‘The things you didn’t do’: Gender, slut-shaming, and the need to address sexual harassment in narrative resources addressing sexting and cyberbullying
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This chapter reports on research examining young people’s understandings of gender roles in everyday digital cultures and communication technologies, and in relation to sexting practices. A cyber-safety narrative film that addresses sexting, cyberbullying, and digital citizenship was used as a springboard for focus group discussions with 24 young people in Victoria, Australia. The chapter outlines the key findings regarding how young people understood and explained common gender dynamics in relation to bullying, cyberbullying, and sexting, reflecting as they did in these discussions on both the gender relations depicted in commonly used cyber-safety narrative resources, as well as in their own social lives. The chapter describes a discussion that arose among female participants around the ‘slut’ label, concerns about the possibility for sexual rumours to be spread via digital social networks, and associated on- and offline harassment over sexual things they had not actually done. This discussion, it is argued, illustrates the way girls feel responsible for protecting themselves from the potential psychic injuries of the slut label through strict sexual self-regulation, knowing that they cannot control malevolent and frequent use of this label by peers on- and offline. Future narrative resources that seek to address sexting and cyberbullying need to more clearly identify and respond to sexual harassment and sexism as a persistent feature of young people’s digital and school cultures.
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