Sexual abuse across all social classes by men and women, boys and girls, well- and poorly-educated, is deeply embedded in New Zealand society, and despite being explicitly outlawed in public places by section 4 of the Summary Offences Act 1981 it is everywhere considered so normal and acceptable that any law against it is a dead letter.
If a black man is punched in the head because he is black, that is racial abuse of the physical kind. If he is called a nigger, that is racial abuse of the psychological kind. Everyone understands that. Both are acts of racial abuse, both hit him hard in his mind and heart, and both damage both the abused and the abuser.
Words are powerful. The words we use, the words we choose, express our thinking and shape it. Then our thinking shapes our actions.
What are inaccurately and euphemistically called four-letter words, which Tolkien aptly called Black Speech, is sexual abuse of the psychological kind. It pours black abuse on the emblems and the essence of manhood and boyhood, girlhood and womanhood. Especially manhood and boyhood. Even a term that on the surface abuses women‘s genitals is most often hurled at men by men: the c-- word is the worst insult that can be flung at a man; it says he has no manhood.
The destructive power of the black words is multiplied by the fact that they do double duty as terms of strong mockery. For example, the black word for the penis also means a stupid fool, the black word for the glans penis means a very stupid fool, the black word for the testes is part of a term that means a gross and mindless blunder, the black abbreviation for the scrotum means something disgusting and repellent. Boys and men thus constantly have rammed into them the message that what makes and marks them as male is a disgusting and repellent joke. That is a monumental lie.
Women get off comparatively lightly, but it is small wonder that breast-feeding is rejected by so many when the word used for the breasts also means a stupid mistake. That too is a destructive lie.
The f--- word, when made personal with 'you', is a wish for what is obviously thought to be the worst punishment that can be inflicted. As rape yes, but it abuses the most loving act in human life, a damnable lie underscores the rest of the abuse.
Until New Zealand recognises that it is subjecting itself to a torrent of psychological sexual abuse in its addiction to Black Speech and starts eliminating it the physical sexual abuse that arises from it will continue.
For a start, section 4 of the Summary Offences Act 1981 should be rigorously enforced. Which means that police officers must stop using sexually abusive language. Radio and television should eliminate it from the airwaves, and if an otherwise worthwhile programme that includes is shown it it should be preceded by a clip that says what it contains and that it is sexual abuse so must be treated with contempt--in short, the abusive guns should be spiked. The Broadcasting Standards Authority should recognise and fulfil its responsibilities.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which New Zealand has signed, and which it affirmed in our Bill of Rights Act in 1990, lays down the fundamental principle of law as 'recognition of the inherent dignity and worth of the human person.' Together with 'recognition of the equal and inalienable worth of all members of the human family' that is *explicitly defined* as 'the foundation of freedom justice and peace in the world.' So in law and in truth whenever we denigrate our inherent dignity and worth we threaten our freedom, our justice, our peace.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says 'disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind'. That is always so. Therefore to eliminate the barbarism of sexual abuse and assault we must eliminate the contempt that leads to them. Which includes the contempt pouring like black pus from countless conversations.
It is simple cause and effect. That which is held in contempt will inevitably be attacked. There are attacks for good and attacks for evil. Evil attacks are caused by evil contempt. To eliminate them, it is necessary to eliminate the evil contempt. How is evil contempt recognised? It shuns the truth.
We recognise the arrant falsehoods of sexually abusive actions and images, but although the country is drenched in sexually abusive language few recognise it and care. The daily barrage of falsehoods about what makes and marks us as male and female, and which constantly drives down our self-esteem, male self-esteem in particulary, must be recognised for what it is and ruthlessly stamped out. We must accept and honour our bodies, not denigrate them.
When we tell falsehoods to ourselves about ourselves we act falsely to ourselves and others.The only difference is a matter of degree. In some the manifestation is extreme: rape and rape-murder. In others it is poor treatment of themselves and others, especially by men of women. Everyone who uses Black Speech is responsible for the damage it causes.
As W.H. Auden wisely observed:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn.
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.