Gay, queer, slut, slag, freak, virgin, lesbo, frigid - names that will make too many of us whince as we remember hearing the names, being called them or calling someone else them.
I have just watched panorama on sexual bullying. At long long last we are talking publicly about sexual bullying. I was closely involved in the anti-bullying agenda a couple of years ago with the anti-bullying alliance. When I first started learning about bullying in schools, I was surprised at how much denial there was about the level, extent and diversity of bullying -bullying that started early in primary school and for some young people continued all the way through their education.
As a sex educator I have worked in a whole range of settings including schools, youth service and pupil referral units I have talked with a lot of young people about unwanted attention and touching, name calling - slag, slut, gay, lesbo, virgin. Girls being teased about their periods, about wearing a bra, about not wearing a bra. Boys and girls being teased about having had sex, about not having had sex. Research about gay boys and girls by Stonewall - Queer Bashing - and about girls and their experiences of menstruation in school - It's Time to Grow Up amongst other research are testament that sexual bullying really isn't a new phenomena.
I was so pleased that Michelle Elliot said Kidscape now gets 2 or 3 calls a week, up from 2 or 3 a year, not because this is an indicator that sexual bullying is increasing, but conversely I believe because it is showing us that young people and children are feeling more able to name it and ask for help.
As professionals, friends and family members we must be really vigilant about any sort of bullying - we know it is difficult for children and young people to tell someone they are being bullied. We also need to remember that children have always said, 'i'll show you mine, if you show me yours'. There is a distinct difference between normal healthy sexual development and children's curiosity about their bodies and sexual bullying in all its forms.
In a climate that is increasingly fearful of youth, sexual bullying is not yet another example of the moral breakdown of society. It is decades old. What is new is the fact that children, parents, carers and professionals are talking about it. This is a positive response to an age old problem that many of us have memories and stories to prove.