some 30 years ago -  falling in love meant passing whimsical notes of adoration to the object of one's affections.

Fast forward a few decades and it's pretty obvious that nude selfies are today's version of those laboriously penned love notes.

Technology is a great thing but sometimes things can go incredibly wrong - this week's expose of an online porn ring featuring naked photos of school girls from across Australia is the wired world at its worst.

Most Australians were shocked and appalled when the forum - which media are not naming for fear its popularity will spread - came to light this week.

We were troubled and terrified that this cesspit of degradation was happening right under our noses and that it was beyond the control of police.

It wasn't long before the authorities were telling adolescent females to cover up and not be so trigger happy with their camera apps.

Be safe, police said.

Don't take photos of yourself in compromising positions, experts declared.

Never share photos that could get you in trouble, politicians pontificated.

But here's the rub.

Telling young women, particularly girls in love, to change their behaviour is wrong.

The people who should be admonished and told to change are the men and boys who contributed to the thousands of images stored on this vile misogynistic database.

The girls in the images posted on this site pose in "sexy" positions, smiling for the camera as they or others took the photos.

These are intimate photos - the kind only shared with someone you consider special and trustworthy.

A special electronic note of love and trust meant for a lover's eyes only.

These young men took these photos, and their girlfriends' faith, and used them in the vilest of ways.

It is clear from the sheer number of pictures on this site that potentially thousands of Aussie teenage boys have no qualms about exploiting their position of trust.

They distributed these images for nothing more than a bit of virtual kudos from their peers and from the grown men who also frequent the forum.

The people who posted these images, and those who encouraged their dissemination, preyed on the vulnerability of love-struck young women.

Make no mistake - this is intimate partner abuse and this unfettered exploitation of young women is fed by a disturbing undercurrent of rape culture in our society.

This culture legitimises men - young and old - who control their partner's bodies physically and mentally.

And when something like this happens to Australian women and girls, this culture is further legitimised by politicians, police, teachers, parents, academics and even journalists who say the females should change their behaviour, not the males.

Every young woman in Australia should be able to do what she wants with her body.

She should be able to wear the clothes and makeup that makes her  feel good, and yes, even "sexy".

She has every right to photograph her body, clothed or otherwise, especially if this process of self memorisation boosts her self-esteem.

Who are we to tell any girl to stop doing something that makes them feel good about themselves.

If someone they trust and love asks for one of those photos, girls should be able to give that image knowing it will never be viewed by someone outside of this special inner circle.

Boys and men who abuse this trust and who exploit women for their own gratification are the ones who need to change.

They need to realise that what they are doing is wrong and it has to stop.

Clearly, the existence of this appalling website shows that this message is not getting through.

We - that is you, me, police, politicians, educators, researchers, lobbyists and parents - must find out why this is happening and come up with ways to fix it.

The first thing we can do is stop putting the burden back on the shoulders of the victims - for their sake and the sake of generations of boys and girls to come. - ARM NEWSDESK

  • Sherele Moody is the founder of The RED HEART Campaign. The Campaign's petition calling on the Federal Government to close down the image sharing site has more than 25,000 signatures.