One of the oldest, most outrageously sexist ideas presents sex as a lose-lose for girls: girls who have sex are slutty, while girls who don't have sex are prudes. This was stupid in the era of black-and-white television, and it is just as stupid in the era of the smartphone.
Which brings us to a new paper on sexting among adolescents. It's called "Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't ... If You're a Girl."
The key finding is that both girls and boys send and receive naked or semi-naked pictures of themselves with some regularity, but only the girls are socially punished for it. "Boys in our study described girls who did send sexts as 'sluts' or 'insecure,' whereas they characterized girls who did not send sexts as 'prude' or 'stuck up,'" University of Michigan researchers Julia Lippman and Scott Campbell write in the Journal of Children and Media . "This indicates that sexting is a lose–lose proposition for girls; regardless of whether or not they sext, their behavior is evaluated in harsh—and often sexist—terms."
Here are some examples of what the boys told the researchers about girls who sext:
- A 12-year-old boy: "One time this crazy girl who liked me sent me a nude picture of her for no reason... [she] was just insecure."
- An 18-year-old boy: "This is common only for girls with 'slut' reputations. They do it to attract attention...[it’s inappropriate, but] it’s the fault of the girl who sent them. That she is being seen like that."
- A 14-year-old boy: "I have received some pics that include nudity. Girls will send them sometimes, not often. I don’t know why they think it’s a good idea but I’m not going to stop it...I like classy girls so I don’t like them as much anymore it makes them look slutty."