Today’s form of bullying has gotten to be brasher and more technologically advanced. Bullying can happen in person or online. The result and manner of the bullying remains the same: People being treated without dignity or respect in front of friends and peers. The treatment results in fear, psychological disorders and sometimes, unfortunately, death. Sexual Bullying is a form of bullying that takes place usually with teens and “tweens”. However, sexual bullying can happen among adults as well, particularly at the work place and even at home.
Here is the NPSCC’s sexual bullying definition:
“Any bullying behaviour, whether physical or non-physical, that is based on a person’s sexuality or gender. It is when sexuality or gender is used as a weapon by boys or girls towards other boys or girls – although it is more commonly directed at girls. It can be carried out to a person’s face, behind their back or through the use of technology.”
Methods of Sexual Bullying:
- Straight bullying
- Cyber bullying and attacks
- Being ostracized
- Being Ignored
Sex bullying can be more dangerous in nature because it is often “invisible” to those around. Sexual bullying leaves mental scars so physical injury and evidence of the bullying is not visible. However, it can often lead to sexual harassment and sexual assault.
It is important for parents to be mindful of this and to talk with their children regularly about their sexual development, changing attitudes of their peer group, and what sexual bullying is.
Why Children Sexually Bully
There are a lot of reasons why this takes place. One of the most common reasons is confusion over sexual development. As a young person begins to discover their sexuality it may lead to questions whether it is normal an if their peers are experiencing the same feelings. This is often manifested into sexual bullying.
One of the important things to remember is that, as a parent, we often have a hard time relating to what it was like to have been a teenager and “tweenager”. We forget the feelings of confusion and insecurity as we ourselves went through puberty and our sexuality was beginning to develop.
- Improving social status at school, among groups and peers.
- Need for attention
What are the Motivating Factors of Sexual Bullying:
- The Feeling of Power and Superiority. Sometimes kids have a developed bias towards one gender or lifestyle. This is often taught at home and the lesson is often that those genders and lifestyles are substandard and unaccepatable, the “you’re better than them” attitude. Another power motivator is because some kids were sexually bullied themselves and made to feel as though there was something wrong with them and they were the inferior ones. One way to regain control of those feelings is to sex bully the next kid, making the person who is performing the bullying superior to someone again.
- Being Able to Be Sexually Mature. When kids are developing sexually during their adolescence, how they appear, what they look like and how they are perceived becomes the largest motivating factor to how they act and perform in social situations. Often, they give into peer pressure to seem more mature and developed than their peers. Boys sexually bully girls into acts or degrading name calling so that their friends (and other girls) will think they are more sexually experienced than they are. Girls, on the other hand, tend to bully other girls by calling them sexually explicit names and attempt to bully them into going further in their sexual encounters with boys. This is an attempt to gather information on those types of situations after the fact.
- Ling a Life of Excitement. For young people that are sexually immature, one of the most exciting things is to tell a juicy, racy story about their exploits. “Kissing and telling” is often a form of sexual bullying as rumors spread. Girls will often spread stories and rumors about other girls that were told in secret and a level of trust. This results in attention for the bully and relishing in the misery of the one that is being bullied. It can be vicious.
- Self-Esteem and Inadequacy. A lot of cases of sexual bullying are kids simply trying to cover up their own feelings of confusion. They may feel inadequate and have a low opinion of themselves. If a bully is unhappy with their own developing sexuality and body then they resort to attacking others. This takes the imagined attention that is negative in nature off of them and deflects at it someone else.
- Overly Competitive Streak. Often times, and particularly with young girls, sexual bullying is done to remove the competition from the equation. For a young girl that wants attention, the feeling that someone is prettier and more popular with the boys can be devastating. Their reaction is to destroy the person by spreading rumors, making up stories, and telling secrets about the prettier and more popular person. This results in the person feeling worse about themselves and retreating to a lower social standing.
- Media and Role Model Influence. Kids don’t know how to act when they are in adolescence and their bodies are developing sexually. When they don’t know what to do, how to talk, how to act, and how to respond, they look to others for cues and guidance. Many children take their cues from modern, reality television. However, the influencer can be an older brother or sister, parent, rap star, reality TV star, or popular personality on social media. A kid’s behavior will be molded by what they have in front of them to emulate when they don’t what else to do.
You can see how dangerous sexual bullying can be and how quickly can get out of control. One of the easiest ways for parents and other influences to control this type of behavior is by paying attention to what kind of influences and friends that their children are exposed to, as well as monitoring their own behavior. A good role model goes along way with developing properly.
Examples of What Sexual Bullying Looks Like:
As stated, sometimes sexual bullying is not evident unless the possibility is explored or investigated. It may be hard for parents and teachers to spot the signs of sexual bullying, either because it is so well hidden or maybe they are themselves “hardened” to what the signs may be.
Keep in mind that some things like dirty jokes, sexually explicit speech and images, comments and certain language can be offensive. Plainly said, if it offends even one person in the group or area then it should be deemed “sexually offensive” and removed immediately.
The following are typical examples of Sexual Bullying:
- Telling sexual jokes about someone.
- Sexual comments.
- Creating fake profiles of someone online and posting fake comments and statuses on their behalf.
- Calling someone sexually explicit names: “Slut”, “Easy”, etc.
- Sexual gestures that suggest sexual acts.
- Writing sexual inappropriate or suggestive posts on blogs, bathroom walls or other public places. “For a good time call Jenny at 555-1234”
- Spreading sexual images or videos of a person.
- Sexting: Sexual and inappropriate messages, innuendo or images.
- Using social media sites to spread images, rumors and videos.
- Inappropriate touching, stroking, grabbing, or brushing against someone to “cop a feel” in an inappropriate, uninvited way.
- Pressure to perform any of the above, particularly sexting, sending naked or provocative images, and to perform sex acts in the name of love or commitment.
How Common is Sexual Bullying?
You may feel that it doesn’t happen that often, however, London’s Young Voice resulted in some startling numbers:
- 273 respondents in the ages of 11 through 19 years old.
- 28 had been forced to perform a sexual act. (10%)
- 31 had seen sexual bullying occur. (11%)
- 40 had experience un-wanted touching. (14%)
As you can see, the effects of sexual bullying and the many ways it can occur are both devastating and often reside right below the surface of social interaction amongst teenagers. Parents that become aware of sexual bullying, whether in their own children or others, should make the teacher or other adult in charge of situations in the vicinity of where the bullying is occurring.
When a sex bully is attacking your child in social media sites like Facebook the best thing to do is encourage your child to report the behavior through the website while you involved parents and teachers. Your child may fight you on this because it may cause more difficult situations at school or in other social settings, however your child’s overall and long-term well-being should be your primary focus.