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WildlyParenthetical is a cultural theorist, a feminist and queer, with a tendency towards fierce indignation, amusement and random (and not so random!) caring. Also to longwindedness, which kind people occasionally suggest is Extremely Useful.

This author has written 13 posts for Hoyden About Town. Read more about Wildly Parenthetical »

44 responses to “Sexting and Slut-Shaming”

  1. mimbles

    Ugh :-( I hate that erasure of the betrayal of trust, in forwarding the photo, as a reprehensible act that happens in discussion of this stuff.

  2. Boris Yeltsin

    As a guy, I’m pretty shocked that throughout this entire ad, never is the guy actually responsible for publicizing the image brought to justice, or even given partial blame for what happened. Why the hell is this the case? I mean I’d understand if he wasn’t given full blame for it, but not any? Makes no sense.

  3. Ariane

    Holy flaming arachnids, that’s abominable.

    On the plus side, you could use it as a case study. Break down each step in the chain and highlight which aspect of society is broken right there. Not too many left out.

  4. Billie

    Holy crap, this is absolutely fury-making. She did nothing wrong!It’s just….Grrrr I’m speechless.

  5. Vera

    The persons who should be shamed are the arse who betrayed her confidence, her gutless, judgemental schoolmates and the inappropriate teacher who appears to be promoting bullying.

  6. NattieNell

    I agree that this ad is both stupid and unrealistic. Why does a student have a teacher’s phone number? Why isn’t he cracking down on the student that sent him the image?

    At the same time, I think many young women believe that their boyfriends/love interests are wonderful and would never share their images without their permission. This is quite frankly not the truth.

    As a teacher, I am appalled everyday by the misoginist attitude of teenage boys, and girls do need to be careful. Not because they should be ashamed of their sexual activity, but because these images may get leaked to future employers or to family members.

    The problem with this ad is that it justifys the shaming of girls who sext more than it warns girls of the consequences.

  7. June

    The problem with this ad is that is did not call out the shameful, disgusting behavior of the boy who forwarded it on to everyone.

  8. Andrew

    This video is far too short and simplistic. I work in a school, and there’s a far better educational video (Australian-made) that came out recently called “Photograph”, produced by the Australian Teachers of Media. You can find the details here: http://www.cybersafekids.com.au/2010/06/photograph-a-film-about-sexting-and-cyber-bullying/

    It explores the issues more deeply, and firmly places the blame on those sharing the images without consent – including the reality of the criminal charges that could be faced.

  9. blue milk

    I found it very therapeutic to read your wonderful, wonderful critique here after watching that completely irksome little video. Thank you SO much.

  10. stef

    Wow. I have never seen such an eloquent rebuttal of slut-shaming. That campaign reminds me so much of the one run by the New Zealand anti-booze brigade who blamed drunk women for getting raped.

  11. Chally

    A most excellent post, WP.

  12. tigtog

    Thanks for putting this critique together, WP. I went and had a look at the ThinkUKnow YouTube channel and the videos all seem a bit off, somehow. There’s a huge emphasis on stranger danger, and I wouldn’t want to downplay that altogether, but kids are still far more in danger from someone in the community that the family knows than they are from a stranger, on the street or online.

    I know plenty of people who have met their inamoratas after engaging in chatting and flirting online. Some people are jerks, and some people are dangerous, but they’re that way no matter how your paths cross. The internet and other forms of digital communication are not uniquely dangerous.

  13. Jesse

    There is a correlation here to other forms of female sexual abuse/oppression in that there is an insidious ‘presumption’ that the man/boy who rapes or forwards texts is ‘of course’ in the wrong, but that because this is the way it is in the world, it is then incumbent upon the woman/girl to ‘protect’ herself. The way the blame shifts from perpetrator to victim, and how this feeds into deep-seated and unrecognised misogyny, is awful and insidious. Kudos for pointing it out so lucidly.

    The ability to distinguish between things that are erroneously conflated is an important cause to champion. Sex is not rape, love is not possession.

