Durban - The Hilton College school boys who shared a picture of themselves simulating sex with a boy dressed in a St Anne’s Diocesan College uniform have apologised on social media.
The apology was posted by the boy who first shared the picture.
“We would like to apologise for our actions on Tuesday, October 13, 2015. The manner in which (St Anne’s) school has been portrayed due to our irresponsible and inconsiderate behaviour is something we are not proud of and would like to profusely apologise for. We have embarrassed our families and Hilton College due to our unfathomable actions,” they said.
They said they took full responsibility for the fallout.
“It was intended as a joke between friends, but was a gross misjudgment. However it is fully understandable as to why people reacted with such disgust.”
They said: “Respect towards women and gender equality is something we hold close to our hearts. Women have been influential in all of our lives. We have nothing but respect and admiration towards them, yet in no way does the photograph endorse these views and values. Our behaviour was truly embarrassing, inappropriate and immature.”
Hilton College headmaster Peter Ducasse calling the photograph “highly offensive”, shared the update on the proceedings against the five boys on Friday afternoon via the school’s Facebook page, saying they had been suspended while their disciplinary hearing continued.
The offending picture spread like wildfire online.
Durban clinical psychologist Shannon Ownhouse said the picture could be perceived as a symbol for how women were treated in society at large.
Ownhouse said it was irrelevant that the “girl” in the picture was portrayed by a boy.
“Their (the boys’) intention was clearly to simulate a sexual situation between a female and males. A brazen act such as this one is a sobering reminder of how many men in our society perceive women as objects with the sole purpose of serving their needs. It is this type of thinking that makes women in South Africa vulnerable to sexual, physical and emotional abuse,” she said.
Intellectually, said Ownhouse, many men in society believed women to be their equals.
“However, on an emotional level they may struggle with the idea of women being equal because they are consistently exposed to misogyny at home, at school, in the media and through the internet.”
She said an incident such as this one confirmed there was a culturally perpetuated perception in society that it was acceptable to reduce a woman’s worth to that of a sexual object.
“In my opinion, they have demonstrated their lack of respect for women as equals and have displayed very poor emotional intelligence.”
She said in terms of psychological development, it was natural and age-appropriate for adolescents to be curious about and interested in sex.
“However, in my practice I hear an alarming number of reports about adolescent males making their female counterparts feel uncomfortable through sexually provocative conversation and/or gestures. A lot of this happens at school level and is perceived to be a form of bullying.”
Ownhouse said, in her opinion, there should be “severe consequences” for the young men.
“Only when we as a society start saying ‘Sexism is unacceptable’, will we be able to make progress in preventing woman and child abuse. I also believe these young men should be made to spend time with victims of sexual and physical abuse so that they gain a deeper understanding of the emotional implications of being a survivor of abuse. We need to get people in South Africa to buy into gender equality on an emotional level.”
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