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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Abuse & Assault » What do you think of this article correlating the way teens talk to with abuse?

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Author Topic: What do you think of this article correlating the way teens talk to with abuse?
Robin Lee
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hi All,

I have to admit I was a little taken aback by this article. It seemed like they were drawing some pretty big conclusions from talking to a small group of young people. I was also pretty horrified to hear the way the interviewees described how young people talk to and refer to each other; there's some pretty nasty name-calling.

Then again, I'm in my thirties now, and I went to a small high school where, though there was meanness in great abundance, the social structures were somewhat different than they were in other high schools.

So, I want to hear from you. Is the way young people talk about and to each other really this nasty? Do you think this contributes to abuse in dating relationships?

Whether you think it does or doesn't, what are some things you think can be done to reduce the incidence of abuse in dating relationships?

Here's the link to the article:

[ 11-11-2012, 12:06 PM: Message edited by: Robin Lee ]


Posts: 6066 | From: Washington DC suburbs | Registered: Dec 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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This reminds me a lot of the part of Mean Girls where Tina Fey's character talked about this:

Ms. Norbury: "Okay, so we're all here 'cause of this book, right? Well, I don't know who wrote this book, but you all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores."


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Trigger warning for various kinds of bullying, first two paragraphs.

I can't speak to school environments today, but in an "ordinary" British secondary school a few years ago, name-calling, and particularly sexualised name-calling at girls, was very common. Mine's a bit of an outsider's perspective, even though I was there, but I remember that girls who had a number of boyfriends, or who were thought to have a number of boyfriends, who had been sexual with somebody or who were thought to have been sexual with somebody, were often called names like "slut", "sl*g", "slapper", and many others, including a whole array of very localised dialect words. So many words roughly meaning the same thing. Most of the dialect words meant all of physically, morally and sexually dirty and ugly. Some of the boys would call them those names while also jostling for their attention, and would also tease their boyfriends about it. Girls would talk about other girls in those terms, too. Those words were also used as an insult for any girl someone didn't like, just as often by girls as by boys, and were written all over the girls' toilets walls with people's names.

"So-and-so fancies you/wants to snog you/wants to go out with you" and "Ha-Ha, X is going out with/fancies Y" (when it wasn't true, and Y was in some way perceived as gross or uncool) were also common humiliating and shaming tactics, mostly done for "laughs". There was also plenty of body-shaming, particularly of girls, by girls and boys - it was common for someone to comment nastily about someone being "fat", "skinny", having "no breasts" or "big breasts". There was also a culture of very low-level violence, lots of pushing and shoving and half-hearted hits, with escalations when neither person involved would back down. Bodily autonomy and rights wasn't all that high on the agenda, with general manhandling in the corridor being pretty common, and I saw boys half-heartedly grope girls a few times. Generally, it was considered off-limits for a boy to hit a girl unless she'd already hit or threatened him, but it was fairly common to threaten violence across any gender if someone had insulted or teased someone.

(I avoided most of that just by being a quiet weirdo. I wasn't really part of things, so they didn't include me in most of that, most times, either. I don't think I missed much.)

I think that all that very much contributed to an atmosphere of disrespect for other people, particularly women, and disrespect and devaluing of relationships. There's certainly no cues there about how to have respectful and healthy relationships. I think the names called to women both reflects and continues a culture of behavioural and sexual shaming and control of women. Where I grew up, even one incident of sex not within a relationship can get a woman a "reputation" if she's unlucky, and have people making judgemental comments for years (that happened to a friend of mine, and I've heard plenty of other judging). Men engaging in regular casual sex are not generally well thought of, either, but there doesn't seem to be the same weight attached to each incident.

I think it's too much of a leap to say that such name-calling leads to abuse. It doesn't start with the name-calling - something causes that, too. However, I Do think that the language we use is extremely important and that it does make a significant difference. I don't think that name-calling causes anything, exactly, but I do think very strongly that it reflects, solidifies and spreads prejudiced and harmful attitudes, and plays a huge part in turning those attitudes into something that's taken as an unquestioned reality. I think that when prejudiced words become part of common language usage, a lot of people use them who wouldn't Really believe in what's behind the words. So many people using the words like they're normal then leads to a subtle normalisation of the prejudice behind the words: if you hear all the time about girls being "sluts", etc, every time you hear it it reminds you that there's a standard of sexual behaviour or appearance that people can be judged by, and that women should be a certain way. It's subtle but powerful. It would be wrong to say that the words we use absolutely control the way we think (there's really strong linguistic evidence showing that's wrong), but I think that the language we use and hear influences how we perceive and think of the world much more than most people realise. Humans are capable of thinking outside of the frame of the language we have, but a lot of the time, it just doesn't occur to us to do so.

(I actually have somewhat of a collection of technical literature about exactly this kind of issue with language, some of it directly about the word "slut" and similar words used among young people, but right now I couldn't lay my hands on any one thing that was brief, clear and fully illuminating. If anyone's particularly interested, I could look into it, but at this point it'd be a few weeks from now [Smile] )

The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Hmm around my school, i havent heard any name calling like "that girls a slut cause she dresses like x and acts like x". I mean i do hear words like slut, bitch, whore, etc, (and i use them too) but more in like a joking way?

Like my friends and I call each other bitch all the time, or if a girlfriend is telling us the details of a night with a guy we'l goo "ooooh girl you're such a slut!" But it's not in rude mannor or anything, we're just messing around and we all know it. Would that be considered the same emotionally abusive behavior? I mean even me and my bf do it to each other.

Is that really devaluing and disrespecting my relationships? I wouldn't really call it abuse cause we're all just having fun..

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Hey Olive, no one is saying that you're doing any of those things. The problem is that those words are really common usage and when you use them so much in a way that normalizes them it can be problematic. Now, I use them too in the same way you use them, but I have to admit it's not a good habit because it just makes it seem decent to call people names. Nonetheless, don't feel like you're a horrible person because you aren't.
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