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Slane Girl, In Solidarity

slut

Last Saturday at an Eminem concert at Slane Castle, outside Dublin, Ireland, a 17-year-old woman was photographed performing oral sex on two males. Unsurprisingly, these photos went viral on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

I’ve been hopeful of Twitter and Facebook recently. In particular the discussion surrounding the #solidarityisforwhitewomen trend inspired a lot of thought about what gender and feminism mean in 2013 and has served as a much needed reminder for white feminists like myself to check our own privilege. That spirit of hope has taken a hit with the Slane Girl Story. Within two days of the Eminem concert, Twitter exploded into a slut-shaming bonanza.  The hashtags #slanegirl and #slaneslut trends have taken on the appearance of a free-for-all, cruel, glee-filled, slut-shaming stampede.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people worldwide reveled in the name and shame strategy that social media has proffered, declaring that the young woman deserves the onslaught of sexist mudslinging. One of the pictures that went viral depicts a male involved in the act, raising his arms in triumph. A Rocky Balboa for the digital age. This image provides yet another example of LAD culture.

Very few adding their two cents to the public debate are questioning the blatantly sexist division the reaction has taken. Following the release of the photographs, the girl was identified, her real name and personal information were linked with the images, adding a spiteful, personal edge to this story. As a result, she has been so traumatized by the messages sent to her on social media that Irish news outlets are reporting that she has been sedated in the hospital. Neither of the two men seen in the photographs have been targeted or identified. In most cases, they’re barely even mentioned. Before delving into the issue of consent, this reveals the double standards that make up ideals of gender and notions of ‘proper’ sex in Ireland. He is seen as a legend and a hero, whereas she’s a slut.

RockyIt is still under speculation whether or not these acts were committed with consent. It is assumed by most commentators, even in the supportive camp, that the young woman in question engaged in these sexual acts with consent. This has allowed antagonists of the #SlaneGirl trolls to put forth the forgiving excuse of youth and ignorance. I am not one of those commentators.

The problem isn’t what she did, or where she did it, or even how many times she did it! The problem is the unhesitant joy people have in condemning her and making this condemnation known. The reaction on Twitter ranges from downright giddiness to vitriolic hate. This woman’s actions are seen as so transgressive, that people all over the world feel they have a right to voice their opinion. She so thoroughly broke beyond the carefully and historically defined limits of “acceptable sexuality” that she is being punished for doing so (assuming that this was, indeed, a consensual encounter).

This attack is all part and parcel of an Ireland that is not moving fast enough from its conservative, Catholic beginnings. One tweeter said it all.

tweet1

The incident becomes even more sinister if we learn that the oral sex was nonconsensual. Concerts at Slane Castle (and Ireland in general) are notorious for their hedonistic, binge drinking, and drug-fueled mania. Had the girl been too intoxicated to give consent, or was in any way forced to commit these acts, sober or otherwise, then this is a case of sexual assault and rape. The Irish Independent reported that the woman has made a separate complaint of sexual assault that occurred at the event but was unrelated to the photographs. A video has reportedly emerged, allegedly showing the young women being sexually and physically assaulted by a group of men. The video was quickly removed from online sources and is currently being investigated by Garda Síochána (Irish Police).

This wholesale condemnation of the woman reveals the increasing easiness people have with potential acts of rape. This is rape culture – where the possible rape of a teenager has resulted in an intense campaign of victim-blaming. To quote fellow Nursing Clio Blogger, Austin McCoy,  modern rape culture manifests itself “in a puritanical collective shaming and blaming of the victim.” Despite the potential multiple acts of sexual abuse that occurred, the vitriol is directed solely at the victim.

The challenge comes from a country that has embraced a digital age without updating its attitudes or education about sex. For many, there lies a subconscious, learned belief that sex for a woman is shameful unless it’s done under the covers, with the lights turned off, and with a ring on her finger (and only with her husband, of course).

The guidelines for ‘Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE)’ in Irish schools state that the aim is “to provide opportunities for children and young people to learn about relationships and sexuality in ways that help them think and act in a moral, caring and responsible way.” I’m all for sex education being caring and sexually responsible, but I’m not convinced the Irish government should be defining what’s moral (cough, Magdalene Laundries).

A quick look at the resources offered teachers reveals that some documents have not been updated since 1998, hardly helpful to modern children in this internet-obsessed age. Much of the material discusses sexuality and gender in a heteronormative, anti-choice manner that you might expect from a 1990s informational pamphlet.

When everyone with access to a phone, TV, or computer is bombarded with sexual imagery and content, yet very little up-to-date sex education remains, then the gap will be filled by an awkward combination of media, internet, pornography and traditional Catholic ideas. What a combination!

