Category Archives: bullying

    Top 10 Sexual Stories of 2010

    This year’s top ten sexual stories: an incomplete list from our subjective, North American perspective, containing a mixture of disturbing, entertaining, and hopeful developments.

    10. Katie Perry got kicked off Sesame Street

    “Thursday morning, the PBS children’s show announced that a scheduled appearance by Perry, queen of the most inappropriate whipped-cream bra ever, had been canceled. On Monday, a clip of Perrywearing a sweetheart-cut dress, singing a G-rated version of her hit “Hot N Cold” and begging to “play” with Elmo, was leaked on the Web. Parents, outraged by Perry’s C-cup-accentuating dress,immediately protested. “You’re going to have to rename [Sesame Street] Cleavage Avenue,” wrote one commenter, while another simply joked, “My kid wants milk now.” (LA Times, Sept. 23, 2010).

    Anti-gay activist George Rekers and his "rentboy"

    9. George Rekers got caught with “rent boy”

    “Reached by New Times before a trip to Bermuda, Rekers said he learned Lucien was a prostitute only midway through their vacation. “I had surgery,” Rekers said, “and I can’t lift luggage. That’s why I hired him.” (Medical problems didn’t stop him from pushing the tottering baggage cart through MIA.)” (Bullock, P. and Thorp, B., Miami New Times, May 6, 2010).

    8. Constance McMillen barred from her prom, becomes a Glamour Magazine “Women of the Year

    “Constance McMillen has been named one of Glamour Magazine’s ‘Women of the Year’ for 2010.  We came to know Constance through her personal ordeal with Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi.  The school board rejected her request to bring her girlfriend to the prom as her date, and even further, didn’t allow Constance to wear a tuxedo as she had planned.” (Sledjeski, J. GLAAD, Nov. 5, 2010).

    7. This one is a tie between: a) Republicans got caught at W. Hollywood Strip Club

    “The “family values” Republican National Committee spent almost $2,000 last month at an erotic, bondage-themed West Hollywood club, where nearly naked women – and men – simulate sex in nets hung from above.” (Bazinet, K, and Saltonstall, D. Daily News, March 29, 2010).

    and b) Strippers protest Ohio church

    “For the past four years, Pastor Dunfee and some of his New Beginnings church members have picketed and protested the strip club in their local community; they’ve even videotaped visitors to the club and posted the videos online in an attempt to hold them accountable for their actions. Pastor Dunfee said the regular protests were to avoid “sharing territory with the devil.”

    Irritated by the protests, employees of the club have decided to protest the church—they arrived early in the morning Monday wearing swimwear and toting barbeques, picnic food, sunscreen, and lawn chairs, along with signs reading Matthew 7:15: Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing and Revelation 22:11: He that is unjust, let him be unjust still. ” (Aug.16, 2010; ChurchLeaders.com).

    6.  European Court of Human Rights Rejects Irish Ban on Abortion

    “In December, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Ireland’s constitutional ban on abortion violates the rights of pregnant women to receive proper medical care in life-threatening cases. Each year, more than 6,000 women travel abroad from Ireland to obtain abortion services, often at costs of over $1,500 per trip. In a statement on the ruling, the Irish Family Planning Association—the IWHC partner that helped bring about this decision—said the court sent “a very strong message that the State can no longer ignore the imperative to legislate for abortion.” (Top Ten Wins, International Women’s Health Coalition, December 23, 2010).

    5. Millions searched for their G-spot

    “Asking if the “G-spot” exists can be a bit like asking if God (the other G-spot) exists: It depends on who you ask. And in both cases, science is (thus far) ill equipped to adequately measure either G-spot. ”

    (Lerum, K. Sexuality & Society, Jan 6, 2010).

    4. The Pope OKs condoms in some circumstances

    “In a break with his traditional teaching, Pope Benedict XVI has said the use of condoms is acceptable “in certain cases”, in an extended interview to be published this week.”

