Let's get #SUPPORTJADA and #jadacounterpose trending in place of the disgusting #jadapose! Use these hashtags to tweet a message of support to this brave 16-year-old. If you're just hearing about this story, read on for details.
But rather than show this girl compassion and shame her attackers, many people have been taking it upon themselves to compound this horror by shaming Jada, even creating the hashtag #jadapose and taking photos of themselves mimicking her body in the viral video.
Just to be clear: there are people who not only think it's funny that a 16-year-old was raped, but have taken it upon themselves to set up a camera, pose like this rape victim, and post their photos on social media. With a hashtag. Even her accused rapist, Innel Yahia, has jumped on board with the shaming. (Let's hope these cruel tweets are soon used against him in a court of law.)
But Jada is not going to be defeated by this. She is speaking out and sharing her story. She told KHOU News, "There's no point in hiding. Everybody has already seen my face and body, but that's not what I am and who I am." I have so much admiration for her, it's hard to even put it into words.
Jada, we support you. You are not alone. What happened to you is not your fault. The Internet can obviously be a horrible place, but there are so many of us out here who support you! If you're feeling overwhelmed or isolated, just click on #supportjada and read through those tweets. You can make it through this.
Emily and The UnSlut Project community
If you already have the Wattpad app, you can jump right in and read along with me. I've been reading about a chapter a day and I'm up to Chapter 12. If you pass me, leave your own inline comments and I'll respond to them when I get there! If you're not on Wattpad yet, you should be - it's free! Once you're done reading my diary, get on board with the UnSlut Guide to the Classics. Check it out.
This is a guest blog post by Scott A. Johnson, MA, LP. For more information, visit his website.
Understanding how the offender thinks is important. Assessing someone’s thoughts, morals, and values is not easy because we cannot see what is on the mind. However, the words we choose represent our beliefs, which in turn guide our behavioral choices. For example, if you believe in respecting women, then you will not belittle them, abuse them, and will never choose to rape them. In fact, you would never use terms that were derogatory, like slut and whore. So when anyone uses these derogatory terms, they hold derogatory and degrading thoughts about women. A word is never just a word, it represents the thoughts, morals, and beliefs of the individual. These thoughts, morals, and beliefs guide our choice of behavior. If you had derogatory beliefs about women, then it would be easy for you to abuse and rape.
Think about the double standard society places on women. If a woman has more than one sex partner, we call her a whore or slut. If a man has more than one sexual partner, we call him a stud. This double standard condones the abuse and mistreatment of women. How is it possible that the same behavior has different values because of sex? Men use the terms "whore" and "slut" to justify abuse and rape. Really, have we come to justify abuse and rape so openly? Unfortunately, we have.
Learning to respect women requires that we first believe that all women, not just one's own family, deserve respect. Second, stop using terms that objectify and degrade women. Lastly, understand the role that thoughts play and hold men accountable for using derogatory terms and for objectifying women without excusing their behavior as being “something they did not mean”. You mean what you say and you mean what you do, period.
Scott A. Johnson, MA, LP, has a Master’s Degree in Counseling & Psychological Services from St. Mary’s College. He is a Licensed Psychologist (Minnesota), A Diplomate of the American Board of Psychological Specialties in Forensic Psychology, a member of the American College of Forensic Examiners International, and a member of the Society for Police and Criminal Psychology.
For over 27 years he has worked with abuse and sex offender populations as a forensic and counseling psychologist. He has taught at the graduate and undergraduate level and is an adjunct professor Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU). For many years he has provided forensic consultation and trainings nationally to law enforcement addressing sexual predators and physical abusers.
Emily Lindin says Elliot Rodger's views are part of a sexist culture that condones the belief that if you are a nice guy, you are entitled to sex with women. Read more on CNN.com.
As Emily Shire pointed out yesterday in The Daily Beast, media responses in the past few days have largely used Alyssa's death to make a point about pornography or bullying. Specifically, Fox 9 in Minneapolis-St. Paul titled their "investigation" of the suicide, "The Pressures of Porn" and described Alyssa as a "young, impressionable woman," speculating on what might have happened in her childhood. Other reports have blamed her death entirely on the cyberbullying she faced in the days leading up to it, minimizing her history of depression.
As media sources approach this case from different angles, one aspect has gone unaddressed: the comment sections. For a disturbing number of readers who did not know Alyssa personally, commenting on articles about her suicide has become a way to slut shame her, even in death. Here are some examples:
On The Daily Mail's coverage:
On the Fox 9 report:
On the Gawker post:
Amid the slut shaming, though, there is a heartening number of commenters defending Alyssa. And reactions on Twitter are likewise encouraging: most express concern about the role of cyberbullying, slut shaming, and stigma about depression. This is evidence that the general population is becoming aware of the severity of these issues - and it's the one silver lining in an otherwise devastating story.
In the coming weeks and months, the details surrounding this case will no doubt continue to unfold. Please - for the sake of Alyssa's memory, her family and friends, and every girl whose views on her own sexuality will be impacted by exposure to Alyssa's story - let's refrain from slut shaming.
If you or someone you know needs help, please don't hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
Over the course of the 2012-2013 school year, two girls reported being groped against their consent by the same two male classmates at Burch Middle School in Mingo County, West Virginia. The sexual assaults allegedly occurred at school, on a school bus, and on a school field trip to Charleston. Both of the boys are related to Mingo County school system employees, one of whom was involved in the investigation of the girls' claims.
