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Shifting the Focus

The latest topic that has gone viral on Facebook and Twitter is the ‘Amber Cole’ scandal.  I am deeply disturbed and appalled at the treatment of this story by the public in general, the news media, and social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.  People are incredibly focused on why a 14-year-old girl would give oral sex to an ex-boyfriend to win him back and her poor decision making skills.  There are numerous articles, FB postings, tweets, and stories asking what she was thinking and why she would be so careless.

‘Amber Cole’ did not engage in these activities by herself, nor did she tape herself in this situation.  There was a boy who was receiving oral sex, one of his male friends who was watching, and a second male friend who was videotaping.  An exceedingly small portion of media and public attention is focused on any of these three boys.  People are questioning where the girl’s parents are, why she chose to do this in the back of the school, why she opened herself up to the risk of being videotaped and blasted all over the Internet, and what type of reputation does she want to have.  Media sources are referring to it as the ‘Amber Cole’ scandal and video.  Where is the discussion about the three other people in this situation?  All three of these boys made decisions as well.  One decided to ask for oral sex from the girl, one decided to video-tape it, one decided to stand and watch.  Additionally, someone decided to post it online. Why aren’t people asking about the boys’ decisions and actions in this situation?  Both the public and the media are ignoring these male participants and creating a discussion based solely around the female participant.

One aspect that I find disturbing is how this girl can be criticized for giving oral sex behind a school building but the boy is not criticized for asking for it behind a school building.  Society does not question or shame boys for asking for sex and, it appears to me, actually expects them to ask and engage in sexual acts.  On the flip side, society still expects girls to be the control factor in these situations, to say no, and to maintain their impeccable moral character.  These expectations remove the responsibility that the boys have in this scenario and places all of it square on the shoulders of ‘Amber Cole’.  Several news stories have posted about the countless number of hateful and deplorable postings her FB and Twitter page received before she had to take them down.  None of the articles focused on the backlash that the boys received, which leads to the assumption that they did not receive much negative attention to their personal pages. 

Another aspect that is problematic is the percentage of media and general public blame the girl for the creation of video and its viral status within the social media world.  Why should ‘Amber’ in this case be responsible for the boys’ actions?  She did not create this video nor did she decide to post it on Facebook and YouTube so that countless other teenagers and adults could view it.  The boy who had the camera created this video and it is debatable whether she even knew a recording was being made.  The boy receiving oral sex saw the camera as did his male friend standing nearby but Amber was already facing away from the camera when the video started.  The boys, as the initial holders and distributors of the video, are responsible for how it went viral, whether they uploaded it directly or sent it out by cell and one of their friends uploaded it..  The discussion should focus on why these boys thought it was appropriate to make a video in the first place and then distribute it, rather than on how this girl should expect to be videotaped. 

The last discussion point I want to make, although it is certainly not the last problem, is the length of time it took for the video to be removed from YouTube and the number of viewers who sought out the video.  This video is of two teenagers, at least one of whom is 14 years old. YouTube has explicit guidelines that pornographic and sexually explicit material cannot be posted on the site.  Therefore, even if these two people were of proper age to be in a pornographic video and had full knowledge and gave full consent, this material is NOT allowed on YouTube.  Secondly, YouTube states that they work with law enforcement and report any material that could contain child exploitation.  However, despite the viral status of the video, it took YouTube four days in order to remove the video from their site.  During these four days, thousands of people, adults included, flocked to YouTube to watch a 14-year-old girl give oral sex to her ex-boyfriend and then sent the link to others so that they could tune in as well.  How are the actions of these people any different from those who send around pornographic material of children and teens?  The content and circulation of both of these types of material are harmful and exploitative to the minors who are involved.  The fact that this video was posted to a public social media website does not negate the fact that it includes minors engaging in sexual behaviors.  YouTube should have acted faster to remove the content and the viewers should have flagged the content rather than passing it on to others.


Written by: Stacey

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Posted by stacey

Stacey formerly served BARCC as the coordinator for Community Awareness and Outreach. Prior to BARCC, she worked for the Navy as a sexual assault response coordinator and volunteered for the DC Rape Crisis Center. She got involved with anti-rape work during college and has enjoyed doing both direct services and educational work.

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