    “After holding firm during his papacy to the Vatican’s blanket ban on the use of contraceptives, Benedict’s surprise comments will shock conservatives in the Catholic church while finding favour with senior Vatican figures who are pushing for a new line on the issue as HIV ravages Africa.” (Kington, T., and Quinn, B. Guardian UK, Nov. 21, 2010).

    3. Microbicide Research offers hope for HIV prevention

    “More than 20 years ago, the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) convened 44 women from 20 countries who conceived of a substance, like contraceptive foam or jelly, which could be inserted vaginally to prevent HIV infection. We named it a “microbicide,” and set out to find scientists and money to develop it. Until recently, progress has been slow, but in July, results from a clinical trial in South Africa found a new gel to be nearly 40 percent effective in protecting women against HIV during intercourse.” (Top Ten Wins, International Women’s Health Coalition, December 23, 2010).

    2. Gay Teen Suicide & Bullying as a Social Problem

    “The recent rash of high profile suicides by boys who were bullied for gender and sexual non-conformity has created a wake up call for parents and school administrators in the U.S. To create a broader base of support from heterosexual allies, as well as to reach out to GLBT youth themselves, a number of new educational and activist initiatives have emerged. Dan Savage created the “It Gets Better”video project, directed at GLBT youth in despair over hostile treatment and at risk of killing themselves. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation (GLAAD) declared Oct. 20, 2010 Spirit Day to call attention to and memorialize the recent suicides. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even released her own version of an “It Gets Better” video. ” (Lerum, K. Sexuality & Society, Nov. 18 2010).

    1. The Repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”

    WASHINGTON — “The military’s longstanding ban on service by gays and lesbians came to a historic and symbolic end on Wednesday, asPresident Obama signed legislation repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the contentious 17-year old Clinton-era law that sought to allow gays to serve under the terms of an uneasy compromise that required them to keep their sexuality a secret.” (New York Times, Dec. 22, 2010).

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    Related Story:  Top Ten Sexual Stories of 2009

    Interested in Bully-Free Zones? (or Not?)

    Yesterday (Nov. 17, 2010) I was a guest on “Voices of Diversity,” a weekly community radio show on KBCS. The topic of this week’s show was Bullying in schools. The audio of the show will soon be available on audio archives at KBCS, but in the post below I follow up on the question of whether or not everyone *really* wants to get rid of bullies. …. See below for my elaboration:

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    The recent rash of high profile suicides by boys who were bullied for gender and sexual non-conformity has created a wake up call for parents and school administrators in the U.S. To create a broader base of support from heterosexual allies, as well as to reach out to GLBT youth themselves, a number of new educational and activist initiatives have emerged. Dan Savage created the “It Gets Better” video project, directed at GLBT youth in despair over hostile treatment and at risk of killing themselves. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation (GLAAD) declared Oct. 20, 2010 Spirit Day to call attention to and memorialize the recent suicides. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even released her own version of an “It Gets Better” video.

    Predictably, given the larger antagonistic climate toward non-heteronormative youth, not all heterosexuals have responded with as much compassion as the current US Secretary of State. Arkansas School Board vice president Clint McCance has made himself the most recent poster child for non-compassion (AKA being a big jerk) after he wrote on his Facebook page a variety of obscenities including:

    “Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers committed suicide. The only way i’m wearin it for them is if they all commit suicide.”

    “It pisses me off though that we make special purple fag day for them. I like that fags can’t procreate. I also enjoy the fact that they often give each other AIDS and die.”

    And perhaps the most cruel of all (at least for me as a parent):

    “I would disown my kids if they were gay. They will not be welcome at my home or in my vicinity. I will absolutely run them off.”

    Since Facebook is a semi-public forum, many people outside of McCance’s circle of like-minded friends witnessed his rant. All kinds of people — including people in his own community — started to wonder: Does Clint McCance *really* wish all gay kids would just kill themselves? Even if they were his own children?