The boys' punishment? They were suspended for one day in school and one day out of school. Oh, and - horrors! - they were denied ice cream during a standardized testing day.
The victims' punishment? Well, this school year, administrators moved one of the girls down a grade because one of the boys was in her eighth-grade classes. The boy was allowed to stay in his age-appropriate classes, of course.
Thank goodness West Virginia's attorney general Patrick Morrisey is taking action against the Mingo School District. He filed a civil lawsuit on Wednesday against the school's principal, vice principal, guidance counselor, a coach, the boys, and their parents, the Mingo County School Board, and superintendent. The lawsuit reveals a lot of upsetting information regarding the case, but most disturbing of all is the school system's utter failure to take the girls' claims seriously or punish the boys. The allegations include:
- During a meeting with then-principal Jada Hunter, a coach named Melvin Cunningham, and one of the victim's mother, the father of one of the boys said his son admitted to sexually assaulting the girl on the school bus. allegations.
- Cunningham told one of the victims that since there were no witnesses, she couldn't prove anything, and warned her that she herself could be punished for reporting the claims without witnesses. WHAT. THE. F*CK.
- Principal Webb advised one of the victim's parents not to call police, saying she "would take care of it," then failed to call the police. In fact, the county board of education still hasn't asked for a law enforcement investigation, despite the fact that Mingo County Schools requires employees to report any disclosure of sexual abuse to law enforcement within 48 hours.
Students and their families need to be able to trust school administrators to take action when they report crimes of any kind. Here's hoping Morrisey's moves set an example for future cases in which school administrators decide it's a good idea to punish victims of sexual assault.
On the evening of April 20th, a video was posted on Facebook showing a mother beating her daughter with a belt while the daughter cowers, cries, and tries to run away. The daughter's crime was, apparently, posting "nude" photos of herself on Facebook. The video is below if you need proof of how horrible slut shaming is, but it comes with a trigger warning. I don't recommend you watch it.
The most appalling thing about this video is that this mother is not only beating her daughter with a belt, she is purposefully recording herself doing so. She wants to punish her daughter by physically hurting her and by making a public example of her. She cannot see that this video, posted on Facebook, is by far more offensive and upsetting than any "nudes" her daughter or anyone else has posted.
Despite the obvious horror of the recorded interaction, the comments section reveals that most people viewing the video endorse the mother's actions. A representative comment comes from Howard Patterson: "if more girls like her had that mom maybe we wouldnt have so many sluts bet tha girl dont do that shit again." Tanesha Joseph says, "i back the mother cause in the end she is a young girl soon to b a woman n she should have self respect." And then there are many disgusting comments expressing general support for beating girls and women, some even invoking the Bible. At the time I am writing this, nearly 2,500 people have "liked" the video.
This is not a unique case of an angry mother "disciplining" her daughter for being sexual in a way the mother is uncomfortable with. The support from the Facebook audience reveals that many, many people still believe not only that physical violence is less disturbing than sexuality, but that the former is a just punishment for the latter.
This video and the "Part Two," which I won't even link to, have been up on Facebook for almost two weeks. I reported them as inappropriate content and I hope you will, too.
Thank you to Natalia S. Nai for bringing this video to my attention.
Last August, I wrote about the case of Stacey Dean Rambold who, upon being convicted of raping a then-14-year-old student, was sentenced to serve 30 days in prison by a slut-shaming judge. Cherice Morales committed suicide at the age of 16 in 2010 after being groomed and raped by Rambold, her former high school teacher. Rambold had pleaded guilty to her rape in 2008.
District Judge G. Todd Baugh, who handed down this absurd sentence, had implied that Morales was responsible for her own rape by saying she was "as much in control of the situation" as Rambold and that she acted "older than her chronological age."
Well, on Wednesday, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that Baugh's ruling was too lenient (duh). In fact, Baugh's slut-shaming comments played a role in the court's reassessment of the sentence. As the Washington Times reports, Justice Michael Wheat wrote, "Judge Baugh's statements reflected an improper basis for his decision and cast serious doubt on the appearance of justice. There is no basis in the law for the court's distinction between the victim’s 'chronological age' and the court's perception of her maturity."
So that's good news, at least. This reevaluation is due at least in part to the public outrage that followed Baugh's sentence. Rambold hasn't been sentenced yet, but the fact that this case is being looked at again demonstrates how important it is to talk about these stories when they emerge in local news sources. National attention on social media and demonstrated public outrage can make a difference - it's up to us to use that power for good.
I am so happy to report that yesterday we wrapped up shooting the content for "Slut: A Documentary Film"! We'll still be shooting a DVD Special Feature with Mick Foley and Siri and will, of course, update you when we do.
Our shoot yesterday was at the beautiful Hollywood home of our dear friend and Kickstarter backer, Avery - thanks, Avery! We started off the day interviewing Dr. Hernando Chaves, a licensed marriage and family therapist, human sexuality professor, and columnist for Askmen.com.
Next, we had the opportunity to interview Dr. Ebony A. Utley, Ph.D., whom we asked to be a part of our film after seeing her speak about race, religion, and infidelity last fall.
Finally, we spoke with Samantha Geimer, whose sexual assault at the hands of director Roman Polanski in 1977 threatened to define her life. She recently published a memoir about her experience being slut shamed in the media as a 13-year-old and how she overcame it.
