Tonight, as it’s a bit late, I’ll write a little about a couple of conversations I’ve had with MsDD today. I’ve not seen much of her because she’s spent the day recording the latest BYCB CD for sale as soon as it’s been produced.
She was telling me how she’d had to block a schoolfriend of two of her band friends on Facebook. She originally friended him, thinking he would be nice but then he started asking her for bikini pictures and saying creepy things. She spared me the details. So she, wisely, blocked him. Then she told me about how someone she knows has texted her pictures of his privates. A dickpic. (No Autocorrect, I have no idea whether a “duckpin” is even a word.)
Now when I mentioned this on Twitter, a lot of people were shocked but what was most shocking to me was how MsDD and I seemed to take it as an everyday occurrence. We are inured to such behaviour and I really don’t know why that should be the case.
I mean, it IS shocking and anti-social, isn’t it? So why has this stuff become part of everyday life for teenagers? Why do we hear such awful things about so-called lad culture taking over our universities and threatening the physical and emotional lives of young women just starting out in life? What effect does it have on young men and women generally? How do they ever trust someone of the opposite sex enough to start a friendship or relationship with them? Is it any worse than in my day?
Well, I really, honestly and sincerely don’t remember things being anywhere near as bad as this for me at school or college. I went to a co-educational school and, as I was a bit of a misfit among the girls, largely my friends were boys. But because I was clueless about my appearance and what I wore, I received virtually no attention of the romantic kind. They just weren’t interested in me in THAT way. Similarly, I’ve virtually never had to endure any catcalls or leering or anything like that. So this sort of high-stakes, overtly-sexualised, adversarial behaviour is a very different world for me.
My feeling is this: that the advent of the internet and the immediacy it brings together with mobile phones and social media apps, though making a huge contribution to the world, have distorted the world of young people who aren’t yet mature enough to deal fully with the consequences of their actions. Yet exploring their world and pushing their boundaries is the whole point of being a teenager. The stuff they see, combined with their need for immediacy and ever greater thrills result in ever worse behaviour.
So many children seem to have viewed porn at a really young age. I can think of 11 year olds who can call up porn websites. It’s really not that difficult using seemingly quite innocuous search terms. Mature people might have a laugh and then not click on the links that show themselves but when you’re a young teenager, it will be intriguing.
Then there’s instantaneous and silent communication through Instagram or texts, and Snapchat will erase the evidence shortly after it’s sent so any responsible adult who manages to confiscate the phone and key in their child’s passwords will see no evidence of any pornographic activity or bullying.
In any case plenty of adults would baulk at invading their children’s private lives in this way. It feels wrong to me and I actually resent the ever murkier role I’m forced into by the availability of such awful stuff by people who have dismissed the idea that sending explicit words and pictures breaches any code of civility and dignity.
The advent of all this has ratcheted up the antisocial behaviour and made what used to be a game of kiss chase into something with high stakes and potentially catastrophic consequences. And the more people legislate or ban or block, the more creative ways people will think up to flout those new rules.
I’m really not a censorious person and generally I’m not for banning things but I think that young people usually need to be saved from themselves in one way or another. That they are able to cover their tracks makes it really hard for parents and teachers to protect them.
I’m glad that more and more schools are starting to grasp this issue and do something about it. MsDD’s school has started giving people serious talks in PHSE classes about sexism and objectification and date rape drugs but, you know, they’re not even adults yet. I really resent that any of this has become necessary.
I am glad that MsDD is a resilient and tough little person, more than able to give as good as she gets but what if she weren’t as happy in her own skin? What if she lacked confidence? This sort of thing might put her off trusting anyone in the future.
A group of Twitter friends were just watching the Graham Norton Show and commenting on how much we like the host. I’ve always appreciated his wit and gentleness with his guests. Whilst not forfeiting any cheekiness, he is always gentle enough to win their confidence. Then I was reminded of something MsDD said to me a couple of weeks ago as she observed me interacting with someone quite effeminate:
“You always do this mum. Whenever there’s a gay or camp guy around you go all giggly and fluttery. I think it’s a mum thing generally.” Perhaps this is us, my dears!