Not all hope is lost. A campaign to support the young woman has trended on Twitter in Ireland under the hashtag #slanegirlsolidarity. Naturally there are still plenty of don’t-feed-the-troll moments, but there are a lot of people out there calling for an end to the sexist and public shaming of this young woman. Many tweeters have renamed their accounts to Slane Girl to mark their solidarity, and though some of the commentary falls into the sex-is-bad trope, there is at least a message being sent that not everyone is willing to participate in the online pastime to shame and enforce out-of-date values.

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. “enforce out-of-date values.”

    This suggests that some values were once acceptable but now are not. It might also be read as suggesting that Ireland is “backward”, by comparison with somewhere else.

    We need not be anachronistic about this, suggesting that Ireland should have embraced oral contraception in the 12th century. When was the last time that Irish attitudes towards female sexuality were less perversely repressive than attitudes in neighbouring countries? Ireland, and especially rural Ireland, has never been a fit country for young women.

    We need not hold up Ireland as failing to keep up with the times. This horror can be seen anywhere that there are young men with smartphones and communities that embrace a double standard. Now, there is nowhere for even the saints and scholars to hide.

    August 22, 2013
  2. I couldn’t agree more!

    In cases that that the actual events are almost beside the point – it’s the shaming of the woman, and not a squeak about the man involved in the situation that drives me crazy!
    I hope there will come a time when people with finally stop getting overly excited about other people’s sexuality and choices, but if I’m honest with myself, it’s a very disheartened hope.

    August 22, 2013
  3. tokkaali #

    Thank you for this post. I made me feel extremly bad reading about what had happened to this girl, but the fact that there are sane people out there that try to help her restores my faith in humanity at least a little bit.

    August 22, 2013
  4. Reblogged this on recalcitrantobserver and commented:
    I’m almost too angry for writing.

    The girl might be young and silly (if the sex was consensual) or she is a victim of rape and sexual assault – but in our twisted society even if the second is the case there are people out there who will say she didn’t have to go to the concert/drink/take drugs, and blame her anyway.

    We are living in omnipresent rape culture, where a woman has to be always aware what she’s doing, what she’s wearing and make sure she’s not smiling at a wrong person too, because if something terrible happens to her, people will will give more attention to where she was at the time and what was she wearing than to the simple fact that it’s the person who forces someone else to a sexual act who is at fault. Always.

    August 22, 2013
  5. Rudyard Holmbast #

    “Enforce out of date values”? Give me a break. So you think society would be better off if people were having sex in public? Yeah, sure thing. If that is the case, why do you spend half of this ridiculous piece insinuating this girl was being forced to do what she did. If there is nothing wrong with it, why resort to such an unsupported allegation to explain the behavior away?

    August 22, 2013
    • Helen McBride #

      The out of date values are the ones that viciously shame a woman for having sex yet the man is considered a total hero. It’s irrelevant where it takes place, whether in public or private [with consent].

      Many of those attacking the young woman on social media are doing so assuming consent, but that is not always the case. The issue of consent is extremely important in how we view this incident, which is why I discussed it in one paragraph as a possibility.

      August 22, 2013
  6. Heres my two cents. I agree with the stand taken against the sharers and the namecallers etc. But a few quibbles ‘The problem isn’t what she did, or where she did it, or even how many times she did it!’ Well all of those things could be problems. That its not problematic is simply asserted here.She so thoroughly broke beyond the carefully and historically defined limits of “acceptable sexuality” that she is being punished for doing so’-presuming those are the limits of acceptable sexuality, isnt that how all cultures work? They react negatively towards breaches of social rules????It definitely doesn’t justify a hate campaign or sadistic shaming of a teenager.”This attack is all part and parcel of an Ireland that is not moving fast enough from its conservative, Catholic beginnings.” I’m not religious but even I have to wonder is it not more important to move slower in the right direction than simply move quickly?”When everyone with access to a phone, TV, or computer is bombarded with sexual imagery and content, yet very little up-to-date sex education remains, then the gap will be filled by an awkward combination of media, internet, pornography and traditional Catholic ideas”- what does this have to do with any of the issues?I think the church bashing here is problematic. There are plenty of issues with the beliefs of the church but the main problem as far as I can see is the hypocrisy at the top of the organisation. Not really believing your stated beliefs. Flipping from sex is bad and evil (denying the positive) to sex is good and nice (underplaying the danger, risk, etc) seems like a knee jerk reaction that reproduces the same conditions. Specifically, I find it hard to believe that the behaviour by all parties at this concert was something we normalise or find blase. Lets imagine you accompany your 5 year old nephew to the zoo and when you get through the gates theres a gangbang. You wouldnt shrug your shoulders and think nothing of it. Suppose you were being told serious news by the doctor in a ward and a couple in the next cubicle were going at it hell for leather, you wouldnt have a neutral reaction. Lets say you accompanied your grandparents to the beach and a woman was circle jerking a group of teenagers next to the hot dog stand.Or maybe I’m wrong and you wouldnt mind or care, fair play to you if so.As for the tweeted comment ‘Its just sex’ well that’s not quite true..its group sex….in public…in front of a crowd…of teenagers..possibly drunk/drugged. If it was ‘just sex’ it wouldn’t have been the 2nd highest trending item on twitter. The notion that men can have public sex with impunity simply isnt true, George Michael was arrested for having sex in a toilet, something much less public. Ill agree that the double standard is completely wrong, but lets not exaggerate.

