'A teen boy once told me a classmate was "rapable". Here's what he says about that now.'

*Names have been changed in this story to protect the identities of those involved.

When I was 14, I was sitting on a bus with a bunch of kids from my high school when I overheard them talking about one of the girls in my class, Chloe*.

I heard them say her name and laugh, but I didn't catch any of the details.

As the bus crowd slowly thinned out with students reaching their destinations, one of the boys, Brett* sat down next to me.

I asked him what they were saying about Chloe and his answer shocked me so much that I can remember it as clear as day, even now all these years later.

He said, "Chloe's really hot but she's the kind of girl you'd just rape."

I remember pushing myself physically closer to the bus window, trying to put distance between myself and the boy, who I thought was a good kid, who had just told me that he considered raping this girl.

I remember telling him that I was disgusted with what had come out of his mouth. He kind of shrugged it off like it wasn't anything.

When I heard about the label that the boys at Yarra Valley Grammar had given the girls in their class on a now widely discussed spreadsheet that has led to two of them being expelled, that some of them were unrapable, insinuating that there were girls in the class who were then also rapable, it sent me hurtling right back into that bus seat. Have teenage boys really not evolved much at all since then?


The answer is of course they have, but not in the way we'd hoped. They still discuss how rapable or non rapable their female classmates are, the difference now is, they create lists in spreadsheets and share them on social media.

Listen to today's episode of The Quicky, where host Claire Murphy interviews the man she knew in high school. Post continues below.

I tracked him down.

It's been 30 years since that teenage boy sat next to me and admitted he found Chloe rapable. What would he think about the fact that he said that now?

Would Brett*, now a man in his 40s, have even thought about it? Would he have considered Chloe's thoughts and feelings on the matter or whether she actually was the victim of a sexual assault in her lifetime, seeing as ABS data tells us an estimated 2.2 million Australian women aged 18 years and over (22 per cent) have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15, so pretty damn high.

After a little bit of sleuthing, I found his number and sent him a text.

Hi, just checking this is still (blanked out)'s number? It's Claire Murphy from high school.

It is, how are you doing? Still In Sydney? Been sooo long.

I am still in NSW but not Sydney… I just have a bit of a weird work-related request which involves you and I was wondering if you had a tick to chat?

Sure, happy to chat. Involves me?


It's about something you said to me back when we were both teenagers.

I called him and when I asked him if he remembered saying he found Chloe rapable, he said no, but he knew he'd said a lot of messed up stuff when he was younger.

And he was pretty disgusted that he'd said something quite that vile.

I asked him why he thinks he would have said something like that.

“I guess I was trying to explain what it was like when you're attracted to someone but you don't like them," he explained.

"Boys will talk about the physical attractiveness of someone separate from the rest of their characteristics, like whether they’re funny or smart. Over time those things blend together because you see the person as a whole person as you mature," he continued.

"The only rationale behind me saying that is trying to convey those two things, physically attractive but really don't like the person. As an attempted funny, shocking way of conveying that view to my mates."

Elisabeth Shaw is the CEO of Relationships Australia NSW and a practising clinical and counselling psychologist. She says teen boys use words like 'rape' or 'pedo' or 'slut' without any grounding in their true meaning.

"People of that age group are saying things because they actually have no understanding about what it really is like. They're aware that it's wrong but they're not part of their realm or their life so they start to become things you can bandy about," she explained.


"So talking about rape like it means nothing, it's partly because of their complete ignorance."

I asked Brett what pressures he felt when he was around his teenage male peers. Did he feel like he HAD to say things like that in order to feel like he was part of the gang?

"There's a general pressure when you're that age, your body is going through all the changes and the hormones and stuff, you're naturally more focused on physical attractiveness there’s a pressure to see girls as physical beings as opposed to anything else," he said.

"I don't think I fully succumbed to it, but for teenage boys, girls are predominantly this sexual thing which is more about them than the girls. Teenage boys are very hyper-sexualised creatures and that flows through their social relationships with other boys in particular."

"They're immature but their bodies are growing bigger and stronger. It's problematic."

He explained that when you’re that age, you don't really have anything to impress your mates, except if a girl likes you.

"The cool kids in school for boys, are the ones the girls like. It's all filtered through a prism of sex. Why do I want to be cool as a teenage boy? It's because I think chicks will like it. That is the one currency that there is."

Elisabeth says understanding teens and their world is paramount in getting to the bottom of their attitudes towards women.


"Talking about who's hot in class is something that kids do, girls and boys. You want to be in on the joke and you do want to be cool and you do want to look like you're accepting of the conversations because you certainly don't want to be the killjoy," she explained.

"Being part of the joke is a part of being included, and if you're not included, that’s the end of your social life and social currency at school. The stakes are very high for kids; they're in a closed system so if they're a social pariah, they're trapped there for the rest of their schooling."

So did Brett ever consider Chloe's feelings in all this, what if she'd found out that he'd said that about her? He says it probably never really occurred to him that she would find out, but he would have been upset to know that she did.

"14-year-old me, if I found out she heard that I said that, I would be mortified. We live in this bubble where we think we can say anything to each other and it’s not going to go any further. It mostly doesn't, but nowadays those conversations don't just happen between a group of boys on a bus, it’s online, there's a record of it, they put spreadsheets together and shit like that," he said.

Elisabeth says when teen boys say these things about girls, they're not thinking beyond that bubble.

"If they're thinking about it, and they're mostly not thinking about it, is that it's a victimless crime, that this is something that's just between us and the girls will never know so what others don't know won't hurt them. That's moral disengagement."


Brett explained that the only exception to this is if the boy already has a personal relationship with the girl being spoken about, maybe it's his sister or he’s already genuinely friends with her. He says, only then will boys get offended by comments like that they're rapable.

"I don't remember those stupid conversations with the boys, they're not actually important for a teenage boy, it's like talking about the footy. I didn't remember how horrific they actually were."

I wondered how long that mentality goes on for. Do young men in their 20s still feel that disconnect between a woman as a person with thoughts and feelings and a woman as a physical being?

"You recognise what it is as you get older, and it leaves you. You actually start to have relationships with women, where you are actually friends and once you experience relationships with women to the point it's a normal thing, then it's pretty impossible to have that kind of approach to life. It's a phase that boys go through that they do grow out of if they have normal healthy relationships with women," he explained.

Brett will be challenged in a whole different way where it comes to how teenage boys treat girls soon. He has a daughter of his own and she'll one day start high school too. He says he is genuinely scared of teenage boys because he knows what they're like, and they're not good.

But he also knows that the way that schools have been dealing with those boys who do stupid things like make spreadsheets rating their female peers is not right, and that there are bigger influences at play now too.


"Boys getting expelled for putting lists together and ranking girls, Mark Zuckerberg started his career doing that, like literally exactly that. Boys know that, they watch that kind of thing and are influenced by that kind of thing."

Elisabeth says expelling these boys and making them someone else's problem is never going to address the real issue at the heart of it.

"Often what systems do is they scapegoat saying those two or three kids were the ringleaders and they’ve got to go and now everybody else is ok and it all calms down. That is a misapplication of a solution," she said.

"We need to have more complex conversations with kids at home and at school. Ask why does Andrew Tate appeal to you? What does he say to you that has struck a chord? Why do you watch that rather than other things?"

"Move into the curious and enquire and we can help them solve the problems. Ask how these sorts of conversations get to this point, not you’ve just got to stop it."

Feature Image: Getty.

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