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May 21 2009

Enterprising teens use technology to totally screw themselves over

Rio Grande turkey
The obsession with wild turkeys frolicking at dawn continues unabated at Spinster HQ.

Sexting! It’s the latest teen scourge. Lock up your daughters! Or at least get them iPhones. You still can’t effing text a photo on an iPhone.

Sexting, you will be delighted to hear, is when a teenage girl sends, via mobile, an unclothed self-portrait to her boyfriend. Like all teenage boys, this boyfriend is made of sterling stuff. Within moments he forwards the picture to the whole school. The teenage girl then commits suicide because she is unable to cope with the torrent of contempt loosed upon her by her ghoulish little schoolmates.

As you know, girls are sex; when girls send naked pictures of themselves to boys, they merely participate in what the megatheopornocorporatocracy tells them comes naturally. They hit send, sneak out for a cig, and anticipate their just reward for an oppressor-appeasing job well done.

But you know how it is. The set-up is bogus from the gitgo. A woman’s social status is inexorably tied to the manner in which her sex is used by men. It’s impossible for her to express sexuality precisely right, because the sex class is not sovereign over itself. It’s subject to dudely whim. The expression of a woman’s sexuality is purely a matter of dudely interpretation.

Just like in the real world, in the high school world laws governing girls favor boys but are otherwise arbitrary, and are strictly enforced by the masses. You know what high school society can’t tolerate? A girl whose boyfriend exploits her by passing her image around around from cell phone to cell phone. That girl is a fucking slut, and the only thing to do — seriously, the angry mob’s hands are tied in this matter; their disciplinary action is carved in stone and dates back to Hammurabi — is to leave a bunch of cruel messages on her MySpace page.

If they don’t kill themselves first, teenage sexters can get busted for distributing child pornography. They’re sex offenders! Awesome.

63 comments

  1. PandanCat

    Has anyone seen that weird public service announcement warning kids about posting photos on the internet? The one where it goes up as endless copies on a school bulletin board, completely impervious to the student’s attempts to take it down? Well, gee, that’s all well and fine to warn kids against posting their own image, but how about a public service jab in the eye for every boy who distributes nekkid pics of a classmate?

    Oh, wait. That would imply that it’s not the slutty girl’s fault for being such a tramp. You know, for not living in a world where her existence isn’t justified by lecherous leers. Surely everybody knows that images of naked girls/women reproduce themselves endlessly like viruses. Poor, innocent schoolboys just turn on their phones and /boom/ there’s that hot girl from geography class in the altogether. It’s tragic, really. Girls should know better than to inflict their nudie pics on their classmates.

    But hey, at least we have another turkey to admire. Without the great expression of the previous one, but lovely all the same. Toikey, toikey.

  2. phaedras

    “The Tunkhannock case involves two photos depicting the three girls. One photo of Marissa Miller and Grace Kelly shows them two years ago at age 13 lying side by side while one talks on the phone and the other makes a peace sign with her fingers, according to the ACLU complaint. The two are photographed from the waist up and are wearing white opaque bras. A second photo shows a girl referred to in the court document as “Jane Doe” photographed outside a shower with a towel wrapped around her waist. Her breasts are bared.”
    http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/03/aclu-sues-da-ov/

    By this description, girls taking photos at your average slumber party or on a topless beach can be prosecuted for child pornography. The writing of it, “her breasts are bared”, betrays such loathing and hysteria, I’m embarrassed for the guy. You can hear the soundtrack in his head “I can see boobies, those are boobies! AGH”. Do us all a favor and lock yourself back in the closet and return to sucking your thumb fellow. It’s all going to be ok.

  3. humanbein

    What a truly lovely photo. It really makes it easier to read about something that fills my heart with dread.

    What I fear and expect is that our porn-addicted culture will use this new wrinkle on what is and is not “permissible” porn to loosen our definition of child porn to the point where it’s impossible to prosecute anyone for using, creating and distributing child porn. Since we can’t put our darling perfect little teen boys in jail for distributing it, it only stands to reason that it will become more and more difficult to put adults in jail for consuming it. See the use of children in crack retailing for an example.

    This goes along with the already legally established defense that you can’t put a teen boy in jail for raping a woman over 21, since she can easily be proved to have been engaged in child abuse with a few casually-snapped camera photos of the rape.

    How many years will it take before child porn is totally mainstream, just as torture porn, rape porn, and gang rape porn have all become not only legal, but mainstream?

  4. Citizen Jane

    Damnit, these people trying to solve this problem by preventing women from taking sexy pictures are completely missing the point. The problem is not the women sending pictures. The problem is the way people are interpreting them.

    A picture of a naked woman should be neutral. If there happens to be a picture of a naked woman on the internet, it shouldn’t make the woman ashamed, it shouldn’t ruin her reputation, it should affect her career, and it sure as hell shouldn’t bring on taunts of “slut” and “whore.” Hell, a woman running for president should be able to have naked pictures all over the internet without her ever worrying if it will affect her in any way.

  5. Citizen Jane

    Oops. I meant it shouldn’t affect her career.

  6. PhysioProf

    What an incredible photograph! The luminescence of the dawn light hitting the plants is mind-blowing.

    Was the turkey really frolicking? It looks to me like it is in a state of momentary repose.

  7. Lexie

    I remember reading something a while back about one of these girls that got in trouble for sexting. She said it didn’t bother her when her boyfriend or other boys saw her naked picture, but she got really skeeved out when she had to go into the office while the male principal, superintendent, and a couple of male teachers stood there looking at her picture while scolding her. She said something like “they just seemed like a bunch of dirty old men.”