Contributed by Nicole Russo (Twitter: @UnbrokenBarista).
[Trigger warning: The following includes graphic material about a sexual assault.]
The next morning when I arrived at his house, we started kissing. I was okay with that. Then he took off my shirt. I was uncomfortable but didn’t say anything. Soon, he was removing all of his clothes and we were lying on his bed kissing. He asked me if I wanted to "go lower" and I said no. He asked me a few more times and each time I said no. Eventually he stopped asking. He pushed me towards his genitals and I got the hint. I did what he wanted, I performed oral sex, and I didn’t put up a fight. I dissociated. I can remember the physical parts of what happened, what he said to me, what I did, but I can’t remember what I was thinking. I was an outsider looking in. When he ejaculated in my mouth without a condom, the taste brought me back.
We started kissing again and he tried putting his hands down my pants. I kept pushing him away, telling him no. He only stopped when I told him that I was on my period. At that point he climbed on top of me and started moving against me. He said, "You know, if you were naked right now, we’d be having sex." The thought terrified me and spurred me into another dissociation. I was brought out of it this time by him biting my breast. He bit so hard I thought he was going to bite part of it off. I had a bruise for a week after and I couldn’t lie on my left side because it hurt so badly. Eventually I left, and when I did I took a sip of the drink I brought with me, which washed away any remaining evidence, 30 seconds after I walked out the door. When I got home I immediately brushed my teeth, wanting the taste of him out of my mouth.
Despite how dirty and disgusted I felt, I didn’t realize that what happened to me was a crime. It wasn’t until friends and multiple therapists validated what happened to me and told me that "no" was enough that I realized I had been victimized. I didn’t realize it because I had never heard of someone being assaulted the way that I was: being forced to perform oral sex on another person. When I did, the panic and the PTSD set in. I can still hear his voice, even now, nine days away from the fourth anniversary of the assault. It’s like an audio tape that I want to stop, but there’s no stop button, no pause button, and the mute button doesn’t always work.
I didn’t immediately report it. I didn’t want my name dragged through the mud. I didn’t want to be called a whore by my closest friends and family because I "regretted a decision." I never had a decision, I never had a choice. I didn’t want to go through the reporting process without a promise that he would be locked away for what he had done to me, for what he stole from me. I didn’t talk about it to many people for a long time. It wasn’t until about two years after I realized what happened that I was comfortable divulging details from my attack to my friends.
When I told one friend his response was, "That doesn’t sound like a rape to me. That sounds like a horny teenage boy." It wasn’t bad enough that I had questioned for so long what happened, what it meant, if any of it was my fault, but now I had to deal with the fact that once I told others, there was a possibility they weren’t going to believe me. Just a few months ago I told my story to my friend and her grandmother. Her grandmother insisted that I needed to report it because, "What if he does this to someone else? How will you feel then?" - as if his potential other victims were my fault.
I did eventually report it. November 1st, 2013 I walked into the police station in the jurisdiction it happened in by myself and sat shaking like a leaf waiting for someone to take my statement. Finally an officer brought me to an interview room. I sat alone with two male uniformed officers and gave them my statement, just as I have given it to you here.
Those officers never outright called me a slut. They never used any slut shaming language. But their body language, their subtle glances to each other, said it all. They didn’t believe me. They asked questions like, "How did he force you?" "What did he threaten you with?" and "Did he have a weapon?" The fact that I had said "no" wasn’t enough for them, just like it wasn’t enough for him. Slut shaming doesn’t have to use words to effectively make the person being slut shamed feel horrible about themselves.
The truth is, "no" is enough. No other physical threat needs to be present. The moment that a person says no and their partner doesn’t stop, it becomes rape. I wasn’t believed because I wasn’t threatened, because there was no weapon, because I waited to report. But I’ve found my voice and now, no one can keep me silent.
I am more than a number on a case file that’s been filed away in a police station no one’s ever heard of.
I am more than a statistic.
My body was a crime scene. My mind is often times a war zone. But I’m a survivor and I’m here to tell my story, to inspire others and to tell them that it gets better, no matter what friends, family members, law enforcement officers, or society says, it’s never a survivor’s fault, you’re never "asking for it," and you’re not a slut because someone stole something from you. You’re not a whore because you didn’t fight back.
You deserve healing. You deserve to live a life of joy again.
If you don't have an e-reader, never fear: the full book will be published in paperback this October. Follow @BlueMondaysBook on Twitter and use #BlueMondays.
Be sure to check out all of Dubberley's twenty-eight books, including Mindblowing Mornings, Naughty Nooners, and Wild Nights - which, I am proud to say, is dedicated "To Emily Lindin, founder of the Unslutproject.com: for helping fight sexual shaming"! This is the book Dubberley was working on when she became a supporter of The UnSlut Project and helped fund our Kickstarter for "Slut: A Documentary Film."
I'm writing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, where we just wrapped up a two-day shoot with Rehtaeh Parsons' family, friends, and community members. When she was just fifteen, Rehtaeh was raped by four of her classmates while she was intoxicated. They took a picture of the attack and it quickly spread around all the schools in her district. After sixteen months of being sexually bullied by her classmates, despite switching schools three times, she took her own life last April. Hearing about her story was the final inspiration for The UnSlut Project.
For more pictures, check out our Kickstarter update.
We also gave an interview to Geordon Omand from Halifax MetroNews, which you can read here.
