Boys and Girls (Part One)

A number of news stories have crossed my path this month about boys and girls.  This thread is about issues that happen to kids outside of school.

One heads up I wanted to give parents of girls is the movie, Spring Breakers.  Now, you don't have to get too worried because it's rated R so I would hope most of your students could not just go to see it.

Spring Breakers is about a group of college girls who want a spring break, have no money, rob a restaurant and they're off and running.  

However, you should be warned for a couple of reasons.

One, this is NOT a comedy.  It's pretty serious stuff.  Trailer.

Two, it stars some very familiar (to young tweens and teens) actors like Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical), Selena Gomez (Disney Channel) and Ashley Benson (Pretty Little Liars).    I read an article in the NY Times and for most of these young actresses, this is a breaking-away-from-type movie for them and their careers.   (This is fine but you as parents need to know this is tough stuff.) Ms. Hudgens newest song? $$$ex.  Here's what the director of Spring Breakers said in Slate:

This film is hyper-reality,” director Harmony Korine told Salon when discussing his depictions of gun violence. “It’s an aggressive reinterpretation of that culture. It’s a pop poem or a fever dream—like the real world but hyper-poetic and hyper-extreme.”

The reviews are mixed but:

But New York magazine isn’t falling for it, asking in a headline “Is Spring Breakers One of the Perviest Movies Ever Made?” before commenting that it’s “swill,” and that “by the time the movie segues into a bloody shoot-’em-up, with girls in bikinis firing automatic weapons, it has lost its visceral kick.”

Which leads me to this article from the British newspaper, The Telegraph, about teenage girls and the pressures they face especially with boys armed with cellphones.  I've read about a lot of this as well here in the U.S. and I feel very sad for young girls.  I think many women can remember being teenaged girls and feeling various degrees of pressure from boys but boys who will take a picture and send it out everywhere?  That's a whole other level of stress.

Some of the boys at his school have explicit images of up to 30 different girls on their phone. They swap them like we used to swap football cards.

As one teenage girl said after the report came out, sending pictures of your body parts is “the new flirting".

Sexual pressure can cause girls to contemplate suicide, self-harm, develop eating disorders, or try to lose themselves in drugs or alcohol. But does sexting only happen in the most troubled inner-city schools?

Prof Andy Phippen of Plymouth University, who led his own research in Cornwall, Somerset and Devon. “I’ve been into all kinds of schools – including inner city, rural and semi-rural – and I can’t remember a single one where sexting was not an issue,” he says. “It’s not a class thing either. I visit elite schools, and the kids there talk about it just as much.”

However, it is important to say that children may be telling the truth if they insist they have never come across it. Estimates of those affected range from 15 to 40 per cent of pupils, depending on where you are. 

And that brings me to Steubenville, Ohio where this week guilty verdicts were returned against two teenaged boys for sexually abusing a drunk and passed-out teenaged girl.   The boys were sentenced to a juvenile detention center until they are 21 (but are likely to get some time off for time already served).

They also took photos on their cell phones and shared them (as did others and, as well, others made videos talking about the incident).  No one, not a single person, tried to help this girl over the course of the whole evening in at least two different locations. 

The attorney general is vowing to seek to prosecute these bystanders as Ohio does have a Good Samaritan law.   Two girls have been arrested for tweets threatening the victim.  From Time:

As Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said following the arrest of the two girls who threatened the Steubenville victim via Twitter after the guilty verdicts were announced: “Threatening a teenage rape victim will not be tolerated. If anyone makes a threat verbally or via the Internet, we will take it seriously, we will find you, and we will arrest you.” Those words were also a statement against a culture that minimizes or even glorifies violence against women and holds athletes to a different standard by which even criminal behavior is deemed acceptable.

There has been a massive amount written about this case and some very troubling issues have arisen.

- do we truly need to appeal to men or boys to NOT do this by saying, "What if it was your sister, your mother or your grandmother?"  Someone once said that evil is when you stop treating someone as a person but as a thing.

- is there a rape culture in our country? It would seem that there are certainly a number of people who believe women "ask" for it for how they dress or what time of night they are out. There are clearly some elected officials who believe pregnancy from rape can be "shut down" by the female body. I just heard a general on NPR this week discussing rape in the military and he said they "need a change in culture." Is there a rape culture in the military and if so, why would that be?

-From the Huffington Post:

During the investigation of this crime, dozens of high school peers were interviewed, many of whom were in attendance at the party. A shocking number of them confessed that they did not consider what the boys did to this 16-year-old girl to constitute rape. For me, this raises similar concerns that I've had in reading about the so-called "hook up" culture, in which many teens (if not perhaps a majority) don't consider things like manual or oral sex to actually be sex.

I have seen a lot of discussion based on some of the video where the boys are saying, "Well, she passed out so she didn't say no." Now, of course, we all know that is one lame line of reasoning but one teacher took this on in the classroom (and I'm not sure she should have) but many of the boys in her class thought the same thing and ask, "How do you know if she wants sex?" Some girls in the back said, "When the girl says yes."

- the role of sports in our culture and athletes as "heroes"

- the role of the media. After the verdicts were announced, it was astonishing the number of media outlets where the reporters expressed sympathy for the rapists. Yes, they are young but the pity, the concern belongs with the actual victim. CNN (surprisingly) was one of the major culprits. Fox News actually named the victim (but that's Fox News). CNN after the verdict:

"These two young men -- who had such promising futures, star football players, very good students -- literally watched as they believed their life fell apart."

 Yes and that's because they chose to sexually abuse a girl and brag to the world that they did it.

The rape victim's mother said this in court:

“Human compassion is not taught by a teacher, a coach or a parent,” the mother said. “It is a God-given gift instilled in all of us. You displayed not only a lack of this compassion but a lack of any moral code.”

“Your decisions that night affected countless lives including those most dear to you,” the statement continued. “You were your own accuser through the social media that you chose to publish your criminal conduct on.”

“This does not define who my daughter is,” the mother said. Slightly breaking down, she emotionally finished her statement. “She will perservere, grow, and move on.” 

“I have pity for you both. I hope you fear the Lord, repent for your actions, and pray hard for his forgiveness.”

She also publicly forgave one rapist when he approached her in court and apologized.

A good article from the Huffington Post about what parents of boys can do.

But ALL parents need to talk to their teens about sexuality as well as the consequences of drinking.   This is one of the worst case scenarios for drinking that you can imagine for a young girl and it's worth talking about especially from the "what would you have done if you were at a party and you saw a drunk girl being abused?" 


dj said…
All of us with sons need to be putting the energy into talking to our boys about rape, consent, protecting yourself, and responding to dicey situations that parents have been putting in for their daughters for generations,
Anonymous said…
We need to be talking to both boys and girls. There were girls at this party too who didn't think this was rape. Who blamed the victem because she was drunk. We need to talk to our children about what to do if they see something like this and how to respond because it is often shocking to the system and you ask yourself, did I just see what I thought I saw?
I think all high schoolers need to be talking about this event in their Health classes. Kids need to understand that while the girl should not have been drinking, that it is not her fault that this happened to her. Kids need to understand that this is rape. Kids need to understand that taking pictures of underage kids and passing them around is child pornography. If a person cannot give consent, then it is rape.
Coaches need to be talking to their teams about sex, drinking, drugs and rape. This particular coach in OH should be fired because he knew about this rape and covered it up.

HP and there's the power of small-town sports. That coach absolutely should be fired and yet, he's still there.

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