  14. Mindy

    Thanks for the brilliant takedown WP.

  15. SunlessNick

    our anti-binge-drinking campaign suggests that the horrible thing to be avoided around drinking, for boys, is a car crash and injury. For girls? Someone taking pictures of you with your undies down. Uh huh.

    Or to put it another way: for boys, it will interfere with what you do; for girls, it will give tacit permission for what other people do. Ugh.

    there is an insidious ‘presumption’ that the man/boy who rapes or forwards texts is ‘of course’ in the wrong, but that because this is the way it is in the world, it is then incumbent upon the woman/girl to ‘protect’ herself.

    It’s easy to say, “of course the perpetrator is in the wrong, BUT…” – BUT the assignment of blame or culpability is only meaningful when you assign it to actions that can be chosen. But resorting to “this is the way it is” whenever you (I mean a general you) refer to the rapist or sexter, and don’t acknowledge that the choice was theirs, saying you blame them becomes meaningless – if you only focus on the choices of the victim, and treat them as the primary cause, you *are* putting all the *meaningful* (as opposed to ritual) blame onto them.

  16. Helena

    Still crying.

  17. Rebekka

    This was… awful.

    On a more positive note, someone linked on facebook to this video about the Victorian government’s campaign against family violence using AFL footballers, and directed towards young men.

  18. lauredhel

    What is the message supposed to be for young men in this video? Because all I’m getting is “Hey, forwarding sexts is an awesome way to get back at that bitch you’ve got a grudge against, dude!”

  19. Helen

    Totally agree, Lauredhel.

    Sunless Nick:

    Or to put it another way: for boys, it will interfere with what you do; for girls, it will give tacit permission for what other people do. Ugh.

    Nailed it.

  20. SunlessNick

    Because all I’m getting is “Hey, forwarding sexts is an awesome way to get back at that bitch you’ve got a grudge against, dude!”

    On the subject of nailing it, this.

  21. Disemvoweled troll: Sho nuff

    Lt’s f crfgs n th cmmnt sctn. Bttm ln, dn’t snd t sht lk ths f y wnt thr t b 0% chnc f t gttng t. Y fckng pt t t thr. BWWWW TH VCTM. N btch, y r th prptrtr. f nythng sh shldn’t b s shmd f hr pctr. FCK YH ‘M HWT tc.

  22. Disemvoweled troll: Sho nuff

    k, s why th cmmnts sctn s lk tht, vryn wh dsgrs wth yr stnc ws scrnd. Crry n thn.

  23. tigtog

    Trolly McWhinyPants above has chastised us for inconsistency regarding censorship. I have responded elsewhere.

  24. Estelle Noonan

    This video is very upsetting. Particularly concerning for me, in addition to all the other problems that have been so aptly flagged, is the way in which the other female students’ censorious gazes are implicitly condoned by this ad, which represents their judgment as expected and deserved (an attitude that is obviously mirrored by the teacher’s gaze). Not one single fellow female student turns to look at this girl and smile, or indicate support. Instead, they convey disgust, disapproval, and surprise. This ad pits young women against one-another in a way that can only damage their collective senses of well-being and self-esteem. Something has to be done about this campaign.

  25. Kath Albury

    Thanks for picking this up from my little rant on fb. The other issue this (very poor) campaign fails to mention is that everyone in that room – from ‘Megan’ to her teacher – could be charged with possession/distribution of child porn. The fact that Megan took the picture doesn’t exempt her from ‘production’ charges, so she’s both victim & perpetrator.

  26. Rayna Pryce

    I was so upset by this I went to the campaign website and told them exactly what I thought. Hope you don’t mind that, by way of specifying which video, I linked to this post for it’s elegant analysis. I really do think this justifies a campaign to get it withdrawn. There’s not even any subtlety or ‘grey area’ of interpretation, it’s just blatant.

    Please join me in making an official response. Considering the organisations behind it’s creation, we need to send a message that this is not how such organisations should be thinking about, let alone portraying, abuse and young people’s sexuality.