Rehtaeh's experience, as told to us by her parents, her best friend, and a family friend, will be a major part of "Slut: A Documentary Film." We hope sharing her story will inspire people to take action, so something like this never happens again.
I am a feminist. As a 24-year-old young man living in today's society, I have never been completely comfortable telling anyone publicly that I support feminism. But it is "taboo" to be a young man and proclaim your support for feminism. It would mean that you are either overly sensitive, gay, or weird. Society's expectations of men and women are very clear and explicit: Men must be macho, aggressive, and dominant. Women must be submissive, quiet, and sexually timid. It is important for my generation to unite in the conversation that is often suppressed by our popular media and politicians. We need to stop labeling feminists as "feminazis," "prude," "selfish," "boring," or "arrogant." We must realize that being a feminist is not limited to one's gender. Feminism is not a movement towards male oppression, but rather a movement towards equality for all genders. I came to this realization through my personal experiences with harassment and violence against women.
[Note from Emily Lindin: I have kept this poster anonymous in order to protect the identity of "Amanda." If you would like to be in touch with him directly, please leave a comment or email firstname.lastname@example.org.]
I was pinned down with my hands above my head by a monster. He laughed in my face - he laughed an awfully piercing laugh when I whispered "no" through my tears. He entered me, forcefully. He finished inside of me. He violated me.
After it was over, I sat outside, blood dripping down my leg under a flickering light in the backyard.
I didn't report it. I didn't tell. I didn't make a fuss. I cleaned myself up. I told myself I was "fine". I "moved on". I drew into myself and made sure that I kept up the façade, protected my reputation, stayed strong, and faced life. After all, in the end it is just me against the world anyway, right?
It is so quiet when you are alone. When you are isolated. Suffering in silence is so painful. It eats at you like a cancer. It reeks havoc on your soul. It has no empathy. It has no compassion. It is just blackness.
Five years after my attack, I decided to start using my voice. I told family, friends, strangers, other survivors, therapists: anyone that would listen. It was freeing. It was empowering. It was a new day.
Until their responses sank in.
To overgeneralize, I will categorize the responses as three types:
Those closest to me at the time were more #2's than #1's or #3's. They meant well, I know they did. They were trying to protect me. To shield me from the hardship of a social stigma. Their words like "you don't want to be seen as that girl"; "you don't want to get a reputation"; "you don't want them to judge you" were well intentioned. I know that.
But those phrases cut the most. They made me feel even more isolated, misunderstood, devalued, and even more like damaged goods. It meant that the people closest to me - those that were supposed to have my back, be my warm embrace, and my support - were telling me to deny what happened to me, not tell my story, and ultimately just move on with my life. I had one person tell me that they didn't know what I was going through, but encouraged me to "move on" with a smile on their face. It was that conversation that really sent me into a tailspin.
When I realized what they were saying, I got mad. Really mad. It was a bone-shattering anger aimed at my #2's, my attacker, and myself. Lately, though, through therapy and self reflection, I have come to the realization that while my #2's aren't ill-intentioned, they are further perpetuating the stigma surrounding rape survivors. I think this stigma is intertwined with our social responsibility to "save face", "keep up with the Jones'" and respond with "I'm good!" whenever asked how we are. It is this expectation that encourages #2's to quiet any survivor close to them.
To that I say, my hurt is no greater than your hurt. Thereby, I should not have to be quiet and neither should you. You are allowed to feel pain, so am I - that is how we heal. I propose we band together - surivivors of all traumas - and empower one another. My hurt is no greater than your hurt. Let us talk about it and do our best to move forward together. Most of all, let us empathize with one another in each of our traumas.
When I started to talk to friends and strangers about my attack, I continued to hear that I was "brave for speaking up", "strong for being so okay", "inspiring for standing up". I consider these my #1's. They are the ones who are making the effort to empathize, but have instead put survivors in a box - victims picking themselves up from the dust of unimaginable devastation. #1's don't connect with the survivors: we are now just in a box, we are a stereotype, we are a sad story from the news. So, there is no way that the #1's trauma could ever compare to a rape survivor's trauma and thereby, they cannot empathize with us, but instead pity us.
Please hear me when I tell you, my hurt is no greater than your hurt. You can empathize with us because we are all survivors of our own traumas, we are all a part of this human race. Let us empathize with one another.
Victim shamers and blamers are ridiculously ignorant, pompous, inhumane, horrible - but they need the most empathy. While I want to publicly condemn them, shame them as they have my fellow survivors, break them down, and prove they are incompetent, I have to recognize that my hurt is no greater than their hurt. In no way am I encouraging us to listen to these rants, to allow negativity and false claims to resonate with us, or to stop fighting against the stigma.
I am encouraging us to stand against the ideology itself. I am encouraging us to band together and dissemble the social construct that is encouraging us to be quiet. Rather than doing so the same way these shamers do, I am encouraging us to rise above. I am encouraging us to empathize with them. To recognize that their hatred and negativity must come from a place of anger, isolation and hardship. To realize that through each hurtful and hateful accusation or word they write, speak, or think, they are isolating themselves even further. That must really hurt. That must be really lonely. I do not approve of what they say, or even what they do at times. I refuse to let them silence me or any of my fellow survivors. But let us realize that using their tactics does not make us stronger, louder, or more competent. Shaming them does not un-shame us.
Let us provoke change. Let us stand strong and together. Let us rise above. We are worth it.
