16-Year-Old Girl Takes a Stand Against Slut-Shaming On Social Media

In this NPR broadcast, Radio Rookie teenager Temitayo Fagbenle exposes the concept of slut shaming. Young women are publicly ridiculed by their peers after racy photos and videos are posted of them on the Internet. Online groups expose risqué photos of young women posted without their consent. In one interview Temitayo had with a high school senior, he admitted to sending a photo of a topless woman to his friends, which then spread to the entire school, when he was in seventh grade. He used words like “smitty,” “scally wap,” and “whore” to describe her, even though he sent the photos without her consent. He believed that sending out such graphic material would be “cool,” not realizing the consequences of his actions. Since it is a criminal matter once the explicit content involving underage girls is made public, he was arrested for distributing the photo.

After going to jail for the incident, the young man did not feel remorse for what he did, and actually seemed to feel a sense of pride at releasing the photo. As Temitayo said, people are not crueler now than they were under 17th century Puritanism. Rather, we live in a culture where Internet access allows slut shaming to happen in a more public arena.

The behavior that Temitayo describes, where the person (most often a woman) is blamed for the actions committed against them, is called victim blaming. Victim blaming allows for the guilt to be transferred over from the perpetrator of a crime to the victim of it. This phenomenon is perpetuated by sending mixed signals to women. Our culture teaches young women to be sexually stimulating for men, yet at the same time, women who emulate these images are called “sluts” and “whores.” There is the expectation to be sexual for the male gaze, yet “pure” enough to not engage in sexual activity, denying them agency to their own bodies. We exist for our bodies to be defined by men, but must also burden the misogynistic attitudes that denigrate us.

These attitudes about women aren’t just words: They have serious implications. In a recent incident in Steubenville, Ohio, hacking group Anonymous exposed photos and video of a 16-year-old girl being raped by a group of boys. The former guardians of one of the suspected rapists said that it was “not in his character” to commit such a disgusting act. Even when there is clear evidence that a violent act has occurred, there are people who will rush to the defense of the attacker, especially if that person has a good reputation.

Temitayo’s exposé is a step in the right direction in combating slut shaming. By displaying people’s attitudes toward women whose privacy is infringed upon, she brings attention to a social problem that needs to be addressed. No one, no matter what their gender, age, or sexuality is, deserves to be humiliated in this way. Open dialogue is key in combating these problematic attitudes.