  8. Dr. Steph

    You know what Citizen Jane–it’s not neutral–like Twisty says, with women defined as a sex class, the photos are porn/sex/purient regardless of who took them, under “empowered” circumstances or not, because they WILL be sent around. Boys learn that this is one of the “manly” things to do.

    I have a 10 year old girl. I also have a blog where her photos appear (often to celebrate her achievements). We’re already talking about how these photos are never private and I make it clear that I know they’re not private. We’re working up to the ramifications of photos being on the loose in the patriarchal internet.

    Women can’t control the male gaze, so don’t say you’re undermining the power structures by giving guys what they want eg (more) naked pictures of women.

    I also have an 8 year old boy–he’s getting the slightly modified version of this. My goal is that if he ever receives a Sext he’ll delete and move on. That one’s gonna be tougher because there are not many cultural rewards for blaming the patriarchy.

  9. ambivalent academic

    Hooray for the heart-warming savage death turkey in the new header. It looks really fearsome!

    A thought experiment: how would it be handled if the girls were receiving sexts (is that really a word now?) of their nekkid boyfriends and passing those around? I really have no idea – it just seems so preposterous. But why?

    IBTP.

  10. Citizen Jane

    Dr Steph, I’m not sure what you’re trying to inform me. Duh it’s not neutral. We live in a patriarchy. That’s why we’re at this blog, isn’t it? Because we see that as a bad thing.

  11. Tierney

    The problem is not the women sending pictures. The problem is the way people are interpreting them.

    Agreed, but the pressure on girls/women to take the pictures, the inclination of boys/men to share the pictures and the reactions of “concerned” authorities are all part of the same interpretation, i.e. the patriarchal view of women. Pictures of teenage boys/men (usually just one body part) are common, but it is often seen as a joke, the modern equivalent of mooning. However, as women = porn = sex, no other interpretation of the pictures is allowable because no other interpretation of women is allowed.

  12. Zach

    “The expression of a woman’s sexuality is purely a matter of dudely interpretation.”

    So sadly true, Twisty. As a college student, I’m afforded the privilege of attending a large number of “parties” at which straight dudes badger and cajole straight women into making out with one another, solely for their own dudely pleasure. Whether or not the women are enjoying themselves, of course, is utterly unimportant. The important thing is that their male gaze focuses on a woman (or better yet, in this case, two women) to assert rightful ownership of their sexual expressions.

    I guess the only real question is why I allow myself to get so voluntarily near this kind of straight dude at all.

  13. Tierney

    @ambivalent academic: How would it be handled? They’d scold the girls for not being ladylike.

  14. Cynic

    That is one gorgeous picture of a turkey. I especially love the interplay between the foliage and the dawn light. Tres jolie.

    As for the girl in the story, I’m ashamed to say to say that my gut response was to wonder why she’d allow something like that be sent over any kind of electronic connection, let alone send it herself. Honestly though, that’s EXACTLY the kind of victim blaming that leads people to say that a rape victim ‘deserved it’ because she didn’t exactly match some amorphous, fluctuating toxic sludge of criteria that no one can even define.

    The girl was involved with a boy. She obviously trusted him implicitly, enough that she was willing to send him a very intimate photo of herself. The story should have ended there. Full stop. No need for any one else to even know that the photo exists. Maybe the boyfriend could have returned the favor. What he did instead was violate her trust and spread her image around the school, to her peers, her teachers, and quite likely her parents at some point.

    Until we as a society have the gut reaction to condemn lying, shit-faced douchebags like that who violate the trust placed in them in the most casually sadistic way possible rather than their victims*, I don’t see how anyone can claim with a straight face that society is equal and post *-ism and everything is sunshine and daisies and rainbows.

    *Yes, this even, shockingly enough, includes the victims that are young, attractive, female, and in some way involved in teh S-E-X. You’d be amazed at how often that group gets left off the victim lists

  15. Kelsey

    Zach: Why even attend those parties? By even being present, you’re condoning that kind of behavior.

  16. Ayla

    Lexie, BINGO! I really think the only reason this whole “sexting” thing is getting as much press as it is (because I do not for one second believe that it is as institutionalized and casual as the media is making it out to be, though certainly some young people are doing it) is so that male (and maybe some female) school staffers have an excuse to confiscate student’s devices and check them for the jack pot. The fact that an adult at a school would show any level of interest in a student’s sex life is extremely disturbing to me. I suspect that if the staffers at some of these schools where students have been “busted” were investigated themselves, something a lot worse than some bare breasts might turn up.

  17. otoc

    Why can’t there be a law that says that you own any naked images of yourself, no matter what, unless you sign over the rights to someone else? The law is supposed to reflect our values, right? I understand that what the patriarchy says it values (privacy when it comes to nudity) and what it actually values (getting off on violating women’s privacy and slut-shaming) are two different things, but, well that kind of law seems rather common sense to me in the age of the internet. Of course it also seems rather common sense to me that online harassment should be illegal, but as long as you’re teaching some evil bitch a lesson, you can go ahead and steal her identity to pose as a prostitute soliciting from the office where that evil bitch works. Sorry to get somewhat OT but I wonder how many copycats are we going to see of that now that it’s completely legal?

  18. Cottonpants

    How would it be handled? They’d scold the girls for not being ladylike. –Tierney

    Yup. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if they also printed a school newsletter with all the involved girls’ names on it, just to let everyone know who the big slutty sluts are.