    After uproarious calls for his resignation (including, unfortunately, similar verbal assaults against McCance and his family), the Arkansas school board vice president agreed to an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN (who, coincidentally, maintains a private identity but is widely reported to be gay, and whose brother committed suicide at the age of 23). Looking like a kid caught for bad behavior, McCance had little to say but claimed to be remorseful. When pressed by Cooper as to whether or not he would resign (for technical reasons he could not be fired), McCance said, yes he was resigning from the School Board.

    Now that McCance is now gone (at least for now) from a school administrative position, has anything changed in his surrounding cultural and institutional system? Human behavior never happens in a vacuum – there is always a surrounding cultural and physical infrastructure that creates messages or opportunities for people to act in cruel or inequitable ways. This is more complicated than thinking about pro-social versus anti-social behavior; about “bad” school board members versus “good” ones.” This is because cruel behavior is sometimes completely in line with the social agenda of larger systems of power.

    There seems to be an assumption in mainstream media outlets that “everyone” wants to get rid of bullies. But this is actually not the case, since bullying is, at a very basic level, a technique for ensuring and preserving separate and unequal distinctions between people.

    In fact, people and institutions interested in preserving their separate and “superior” distinction — whether this is based on race, religion, sex, and/or sexual orientation — meet anti-bullying legislation (or related events such as “spirit day”) with lukewarm or even hostile responses.

    For example, in 2001, Christian Right lobbyists stalled the first attempt to bring anti-bullying legislation to Washington State. In 2010, Clint McCance and others balked at the suggestion of a special day for mourning youth suicide connected to anti-gay bullying. In both cases, the resistance is around deep seated beliefs that boys/men and girls/women must conform to traditional gender roles (with men being “masculine”, powerful, and exclusively attracted to women; and women being “feminine”, submissive to men, and exclusively attracted to men). If they fall out of line, the logic goes, they must be corrected. Ridicule, shaming, social exclusion .. these are all forms of maintaining rigid and unequal distinctions between insiders and outsiders; they are also forms of bullying. Hence the resistance to anti-bullying legislation by some who want to maintain rigid and unequal distinctions.

    Why is it that bullying tactics work “better” on some kids than others? Why don’t all queer kids commit suicide in the face of severe public ridicule and social excommunication?

    One reason may be that the ones who survive — like Constance McMillen (who was subjected to a dramatic network of lies and harassment by students, teachers, and parents alike) – have access to deep resources, support, and identity outside of their world of bullies. If excluded from the bully group, they don’t feel that their entire world will disappear.

    After many months of discrimination, harassment, and being lied to by school administrators (who created a secret prom that she wasn't invited to), Constance McMillen continued to fight with the strong support of her parents and the ACLU. Constance won a law suit and international recognition, including most recently being named one of Glamor Magazine's "Women of the Year."

     

    But sometimes, even for those kids who carry on in the face of bullies– more drastic forms of violent control occurs. This was the case for Matthew Shepard and Lawrence King — both of whom were murdered by other boys who were angry that they were not sufficiently hiding their feminine or “gay” characteristics.

    So to sum up: for those of us truly interested in creating bully-free zones, we must directly speak out against not just individual acts of cruelty, but infrastructures which create and reinforce distinct, segregated, and unequal categories between people. This means directly questioning (not just staying silent or “neutral” to) common beliefs about what constitutes a “superior” and “inferior” person and what justifies differential treatment. It is only then that we can start to dismantle the bully. 

    Related Sexuality & Society stories:

    Recommended References & Resources:

    The real problem with “sexting”: Adult complicity in labeling teens “sluts,” “perverts,” and “criminals”

    “Sexting” — the practice of sending sexy words and images from cell phones from person to person– has suddenly emerged as the newest social problem for American youth. News reports overwhelmingly describe sexting as a new teenage trend which is “alarming,” “dangerous,” and “shocking.” Parents of minors are told be on red alert. Sales are on the rise for “net nanny” controls, which alert parents via a text message if their child visits an “inappropriate” web site and/or sends or receives “inappropriate” email or instant messages. Parents are advised to pay extra cell phone fees to block all images–sexual or not—from their children’s phones. The underlying message of most news reports is this: if parents don’t put a stop to sexting, their children will end up traumatized, endangered, in jail, or dead. Read on, as we’re not making this up.

