Nowadays, it seems all but the case that there is any reluctance as it relates to the transmission of sex between teen boys and girls; whereas there was once a time wherein teenaged love affairs had to be kept under wraps for fear of mom and dad finding out and delivering the gnawing ‘talk.’ Long gone are the days when talking on the phone with a teen love interest past the designated time that your parents had set was considered risqué. Currently, sexting is king and sexual provocation rules. With the proliferation of apps like Snapchat, the exchange of sex has become quick, easy and inconspicuous.
According to a recent study that was conducted by the Journal of Children and Media, when it comes to the topic of sexting you’re—per the apropos title of the research project—“Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don’t.” In other words, for young, contemporary women and men, if you’re not up on your sexting game, you’re as good as chopped liver.
Chief researchers of the project from the University of Michigan, Julia Lippman and Scott Campbell, respectively, doled out 51 questionnaires to teenagers between the ages of 12 to 18 years, querying them about their thoughts/opinions around the topic of sexting. Revealingly, yet not surprisingly (unfortunately) the teens’ responses pointed to the lose-lose scenario that arises for young women who either choose to participate in or refrain from the sexting craze. The research revealed that for teen girls, who are daring enough to entertain teen boys (in all of their testosterone-on-full-drive glory) by way of the transmission of sexts, they run the risk of being labelled “crazy,” or “attention-seeking sluts.”
On the flip side, teen girls who opt to not participate in the in-thing that is the sexting craze found themselves on the receiving end of having titles such as “Stuck up prude” thrown their way. They just can’t seem to win.
I mean…can a young woman live? Well, apparently not.
And to make matters worse, the teen boys’ responses were alarming at best.
“The most striking ﬁnding with regard to gender was the extent to which girls, but not boys, were judged for their sexting practices,” the study says. “According to these accounts, then, girls who send sexts are—to use some of our male participants’ words—crazy, insecure, attention-seeking sluts with poor judgment.”
Now, now let’s not call any of this solely a ‘sexting’ issue. If anything the study elucidated what many of us already know: the undeniable truth about the perpetual reality of sexism. Sadly, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the study had been devised into three parts: the negative opinions that are formulated about girls who sext, the negative opinions having to do with girls who don’t sext, along with the opinions that were primarily sent by certain types of girls sext.
That an overwhelming amount of negative responses having to do with girls who send texts came from young men is telling. It’s clear that sexting is simply a New Age manifestation of societal norms around sexuality that have been in existence for eons. So when a 16-year-old participant of the study expresses: “My boyfriend or someone I really liked asked for them. And I felt like if I didn’t do it, they wouldn’t continue to talk to me”—we know that as a society, we’ve got a major problem on our hands. There’s no difference between ideas around the sentiments of this young woman with regard to the pressures of sexting or else… to that of the long existing pressures which stem from giving it up to him or else…
The common denominator is that young women with impressionable minds feel the need to please him. That’s problematic.
It’s easy to examine the issue of sexting and offer that if technology weren’t as omnipresent as it presently is, issues having to do with the quick and easy transmission of sex wouldn’t be as prevalent. Give me a break. Take technology out of the equation and we’d still have a monster on our hands.
The unrelenting monster that is sexism has stood the test of time and remains a dead weight on the lives of millions of girls and women the world over. I think it’s time that we pause—if only for a nanosecond—between the fast-paced reality of our times to consider the reason as to why boys feel comfortable enough to reveal their opinions about why girls who sext are considered “slutty,” yet fall short at expressing the ways in which they may influence girls’ behaviours or make suggestive comments about boys’ sexting being thought of as easy or promiscuous.
As a mother of two young boys, who is all too aware of the realities of sexism, I do my due diligence to ensure that I’m raising sons who will know to respect and honour women, much in the same way that I will teach to accept nothing less than that in return. The sexting issue is not a stand-alone issue; it’s a societal issue that requires not only parents to tackle but, society as a whole. That means teachers, grandparents, aunties and uncles all need to be involved in the raising of boys into men within our respective communities, not accepting the least bit even hints at double standards around sexual expectations, innuendo or promiscuity. What’s good for the goose should surely be good for the gander? If it isn’t then, don’t talk about it…period.
Chime in: what are your thoughts on teens and the sexting phenomenon? Do you believe this issue to be something new or the result of the unresolved issue of sexism?
Nikki is an educator and writer, whose musings cover broad-based topics including but, not limited to: cultural criticism, politics, education, health, love and relationships. You can follow her on Twitter @artculturemusic.