Monday, 5 January 2009

Sexual bullying - at last we are talking about it

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.


Millie said...

Finally! It's about time!

For many years I was considered 'frigid' or 'queer' through not having sex and being bi-sexual. Yet, when I finally decided to speak up about it my voice was hushed and silenced at the hands of my so-called teachers!

At the time these comments really hurt me and undermind my confidence but given time I have now grown up and I am now of the opinion that having the confidence to say 'no' is much sexier than giving in to the pressure that this awful bullying creates.

I really hope that everyone wakes up and realises the damage to young peoples sexual health these hideous insults does.

My motto: If it's what you are, be it. If it's what you what, do it. If you're being bullied for it, SPEAK!

Simon Blake said...
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Simon Blake said...

Bullying by peers is unacceptable and being silenced or hurt by any adult is even more unacceptable - i am pleased you have developed your confidence and know that it is prejudice that is wrong not your feelings.

Gloria Gaynor famously sang I am what I am - the line which all of us, straight, gay, young, old, whoever, can try hard to remember is - 'you're life ain't worth a damn til you can shout out I am what I am'.

Millie said...


Another song I really admire is Beautiful by Christina Aguilera.

I hope that now people are beginning to talk openly about this issue it will become more easy to challenge.

I know from my own experience that having people push you into situations that you feel you cannot control can be heartbreaking, I hope everyone has someone they can talk to about these things.