Sexual predators, double standards, and bullying

So I often see stuff on my facebook feed about resisting bullying, how guys should treat girls, how girls expect to be treated by guys, and a varying cornucopia of other photos, phrases and gifs. “Like if you’re against bullying” printed across a picture of a crying girl, with a group of other girls pointing and laughing behind her. “A real man listens to his woman instead of tuning her out” at the bottom of a photo of a guy in a large, flat-billed hat, gold chains and oversized pants (what that has to do with the quote in the picture I will never know…) etc. etc. These things appear so frequently, sometimes from pages I haven’t even liked, that I usually ignore them because there’s just so damn many.

But one caught my attention recently and it seems to be catching the attention of the whole internet.

Amanda Todd.

Now, I’m sure loads of you have already heard her story, weighed in on it somewhere somehow, or seen plenty of other people’s opinions already. Myself, not knowing much about it, decided to go look up the original video she posted herself and get a first-hand look, then read the story of what happened after that, so I could form the most educated opinion I possibly could.

Having seen her video and read the news stories of what happened, I have a few things I want to say:

1) This girl was 15 years old, and was only in 7th grade when she showed her breasts to a man on the internet on a webcam. For this, people are calling her a “slut” a “little whore” and a whole bunch of other horrible things. Now, was it wise of her to do that? No, of course not. But the fallout she got from it was absolutely undeserved.

Lets first address the issue of the fact that this man, who convinced a 15 year old girl to show him her breasts, is an internet predator. That’s all there is to it. I don’t care what kind of mistakes she made, or what poor choices she made, anyone who goes on the internet and coerces underage girls to show their breasts is a sexual predator.

Next, lets consider what he did after he took the photo of her breasts. He stalked her. He stalked her and blackmailed her. He knew the names of all her friends and family. He knew her address. He knew where her school was. She said in her video she had no idea how he got all of that information. Which means she didn’t tell him. He threatened her. He told her that if she didn’t “put on a show for him” he would send her photo to everyone she knew. I don’t know if she complied (and compliance is NOT the same as consent) but either way, he terrified her. I would be too. Even after she moved, he still stalked and harassed her. The police arrived at her house at 4 am because he had created a facebook page with her breasts as his profile photo.

The backlash from that was piled on to her in the form of name-calling, shaming, and other forms of harassment.

Now, when I was in 7th grade, I sure as hell didn’t make perfect choices. I can recall dating a guy who had destroyed his mother’s car and stolen money from one of the school clubs. I’m pretty sure he was lying to me about some other things too. Plus, I started going out with him the night I met him. Didn’t even know his last name. Was that wise? Noooooooo. I don’t think that 7th graders are known for their ability to make logical, well-thought-out decisions. Especially when they are exposed to so much technology. Social networks, chat sites, blogs, online gaming, smart phones, etc. etc. It’s hard to keep up.

This girl made a mistake. But what about the sick creep who kept following her? What happened to HIM? Why is she the target of all the hate and backlash? Why isn’t he behind bars? Last time I checked, coercing underage girls for photos of their breasts, stalking, and blackmailing them, then distributing said photos is majorly illegal.

Also, going back to my point about technology overloads on today’s youth, anyone who has ever visited a chatroom, like the popular one-on-one site, would know that it is not difficult to find people who are not only willing, but outright hunting for sex and sexual things. It’s very difficult to find someone who isn’t jonsing for some cyber. I often find myself disconnecting more than I do actually chatting. In my experience, I have had boys as young as 13 proposition me. It’s a scary thing. I am not interested in teenage and tween boys. I wonder where some of them get the gall to do this. (It is, however, very convenient to be able to disconnect with the touch of the ESC button!) But I think to myself, “Do they really have any idea how dangerous it is to proposition a complete stranger whom you can’t even actually see? (provided it is a text chat)” It’s probably just as dangerous with video chat. It is absolutely chilling how easy it is to find underage teens with no sense of how truly unsafe it is.

