Since last Saturday a story has gone viral in the media about a 17 year old girl who has been publicly taunted and humiliated because pictures of her emerged from the past weekend’s Eminem concert in Ireland, where she is seen giving oral sex to a boy. The article was posted by the Daily Mail, a British newspaper that I regularly read because it often features news that aren’t featured in any other newspapers, news about animal abuse, child abuse and rape for example – the kind of news that few people prefer reading about while they sip their morning coffee. The picture displayed in the article shows the guy waving his arms victoriously in the air while the girl is performing oral sex on him in a part of the picture that was cut out. The articles mentions how people have slandered the girl for being ‘promiscuous’ and even going as far as creating Facebook hate pages and posting an infinite amount of tweets on Twitter.
Now this obviously constitutes as yet another case of cyberbullying, however it also shows how cyberbullying has its roots in ‘real life’.
Obviously a specifically alarming point about this case is the fact that the girl in the photos is being labeled as a ‘slut’ while the guy receives virtually no criticism, especially by the many male tweeters tweeting about the story changing the hashtag #slanegirl to #slaneslut. The examples of these tweets are many and the language used is abusive to say the least.
The discussions online including on social media networks such as Twitter have centered around the discussion about whether it is the girl or the guy that is at fault as well as on criticizing those who have bullied the girl online.
However, there are two aspects of this story that hasn’t been discussed and that is what we will focus on here. The first point has to do with asking why and how this situation even came to play out. As several commentators have mentioned, sexual ‘promiscuity’ is not unseen at concerts and festivals and therefore the only thing that makes this story stand out is the fact that everyone now has easy access to cameras via their smartphones and that it has become trendy to publish photos online with services such as Instagram and Twitter providing the platform for people to expose their own and others intimate moments.
The fact that a girl and a guy chose to have sex, however the circumstances, at a public event is obviously not ‘bad’ in itself – sex is sex and it is quite odd that the reactions has been so overwhelming, especially towards calling the girl a slut and being outraged that something like this happens, when we live in a reality where sex is literally in our faces from we are born, every day, all day and where children learn, virtually without any guidance from educators and parents to ’explore sexuality’ through watching hardcore and brutal porn, not to mention movies and commercials that show a completely distorted image of what sexual intimacy is in fact. This is not even mentioning the drug and alcohol culture that children face and that with all likelihood has played a role in why this photo even came to. What does it even mean to be a ‘slut’? Is it something that is a ‘bad person’ that deserves public humiliation and condemnation? According to the tweets above this is so. But where is the consideration towards the fact that being sexually promiscuous has become a requirement for many young women and men if they want to be considered ‘cool’ by their peers? Where is the consideration towards the fact that a teenager that (most likely in a drunken or drugged state) performs oral sex in public, most likely have a low self-esteem and might have seen giving a public blow-job as a way to ‘be cool’ – even in spite of the fact that we all know that its not. Many of us has been in the shoes of this girl in one way or another – but few have been subject to the public shaming and bullying that this girl and that many other girls have been exposed to online.
This also goes to show how people are making assumptions and allowing themselves to have opinions about something they don’t know anything about.
After the event a new video has emerged of the girl from Slane – showing her being groped and pushed around by a group of men.
“The footage was posted on YouTube yesterday afternoon – but was quickly removed.
The video showed the 17-year-old girl surrounded by up to eight young men who are pushing her around and verbally abusing her as she kisses a young man.
The man who she is kissing is not the same man she was pictured with in a photograph that was posted onto social networking sites on Sunday evening.
The video was removed from YouTube by the website less than an hour after it was posted because it violated the website’s community guidelines.”
It is thus fascinating that contradicting values, morals and cultural norms exist within and as the same culture, where this girl is shamed a being a slut, but no critique is posed towards the extreme amount of porn available online or the fact that most young boys have watched hardcore and brutal porn in abundant measures before they turn thirteen. No critique is posed towards our society’s hyper-sexualization found at every street corner, billboard and music video. In a way it is like that the only thing this girl did ‘wrong’ – was to get caught on camera without having consented to it and that this in itself is what is shameful, where as people willingly exposing themselves and their bodies is not only seen as ‘normal’ but as desirable and commendable. It is fascinating how we claim to have one set of values – while our actions exhibit something else entirely. An example is the tweets by women such as the one above by “Laura” who in the same tweet talks about ‘self-respect’ only to go on calling the girl from Slane a ‘dirtylittlebitch’. What kind of self-respect does someone have that allows themselves to call another person a ‘dirty little bitch’? What kind of ethical or moral standard or example is that implying? The last tweet posted above by ‘Jamie’ shows this in an even clearer light. ‘Jamie’ does apparently not condone the fact that the girl from Slane gave a guy a blowjob in public, which would indicate that he (in his own eyes at least) has some form of a moral compass as to what is acceptable to do in public and what is not. Yet he goes onto literally threatening the people who defend the girl from Shane saying that they should be ‘fucked into a bag, drowned and burned’. Where does such words even come from? How can a person claim to have any form of moral values or standards when they can allow themselves to stand by such words – publicly or not?