    As a college student, I’m afforded the privilege of attending a large number of “parties” at which straight dudes badger and cajole straight women into making out with one another, solely for their own dudely pleasure. — Zach

    I don’t really know what the acceptable male Blamer response is to that sort of scenario. Or if there even is one. If you just let it happen, you’re being an ass. If you actively defend the girls involved, you’re still being an ass (and will probably get beaten up too).

    If it were me (and it probably will be someday), I’d casually confront the girls later and give them a piece of paper with the IBTP url on it. “Have you heard the GOOD NEWS about feminism?!”* That way you’re not turning a blind eye, you’re not being a self-absorbed white knight; you’re just pointing them in the right direction. If they check it out later and are like, “Feminism wtf omg hairy dykes ewww!!” then that’s unfortunate, but it’s their decision to make.

    Honestly, if anyone else can think of a better course of action, though, please speak up. As someone transitioning from female to male, I’m still trying to get used to the idea that suddenly, someday, I will be a menfolk and will have to know how to relate to women in a way that doesn’t inadvertently come off as condescending or like I’m just trying to get laid. I’ll also need to know how to not write run-on sentences.

    I guess the only real question is why I allow myself to get so voluntarily near this kind of straight dude at all.

    I dunno, but you should at least try to make the most of the situation when it appears.

    —-

    * Okay, I wouldn’t really say that. But maybe something like, “Hey, those guys are assholes, and they had no business manipulating you like that. Here, maybe check out this url if you have time someday. If you ever need a reason to blame the patriarchy, Twisty’ll give you plenty.”

  19. Jezebella

    As Kelsey noted, the appropriate course of action is to LEAVE said party.

  20. Kelly

    “She said it didn’t bother her when her boyfriend or other boys saw her naked picture, but she got really skeeved out when she had to go into the office while the male principal, superintendent, and a couple of male teachers stood there looking at her picture while scolding her. She said something like “they just seemed like a bunch of dirty old men.”

    I realize I’m an old woman but I don’t understand this. You create and distribute images of yourself to be used as fodder for male, masturbatory, rape fantasies and then you are grossed out that someone is using them for that purpose? So dirty old men are different (or worse?) than dirty men of other ages? Or does she believe that her boyfriend and his friends aren’t somehow dirty but these other men are?

  21. Jezebella

    Grown men in positions of authority ogling naked pictures of minor girls in their charge is a far, far different thing than teenagers ogling other teenagers. You must see the difference.

  22. Lexie

    Kelly,

    I get what you are saying and I agree. But I saw it as the girl just starting to poke open the door into what is really going on with the patriarchy and how she is getting punished at the exact same time her “punishers” are quite interested in looking at the pictures she is getting in trouble for posting.

    If she can see what is really going on there, maybe it is a start to her seeing that sexting to the boys at all is not that great of idea that doesn’t really serve her well.

    And to be clear, don’t take this as me saying that the girl is the slutty slut slut who should know better than to post pictures of herself while it is perfectly fine for the boys to get off on them. Just that she may be beginning to see how the patriarchy uses women.

  23. phiogistic

    There are some stats buried at the end of this article about Jesse Logan, the young woman that killed herself after her ex-boyfriend vengefully distributed pictures: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29546030/

    Apparently if you do send out “private” porn pics of yourself, you have at least a one-in-6 chance your boyfriend will eventually use them to get revenge on you. “Revenge porn” is a popular new theme in porn in general. It makes one wonder why women date men at all.

  24. Zach

    @ Kelsey and Jezebella: Point taken. They are pretty big parties, though, and I’ve typically come with friends who refrain from engaging in such ugly endorsement of patriarchy. I don’t hang around the immediate vicinity of it, that’s for sure.

    @Cottonpants: Thanks for the insights. Your observation about being the white knight underscores the real dilemma of being a male feminist. Like any decent human being, I think patriarchy is an affront to the dignity, safety, and humanity of women, and to lesser degrees, anyone who is deemed to be like a woman (i.e. gay men like me). That said, I do not want to be acknowledged as some sort of brave, dudely hero who liberates helpless women from oppression. The irony, of course, is that we fight patriarchy while living in a patriarchal culture. So it’s an awfully fine line sometimes.

    If I feel brave enough, I walk away, muttering in a clear voice that I would gladly make out with one of the dudely onlookers for her benefit, should she like. The horror of a potential gay moment usually disrupts the fun of it for them, even if only briefly.

    I feel like I’m talking an awful lot. As Twisty recommends, I now will shut my pie-hole.

  25. Ayla

    “Grown men in positions of authority ogling naked pictures of minor girls in their charge is a far, far different thing than teenagers ogling other teenagers. You must see the difference.”

    Thank you. There’s also a huge difference between someone you WANT to see you naked seeing you naked and someone you DON’T want seeing you naked seeing you naked. Umm, you know, kind of like there’s a difference between consensual sex and non-consensual sex.

    But blaming the young female is easier, I suppose.

  26. Spiders

    Does anyone have more information on this six month “educational” program mentioned in the article? I’d be interested to see what that looks like.

    Zach, I know there’s a fine line to tread; not being a condescending rescuer and not getting beat up etc. But that male code of silence thing does need to be challenged more by men and its up to them to work out how to do that.

  27. slythwolf

    Zach, if you’re not willing to leave the parties, you could at least tell the rapey dudes they’re douchebags.

  28. yttik

    “The problem is not the women sending pictures. The problem is the way people are interpreting them.”