But with this in mind, it really is not fair at all to be calling Amanda Todd a “slut”. How many of the people who bullied her, harassed her, followed her and how many people who are STILL calling her names are guilty of similar actions?

2) She had sex with a guy who had a girlfriend. Alright, another mistake. But she said in her video that it was a mistake. She thought that he liked her. Apparently, he was one of her old guy friends from her previous school. And he had been texting her for a while.

Now, it was not smart of her to sleep with him when she knew he had a girlfriend. But lets also think about what position she was in. Her self esteem was damaged and she had been having anxiety and depression from the previous incident and the stalker. Her emphasis on how she thought he really liked her is indicative of a desire to be really wanted.

Thinking further on that point, how many of us have made stupid decisions out of sheer need to just feel accepted? Loved? I know I have. And we are especially vulnerable when we are in states of depression and extremely low self esteem. We date people who are bad for us. We convince ourselves that there are justifications for being with someone already spoken for. We sacrifice aspects of our personality so that one person will LOOK at us. I’m guilty of it. I know other people who are guilty of it. It’s part of growing up and learning about who we are and maturing and becoming adults. For some of us, that journey as much harder than for others.

It was a bad decision for her to go over and hook up with him. It was. No other way to put it.

However, it takes two to tango. That boy knew he had a girlfriend. He knew what he was doing when he invited her over. He knew what he was doing when he told her he liked her. And he also knew what he was doing when he stood by and watched her get beat up. And he knew he was getting away with it when she lied to protect him out of fear and hurt.

Yet still, she ended up the target of even more bullying. This is the same as the situation with the online predator. Why did nothing happen to this boy? Why was all the fault laid on Amanda? Why was HE not the target of any anger for being the one to cheat on his girlfriend and then stand there and watch as the girl he chose to cheat with gets beaten and left on the ground?

Because it’s a double standard. He’s a stud for being with two girls at once. She’s a “slut” for overstepping the rules of “good girlness” and showing any kind of sexuality whatsoever. Sure, sleeping with a taken guy is a bad idea no matter how old you are, but it is absolutely not fair that he gets off scott-free and she literally gets dumped in a ditch.

And I ask the people who are still calling her a slut and telling her she deserved it, how perfect is YOUR relationship track record? I would bet that out of the thousands of people commenting on her video and blogging and generally talking about her (actually, I bet that number is in the millions) that there is a big percentage that have screwed up in the same way. Slept with a taken man/woman, made a poor choice in partners or dates, or maybe even was the culprit of breaking another person’s heart.

3) She tried to kill herself once by drinking bleach and it didn’t work. So people start leaving cruel messages on her facebook telling her she should try harder next time or use a different bleach. Tagging her in pictures of bleach and ditches and telling her she “had it coming.” Her next attempt at suicide worked, given that she is now dead and the subject of all kinds of discussions. Some STILL bullying and calling her names and shaming her.

I was bullied when I was a teenager. But it was NEVER this horrible. When did bullying get so damn vicious? When did teenagers decide that it was okay to bully someone literally to death and even beyond that? Amanda Todd is not the only case of rampant harassment and bullying to the point of suicide, and then even after that, continuing with the same behaviors that lead to the victim’s death in the first place. I hardly have words for the seriousness of this and my level of shock and disgust that teenagers, and younger, school kids are doing this and being okay with it. When did we stop caring about what we say to each other and how we make each other feel? And how could anyone sleep at night knowing that their words and actions lead someone to take their own life? Why do some people think that it’s okay to say “You deserve to die” and actually MEAN it to their fellow students, for transgressions as small as wearing the same dress as a popular girl or not having the “right” hair style or just being different. This is atrocious behavior and I should hope that one day, even just ONE of those bullies would look at themselves and think about how much they can truly damage another person. Maybe consider the fact that the kid they pushed around in grade school or the guy they beat up for being a “nerd” or the girl they spread a nasty rumor about is a human being. A human being no different than they. One who can think, feel happiness, and indeed feel pain. Pain that can be made worse by harsh words and actions of others. And I would hope that that one bully would think of all that and just…stop.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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