Teaching the Boys

For serious:

The Tampa BaySt. Petersburg Times has printedthe truly gut-wrenching, tragic story of a 13-year-old girl named Hope Witsell,
who committed suicide after a photograph of her breasts, which she sent
to a boy’s cell phone, was forwarded all over the school.


And whileeveryone sure as hell seems to be worried about What! We’re! Teaching! Our! Girls! that they send the photographs, no one seems to be saying a goddamn peep aboutwhat we’re teaching our boys when they think that non-consensual sexual conduct is okay.
Yet again, apparently consensual female sexuality is seen as a bigger
threat to society — and to girls themselves — than non-consensual male
sexual behavior perpetrated against them.


And no matter who is the perpetrator, victim-blaming is still
victim-blaming, which is something else Hope was made a victim of.
First, she was a victim of cultural messages that told her that what
her classmates did to her was her own fault:

At the same time, friends say, Hope knew that the biggest mistakes made were her own.
“She didn’t blame it on anybody,” said Rebecca Knowles, 14. “She realized it was her fault for sending them in the first place.

Secondly, she was a victim of attitudes like ones in that quote right
above: attitudes that confirm and refuse to contradict this false
belief. Even after she died because she couldn’t cope anymore, the
newspaper is sitting there telling her that she was the one to blame.
Hope didn’tbelieve that she made the biggest mistakes. She didn’tthink it. Apparently, sheknew
it, because who could ever question the idea that if you send a nude
photograph of yourself to another person, you’re obviously a slutty
slutty slut slut who deserves whatever is coming to you?

display of these kinds of attitudes went beyond words, though; they
were also shown in actions. Hope Witsell was punished severely for
taking the photograph. She was grounded for the summer. She was
suspended from the first week of school. She lost her position as
student adviser. And when another boy coerced her into sending another
photograph, and she complied out of fear, she was again treated as a
culprit rather than a victim:

No one knows how Hope met
a group of boys staying across the hall. Rebecca Knowles, who is the
FFA president, saw Hope talking to the boys by the hotel pool.

The boys were in their late teens and were not there for the FFA convention. They insisted she send a nude photo to them.
of the boys was especially aggressive and called the room repeatedly on
the conference’s last night, asking Hope for a photo of her breasts.

kept calling and they kept bugging her,” said Rebecca, 14, who said she
was in the room but asleep. “I think she was just scared. One of our
roommates was scared as well and said, ‘Oh, my God, just do it.’ They
were scared and wanted to get it over.”

The boy calling didn’t
have a cell phone. So Hope used Rebecca’s phone to take a picture of
her breasts, then slipped it outside her door.

The phone, which Hope had left outside for the boy, was still in the hallway when an adult found it and saw the photo.

As for the boys who demanded the second photo, the girl who originally
forwarded the first photo, the girls and boys who harassed Hope in the
hallways, chased her, taunted her, and made her life a living hell …
there is not a single word indicating that they faced any consequences
for their actions.


10 thoughts on “Teaching the Boys

  1. In a just world, the boy would be threatened with penalties for distributing pornography. I’m not sure actually being charged is feasible or desirable, but threatened? Yeah. I don’t have all the legal pieces of the puzzle, but that’s one of my emotional responses.

  2. This is just so sad. I really feel sorry for young Hope… girls (and boys) need to be taught how to resist pressure for any action they do not want to take. And that giving around information (stories, photos, whatever) without the permission of the subject is just wrong, and wrong no matter what age the people concerned are. I wonder, too, about the relationship Hope had with her mother and father and if she was able to talk to them about what was happening and if they supported her or not.

  3. I’m really annoyed that this is becoming a “technology” story at all. To me, the core of the problem is here:
    The boys were in their late teens […] They insisted she send a nude photo to them. One of the boys was especially aggressive and called the room repeatedly […]
    “They kept calling and they kept bugging her,” said Rebecca, 14, who said she was in the room but asleep. “Ithink she was just scared. One of our roommates was scared as well and said, ‘Oh, my God, just do it.’ They were scared and wanted to get it over.”

    How the hell did the point of this story become “technology is dangerous” or even “boys shouldn’t forward any nude pictures they get”? What makes us blind to any problems or issues with the boysharassing the girl until she does what they want, and to the point more than one girl wasfrightened of them?
    Is that supposed to be “normal” or “acceptable” behavior? Why aren’t the boys in question being charged with sexual assault–threatening or coercing someone into performing a sexual act (taking the nude photo) against their will? At the very least, this seems to be a perfect case for harrasment charges (sexual or otherwise). Or maybe one of those “child pornography” charges that we’ve seen levied against other girls in vaguely similar instances?
    Seriously–WTF is wrong with us? What’s wrong with the adults at the conference that they let this kind of criminal bullshit go unpunished? Or the other kids on the trip with her? Would we have this kind of reaction if the boys in question stole her fucking purse?

  4. It really makes me wonder what would have happened if a group of kids had bullied Hope Witsell into doing something embarrassing or degrading thatwasn’t sexual, like, I dunno, sticking her tongue to the freezing flagpole in front of the school so everyone could see, or something.
    If I stop wondering and start thinking about what usually happens when schools capable of generating that kind of aggressive response go after bullying, I think the ringleaders would have been identified and punished, Hope would have gotten a talking-to (but no other penalties), and probably the whole school would have had to attend anti-bullying and resisting-peer-preessure sessions. Probably the school would have started ongoing campaigns on both of those topics, too. Which is basically what the entire situation was, bullying and peer pressure gone mad. Except when you add in the slightest little element of TEH SECKS, all of a sudden, everything is the victim’s fault and nothing is the perpetrators’ faults.
    Can this attitude go away now, please? (ISTR when I was that age, a boy had actually seen my breasts up close and in real time. Even though there was nothing going on that couldn’t have been shown on tv before 8PM, apparently that makes me thesluttiest slut slut slutty slut slut that ever lived. Or something. Thank goodness I’m too damn old — and feminist — to care.)
    IMO, the whole school — and all the adults involved — could havealso used a huge heapin’ helping of feminist education, starting with the basic principles that women are human beings, and womens’ bodies aretheirs, and not public property.

  5. what is wrong with what young girls are getting. just say buzz off perv.
    but then, nobody pestered me for a boob shot. not enough are pestering mcmeghan for boob shots i guess.

  6. Another reason why I take an extreme hard-line attitude when it comes to bullying of any kind. The kid in “A History Of Violence’ had the right idea. A bully fucks with you? You send them to the hospital with a broken fucking nose. Bullies commit acts of violence against others? They get tried as adults in court. Zero tolerance.

  7. I had a 38″ chest in high school — and the best right hook in the county.
    My mother brought me up to believe — and my dad enforced it from the time in the 3rd grade a bully hit me over the head on the bus and I whacked him with my lunch box — that I had not only the right to defend myself against bullies and general jerkoffery, but the DUTY to do so.
    We don’t teach girls to stand up for themselves, and it leads to girls who kill themselves…
    way past time for a societal change.

Comments are closed.