    I’d have to say that the problem is really the betrayal associated with taking a photo of a girlfriend that was given to you in good faith for your private viewing, and making it public in an act of retaliation or some other nastiness.

    Not long ago we had quite a legal battle in my state over men who would take upskirt photos with their cell phones and post them on-line. No kidding, the law at the time protected them, since women were on public streets and apparently what is under their skirts was also viewed as part of the public domain.

  29. josiemysourceofmostfrustration

    Cottonpants, there is something absolutely insane and delightful about the idea of printing up patriarchy blaming nuggets of wisdom, along with the URL to this blog, on scraps of paper and then handing them out to the masses. I see these as the feminist answer to those fundie “Chick tracts.” Twisty, I see a new medium for your message!

  30. rootlesscosmo

    Just like in the real world, in the high school world laws governing girls favor boys but are otherwise arbitrary

    RadFem Family Lawyer (Oakland CA) tells her clients “The first rule of Family Court is: boys win, girls lose.”

  31. Kelly

    “Grown men in positions of authority ogling naked pictures of minor girls in their charge is a far, far different thing than teenagers ogling other teenagers. You must see the difference.”

    No I do not. Schools are the training ground of the Patriarchy, its Abu Ghraib if you will, where girls are terrorized into submission at the hands of instructors and their army of teenage enforcers. I find the exploitation of girls/women infuriating and disheartening regardless of the age of the oppressor. And if you think for one minute that only “grow men” are in positions of authority or power in such institutions, well I hate to inform you that you are sadly mistaken. As for “ogling” I do not see the difference between living under the tyranny of teenage vs grown male gaze except that people are quick to call one wrong and tacitly excuse the other.

  32. xochitl

    “The problem is not the women sending pictures. The problem is the way people are interpreting them.”

    Nope, it’s all part of the problem. Girls are conditioned to be sexy and boys are conditioned to be violent. Gender is the problem.

  33. Twisty

    “Schools are the training ground of the Patriarchy, its Abu Ghraib [...]“

    On this website we do not liken schools to internment camps.

  34. Kelly

    Ack. Mea culpa. Schools are abusive, tortuous institutions that are less than optimal environment for a human being to become in any way sane, compassionate, educated or whole. They are places that dull the intellect, destroy the spirit and force individuals into a few predetermined molds so that they can become uniform cogs in a mindless machine. As the story from Ireland today shows they are bastions of abuse (sexual and otherwise) and are integral to sustaining this wretched state we refer to as “civilization”. In the future I will refrain from any further comparisons to other instances of state sponsored torture.

  35. RKMK

    Kelly, all due respect, but I could say a lot of the same things (dull the intellect, destroy the spirit, become uniform cogs in a mindless machine, bastions of abuse, yadda yadda) about many home-schooling environments as well. My public school education (in Canada) was all about learning to think critically and independently evaluate the world around you; highly reality-based, and even feminist – at the age of 12, I reported a boy for saying something about my breasts in the hallway, and he was hauled into the office and it was made clear that such repeated behaviour would be cause for immediate expulsion. “Schools” are not the problem; as with most things, it’s the individuals acting within the system that make it negative or positive.

  36. Cottonpants

    josiemysourceofmostfrustration, they really would come in handy. I actually could have used one of those cards today. I was on the bus, overhearing a conversation between three middle-aged women about how they are really just tired of men, and are about ready to give up. Woman #1 sighed multiple times at how it’s not that she’s not into men; it’s just that she don’t like them.

    I cheered silently. I also wondered whether actually congratulating them would be way too creepy or not. But then they got off the bus.

    They are places that dull the intellect, destroy the spirit and force individuals into a few predetermined molds so that they can become uniform cogs in a mindless machine. — Kelly

    Sing it, sister! This has been my sole experience of school since, oh, about 3rd grade. But that is a story for another day.

  37. Nolabelfits

    They are places that dull the intellect, destroy the spirit and force individuals into a few predetermined molds so that they can become uniform cogs in a mindless machine. — Kelly

    Sounds like my job.

  38. io

    No. nononono. Kelly, you are just wrong about this. It DOES matter, very much, the difference between boys your own age group being lecherous versus grown men in positions of authority.

    I don’t know why it’s not obvious to you — nobody is saying that the teenage boys are somehow not tools of the patriarchy themselves — but it is a whole different level of hurtfulness, power-dynamics, trust-destruction, and full-on creepiness to have the older male authority figures act that way.

    Speaking from personal experience, as well as rational analysis.

  39. Lauren O

    I’m only a few years out from teenagerdom, and I’d have to agree with io that if I were a high schooler still, I’d much rather have teenage boys seeing my naked pictures than my school’s faculty. It’s not that those boys aren’t patriarchy tools – they are – and it’s not that they aren’t slut-shaming girls – they are – but they don’t hold nearly as much power, slut-shaming or otherwise, as school faculty.

    The power differential between high school boys and high school girls is not nearly as big as the one between high school girls and, say, a male high school principal. A principal who has seen naked pictures of you will tell your parents. He will tell your teachers, so that you will feel ashamed in every class you go to, guaranteed. Completely legal and authoritative discipline that is supposed to be completely non-sexual will inevitably take on a sexual tone, and while the sexual dynamics between high school boys and girls are pretty fucked up for the most part, at least they don’t take on explicitly dominant/submissive, discipliner/discipline-ee roles.

    Not to mention that a male high school faculty member should not be privy to ANY naked images of underage students, PERIOD, while I don’t see any problem with a male high school student seeing (though obviously not distributing) consensual naked images of his same-age girlfriend.