  27. Kate

    Excellent breakdowns of this video in the article and in the comments.
    I would like to add that is unrealistic of the age group being portrayed. Working in classrooms with kids around the 15-17 mark regularly it is my opinion in a group so large there would more than likely be one or two girls who would quickly, publicly and aggressively call out the sender of the text. Kids at this age can be mean, and will do the wrong thing repeatedly and frequently display blatant disrespect for one another, but on the flip side have a immensely strong sense of justice and vats of compassion for one another. I find this situation largely hard to believe based on that fact in itself, let alone the teacher receiving the text, his reaction, lack of repercussion from the sender etc.

  28. Jason

    I really like the bit at the end where it cuts to a giant sign proclaiming: “All but two people in this room are guilty of sexual harassment or worse. That is a real, actual crime for which you can be prosecuted and you are responsible for not bloody doing it.”

    No, wait, that never happened.

    My mistake.

  29. orlando

    Done, Rayna; thanks for the prompt.

    Have just read a couple of enthusiastic reviews for the movie Easy A, a teen comedy about a girl tackling being slut-shamed by her classmates, but both reviews from middle-aged men. Does anyone know if it really is as hoyden-ish as it sounds?

  30. tigtog

    @orlando, the trailers certainly make her seem like an A-grade hoyden. I don’t know whether the rest of the movie lives up to that.

  31. Kath Albury

    The more I think about this ad (and the NSW education dept’s effort, ‘Safe sexting: there’s no such thing), the more I suspect the slut-shaming is only part of the story. There’s a general unwillingness to think about might constitute an ethical approach to mediated sexuality AND there’s refusal to think about what can be done in terms of policy & legislation. Currently any representation of sexuality (text or image) of an under 18 can be read by the law as ‘child porn’.

    In this video, a collective issue is cast as the result of an individual ‘bad choice’, & broader law reform & policy debates can be avoided. Young people are literally criminalised in these situations – and, as we see here, there’s clearly a belief at some level that they ‘deserve it’.

  32. WildlyParenthetical

    Yeah, Kath, this is totally working in with the stuff on individualisation and responsibilisation of ‘at-risk’ youth that I’m teaching this semester; to a frightening degree, actually! But I’ve been thinking for a long time (there’s, ahem, a draft of a post that has been glaring at me with unfinished eyes!) that there’s a definite absence of a discussion of ethical sexual cultures in the public sphere. It’s all always about consent, or about risk, but it never hits the level of really talking through ethics and sex, like you say. Which means that policy and legislation can only ever conceive of itself as ‘protective’, as preventing harm, rather than as supporting ethical behaviours. Which in turn tends to reduce ethical sexual cultures to consent in ways that instrumentalise desire or acquiescence. Mmm. Should write that post.

  33. Yvonne

    Excellent analysis of this horrible little video. So, she fell for the biggest A-hole, what’s new, many of us have been there. What’s with the rest of the class? Megan didn’t have much choice did she? She’s in a whole class of A-holes.

    WildlyP write that article, over the years while parenting 2 boys, now men, and a girl, now a young woman, I’ve been terribly frustrated with this complete and utter lack of discussion in the public sphere of ethical sexual behaviour. I’m so over women having to carry the can. Occasionally I get depressed and imagine that it is getting worse than it was when I was young in the early 80′s.

    Both my husband and myself have easily discussed and talked openly about sexual issues and have been able to express our own views, but it is still a conversation between parents and their children. You can imagine the squirming that has at times induced!

  34. Kath Albury

    WP, I can lend you Moira Carmody’s Sex and Ethics if you don’t already have it. We were part of a recent trial with all-male groups in Qld, funded through the national Respectful Relationships project – the evaluation was AMAZINGLY positive.

  35. Rayna Pryce

    I just thought you would all like to know, I received this reply from the ThinkUKnow campaign (pasted below).

    It’s quite interesting, although I do wish some of the ‘critical thinking’ promoted by the educational materials was evident in the video itself, in the form of a statement or some key questions at the end, or something like what Jason mentioned. Also, even in their reply, there’s a misplaced emphasis on ‘sexting behaviour’, and not some of the other behaviours seen. Anyway, here’s the reply:

    “Thank you for your feedback.

