Fight the New Drug

Uncovering How Porn Fuels Sexual Harassment In Schools

Cover photo by Scott Webb. 4 minute read.

Hypersexualized media has not saturated our society without huge, rippling consequences.

We’ve seen it affect virtually every corner of our culture, and to such extremes as prepubescent labiaplasty procedures and post-natural-disaster sex trafficking. But in addition to these horrifying issues, there’s another issue taking center stage as a result of our porn-obsessed society: sexual bullying, especially in schools.

Here’s what’s going on.

There have been reports of school-aged children as young as five years old exhibiting unprecedented sexual behaviors at school and in classrooms. [9] Note that bullying/cyberbullying (to include varying degrees of sexual harassment) are largely recognized as a national public health concern in the US. [11]

Related: Parents: If You Don’t Teach Your Kids About Sex, Porn Will

And here’s where it gets a bit worse: bullied students are 24 times more likely to report suicide ideation than their non-bullied counterparts, [12] and studies have found school to be the most common location of peer sexual victimization. [7] One study concluded that at least 1 in 4 students experience unwanted verbal or physical sexual harassment on school grounds. [2]

Clearly, this is an issue that needs addressing.

For good reason, the question is circulating: are schools equipped to prevent, correct and discourage peer-to-peer unwanted sexual attention? The answer, for the most part, is a resounding no—not yet, anyway. This is due, in part, to a lack of training to recognize sexual harassment and intervene, but also unclear administrative disciplinary protocol. Without these important steps, the “sexual bullying” arena is a huge grey area and difficult for teachers to control.

Here’s why.

1. Sexual bullying takes many forms.

The days of “innocent bullying” (if that was ever a thing?) are dead, and in their place, a spectrum of sexual harassments, to include but are not limited to: jokes, gestures, name-calling, drawings/graffiti, touching, grabbing, cyberbullying, propositions, rumors, revenge porn, catcalling, gossip and sextortion. [2][4][5][7][10] And seeing as sexting is massively normalized, if you add smartphones in the mix, child porn distribution (if senders or recipients are underage), and sexual coercion, and blackmailing.

Related: Pressing Send: Why Sexting Can Actually Be A Really Bad Idea

Ever had your bra strap snapped or been called a homophobic slur? Both of these qualify as sexual harassment punishable by Title IX (US) but are often dismissed by teachers and administrators, if even reported. The thought is that it is easier to dismiss the harassment or encourage the victims to ignore the offense, than to determine the severity of the harassment and, therefore, the severity of the punishment. As we said before, sexual harassment is a huge grey area as determined by school administrators, except in instances of the most severe cases of sexual violence.

2. Sexual harassment is determined by the victim, and generally, school-aged children are misguided to tolerate unwanted sexual attention.

If teachers and administrators do not see the bullying with their own eyes, they can only be held accountable for the way they did or did not respond to reported incidences. That requires both a reliable system for reporting and informed, confident, supported students who recognize harassment and self-report.

However, researchers suspect that the majority of peer-to-peer sexual harassment goes unreported—studies show that students can’t easily tell the difference between sexual harassment and harmless teasing, and students often share instances of sexual harassment only to entirely dismiss the event as “messing around.” [2][4][10]

Related: Sex Before Kissing: How 15-Year-Old Girls Are Dealing With Porn-Obsessed Boys

In addition, hypersexualized media and porn consumption by kids younger than 11—as mentioned before—seriously normalize sexual harassment, convincing students even more that unwanted sexual attention is actually acceptable. Like, maybe, it’s even sexy…or something. Not cool.

3. Historically, school-aged (sexual) harassment has often been dismissed as not a big deal.

Not only have students been misguided to tolerate and dismiss sexual harassment because of what the large majority of them are seeing on their own or friends’ screens, but also the adults responsible for informing, guiding and instructing them.

Related: Porn Has Fueled A 400% Rise In Child-On-Child Assaults In The UK

Peer-to-peer sexual harassment has long been dismissed as “boys will be boys” or “he likes you” or even “harmless fun”—and, unfortunately, the students who are convinced to accept bullying and sexual harassment today are often the adults who will be misleading students in the future. It’s a continuous cycle of, “That’s how it was when I was in high school, that’s how it is for everybody.” But it doesn’t have to be.

Why This Matters

Similar to the porn industry, bullying is universally characterized by a real or perceived power imbalance. A bully demands the power, a bully takes power from the victim, and the victim ultimately shrinks. [1]

Related: Students From 71 High Schools Targeted By Huge Revenge Porn-Sharing Group

We can obviously recognize the universal normalization of abuse and violence in both porn and sexual bullying, both of which are widely normalized. And unless we actively fight, work to educate our peers and the next generation, the porn industry will continue to saturate every corner of our culture and shamelessly infect our interactions, relationships, and personal health.

Knowledge is power for everyone. Now that we know the issue of normalized sexual harassment and bullying in schools, we can take the needed steps to fight back. Together, we can make an impact.

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Citations

[1] Bullying Basics. (2017, August 14). Retrieved from https://www.tolerance.org/professional-development/bullying-basics
[2] Bidwell, A. (2014, April 6). Study: Sexual Harassment Frequent Among Middle School Students. Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/04/06/study-sexual-harassment-frequent-among-middle-school-students
[3] Schargel, F. (2013, October 17). Bullying: What Schools, Parents and Students Can Do. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/franklin-schargel/bullying-what-schools-par_b_4103901.html
[4] Espelage Professor of Psychology, University of Florida, D. (2018, February 27). The disturbing connection between bullying and sexual harassment. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/the-disturbing-connection-between-bullying-and-sexual-harassment-68033
[5] How to Protect Students from Sexual Harassment: A Primer for Schools[PDF]. (2007, October). Washington, DC: National Women’s Law Center.
[6] Get Help Now. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.stopbullying.gov/get-help-now/index.html
[7] Young, A. M., Grey, M., & Boyd, C. J. (2009). Adolescents’ experiences of sexual assault by peers: Prevalence and nature of victimization occurring within and outside of school. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38(8), 1072-1083.
[8] Rosenzweig, J., PhD, MPA. (2017, October 20). #MeToo: Talking to kids about bullying and sexual harassment. Retrieved from http://www.philly.com/philly/health/kids-families/metoo-talking-to-kids-about-bullying-and-sexual-harassment-20171023.html
[9] Smith, A. (2017, August 6). Teachers need more training to deal with problematic sexual behaviour. Retrieved from https://www.smh.com.au/education/teachers-need-more-training-to-deal-with-problematic-sexual-behaviour-20170803-gxov5h.html
[10] Amrein, M. (2012). Preventing Sexual Harassment, Sexual Bullying, Sexual Abuse, Acquaintance Rape, and Date Rape Among Students at Middletown High School in Middletown, Ohio: A Teacher Resource Guide and a Student Awareness Pamphlet.
[11] Keck School of Medicine of USC. (n.d.). How Bullying is a Public Health Issue. Retrieved from https://mphdegree.usc.edu/resources/articles/how-bullying-is-a-public-health-issue/
[12] Suicide Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.meganmeierfoundation.org/suicide-statistics.html