    It just seems to me a whole different level of unacceptability. The majority of teenage boys spend their lives trying to see teenage girls naked, which in and of itself isn’t misogynistic, and could theoretically happen non-problematically in a non-patriarchal society. Their seeking of sex is largely based on inexperience and not having the social power to get laid, whereas I can’t imagine a high school faculty member punishing a girl for naked pictures without getting off on it precisely because of the power differential, relishing his role in making this girl repent her naughty ways.

  40. katrina

    Oh, Kelly! You know where I recognise that logic from?
    Men who say: “You had sex with him so surely you’ll have sex with us too.”

  41. meerkat

    I see what you mean, RKMK. Schools are not by definition soul-destroying brain-deactivating places, but a lot (most?) of them turn out that way for reasons other than just because they are schools.

    For me there is a bigger difference between people you want to see your naked pictures and people you don’t than between staff and other students, but the staff would still wield a different kind of power over the subject of the photos than other students would. Not to belittle how much other students can make your life a living hell, but I guess adults would have somewhat more resources to devote to living-hell creation.

  42. speedbudget

    Speaking as an ex-teacher, I have to wonder why there was a group of lecherous males in the office to speak with this girl with her naked picture in close proximity. Seems to me a better way to go would have been male principal, female vice principal, female counselor and/or female school nurse. (Or, you know, just a female counselor to explain why boys are dicks when you do this kind of thing and leave it at that. But that would only happen in a feminist’s wet dream.) Otherwise, yes, it’s just a group of frat boys getting off on a naked girl whom they hope to talk into making out with the other slutty sluts they are going to pick on later.

    I caught one of my students making out with his girlfriend in the hallway when I had given him a pass to go to the bathroom. He had been gone for half the period, so I sent him to in-school suspension for skipping and told her I would deal with her later. (She was not my direct responsibility.) I then wrote my student up for skipping and wrote her up for being in the wrong hallway at the wrong time (she was supposed to be on lunch).

    I got my write-up slip returned from the (male) vice principal. Nothing had been done about the situation, i.e., no disciplinary action taken. I saw this note on the bottom: “Don’t just stand there and watch them make out. Next time, you should break it up and send them to in-school.”

    I marched down to the office and shoved the write-up slip in the guy’s face and said, “This offends me personally and professionally. That you think I would stand there watching two pimply-faced high schoolers making out for any period of time sickens me personally. And that you would assume that I didn’t do anything about the situation offends me professionally. What made you think I would just stand there in my classroom, face pressed against the window in the door, watching two kids make out?”

    The fact is, it was probably projection. I bet he has/would stand there watching that, which is why he assumed that’s what I did.

    Fucking male authority figures.

  43. zelda1

    I love the turkey.
    Technology is the gift that keeps giving. I remember when the cameras that instantly made their own pictures came out, the ones that didn’t need to be sent to the developers, long before digital cameras. Anyway, one the girls from my school allowed her boyfriend to take a picture of her boobs. Back then, that was a huge deal. As you might guess, it ended badly. My point, sexting isn’t new; it’s just that now days it is easier to get the image out and about. I don’t think the girls should be punished for sending their images to males who send their images to other males. If anyone is responsible for distributing kiddie porn, it would be the boys who are sending the pictures to their friends. Instead of crazy old men confiscating phones, searching for nude pictures of young girls, the answer might be in education and sensitivity classes for the kids.

    Oh, and I agree that if a man or a woman is in an area where boys-will-be-boys activities are going on, I’d hope that someone would step up and say something. Males who innocently stand around while groups of men coerce girls into sexual behaviors are one step away from men who stand around and watch while groups of men rape. I know that sounds harsh, but there are many men who stand by and drink their beer or stand on the fringes of actions gone bad.

  44. Felicity

    I think Zach made some really goood points..

    And well you see enough women standing around hatin’ on feminism, the odd lad who is feminist but refuses to get beaten up for it gets a genuine cookie from me.

  45. AMM

    Oddly enough, the topic was on my mind this morning.

    My kids’ school is in the habit of including with the grade reports a letter on whatever hot topic the school is getting worked up over, and this time it was on “Sexting.”

    Personally, I’m of two minds about it.

    On the one hand, it seems like a dumb thing to do, since you know the pictures are going to get passed around. It’s worth pointing that out to teenagers, as they tend not to think about the consequences of what they do.

    On the other hand, of the dumb things that teenagers do, this one seems less likely to have serious, long-lasting consequences (like death) than many of the dumb things teenagers do.

    And it’s not like it’s all that new an idea. I believe that even when I was a teenager (back in the Jurassic), people liked to use Polaroid cameras to take naked pictures of themselves and their boy-/girlfriends. And, yes, teenagers were getting naked with one another even back then.

    I’d have to agree with the comments that say that the reaction of parents, school administrators, and prosecutors is more about the Powers That Be teaching girls that they’re supposed to be always afraid and ashamed (remember the line “It starts when you’re always afraid”?), especially when it comes to their girl-ness. And that a girl’s (and woman’s?) sexuality is inheirently as perverted as child pornography.

  46. Kali

    What happened to the boys who distributed these images without permission? Were they punished in any way, by the law, by the school, by the parents, by their peers? These boys are the biggest culprits here.

    And I have to agree with Kelly to some extent. Teenage boys can be as creepy and harmful to girls/women as any adult male. In some ways they have less power over girls than adult males, especially institutional power, but in other ways they have more power because they have the trust and love of girls, the trust and love which they violate in the most callous and brutal ways.

