Where Is The Blame For The Boys In 14-Year-Old Amber Cole’s Sex Tape?
14-year-old Amber Cole had a trying couple of weeks when video of her performing oral sex on student went viral over the interwebs. The teenager had no idea that she was being filmed by two other students, but nevertheless logged on to find her name all over internet. And while there was a wealth of people on Twitter coming to girl’s defense, the general narrative is that the girl is the problem, the criminal, and the one who needs a stern talking to.
But what about the boys who filmed and thus exploited this young girl by sharing the video? Why aren’t their actions part of our discussion when responding to this story?
As I’ve said, the millions of people who shared this video committed a felony by viewing and sharing this material. The two boys have been arrested, but as far as the internet goes, we don’t know their names or faces. They’re exempt from this story in a way that Amber is not. With headlines that read “Amber Cole: What made the teenager do it?”, it’s clear that we’re choosing to only blame one of the teens involved, primarily because she is the girl.
Latoya Peterson at Racialicious points out that how we parent children of different sexes has everything to do withÂ Amber Cole’s story. And that while girls are consistently told that they bring this kind of havoc on themselves, boys are told that degrading and exploiting girls is acceptable behavior. With regards to filming Amber, Peterson writes:
Our culture teaches boys that this is okay. That it is okay to use people. That you are expected to disregard a womanâ€™s feelings, to do what you want with her, to find women who are pliable who you can mold, who will seek your favor and happily trade a few moments on her knees for her affection. Our society teaches boys that this is ok, that this is what you do with women. The onus is on women not to be used. Men do not hear â€œdonâ€™t be an abuserâ€ in the same way men donâ€™t hear â€œdonâ€™t be a rapist.â€ The onus is always on women keeping themselves safe, on women not putting themselves in positions to be attacked or exploited. And when something does happen, when teenagers being teenagers suddenly becomes a nation news story, everyone wants to talk about what the girl should have done to prevent herself from being in the situation.
Once again, we arenâ€™t talking to the boys.
Jackson is right in that Amber Cole’s parents aren’t the only ones that the public should be concerned about. What about the parents of these young boys? Certainly they are just as culpable for raising sons who jumped at the opportunity to use a female classmate in such a humiliating way.
It’s hardly a secret that young boys steadily receive the message that mistreating girls is not only acceptable, but laughable. And that more seriously, beating women is sexy and glamorous as Heather Morris demonstrated for us not too long ago. We raise boys to think that girls cannot be their equals and are therefore not worthy of respect. T-shirts that read “I’m Too Pretty To Do Math,” are internalized by boys too, who are conditioned to believe that a girl can’t be as smart as them or perhaps even smarter than they are — simply because they’re girls.
Reality TV also does a compelling job of depicting women as often two-dimensional cartoons, fixated on nothing more than looking sexy for and fighting over men, cementing the idea that girls exist only for the consumption for boys. Girls don ‘t have stories or ambitions of their own because kids’ sexist programming drives home that female characters only exist to be scantily-clad romantic interests.
It’s consistently up to parents to combat these sentiments about girls and their capabilities for their daughters, but also for their sons. Treating women and girls as disposable is not only encouraged by our media, but often reinforced by well-intentioned parents.
Amber Cole has not only been a victim of the internet and the many users who decided to pass around the video. She is also the victim of a misogynistic double standard that solely blames girls for sexual misconduct.