Over the weekend, a viral video of a 14-year-old girl performing oral sex on a teenage boy made its way onto Twitter. She didn't seem aware that she was being taped, she was likely doing what she did for the same reason countless "loose women" have over the centuries -- for the fleeting positive attention, even if in secret. The boys involved decided to make the encounter a more public affair.
For a while, the girl's name was a trending topic on Twitter. That unfortunate child (emphasis on child) was called every synonym of whore you can think of and if you scrolled through the tweets long enough, you'd be sure to find some new awful names "certain types" of women are given.
The girl purportedly set up a twitter account and instantly clocked in over 10,000 followers. That account closed and another popped up claiming to be the teen, but that one included a profile picture of the young lady's face. Some chose to harass the teen, while others used the hashtag and her Twitter handle to send messages of support.
I am saddened, but not surprised by this course of events. Teenagers engage in reckless, awkward, ill-advised sex. People can be very mean, especially online. Tough-typers run rampant on Twitter. These are unpleasant facts of life in the 21st century. What is especially appalling about this situation though is the level of viciousness leveled at this young girl and the fact that actual adults whole-heartedly participated in the cyber bullying. People critiqued her "skills" and condemned her to a life of prostitution, countless blog posts appeared with cringe-worthy headlines, few condemning the actions of the young men filming and participating in the act. That aspect is a story for another day.
Whenever things like this happen, you instantly get 8,673 articles that finger wag at teenagers for having sex and remind said rouge teenagers about how the evil EVIL internet is more of a curse than a blessing for their generation. Blah, blah, blah. Let's skip that part.
The more interesting bit of this otherwise (unfortunately) run-of-the-mill under-aged sex memorialized online story, is the media context in which it occurs. Today's "reality" tv, encourages, celebrates and even pays handsomely for bullying. The Real Housewives and Basketball Wives franchises are a testament to the public's apparently unending desire to see people act a fool.
On these shows, the foolishness always manifests as grown-up mean girl behavior. Everyday we are bombarded with women in their 30s and 40s (grown ups on any scale) who back-stab, berate, gang up on and just generally treat each other like crap. The ones who act the biggest fool and cause the most trouble, get the most money and the most screen time.
Let's assume that teens (and grown folks) today are savvy enough to understand that the women on these "reality" shows are essentially acting -- playing up certain events to get more drama out of any given situation. Even that still sends a very poor message. These shows tell the viewers that it's worth it to trade in your dignity and reputation (or somebody else's) for a few thousand dollars per episode. Who cares if your children are embarrassed? Doggone it, you're a trending topic on Twitter. Slow clap.
These shows tell people that it's not just okay to bully, it's fun and it makes you cool. And you too can become an instant celeb via social media! Just put up a naked pic like [insert celebrity] or leak a sex tape like [insert celebrity] or say really mean but kind of humorous things to some sensitive/vulnerable person online like [insert random person from reality tv]. The people on television get paid money for their antics while the online pseudo-celebs usually only get "paid" via a bump in Twitter followers, YouTube views or Facebook friend requests. Doesn't pay any type of bill, but it does feed the ego.
I'm not the moral police and goodness knows I've watched plenty of those shows over the years. Heck, I used to write recaps as part of my job. But the sheer number of these shows on television right now is sad and disturbing. Reality tv and reckless celebs are not directly to blame for incidents like the one with this 14-year-old, but they sure don't help.
Seems as if people forget that those celebs get paid to put on a front and tuck their humanity away for while, hoping the money will cushion the inevitable blows to their self-esteem, but the "regular" people are just regular people. There's no army of stylists, lawyers, therapists and yes men to help them realign themselves.
I'm against censoring, but I am for the constant and deliberate use of common sense in every aspect of life. Kids, teens and grown ups are all impacted by the media we consume. If we are mired in negativity and drama whenever we "escape" from our real lives and plop in front of the tv or computer, surely it impacts our real lives in some way.
The people who purposely parade their naked bodies and sex acts online for compliments from strangers are the modern-day version of the emperor with new (that means no) clothes. Unlike the fabled royal, they do know they are unclothed, but they believe that is where their worth lies -- in their nakedness, their lewdness. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a jealous hater.
The Shakespearean-like chorus (the bullies paid and unpaid who pervade all aspects of media) control the conversation, making sure a dash of mean is sprinkled on every situation. So what you get over and over are predicaments like this one, where celebrities are asking Twitter to not allow a 14-year-old girl's name to trend on Twitter anymore because they fear for her self-esteem and safety and you have adults willfully throwing digital stones at a real girl with real feelings.
Time for all of us to grow up.