  47. Jezebella

    Kali, the difference I want acknowledged is the one the *actual victims* experience: the teenage girls stuck in this no-win situation. THEY see a huge difference between peers seeing their photos and principals/teachers/counselors seeing those photos. All it takes is a little empathy to understand how it is different for the actual girls involved. I try, whenever possible, to believe other women’s (& girls’) accounts of their experiences, rather than pronounce them to be incorrect, and claim there’s no difference at all.

  48. undercover punk

    Amen, Kali! SERIOUSLY, what happened to the BOYS who publicized the message? Distribution is the problem. WHY would someone be interested in distribution? To gain social POWER. Sadly, I suspect that if the situation were reversed, the GIRLS would still be the ones in trouble.

    Gender is not the problem (unless by gender, you mean MALE behavior and privilege and heterosexual power dynamics–THOSE are problems). Nor is the sexting itself. I sext, ok? To my female partner. And there’s never been a problem. I trust her. I do not send the messages to ingratiate myself to her. I do it primarily because I’m bored. I mean, she’s nice about it, but she wouldn’t care if I never sent her another one.

    Motivations matter. Intent matters.

    Lauren O, teenage boys’ preoccupation with reducing females to sexual objects IS, in and of itself, misogynistic. It represents a desire to perpetrate CONQUESTS of female bodies (as differentiated from women’s full humanity–for the objects the males seek are most often anonymous/without actual person-hood). Having a hyper-active sex drive IS an expression of and desire for POWER.

  49. mearl

    Oh, the male gaze. On it goes, supported in part by the wacky ideas of third-wavers who (I hate to say) have deluded themselves into thinking that taking control of your own nude photos will be subversive. Sadly, the po-mos are right on the this fact: that any image (or signifier….I feel hideous having said that) can and will be interpreted a million times over according to millions of viewers, cultural context, and political motivations of the society as a whole. Therefore, if you live in a society where men exploit women with naked porny photos of women, men remain always the invisible subject and observer, not the object and objectified. Moreover (I love using pompous academic-speak), if women continue to contribute naked porny photos of themselves in this cultural context, either due to coercive cultural trends OR as a feminist attempt at subversive intent, it basically just adds to the Patriarchal Canon of Naked Porny Photos of Women.

    The society condemns the girls even though the boys are the solicitors and distributors. The same society condemns the prostitutes and strippers and porn actresses even though the men are the pimps, producers, recruiters, profiteers and consumers. I’ve seen articles calling teenaged boys “the new pornographers.”
    I agree with otoc: aren’t there any privacy laws regarding photos of yourself? What’s with media release forms and consent forms in journalism? Why don’t these apply to communications and the internet in the public sphere?

    In feminism we have the “take the high road” myth, which I really don’t believe works in the context of the Maniacal Many-Headed Hydra of Patriarchy and its pictorial gaze. Audre Lorde said that you can’t use the Master’s tools to dismantle the Master’s house, and there’s been all this theoretical hype about creating an alternative. Well, I’ve been waiting 30 years to see what the alternative is to depicting women as sex objects, either by men or by other women. Hasn’t really happened yet, except in areas where people (usually feminists) point out the inequalities. Unless men disappear, we’ll always be back to square one.

    My own view on how, as a female, to stop being an object and become a subject is to do JUST THAT: become a subject. Depict the world as I see it. I’m hetero, I don’t look at women sexually. I look at men sexually. And in general, I like seeing people who you NEVER see on telly. I like seeing alternative ways of being presented positively rather than as negative stereotypes. I like seeing women and men of all stripes and spots depicted as people rather than stereotypes. And if I’ve got a sexuality, it primarily involves ogling guys and seeing them as vulnerable, but in a positive way. I’m not attracted to depictions of hot men as uber-macho icons for other hetero men to have man-crushes on, and I’m not a fan of Fabio and his ilk. I’m really tired of the deluge of the SAME images over and over. I hate to think what will go down in history: there are so few images of real, unstylised human beings in media ANYWHERE (except sometimes in the news, and some fringe art projects). I don’t consider “objectifying” men to be lowering myself to their level..I consider it as part of having the freedom to be the subject, not the object.

    If I were a teenaged girl right now with a camera cell phone, I admit it: I’d be taking a CRAPLOAD of photos of naked or semi-naked guys (which I know DOES actually happen, but doesn’t seem to make the news). Naked photos of either gender could very well be neutral, but it’s the patriarchal porn influence all the time: the idea that men can just make women dance like monkeys and disrobe on command, then as soon as women do, the men decide to have an insulting and degrading free-for-all since they no longer “respect” the women. It’s stupid, but it’s how a lot of guys think.

    Even if women have desires for images of the male body, it’s a lot harder to get these. Males are protective of their status as the subject. Being objectified is to be feminized (the horror!).

    If girls lived in a culture where being a subject and making males the object was expected, you might see a lot more boys in the office getting reprimanded a la Pete Wentz and his weiner photos.

    When I was in high school in the mid-90s, grunge androgyny and minimalism were at their height. It was by no means a feminist utopia, but it was SO different from what goes on now. Guys and girls dressed the same, like slobs, in baggy, holey jeans and band tshirts and 7-11 work shirts and toques and army boots and skate shoes. Girls bragged after the weekend parties that we got this or that guy to go down on US, not the other way around. The cultural influence was VERY different 15 years ago.

    Anyhow, my point is that sexual imagery and porn are like rape: it’s not about sex, it’s about control. If females are always the ones visualised, by choice or by peer pressure or by force, the gaze of the absent male is always the controller. Girls could have a lot more fun as subjects rather than objects, but does it occur to them? I’d be interested to know.