Former Saturday Night Live comedian turned conservative activist Victoria Jackson took on the Common Core State Standards Initiative last week by calling out the Williamson County, Tennessee school district's alleged use in 4th-grade classrooms of the children's book "It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health" by Robie H. Harris with illustrations by Michael Emberley.
Turns out, Williamson County schools weren't using this book in the first place. But maybe they should have been - it seems like a pretty useful, age-appropriate book that could be put to use as part of a comprehensive sex ed program. Fourth grade might be a bit early for some students, but certainly by middle school. I have only seen the pages that seem to outrage Jackson's supporters the most, which they've posted online. For example:
That's just a bunch of naked bodies. Kids are exposed to naked or mostly naked bodies constantly by various media, and most of the time those bodies are imbued with overt or implied sexuality. These bodies are just... standing there. Being naked. And, might I add, they're refreshingly diverse.
Jackson, who is running for a seat on the Williamson County Commission, updated her original blog post on Saturday, saying:
"... It is highly likely that this sexually explicit book, It’s Perfectly Normal or one just like it, will be at your child’s school in the near future. I’m sure the public school system will not be using the Bible’s view of sex ed and it’s (sic) message to "Flee Fornication" and save sex for after marriage, and to someone of the opposite sex."
Even if you dismiss Jackson as a right-wing nut, it's impossible to deny that she has an audience. Parents were horrified and began calling school administrators to demand an explanation. And rather than just shrugging and saying, "We don't happen to be using that book, but so what if we did?" the Director of Schools Mike Looney felt compelled to issue a statement vehemently denying it.
Why? Why should one religion's views deprive children of the comprehensive sex ed they deserve and, frankly, need? Parents can teach their children whatever they want in the privacy of their homes, but unwanted pregnancies, sexual assaults, and slut shaming are real things that have a massive effect on all of us. The sexual views of one religion should not be allowed to terrify us all into pretending there's not a problem here.
Over the past week, stories have emerged in North Carolina about the existence of nude photos of teenagers posted on Instagram. Cases have been brought to light throughout Wake and Durham counties and police say they're investigating the "criminally inappropriate use of photographs" on certain Instagram accounts that seem to have been created for the purpose of spreading child pornography.
For anyone who knows a teenager and is not in the habit of pretending that teenager lives under a rock, nude selfies are not news. Teenagers have been making the decision to share their bodies with each other forever - sexting is just a new platform for doing that from a distance. But in these cases, their private photographs were shared against their will with a vast online audience.
Unsurprisingly, the bravery the students and their parents showed in coming forward has been met with an onslaught of slut shaming. A lot of that slut shaming has assumed that all the victims were girls, despite news reports that the Instagram accounts included nude photos of girls and boys. Some examples from the comments section (never read the comments section!) include:
The issue is not whether the teenagers should have taken the photos. Yes, girls and boys should be better educated about possible consequences for their actions, including the action of texting a nude photo to a trusted recipient. Parents have a duty to talk to their children about the risks involved in all sexual behavior. But putting the blame on the teenagers for taking the photos in the first place - for daring to be sexual - distracts from the larger issue.
That issue is consent. These teenagers consented to a photo being taken and shared with one, perhaps a few, specific recipients. What they did not consent to was that photo being shared with anyone else, let alone on the Internet. Revenge porn raises the same issue, though it usually involves adults. Rather than making the conversation about how to repress sexuality in young women and men - restricting their access to the Internet, phones, cameras, etc. - let's make it about the importance of sexual consent, whether in person or online, for people of all genders.
My TEDx talk just went up today! On November 16, 2013 I gave a talk at TEDxYouth@Toronto called "Discover Confidence," describing a new approach to bullying. You can check out the video below, as well as some fun photos from that day.
Since I started the UnSlut Project about nine months ago, many people have asked me how I respond to backlash. The project has gotten a lot of positive attention, but what about the reactions of the slut shamers themselves? What about the people instigating and encouraging sexual bullying? The thing is, until a week ago, there hadn't really been much backlash to speak of. Of course, upsetting news coverage and devastating anecdotal stories constantly demonstrate the need for efforts like the UnSlut Project. But nobody had specifically contacted me or posted anything, to my knowledge, with the purpose of directing negative attention toward the project.
Then last Monday, a blogger tweeted me a link to a piece he had written about me. (I won’t share the link or the name of the blogger because I don’t want to give him the page views.) In the piece, he blames my parents for the sexual bullying I endured in middle school, since they failed to “educate their daughter on the ways of the world.” Then he bemoans the fact that a pretty girl like me would ruin herself for potential suitors like him by being such a “solipsistic drama queen who created an organization dedicated to empowering sluts.”
First of all, I agree with him that parenting is a big part of the slut shaming issue. By treating consensual sex in all its forms as a normal part of adult life and answering questions in a non-judgmental, age-appropriate way, parents can do a lot to counter the confusing messages their children receive from media sources about what sexuality is supposed to look like. We can teach our children not to slut shame the same way we teach them not to steal or lie.
But since the blogger hadn’t actually read my diaries, he missed an important point: my parents exemplified the strict parenting style that is supposed to keep girls out of "trouble." I spent a lot of my childhood writing angsty poetry because I was grounded for lying to them or for sneaking out of the house. It was despite their parenting that I ended up labeled the school slut, not because of it. I was lucky that my parents happen to be highly educated, affluent, emotionally stable, and motivated – it was largely their involvement in my life that helped me overcome my reputation by focusing on academics, music lessons, and other means for building my self-esteem.
