NPR did a short piece on ‘sexting‘ yesterday on All Things Considered. They opened with two 16-year-old girls who took a cell-phone picture of themselves naked together. One girl had erased the pic, the other sent it to a friend and, after one thing led to another, everyone at school had it on their phones, the administration had print outs, and lawyers were involved.
But here’s the catch: both girls were punished (suspended from being cheerleaders), but no one else was. Aside from issues of what the school has jurisdiction over (can they suspend students for weekend behaviors?), the fact remains that the administration saw fit to suspend the girls from their team–the cheerleading squad–but none of the football team who apparently forwarded the photos on were punished at all.
So why do we still insist on holding girls and women to different standards than men and boys? This school is simply reinforcing the gender double-standard that says that boys can be sexual, but girls must be chaste. The adminstration may not see it as such, but when they use the defense “The girls understood that as athletes, they would be held to higher standards of behavior”, but don’t hold the male football players to that standard, they are underscoring the old saw that women should know better. Never mind that one of the girls involved didn’t forward the picture on and deleted the original, meaning she did less than the football players.
Schools, of course, do this sort of thing all the time. It’s called abstinence-only education. We pay for it as taxpayers and the curricula developed for it, while differing state-by-state, seems all to reinforce the double-standard. Statements like “girls have a responsibility to wear modest clothing that doesn’t invite lustful thoughts,” and blaming a victim of rape based on her reputation for having sex (i.e. being a ‘slut’) coupled with the fact that the boy was drunk and therefore, didn’t really know what he was doing. Pretty awful stuff.
So what is your school teaching your kids? Have you asked? What are you telling your kids about being a boy or being a girl and what that means? Are you having authentic, non-judging conversations about sex or just telling them “don’t do it” and letting them figure it out on their own (they will!).