    This sort of alarmist language, suddenly emerging as a sort of moral tsunami, is a fantastic example of what sociologist Stanley Cohen has termed a “moral panic.” According to Cohen, moral panics are reflections not of any inherent physical threat but of threats to existing moral orders. Moral panics are driven by the construction of a “folk devil” — symbolized by a group or a social movement seen as causing a threat to a particular moral order. Using this framework, the moral panic around sexting reflects deeper social fears — for example around loss of parental authority and increasing teen agency over their own sexuality. The folk devil responsible for this moral threat lives in “cyberspace” and in some cases may be “cyberspace” itself.

    From what I can tell, the growing visibility of, and panic over, sexting was at first largely generated by media personalities such as Dr. Phil and Matt Lauer of the Today Show. Since then, dozens of news outlets have featured stories on sexting. Surveys on sexting have been quickly conducted and released: MTV asked teens about the prevalence of their sexting; CS Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health asked parents about how concerned they were about teen sexting. The results, as reported in the media are as follows: Teens are sexting like crazy, and parents are freaking out.

    imagesDr. Phil was one of the first to discuss this on a national stage with a show in April 2009 called, ”Scary Trends: Is your Child at Risk?” In the video promo for the show, Dr. Phil warns in his classic fatherly drawl: “There are some dangerous trends popping up in schools everywhere, and you may not even know if your children are getting involved.”

    The camera cuts to video shots of three pairs of young white hands (two identifiably female) punching keys on a cell phone. A voiceover from deep, spooky-sounding male voice says: “The disturbing new trend, called sexting, sending nude shots from phone to phone.” (the word NUDE is flashed on screen).

    Next we see and hear clips of a white woman talking about her daughter, who we gather, was a “sexter.” The spooky male voiceover comes back: ”It nearly killed her daughter.” The camera shoots back to the mom, eyes pleading for Dr. Phil’s forgiveness: We thought we were doing everything right, Dr. Phil.” Dr. Phil nods, knowingly. The Spooky voiceover states: “how to protect your children.” The camera cuts back to Dr. Phil, who points to the camera and warns: “Don’t think it’s not your kid!” (Click here to see this short promo).

    Dr. Phil’s “Scary Trends” program arrived on the heels of a few stories, some tragic, found in the news in the previous weeks and months. For example, in separate cases, two teenage boys (one in Wisconsin, one in New York) were charged with “child pornography” after sharing digital photos of their girlfriends posing nude. In another case, four middle school girls in Alabama were arrested for exchanging naked photos of themselves (ABC news, March 13, 2009). In all of these cases, the photos were being exchanged for and among peers. None of these photos were sold.  And yet, teens taking pictures of themselves, their partners, and/or their friends are now being labeled and punished as child pornographers by the criminal justice system.

    The most tragic stories however are of two teen girl suicides; both killed themselves after they were viciously bullied, sexually shamed, and socially isolated from their peers. In both cases the girls were inadequately defended, and even further shamed and punished by, teachers, school administrators, and parents. Jesse Logan, a vivacious 18 year-old from Ohio hanged herself in her bedroom after being targeted for torment by other girls at school. Jesse had tdy_lauer_sexting_090306.300wsent a nude photo of herself to her boyfriend, and in retaliation when they broke up the boyfriend sent the photo to a group of younger girls. The younger girls ran with the photo, using it as a powerful social shaming tool (which of course can only work within a social context where girls’ sexuality is shameful). In an interview with Matt Lauer of the Today Show, Jesse’s mother, Cynthia Logan, said that:

    “…she never knew the full extent of her daughter’s anguish until it was too late. Cynthia Logan only learned there was a problem at all when she started getting daily letters from her daughter’s school reporting that the young woman was skipping school.

