In the past few weeks, there's been alot of attention paid to the subject of bullying in high school, and, in particular,  the bullying  of homosexuals. The current round of media attention to  his subject began with the tragic suicide of  Tyler Clementi, who jumped off the George Washington Bridge, to his death, after  having been secretly videotaped in his college dorm having sex with a man, and then having the video spread around campus. Everyone from CBS News to Madonna to Sarah Silverman  to President Obama and the entire It Gets Better campaign to a very special episode of Glee  have tried to raise awareness of the dangers of this type of homophobic bullying.

But there's another type of bullying that's been completely overlooked here, and that's the casual type of slut-shaming that has driven many a young girl to commit suicide. Our good old sexual double standard, which holds that boys will be boys but girls should be obscene yet virginal, played an important role in the death of Phoebe Prince,  a young girl who moved from Ireland to the US and began attending a high school in Massachusets where she was bullied for dating a popular member of the football team. According to news reports, "Students said Phoebe was called 'Irish slut'  and 'whore' on Twitter, Craigslist, Facebook and Formspring. Her books were routinely knocked out of her hands, items were flung at her, her face was scribbled out of photographs on the school walls, and threatening text messages were sent to her cell phone." And then one day, the 15-year-old Phoebe walked home amid various taunts, and hung herself in her stairwell.

Phoebe is far from being alone. Hope Witsell did what many young teen girls probably feel pressured to do: she "sexted" a photo of herself, topless, to a boy she was crushed out on. The boy then forwarded the photo all over the school, as well as the high school in the next neighborhood. Taunted with chants of "whore" and "slut," Hope wrote, in her journal, "“Tons of people talk about me behind my back and I hate it because they call me a whore! And I can’t be a whore. I’m too inexperienced. So secretly, TONS of people hate me.” Eventually she decided it was all too much and hung herself in her own bedroom. She was thirteen years old. Similarly, 18-year-old Jesse Logan was slut-shamed when naked photos she had "sexted" to her then-boyfriend were sent around the entire school after the two broke up. She also killed herself.

These last two stories have been bandied about in the news as examples of the dangers of "sexting." But that's not what this is about at all. Girls have been slut-shamed since well before the invention of cell phones and cell phone cameras. All that's needed to make a girl feel hopelessly alone and terrifyingly bullied is the unquestioned acceptance of a sexual double standard.

All of this has led me to wonder, why isn't there as much outrage about this kind of slut-shaming as there has been about gay-bashing?Just try and imagine how wonderful it would have been if folks like Madonna (c'mon, MADONNA!), and President Obama, and Ellen Degeneris, and CBS, all had come out with a  message for young women that slut-shaming is bullshit, all people are sexual and if the other students can deal with a girl who has sexual desires, it means they are sexists, which is just as bad as racists or homophobes? At the very least, doesn't  it merit a Glee episode? We discussed starting a similar "it gets better" video series here at BUST, and when I asked what we might want to call it, one editor shouted out "how about, 'it doesn't get better but you won't care as much.'" She's right.  But if they won't do it, why don't we? Any ideas, folks? How about a video campaign? Can anyone suggest a name?

 

Tagged in: suicide, sexting, double-standard, bullying   

The opinions expressed on the BUST blog are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily reflect the position of BUST Magazine or its staff.


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