Dear Ms. Social,
My daughter just graduated from high school and we have a million things to think about before she heads off to college in the fall. Right now, we are collecting items for her dorm room, getting a new computer, and talking about a bank account for her purchases at school. We are adding to the list everyday.
Those are all the fun things to do before she leaves. We also have to cover all the not so fun but serious matters before she ventures off on her own. One of my friends told me about a new form of cyber bullying that occurred at her son’s college last year. It is called sexual shaming. She said it was a major problem and we needed to talk to our daughter about the devastating effects on girls being victimized online.
I have a general knowledge about what sexual shaming is from the conversation with my friend. I would like to know how to talk to my daughter on this topic and what she should know to stay safe.
College bound freshman
Dear College bound,
Sexual shaming is also known as slut shaming. It refers to revealing explicit nude photos, compromising videos, bragging about sexual conquests, or rating girls on their willingness to have sex and placing all the details online. The images, text, or video, once posted on social platforms like Facebook, go viral. Other people find these images in their feed. Commenting, rating, and sharing, the pictures spreads through social media. The victim, many times unaware until someone tells them, has been sexually shamed and her sexual encounter or compromised photo has been publicly displayed similar to placing it on a billboard for everyone to view. Sexual shaming involves a victim, harassment, and it occurs online just like cyber bullying.
Sexual shaming has devastating effects on the victim. In some cases, suicide has been the result of online humiliation. Often the victim was recorded without knowing it. The victim was recorded with a hidden camera or photos were taken with a cellphone. The perpetrator shares it with his or her friends who share it with more friends. Many times girls “shame” other girls. Collectively, they form a group to criticize the victim. This is known as victim blaming and brings another negative element on top of the public exposure.
You could see where a freshman at college would be vulnerable. They are meeting many new friends and they have entered a world of independence with little supervision. Do not think, however, that sexual shaming is just occurring on college campuses. It is also happening to middle and high school students as well.
There needs to be more awareness about sexual shaming. Just like cyber bullying, there are always bystanders and upstanders. We need to encourage everyone involved to be upstanders and stop the victimization.
Thank you for asking information on such an important social topic.