Following a Facebook post that went viral on Thursday, Teenage Magazine and author of the “Dear Kelly” series Kelly Chopard have issued separate statements on Facebook and Teenage’s official website respectively.
Wrote Kelly Chopard, “There is no intention of “victim blaming”, just an attempt to point out that one’s actions have consequences and the sad fact, for me who really cares for everyone writing in, is that many young people today take risks and put themselves in precarious situations resulting in unhappy outcomes.”
“No one can be more sorry for this girl than I. I believe what hurt most was his casual dismissal of her but I was careful NOT to dwell on this so as not to cause her further pain. I tried not to highlight what was going through the guy’s mind. I was careful to downplay his point-of-view so as to spare her additional pain.”
From Teenage Magazine’s statement on Facebook, “We would like to make amends. By continuously speaking out and raising awareness about youth issues that have long been swept under the rug. Starting with this.”
“We sincerely apologise. As we learn from this, we can only hope that the teenagers who are reading this can take away the true lesson of this entire experience. Firstly, to be aware of dangerous situations, to be aware of and understand consent and what it truly means. Secondly, to always handle such issues with sensitivity, tact and social awareness. Moving forward, we will continue to place the well-being of youth above all else. Once again, we deeply apologise for all the distress we have caused.”
Real Or Not, Does It Matter?
Titled “Raped After Lying To Mum”, the original “Dear Kelly” column in question featured a story from “Liar”, a young female who described in detail how she spent an evening with a boy before he raped her in his home. Kelly dispenses advice in blurbs interspersed throughout the story.
Apart from the smug tone adopted, Kelly’s advice also contained an unfortunate message of victim-blaming. Actual quotes from her included “You acted like a girl who has been around.” and “You can be grateful that he wore a condom so there is little fear of an unplanned pregnancy and contracting a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD).”
Advice columns sometimes manufacture scenarios in order to deliver an underlying message. While the legitimacy of “Liar” and her story cannot be confirmed, the handling of this issue by Kelly and Teenage Magazine shows a flippant disregard for the feelings and vulnerability of actual rape victims. Whether the narrative truly happened or otherwise, the magazine is still addressing a real and receptive audience, including individuals who might relate strongly with the issue at hand.
Online Response To Statements from Teenage Magazine & Kelly Chopard
In response to the saga, Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKWSCI) undergraduate Cherylyn Wee wrote in a Facebook post, “That mainstream magazines read by many teenage girls (and boys) are encouraging the very idea that one supposedly places themselves in a “risky situation” by simply being with a member of the opposite gender in a heterosexual interaction, is doing a disservice to our current and our future generation.”
“It is the responsibility of everyone, and not just one gender, to engage in open communication and hopefully strive to ensure that your partner is comfortable mentally and physically before engaging in further relations of any kind.”
“If we taught ourselves and our children this idea, then maybe, just maybe, fewer people will find themselves in dangerous situations. Until then, dear Kelly, you are the reason why young boys will think it is okay to claim their female friends’ bodies for themselves for any reason other than clear and explicit consent. You are the reason why boys will think it is okay to satisfy themselves without ensuring that their partners are also comfortable and ready to continue. You are the reason why boys will use any reason to justify their poor behaviour, and you are the reason why they sometimes don’t need any reason at all.”
— Asian TV Awards (@AsianTVAwards) November 12, 2016
Undergraduate Lennon Lee said, “I agree that sometimes when a girl agrees to go home with a guy, or act in a generally provocative manner, some men might be more inclined to commit sexual acts with the girl. But under no condition should this be used as a excuse to justify rape. Inclination is not equal to action, and the step between inclination and action is taken on the volition of the rapist alone.”
“That being said, I think the intention to want to protect other girls from similar problems is good. To be honest, you’re more likely to be sexually assaulted if you’re dead drunk at a sleazy bar than if you were at home. Maybe there’s a better way to put across the message of keeping yourself safe?”
The Facebook comments on Teenage Magazine’s official page reflected an even angrier sentiment.
What a waste of an issue with YouTuber Miranda Sings on the cover. I’m sure she wouldn’t stand for this.