I won’t respond to every ridiculous comment about my appearance and worth as a human being, but I do want to address one section in particular:
"Now, I read girls pretty well and I don’t get a strong slut vibe from her. I could be wrong, but I’d be surprised if she’s currently riding the cock carousel..."
Well, surprise! I am responding to this post from my perch upon this very literal "cock carousel," which I am currently riding. So joke’s on you.
"... So maybe the slut shaming worked."
This suggestion is the reason I decided to respond to this post at all. The idea that slut shaming can "work," or serve some positive purpose for a girl, her community, and society generally is not limited to this author and others who throw around terms like "cock carousel."
In fact, many people in North America and around the world accept and even enforce the idea that a girl's value is inextricably linked to her virginity or "chaste past," as this author puts it. They see slut shaming on an individual and societal level as somehow helpful, rather than incredibly damaging emotionally and physically. This response is not for the sake of the author of this hateful post or his followers – it is for the sake of those otherwise reasonable, well-meaning people who don't realize the pain their assumptions and accusations can cause.
So now that I’ve joined the ranks of women attacked for speaking out on the Internet, here’s how I respond to backlash: I use it as inspiration. For all his outrage and misogyny, this man proved my point. After all, he felt strongly enough about how wrong it is for women to assert their sexuality that he dedicated an entire blog post to attacking me for “empowering sluts.” Not only that, he was confident that he would have an audience for that post. And he thereby unwittingly demonstrated two things: how necessary the UnSlut Project is, and how much it’s working. People just don’t get that angry about ideas that don’t matter.
We've just wrapped up our third shoot, this time in New Jersey and New York! It was a very busy, wonderful weekend and Jessica and I are feeling more confident than ever that "Slut: A Documentary Film" will be a huge contribution to the change we're working toward.
We had incredibly inspiring on-camera conversations with acclaimed feminist author Leora Tanenbaum, sexual bullying survivor and activist Allyson Pereira, writer and survivor of institutionalized victim-blaming Gina Tron, feminist blogger and former cam girl N'jaila Rhee, sex worker and activist Alexis Morgan, and researcher of sex and human development Dr. Zhana Vrangalova.
All this in addition to the interviews we've filmed in Los Angeles with gender politics expert Dr. Shira Tarrant and Mormon sexologist Dr. Melissa Jones, as well as in San Francisco with writer and educator Dr. Carol Queen and sex and intimacy therapist Natalie Mills!
We are so grateful to all of our Kickstarter supporters and all of you who have been following the progress of The UnSlut Project and spreading the word. Thank you for helping us work against sexual bullying and slut shaming!
Read more about Daisy Coleman's ordeal here.
Victim who reported a rape was punished by school for "public lewdness," now is publicly shamed online.
Three years ago, Rachel Bradshaw-Bean was raped in the band room of Henderson High School in East Texas, where she was a student. When she reported the rape, the assistant band director told her to "work it out with the boy." Not only did the school and the police fail to investigate properly, she was punished for reporting the crime by being sent to a special, disciplinary high school - the same one as her rapist.
Rachel's crime, as a rape victim? The same as her rapist's: "public lewdness." Thankfully, after her family enlisted the ACLU to file a Title IX complaint, the Department of Education ordered Henderson High School to clear Rachel's record and fund her counseling services. The school is now, apparently, in full compliance with Title IX.
This week, Rachel came forward about her ordeal to Abigail Pesta at NBC. And today, Sarah Hedgecock wrote a piece about this atrocity for Gawker. This is one story in particular that could really spark some helpful, interesting debate in the comments section. For instance, how often do schools unknowingly violate Title IX and what can we do to stop this from happening again? What should the disciplinary/counseling procedures entail for an accused high school rapist? How brave is Rachel for coming forward to share her story?
There was some of that, but it was lost amid a whole lot of victim blaming and slut shaming. Many commenters suggested that Rachel was unattractive and thus would never be a victim of rape. I won't quote those comments here because they would likely be incredibly hurtful to Rachel personally, but I mention them in order to point out how prevalent the idea still is that rape is an act of lust.
No. Rape is an act of violence and control, and it has nothing to do with how the victim person looks.
One "father of two girls" expressed deep sympathy for Rachel and regret for what had happened and the general state of the country in his comment on the NBC story. Then he concluded with some concerned victim-blaming, repeating the misconception that the onus on girls to defend themselves against rapists and to stop screwing other girls over by reporting rapes falsely:
"The fix? Girls, take self defense courses, never trust men, and if this happens to you, report it to more than one person (one person can cover it up or not report it and deny knowing about it later), and (this isn't to all, but it is just as true) stop reporting false rapes to get out of trouble or get revenge. False reporting is the biggest enemy of rape convictions."
I know, I know. Never read the comments. But here's why I went ahead and not only read them, but commented on them here: the comment sections on stories like this can reveal a lot about our societal tolerance of ignorance and downright hatefulness. Yes, comments sections are often infiltrated by trolls who want to get a rise out of reasonable people. But even if every single disturbing comment on every rape story were written by a troll - and I don't think that's the case - those comments would still offer some insight into the types of language and arguments that are deemed acceptable in a very public forum, even if their intent is only to aggravate and offend.