    “I only had snapshots, bits and pieces, until the very last semester of school,” Logan told Lauer. She took away her daughter’s car and drove her to school herself, but Jesse still skipped classes. She told her mother there were pictures involved and that a group of younger girls who had received them were harassing her, calling her vicious names, even throwing objects at her. But she didn’t realize the full extent of her daughter’s despair. “She was being attacked and tortured,” Logan said.

    “When she would come to school, she would always hear, ‘Oh, that’s the girl who sent the picture. She’s just a whore,’ ” Jesse’s friend, Lauren Taylor, told NBC News.

    Logan said that officials at Sycamore High School were aware of the harassment but did not take sufficient action to stop it. She said that a school official offered only to go to one of the girls who had the pictures and tell her to delete them from her phone and never speak to Jesse again. That girl was 16. Logan suggested talking to the parents of the girls who were bullying Jesse, but her daughter said that would only open her to even more ridicule.

    In this same interview with Matt Lauer, Cynthia Logan described her unsuccessful legal attempts (she tried six attorneys) to hold school officials accountable for not intervening in the bullying of her daughter. Lauer turned to his guest, Parry Aftab, described as “an Internet security expert and activist in the battle to protect teens from the dangers that lurk in cyberspace.” In a stunning re-direction of the issue of school accountability for creating bully-free zones, Aftab brought the discussion back to laws about child pornography:

    “If somebody’s under the age of 18, it’s child pornography, and even the girl that posted the pictures can be charged. They could be registered sex offenders at the end of all of this. Even at the age of 18, because it was sent to somebody under age, it’s disseminating pornography to a minor. There are criminal charges that could be made here.”

    Here’s the take home message we get from the Today Show: don’t worry about madonna/whore dichotomies that are spread among youth and adults. The main thing we should be concerned with is that Jesse “fell victim to the perils of the Internet and the easy exchange of information on cell phones.“ So let’s be clear: The source of Jesse’s anguish and eventual suicide is not the unrelenting and unchecked bullying at school but the fact that cyberspace (folk devil that it is) made her into a perpetrator of child pornography. And don’t forget, parents: child pornographers go to jail, and you don’t want your kid to go to jail.

    Hope Witsell was only 13 when she killed herself in her bedroom, also by hanging. Hope, a girl from a conservative Christian Florida family, hadg-tdy-091202-texting-suicide-peace-8a.300w sent a topless photo of herself to a boy crush. The boy showed the photo to a friend, who embraced the opportunity to gain social power by sharing it widely with kids in that school and neighboring schools. The following comes from a story about Hope on Today, MSNBC.com:

    While Hope’s photo spread, her friends rallied around her in the midst of incessant taunting and vulgar remarks thrown Hope’s way. Friends told the St. Petersburg Times, which originally chronicled Hope’s story, that they literally surrounded Hope as she walked the hallways while other students shouted “whore” and “slut” at her.

    “The hallways were not fun at that time — she’d walk into class and somebody would say, ‘Oh, here comes the slut,’ ” Hope’s friend, Lane James, told the newspaper.

    Clearly, the taunts were getting to Hope. In a journal entry discovered after her death, Hope wrote, “Tons of people talk about me behind my back and I hate it because they call me a whore! And I can’t be a whore. I’m too inexperienced. So secretly, TONS of people hate me.”

    Shortly after the school year ended, school officials caught wind of the hubbub surrounding Hope’s cell phone photo. They contacted the Witsells and told them Hope would be suspended for the first week of the next school year.

    Donna Witsell told Vieira that she and her husband practiced tough love on Hope, grounding her for the summer and suspending her cell phone and computer privileges.