    Finally, it’s the lousy state of the culture. Media reports on what sells, and sexy naked little girls sell, either for titillation or titillation and horror, as Twisty has documented in her commentary about CSI episodes and tabloid features on missing (white) women. I bet if you talked to some real-life teenaged girls, you might find that they have naked photos of guys too, maybe consensual stuff, maybe just fun stuff. I would hope, anyways..

  50. xochitl

    “Gender is not the problem (unless by gender, you mean MALE behavior and privilege and heterosexual power dynamics–THOSE are problems).”

    Both male and female gender roles are creations of patriarchy. Male= violent rapist and female = whatever the violent rapist wants her to be are the problem. The fact that girls, starting at 3rd grade, feel compelled to go on diets and act sexy so guys will like them, that is a problem. I’m not blaming girls by the way, I’m blaming patriarchy for telling girls that this is what they are supposed to be.

  51. rootlesscosmo

    @Mearl:

    Audre Lorde said that you can’t use the Master’s tools to dismantle the Master’s house, and there’s been all this theoretical hype about creating an alternative.

    The master also owns the tool factory and the tool- and die-making blueprints and the raw materials. Did the ability to make and post videos inspire the invention of “sexting,” or did the demand for new techniques of humiliating women call forth YouTube and the Flip camera? Lard knows the revolution, or Twistolution, would be a welcome event, but then the post-Twistolution world will have to be created by people who were shaped by this one, which is a disheartening thought.

  52. xochitl

    “Teenage boys can be as creepy and harmful to girls/women as any adult male. In some ways they have less power over girls than adult males, especially institutional power, but in other ways they have more power because they have the trust and love of girls, the trust and love which they violate in the most callous and brutal ways.”

    And teenage (or younger) boys can get away with harassing and assaulting girls, as long as they have been diagnosed as Emotionally Disturbed. With a diagnosis of ED, a boy’s violence against female teachers and students is interpreted as part of his disability (ie, not his fault). This means that the girls in the class have to put up with his physical and verbal abuse because removing him from the class would be a violation of his rights. Of course, no one thinks of the students’ teachers’ right not to be punched in the face and called fat bitches by male students.

  53. slythwolf

    Whereas grown men can get away with harassing and assaulting girls on the basis that they’re “such a nice man, a good and decent man, and upstanding pillar of the community, and would never do anything like that, so she must be making it up or was asking for it, the lying little slut”.

  54. xochitl

    ‘Whereas grown men can get away with harassing and assaulting girls on the basis that they’re ‘such a nice man, a good and decent man, and upstanding pillar of the community, and would never do anything like that, so she must be making it up or was asking for it, the lying little slut’.”

    When grown men abuse female students it is not even made public. When the principal finds out, the teacher submits his resignation, then gets a job at another school.

  55. Kuleana

    Zach, if you’re not willing to leave the parties, you could at least tell the rapey dudes they’re douchebags.

    Or sneak laxatives into their drinks. There’ve gotta be some liquid laxatives that don’t leave much of a taste, right? Plus then those rancid dudes will be on the shitter all night rather than out and about harassing women.

    Also, I was thinking the exact same thing re: making a law that you own any naked images of yourself. Then, when things like this happen, criminal charges could of course still apply, plus you could sue the living bejezus out of anyone who does anything with your naked pictures without your permission. That way there wouldn’t be this goddamn arguing over whether it is or is not okay for men to make porn out of images of women who weren’t aware they were being filmed or consented to being filmed but not having it put all over the Internet. If the dude or whoever’s distributing the pictures isn’t able to produce obviously legitimate, signed original forms in which the person depicted stated under precisely what terms their image could be reproduced and distributed, they face criminal charges and any money they’ve made goes automatically to the victim.

    AND those forms should be signed at the beginning and end of any “project” so that there can’t be any twist at the end that the person being filmed wouldn’t want used or didn’t consent to, like those videos that I think are filmed in Florida where guys in cars get women to consent to being filmed for some vile little porn series, promising the women money to do sexual things with them, and then they dump the women out of the car after filming without the promised payment. If there’s not an end-of-project consent form, in which the project is finished and the person depicted has seen exactly how it will look when distributed, then they’re still in violation.

    (Of course what we really need is a society where men don’t see women’s bodies as things to be exploited and automatically sexualized, but absent that I’d like to punish the fuck out of anybody who exploits society’s hatred and fetishization of our bodies for their personal gain.)

  56. Kuleana

    When the principal finds out, the teacher submits his resignation, then gets a job at another school.

    Or, if it’s like my old high school, the principal knows a teacher is a child molester, loathes him to the depths of his soul, but can’t fire him because the goddamned school board likes the teacher in question due to his ability to lead the jazz ensemble to many awards. When the school had an addition put on, the principal did somehow get this teacher’s office to have three glass walls, I shit you not. This, of course, didn’t stop Mr. Totally Douchey director from having the girls in the colorguard give him neck rubs while he worked.

  57. Lara

    Kelly said:
    You create and distribute images of yourself to be used as fodder for male, masturbatory, rape fantasies and then you are grossed out that someone is using them for that purpose? So dirty old men are different (or worse?) than dirty men of other ages? Or does she believe that her boyfriend and his friends aren’t somehow dirty but these other men are?