In 2006, it was reported that an 11-year-old girl named Tressa Middleton was raped and impregnated by a 15-year-old boy while she was drunk. The above screenshot of The Daily Mail's coverage of the story which, despite being seven years old, went viral this morning for some reason, demonstrates the worst kind of media slut shaming. And now that it is being spread via social media, it has opened the door for renewed slut shaming.
In 2006, Tressa gave birth and the baby was adopted. And then it was revealed in 2010 that the pregnancy had been the result of repeated rape by her own brother, Jason Middleton, who was 16 at the time. In a demonstration of heart-breaking bravery, Tressa had endured the slut shaming for years before coming forward about the incest, because as she said, "It would be a nightmare for my family if the truth came out."
This all went down years ago. But since it has come to the forefront again, let's look at the slut shaming in the original Daily Mail story. Rather than focusing on the fact that Tressa was raped, they went with the headline, "Girl, 11, will be Britain's youngest mother" and opened with, "The girl smokes 20 cigarettes a day despite being eight months pregnant. She conceived aged 11 when she lost her virginity to a boy of 15 on a drunken night out with friends."
Oh, she "lost her virginity"? And why inform readers about her smoking habits before even getting to the part about how she was raped? It is not until the second paragraph that we learn, "The 15-year-old has since been charged with rape by police, and is due to appear again at Edinburgh sheriff court on July 10." And that's it. That is the one sentence in this entire article mentioning that this pregnancy resulted from a rape. In fact, the Daily Mail refused to refer to what happened as rape, instead erroneously reporting that the girl "had unprotected sex with the teenage boy... while drunk last August."
This morning, Twitter has been abuzz with this seven-year-old "news" as if it were recent, and readers have clearly picked up on the spin the Daily Mail put on the story. Some examples of the slut shaming:
Instead of taking the resurfacing of this story as a chance to shame an incest victim all over again, let's use it as an opportunity to examine the power that the media has to shape our perspectives. The Daily Mail's original report was not only incorrect, it was focused on the young girl's supposed character flaws instead of the crime that had taken place. The slut shaming was wrong in any case, but the truth that eventually came out demonstrated clearly just how wrong we can be when we blame young victims.
Today we are thrilled to be hosting Young Adult author Lyn Fairchild Hawks as part of her blog tour! Her new novel, How Wendy Redbird Dancing Survived the Dark Ages of Nought is available now. Welcome, Lyn!
Thank you to Emily for hosting me. I’m a YA author who’s here to join the chorus against slut shaming. I’m also here to make a confession.
My Take on Slut Shaming
The UnSlut Project shines light on nasty rumors that thrive on anonymity. Read Emily’s diary, and you’ll squint as the floodlights expose the dark, underground world of wagging tongues. The word “slut” destroyed her life in days. Right this moment, someone’s on a social network, trying to do the same: using words to shut a girl up, render her invisible, kill her soul.
Translate any of these messages of misogyny to this:
Ho, slut, bitch: how dare you have sex! But make sure you dress like a Victoria Secret model and starve yourself to death. And stay pure so we’ll respect you…No, just kidding. We’ll hate you for that, too. (Frigid bitch.) By the way, why aren’t you pregnant? Because that’s your punishment for having sex in the first place.
Behind every nasty phrase, the Madonna-whore complex is alive and well. Maybe celebrities bounce back from sex tapes and nasty Tweets, but not our girls. Not unless we stand up for them while telling them to stop the madness.
The UnSlut Project not only tells the ugly truth of bullying, but it also gives voice to the voiceless. I write YA novels for the same reasons: to expose the hate girls turn on one another and let the silent speak up. Wendy Redbird Dancing is my outcast character—one they call freak and emo bitch—living beneath a hoodie, eyeliner, and a Michael Jackson obsession. She survives a terrible sexual awakening not on her terms. When resident Mean Girl Deanna finds out, she adds ho to the hate list of names for Wendy. Deanna orchestrates a takeover of Wendy’s Facebook page and posts fake nude pictures.
You can catch a glimpse of Wendy’s ostracized life from the book trailer, starring Caity Brewer, Hannah-Kathryn Wall, and Hannah Elsie Chapman. As Caity said at the premiere, “Wendy has so much to say that she doesn’t really ever get to say. Everyone around her has no idea what she’s thinking, and she has so much substance…People just see this angst.” She was glad to bring Wendy to life since so many teens today are bullied and in the shadows.
Terror is awful in any era. My eighth grade year, 1982, the shaming was the same kind of evil, the same game. Sure, we lacked viral media, and we could take refuge in our homes with texts and status updates haunting us, but we still took lives in brutal, direct ways.
I was the nerd and brain who didn’t find herself experimenting with boys or even bullied much. Off the radar, I spectated the social scene and chattered with my few friends about The Beautiful People. And I helped fuel the gossip about one girl we all called slut.
We thought it was justified because by eighth grade she was beautiful, she was flirtatious, and wanted by most of the guys. Greatest crime of all, she had the audacity to date a guy from high school. It didn’t matter she was 14 and he was 15. How dare she.
So both genders turned on her and passed around Polaroids of her supposed sexual adventures. I never saw these but talked about them as avidly as anyone else. Boys called her slut and worse. Her friends abandoned her. She’d once been the most popular girl in class.
Then she disappeared for a few weeks. The rumor was strep throat.
One day, our teacher slammed the math textbook shut and faced us. She said, “Someone’s name is being dragged through the mud. It has to stop.”
