Parent, Educator, Author
Have you seen the “Straight white boys texting” Tumblr? It’s a collection of inappropriately sexual comments and questions that pop up during what seems to be a friendly text exchange. You can check it out here,
The other day I was talking with some girls I know. They are all young teens in high school. The girls started talking about boys in their circle who text things like this. These boys weren’t saying quite the extreme things you see in the Tumblr collection, but it was moving in that direction. The girls were talking about how creepy it was, and they were unsettled by boys they hardly knew asking them to send pictures of themselves in swim suits or asking them to wear specific clothing items next time they saw each other. Another friend recently told me that her high school aged daughter confessed that while in middle school boys she trusted asked her to send them pictures of herself naked or with little clothing on. She was shocked and hurt, and didn’t tell her parents because she was embarrassed by the requests.
What these girls were all responding so negatively to was the ways the boys were turning them into objects. It’s a bad feeling to be treated like you’re a collection of body parts for someone else’s pleasure. They didn’t like it.
Friends with teenagers, please look at this and talk about it with your kids. Let them know that it is not appropriate to bring up intensely intimate matters in this way, and talk about how they might respond if someone tries to do so with them. Even if you think your child would never be involved in this kind of exchange, talk to them about it. You may be surprised!
It’s really important to help boys understand why it’s hurtful to objectify someone, and how their words or actions may do so. I think these boys are mimicking things they’ve seen and heard in our sexualized culture, without understanding how these kinds of actions get in the way of really connecting with girls as human beings. Help them to think of ways to talk with the girls they’re interested in in ways that connect common interests, to get to know them, to share themselves.
Let them know that physical interest and intimacy will develop mutually as they get to know one another in a respectful way.
This Tumblr collection may seem funny, but it perfectly illustrates the way girls and women are sexually objectified in our culture. Caring adults need to help kids understand that this is not the way to build mutual, caring relationships and give them the tools to do so.