    The sexting educational video is designed to stimulate discussion on ‘sexting’ behaviour and the various roles people play in engaging in this type of behaviour. The accompanying lesson plan for teachers examines some of the issues you raise, including gender stereotypes, and the role of the bystander in sexting activities. The purpose is to elicit students’ critical thinking of this behaviour and explore their reactions.

    This video is the first in a suite of resources on ‘sexting’ , with additional videos in production including a male protagonist and the longer term and legal implications of engaging in this behaviour.

    Yours sincerely,

    ThinkUKnow partners”

  36. WildlyParenthetical

    @Kath Thanks, I’ve been meaning to get around to reading some of her stuff. Someone here pointed me in that direction a while ago now. I’ve been watching some of the stuff that you’ve been involved with, too, with some interest, in terms of the question of how to talk about ethical sexual cultures in public. I suspect that part of it is that I’m talking mostly about the MSM’s representations of sexual cultures. :-) But I’d be really interested in the Respectful Relationships stuff!

    @Rayna Thanks for sharing! That’s such a ‘cover-our-butts’ response, though! It’s great that they have materials discussing ‘gender stereotypes’ (the ‘some of the issues you raise’ actually makes me think that’s probably all that they discuss) but it doesn’t change the fact that the entire video is directed towards shaming teens who sext… And ‘additional videos’? With ‘a male protagonist’? If they wanted to tackle the double-standard, then the two parallel stories needed to be in the one video, and the problems that this comment thread has pointed out needed to actually be addressed within it. They can claim that it’s meant to prompt discussion, but if that were the case, what’s with the declaration of the moral of the story being about ‘your’ responsibility for ‘your’ images rather than about being conscious of people’s privacy? As it stands, this is just more conservative, individualised responsibilisation of young women; I just don’t buy your response, I’m afraid, ThinkUKnow partners!

  37. Rayna Pryce

    @WildlyParenthetical – Agreed! That’s a much more articulate response than mine. :)
    Video needs to be withdrawn. What to do, what to do…

  38. Jason

    What to do, what to do…

    Send them an email — I did.

    I think my take on it is a little different from the author and some of the commentators here, but it’s still driven by feminism and frustration with the way we teach children and young adults about these issues.

    Regarding their defence that it is part of a greater package… sorry, but that doesn’t work. If there is some “greater context” that makes it okay, that context needs to be tacked on to every release of that material.

    Even given their intent for it to stimulate “classroom discussion”, it still doesn’t wash. They are setting up one message from a professionally produced and acted film against classroom discussion coming from a teacher and other students. What will have more authority in the students’ minds?

    (Also, there’s no guarantee that that any of the ideological problems in the film will be corrected in a classroom discussion.)

  39. WildlyParenthetical

    Just to note, Jason, that Rayna was expressing frustration with their reply to an email she did indeed send. She, as I understand it, is wondering what to do now that she has stated her views and had a response which seems to be inadequate.

  40. Jason

    Ooops, I didn’t notice the author was the same on both those posts, sorry…

    So, since I don’t have the skills to make my own video, ranting emails are about the extent of my strategic toolkit. I was considering sending further emails (or, y’know, actual letters) to my local representative or the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, though.

  41. orlando

    My reply was an exact copy of Rayna’s. Does this mean they had enough complaints to develop a form response? I too was wondering whether I should write again.

  42. Scube'

    Ive linked through to this from the latest feminists down under carnival, and wish I had more time to think through a reply.
    I have tears streaming down my cheeks.
    I remember my embarassment that a boy I liked had read my love letter to all his mates and they quoted it back at me.
    thank god it wasnt an email or my badly written prose would have gone viral around the school.
    How young is too young to victim blame? what next, naughty two year olds leading the kindy teacher on?
    WTF?
    argh. I cant be constructive right now.
    thanks again for a wonderful post.

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