Then an amazing thing happened. This Catholic sister, cloaked in black with her hair hidden from us, told us that sex was a beautiful and normal part of life. That it shouldn’t be spoken of with such disgust.
I raised my hand. “I’m sorry for what I said.”
“Thank you,” Sister said. “Does anyone else have something to say?”
No one did.
One of the girl’s best friends approached me after class. She was a former friend of the slut-shamed girl with a tongue like a lash; she always scared me. She stared like I was an alien. “Why’d you say that? You didn’t do anything.”
I shrugged. “I talked about her.”
It was only a few weeks till graduation, and I didn’t really care what this girl thought or said anymore. I’d found my voice, just as I’d helped destroy another.
What’s in a name? Everything. Slut shuts doors, stops mouths, ruins lives. What’s in a name? Nothing. Women, girls--we’re all somewhere between Hail Marys and Mary Magdalene whores, blessed with virtues and pocked with sins. No word can sum us up.
Many of us shut down when the shaming starts, letting our silence cast a vote. Turning away endorses the name game. Wendy’s friend Tanay steps up and crosses racial lines to protect Wendy. Tanay helps Wendy fight back in AP class and in the bus lot. She doesn’t judge Wendy’s life or mistakes. My novel challenges us—me—to question the bullies, to speak up, and to stop talking ugly about other women. If we judge that woman on TV, trashing her outfit…if we question a woman’s sexual past or “purity”…if we throw any kind of stone…guess what? We just joined the game.
It starts with the tongue at the gate of our mouths. The warfare ends there. As Tanay says, “Let’s do this.”
Lyn Fairchild Hawks is the author of a YA novel, How Wendy Redbird Dancing Survived the Dark Ages of Nought, and a collection of short stories, The Flat and Weightless Tang-Filled Future. She is also author of several works for educators.
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Last weekend, Canadian investigative program the fifth estate delved into the circumstances that led to the suicide of fifteen-year-old Amanda Todd in October 2012. Apparently, her parents did all the right things: over the two years that their daughter was being sexually extorted by an anonymous person who had captured a screen shot of Amanda flashing her webcam on a live stream chat site, Norm and Carol alerted the RCMP at least five times.
The RCMP, on the other hand, did... hardly anything. A year before Amanda's death, the extortionist sent her a terrifying Facebook message, which her mother handed over to the cops:
"U already forgot who I am? The guy who last year made you change school. Got your door kicked in by the cops. Give me 3 shows and I will disappear forever. you know I won’t stop until you give me those 3 shows. If u go to a new school, new bf, new friends, new whatever, I will be there again. I am crazy yes. so your answer?"
The RCMP's response? An email a month later from an RCMP constable suggested Amanda close her email and Facebook accounts and stay off the Internet, since "there is only so much we as the police can do."
These details, outlined nicely in ONTD Political, add another layer to an already devastating story of how slut shaming can lead to teenage suicide. But the comments section reveals a spectrum of inappropriate responses, from suggestions that they "get rid of the computer" or "cut Internet service to her home" because "she wouldn't have been able to perform in private for her stalkers" to blaming her parents for being "in friendship mode" rather than "in parent mode" - because how many times have your friends called the police to report that you were being sexually extorted?
Some comments imply that Amanda is entirely responsible for what happened to her - "I just don't understand these young girls today" - while some outright blame Amanda's "sinful" behavior: "She was enticing, sexual luring seeking, giving and getting pleasure. Why somebody did not say to her it is a sin?"
A year after Amanda's highly publicized, tragic death, it is beyond disheartening to see that the comments section on a story about the sexual extortion she suffered is largely dominated by slut shaming. She and many other young girls are dead. What will it take to change these attitudes?
As if we needed any more evidence that victims of sexual assault and rape are often dismissed and marginalized by surrounding culture in countries all over the world, the "Roast Busters" story emerged from New Zealand this week.
Hilary Whiteman reported for CNN:
Police in New Zealand say they're powerless to arrest two boys who've caused outrage with online boasts about raping underage girls too drunk to fight back.
The alleged offenses happened two years ago but were only made public this week after local media came across a Facebook site, which named and "slut-shamed" girls the boys had allegedly attacked.
But wait, it gets worse.
After days of insisting no formal complaints had been made about a teen gang calling themselves the "Roast Busters," New Zealand police now admit a 13-year-old girl made a rape allegation two years ago.
The girl, now 15, told 3 News on Wednesday that police officers asked her to re-enact the alleged rape using dolls during a videotaped interview in 2011. "It was traumatizing," she said.
Many questions still surround this case. To what extent were the police aware of the boys' activity? How about their school, Green Bay High? Principal Morag Hutchinson told Anna Leask at the New Zealand Herald that the club, specifically the actions of one of the boys, Beraiah Hales, had been "brought to our attention" in spring of 2012. But somehow the raping and slut shaming continued for a year and a half. HOW?!
Unfortunately, the idea that a group of boys would form a slut-shaming rape club is not as surprising as it should be. But the fact that at least one victim was brave enough to come forward and the boys' school - and the police - did nothing, allowing the club to continue to claim victim after victim, is unthinkable.
This failure to act is the worst result in recent memory of the "boys will be boys" mindset that is so deeply pervasive. Our hearts are with the victims in New Zealand, but that's not enough. As it unfolds, this case must serve as an example to educators, parents, police forces, and communities on an international scale so this type of horrific tragedy doesn't happen again.