    Funny how when adult women are assaulted, harassed, and attacked by men and boys all of us Blametariat whole-heartedly defend the women, but when it comes to teenage girls being harassed and objectified and taunted as “sluts” some of us claim “they should have known better!” “Of course those boys are going to pass their photos around, what were those stupid little girls thinking??!” How could we? Do we literally not see how age, as well as gender or sex, is used as a way to give older folks power over younger folks? The fact of the matter is that the young boy or boys who distributed this girl’s photos for wanking or revenge (or both) should be held responsible. The adult males who relish in their slut-shaming of this poor young woman should also be held to task for their misogyny. I have been sexually harassed by both male classmates in highschool, as well as the male highschool principal (who always used to make a point of yelling at me in the crowded major hallway about how the tops I wore were supposedly too low-cut or revealing…then stop staring at my tits, asshole!). The harassment at the hands of both young men or boys and older adult males with authority power is all part of the same system: the Patriarchy! So fuck those stupid boys who distributed that girl’s photos, fuck the damned older male school authorities for slut-shaming and further harassing the girl, and to hell with some of us feminists blaming or scolding girls for BOYS’ behavior. We should be ashamed of ourselves for our ageism and misogyny!

  58. Agasaya

    Hi Zach,

    When you witness the potential for individuals to be harmed, it’s a pretty good bet that the first thing you do is not search out the nearest tome on “How to Rescue a Female in a Politically Correct Manner”. Zach, this isn’t about rescuing women or even about feminism.

    It’s about acting like a mensch. That’s the closest word in my vocabulary to the ideal of a fully evolved individual of any gender. In order to take positive action, it is not necessary to hop on a soapbox. When faced with a mass demonstration of adolescent idiocy, standing by dumbly leads to desensitization on your part and tacit acceptance by others of your position in boydom. But walking out doesn’t necessarily satisfy your ‘menschdom’, either.

    Those aren’t simply girls or women about to damage themselves for the sake of acceptance by the Children of the Damned. Those females have names. Find out so they begin to remember their own individuality. A soft question asked in a non-demonstrative manner: “What is your name? And yours?” Follow that up with, “Trudy, Sara – would you like to leave and find someplace else to really enjoy the evening without risking your safety? I’ll call you a cab or one of your friends to pick you up. I’m also leaving.” Make it clear you aren’t trying to spirit them away yourself nor are you impressed with the impending show.

    Anyone in distress is an individual first and a member of another class secondarily. Offer help where you can without worrying if someone will be offended by it. Worse case scenario? You were wrong and they get pissed at you. Best case scenario? Someone doesn’t know the way out of a jam and you provide the carfare out of that war zone.

    Either way, you make learn to define yourself and can act in situations making you uncomfortable before you work out the terms and concepts which make it seem wrong to you. Those around you will ask you for your reasoning at some point if in fact they notice or care. Action is the best statement to make. Have a second choice of destination available to you each time you enter a social situation that may turn into a test of character. Teach by example and show that you’d rather be at a movie; another party or writing a paper. It’s about looking in the mirror tomorrow and helping someone else to do the same. It isn’t about being PC there or here. Feminism is logic and common sense. Its hard to violate that by logical actions.

  59. Agasaya

    Re: Sexting

    Why is it impinging on female adolescent rights to simply let them know that it is illegal to distribute pictures of nude minors, including themselves? Simple enough rule to learn while larger concepts are being taught. Those concepts? Perhaps that sexuality is a natural celebration of the body that doesn’t really involve souvenir trading. Or that such celebrations are best left between trusted individuals who don’t require tangible proof of ‘the deed’ to share with sixty of their dearest fellow schmucks.

    Rules exist to reduce the damage done by poor judgment before individual responsibility sets in via maturation and/or education. Someone noted they disciplined two youngsters for making out in the hallway during class time. That was about their poor judgment as to time and place, not their actions per se and it was handled without attempting to shame those kids. Hopefully, someone will be helping kids to sort out the cultural train wreck that dictates so much of their sexual lives over their lifetimes. But initially? It’s about context and restricting opportunities for mistakes to be made. These are children.

  60. K

    If I feel brave enough, I walk away, muttering in a clear voice that I would gladly make out with one of the dudely onlookers for her benefit, should she like. The horror of a potential gay moment usually disrupts the fun of it for them, even if only briefly.

    How about propositioning the onlookers outright?

    Or would that be safe? I only went to one party in college, so I don’t know.

  61. Frumious B.

    Zach, it might help you know how to respond if you learn a little about the bystander and enabler roles. Loosely, there are the actual douchebags encouraging girls to make out with each other for male pleasure. There are the enablers who don’t actually try to get girls to make out, but who make sure there is plenty of alcohol to loosen everybody up. Then there are the bystanders who don’t play any active role, but who stand around watching and not trying to stop anything. You can’t really stop a douche from being douchy. Enablers are tough, b/c they provide alcohol for boys and girls who want to make out for their own pleasure, too. But the bystander role can be broken. You can disapprove without confronting either the douches or the girls, and give tacit permission to other dudes who are not comfortable to leave or also speak up. If you can tell which dudes are uncomfortable, you can say something to them. It’s tough to speak up, but you sound like you are up for it.

  62. Sandi LeoDog

    Holy frijoles I LOVE that photograph. Oh,and what, WE didn’t take Polaroids of ourselves nekkid back in the day?

  63. Christina Eater

    A year and change late to this party. Citizen Jane’s very first post (#comment-149073) totes made me want to post a naked picture to my website, just because I should be able to. Not a pornulated or “artsy” picture, just a boring snapshot of me being a human being who happens to be female and happens to not be wearing clothes. I have a feeling I’ll regret it if I do it, though.

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