“Slut Shaming” – Time for a More Serious Response

If you haven’t heard of police getting involved in the fallout from slut shaming yet, you probably will soon. Police until now have been more focused on rape and underage pornography, both worthy of their attention.

Scarlet-LetterSlut-shaming is the process of outing peers who you view as inappropriately promiscuous, in today’s world usually via social media. It’s safe to say that in some incidents, especially among high school girls, the motive behind the shaming is something at least a little sinister, often jealousy or just plain meanness.

The reason that I think the issue will come to the fore soon is that news is out that two Swedish girls have been officially charged with defamation over a slut shaming incident, in this case on Instagram, and will go to court in a couple of weeks.

The two girls charged are 15 and 16. Investigators say the 15-year-old admitted posting to the account and implicated the 16-year-old, although she told a local newspaper, Goteborgs-Posten, she was panicky when she posted pictures and set controls so they could be viewed by everyone.

 

In this case, the two created an Instagram account and encouraged other to post pictures of “sluts” along with details of their sexual activities. As the photos and comments in some cases were set to “public”, others including students and the police were able to see the evidence. The police got involved after the offended parties and others came close to inciting riots at two schools.

Slut shaming is nothing new – The Scarlet Letter was written in 1850. What’s new is how pervasive social media and camera phones are, and how quickly defamation can now spread. Bullying laws and policies have been toughened up in most states, so an incident like the one in Sweden would most likely result in a school suspension if it happened over here. In two recent high profile cases of slut shaming on this side of the Atlantic leading to the victims’ suicide (here and here), I saw no mention of the tormentors being prosecuted (in cases where the victim was involved in rape or underage sex, most of the focus has been on the other party in the sexual act). The fact that the two Swedish girls will be charged in a court of law could prompt a change to the rules of the game over here, or at least some healthy discussion.

 

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