A specific pertinent question to ask here is what is the public’s role in all of this?
Several articles have been posted around the internet ‘reporting’ the story, but even these have been criticized as ‘fuelling the fire’ and it would appear that most online media is mostly preoccupied within a bystander position, similar to that of people driving by a car crash only to roll their window and take snap shots, instead of actually getting out and helping the people in the accident.
As a Jezebel reported stated as a comment to the media and public’s response to the story: “Wouldn’t it be cool if we lived in a world where people took care of their fellow humans in compromised states, rather than taking photos of them to post online? It’s like we’re all parasitic paparazzi wannabes and Twitter/Tumblr/Reddit are our equally offensive TMZs.”
This particular quite reminds me of a recent episode of the British Tv series ”Black Mirror” that centers around how our lives are affected by advanced technology. The episode from season 2 is called ” White Bear” and it is about how we as the public have become zombified bystanders to the abuse happening on earth. The way cyberbullying is manifested, it is like we have taken all the nasty, spiteful and judgmental thoughts that we would never allow ourselves to speak out loud, because of the potential conseqeunces and have made it legal and acceptable through the internet because ’everything goes’ online. However several sources have demanded that the people who have shared the photos of the girl from Slane as well as the person taking the photo are to be prosecuted for distributing child pornography since the girl was underage according to Irish laws. The Irish authorities have therefore also launched an investigation into the matter.
The question is though, what role do we play, all of us who can sit in the comforts of our home and make opinions, judgments and assumptions about what happened or what role the newspapers who reported the incident play? How is it that we can see something like this happen and believe that it has nothing to do with us, when all of this has been blatantly indicative for the society we’’ve created and accepted as our reality?
Cyberbullying does not only exist because bullies exist or because victims exist. It doesn’t exist simply because people are stupid enough to get caught on camera doing something apparently embarrassing. It also doesn’t exist simply because of the internet and the possibilities for exposure and anonymity it allows.
The words written by the people in the Tweets above are actual words written by actual people and however they might claim to have written them as a joke or in the spur of the moment or that they wrote them because everyone else was – it doesn’t change the fact that these words existed within them, before this incident even happened. And these words exist within all of us. We should be grateful that the Internet is now exposing our ‘real’ values’ as human beings, the fact that we don’t care about each other – the ‘values’ that are so nasty, so spiteful, so malignant that we don’t even admit to ourselves that it is our values. But fortunately the words are there for all to see – and as such we inadvertently expose ourselves on the Internet, whether we like it or not. And this is an Important step for us to sort this world out – because without disclosure we may continue believing that we’re a benevolent race – when in fact we’re nothing but, and it’s time we face ourselves directly – so that we can make a decision to say: “this is not who I want to be.”
Being a bystander to what happened at Slane is similar to being a bystander to seeing a violent attack on the street, filming it and uploading it on Youtube. Because it is absolutely certain that these photos were taken specifically with the purpose of publicly shaming the girl giving a blowjob and the photographer have successfully succeeded at that, with rows upon rows of people standing ready behind their screens to suck it all in (no pun intended) and get a kick out of partaking in the publicly humiliating someone, while pretending (most of all to themselves) that they’re ‘outraged’ because what is happening is morally deplorable – all the while they’re experiencing an energetic kick from being nasty and spiteful. This can be seen within how, if people were actually morally outraged about others displaying their sexuality in public, they would certainly do something about it and not simply tweet their outrage as though that has any form of validity as ‘making a statement’. As such, being a bystander to abuse – any form of abuse – does not simply mean that you’re standing by and watching while something is happening. A by-stander by definition, is someone who does not intervene, but who literally ‘stands by’ the abuse taking place.
If you have been exposed to bullying, if you are a bully yourself, if you recognize the imperative to stop the nastiness of the human mind – there is support available on the Desteni forum 24/7. We have very strict rules and abuse is not allowed, yet at the same time we do not judge ourselves or each other for the mistakes that we’ve made because we understand that we’re all equally in this together. And therefore we expect nothing less from you if you decide to participate than you becoming your fullest potential as a dignified human being with actual self-respect, care and consideration – because that is what we expect from ourselves. Join us and take part in changing the world, stopping one bully at a time – beginning with the bully in your head.
The Bully project: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DiiozTED9nU