    In her interview on the Today Show with Meredith Vieira, Hope’s mother was joined, just as Jesse’s mom was, by the same Parry Aftab, proponent of internet safety measures. Again, Aftab directed the viewers away from thinking about adult accountability in protecting the rights of teens to not be shamed and bullied about their bodies. In fact, parents and their girls are all innocent here in Aftab’s view. Aftab even reassured Hope’s mother that her child wasn’t a bad girl; in fact, Aftab points out that Hope’s suicide is actually a sign that she came from a “good” home because kids with good morals have more guilt when they stray sexually:

    Good kids are the ones this is happening to; Jesse was a great kid, and now we have Hope,” she said. “Good kids; they’re the ones who are committing suicide when a picture like this gets out.” (Parry Afteb, speaking to Hope Witsell’s mother on the Today Show).

    Dr. Phil, the Today Show, and countless other media sources are doing teens, and especially girls a great disservice by offering content, tone, and implications of their sexting panic. Instead, a much more helpful and interesting perspective on the issue would be to explore the following questions and lines of reasoning:

    • What are the gendered sexual, class, and race dynamics of the panic over sexting? It seems that white “good” girls are at most “risk”: let’s talk about why, and what it is that is at stake! Should we panic over boys as well?
    • Why do so many adults remain complicit in the sexual shaming and bullying of kids? What models can be used to talk openly about sexuality at school, and to create a safe learning environment for all kids regardless of their sexual expressions?
    • Related to the above, how do school curriculums that teach/preach abstinence only sex education (which implicitly and explicitly underscore a Madonna/Whore dichotomy) encourage and facilitate the bullying and shaming of girls? How do they set up a gendered system that assumes that girls are usually sexual victims and boys are usually predators?
    • How can sexual health and justice scholars work with parents, teachers, school administrators, and teen advocates around these issues?
    • How does a concern with protecting girls’ sexual purity come at the expense of NOT protecting their sexual and human rights?

    Recommended readings & resources:





    Cross-Dress Codes

    Shari Dworkin and I are happy to introduce our first official guest post, from Adina Nack, Associate Professor of Sociology at California Lutheran University:

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    By Adina Nack

    What are the overt and covert goals of school dress codes? Are these dress codes developed to ensure that students meet norms of professionalism, or do these serve as tools for schools to enforce heteronormativity and stigmatize transgenderism? Are schools citing safety concerns, warning parents about how to protect youth from harm, or do these intend to distract us from the ways in which dress codes serve to reinforce heterosexist norms? How well can we predict the unintended consequences of dress codes – both the more ‘traditional’ and more ‘progressive’ policies?

    These are the questions I found myself asking after reading Shari Dworkin’s recent post about Morehouse College’s dress code and a recent New York Times article by Jan Hoffman that asked, “Can a boy wear a skirt to school?”: (see High Schools Struggle When Gender Bends the Dress Code).

    articleLargeThis NYT piece focused on the number of U.S. high schools who have created dress codes that explicitly classify “unconventional gender expression” as violations warranting disciplinary actions. Hoffman also mentioned some high schools whose dress codes are more accepting of “gender-blurring clothing.” Hoffman’s recent NYT article includes arguments for and against dress codes that allow for a diverse range of gender and sexuality expressions, noting safety as “a critical concern.”

    To exemplify this point, Hoffman mentions Lawrence King’s 2008 murder. Living and teaching near Oxnard, CA, I had immersed myself in the news coverage of this school shooting. Journalists often discussed King as a 15-year-old student who sometimes cross-dressed and who had talked about being gay. For example, Ramin Setoobeh’s 2008 coverage of King’s story in Newsweek included detailed descriptions of the clothing, make-up, and accessories that the 15-year-old often wore to school. At the time of the murder, many local residents – ranging from the socially conservative to the socially progressive – were shocked when reports revealed that King had been allowed to ‘cross-dress’ at his middle school. According to MSNBC, his school’s leniency became the reason for Lawrence King’s family to file a personal injury claim against the school district: “for not enforcing the dress code.”

    When it comes to questions of school safety, it is not appropriate to posit any dress code as the solution. Blaming a school – for having a “lenient” dress code or for not enforcing a dress code – is a simplistic and unjust conclusion to reach. Following this line of reasoning, we should not question a dress code which privileges a narrow definition of masculinity. Codes and policies rooted in social inequalities serve to elevate oppressive norms – we can and should be critical consumers.

    In an SWS listserv discussion inspired by last week’s NYT article, sociologist Joan I. Biddle, raised interesting points that illustrate why a context-sensitive analysis is key. I followed up with her by email, and she clarified her perspective:

    “The degree to which the faculty become involved with these students may have a lot to do with how the student behaves at school. Is the student doing things which disrupt the learning of other students? Also, how does the student present her/himself to the others in the school setting? And, is this presentation compatible with the flow of things in the social/educational environment at the school?”

    Several questions arise here: How does heteronormativity influence teachers’ and administrators’ definitions of ‘disruptive’ behavior? Do longstanding stereotypes about homosexual males – as those who seek to ‘convert’ heterosexuals or as supposed perpetrators of sexual crimes – make it more likely for a cross-dressing male student to be labeled as deviant and aggressive?

    Biddle’s point about the social significance of a student being perceived as ‘disruptive’ is illustrated by a line in Setoobeh’s article about King’s murder: “Larry King was, admittedly, a problematical test case: he was a troubled child who flaunted his sexuality and wielded it like a weapon—it was often his first line of defense.” In U.S. schools, are heterosexual students ever accused of ‘flaunting’ their sexuality? Are heterosexual boys who flirt with girls likely to be cited for having used their sexuality as a weapon?  Setoobeh’s use of a ‘sexuality-as-weapon’ metaphor likely referred to reports of King being accused of ‘sexually harassing’ several male students, including the student who ultimately killed him. However, framing King as the one wielding “a weapon” distracts from how we problematize any sexual agency on the part of minority sexualities and the numerous reports about King having been the victim of homophobic bullying.

    A year and a half after this tragedy, mainstream media coverage of school dress codes fails to bring sufficient attention to underlying inequalities reinforced by these institutional policies which codify heterosexism. If we want to focus on safety concerns, then what about holding all U.S. schools accountable for not allowing any type of bullying or sexual harassment to take place on their campuses? Reframing the social problem in this way would require a nationwide crackdown on the most prevalent and normalized type of sexual harassment – that of boys/men harassing girls/women. We would also have to address the far too common harassment and bullying of LGBTQ students, heterosexual female students, and students who are marginalized for their ethnicity, social class, abilities, or religious beliefs.

    I agree with Dworkin, who concluded her post with, “Supporting dominant forms of gendered, racialized, and sexualized masculinities (heterosexual masculinities, middle class masculinities) and erasing subordinated masculinities (gay, working class, or urban underclass) whether this is through dress codes, hair styles, speech, or other social practices simply does not recognize that there are many acceptable ways to be a man….” It’s time to de-stigmatize ‘boys in skirts’ and keep issues of power and privilege in mind when we discuss students’ expressions of sex, gender, and sexuality.

    __________________

    Suggested Readings:

    • Hand, Jeanne Z. and Laura Sanchez. 2000. “Badgering or Bantering?: Gender Differences in Experience of, and Reactions to, Sexual Harassment among U.S. High School Students.” Gender and Society, Vol. 14, No. 6:pp. 718-746.
    • Meyer, Elizabeth J. 2008. “A feminist reframing of bullying and harassment: Transforming schools through critical pedagogy.” McGill Journal of Education, Vol. 43, No. 1 (Winter): 33-48.
    • Pascoe, C.J. 2007. Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School. Berkeley, CA: UC Press.
    • Whitelaw, Sarah, Laura Hills, and Julia De Rosa. 1999. “Sexually Aggressive and Abusive Behaviors in Schools.” Women’s Studies Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 1/2: pp. 203-211.