    August 22, 2013
  7. Well said!

    Whether or not the acts documented in the photographs were themselves consensual, it’s important to also acknowledge that an act of sexual abuse *has already occurred*. None of the people gloating over this woman’s image had been given her consent to see her in this situation, so everyone who shared the photos (never mind the person who took & published them) has committed a sexualised assault.

    August 23, 2013
  8. In short: gangbanging a crowd of strangers is Okay, in fact its desirable because its an act of liberation, anyone who says you reduced yourself and should feel shame is a fascist bully and misogynist prude. we all gangbanged a group of strangers when we were teenagers, and patriarchal society, schools, catholic church, rather than you personally, are all to blame.

    August 23, 2013
    • And being raped by a jeering crowd of strangers? You would condemn her for that too?

      August 24, 2013
  9. Having given it a lot of thouhgt, I think sex in the open is a socialised reminder of our materiality and mortality. This is what people react against and why they attack the people doing it.

    August 25, 2013
  10. Reblogged this on Seriously Joking.

    August 26, 2013
  11. Laura #

    Some people have been complaining about how slanegirl is getting shamed while the guys she serviced publicly are getting praised. Let me take a shot at it ;).

    It is actually not a double standard, because both scenarios are vastly different in terms of circumstances and consequences. I can think of at least four crucial differences:

    First, sleeping around is easier for women. Regardless of how you feel about promiscuity, we can all agree that a guy who manages to rack up a lot of sexual partners has to have some skills. It’s challenging for men to rack up partners, even for men with low standards. A man needs social intelligence, interpersonal skills, persistence, thick skin, and plain old dumb luck. For women, though, a vagina and a pulse is often enough. Whenever an accomplishment requires absolutely no challenge, no one respects it. It’s just viewed as a lack of self-discipline. People respect those who accomplish challenging feats, while they consider those who overindulge in easily obtained feats as weak, untrustworthy or flawed.

    Second, women have potential to do more harm by sleeping around than men do. Say a man sleeps around with a bunch of different women. He’s definitely doing harm to these women if he pretends to be monogamous while sleeping around. He may cause them emotional pain by his promiscuity. He may cause unwanted pregnancy. He may spread VD. When women sleep around, however, they can cause not only all these same ill effects but one additional crucial ill effect: the risk of unknown parentage.

    If one guy sleeps around with five women, each of whom is monogamous to him, and they all get pregnant, it’s a safe bet as to who the father is. If you reverse genders and have one woman who sleeps around with five men who are monogamous to her, and she gets pregnant, the father could be any of the five men. And if one of those men is tricked into raising a baby that isn’t his, he’s investing time, money, estate and property to provide for a child that isn’t carrying his DNA into the next generations, a costly mistake from an evolutionary standpoint.

    Our two basic primal drives are to survive and to reproduce, and promiscuous women traditionally make it hard for a man to know for sure whether he is truly reproducing or is secretly raising another man’s child. Men stand a lot more to lose from promiscuous women than the other way around. And it’s no picnic for the child to not know who his real father is either. And it’s a mess for the women carrying on the deception as well. Or just look at any random episode of the Maury show if you don’t believe me.

    Since the DNA test and the birth control pill didn’t exist until recently, there were no reliable ways to prevent pregnancy or prove parentage for most of human history. For this reason society developed a vested interest in preventing promiscuity among women, and society accomplished this by creating the promiscuous-girl stigma. And even though the creation of birth control and DNA tests have made this less of a risk than the past, long standing traditions and customs are not easy for society to break so the “tart” stigma remains.

    Third, men have evolutionary reasons to be programmed to sleep around more. A lot of women roll their eyes when they hear that men are “hard-wired” to sleep around. But from an evolutionary standpoint, it makes total sense. If the two primal drives of humans are to survive and to reproduce, nothing leads to maximum reproduction like one man sleeping with multiple women. If one women sleeps with many men in a nine month period, she can only get pregnant just once. Nine months of rampant promiscuity would give the same result as nine months of highly sexed monogamy: one pregnancy. Now if one man sleeps with many women during a nine month period, you can get many pregnancies during that period. The more women he sleeps with, the more possible pregnancies. So from an evolutionary standpoint, there are concrete advantages to men being promiscuous compared to women being promiscuous. This doesn’t mean that women have evolved to be strictly monogamous. Women have evolved to be somewhat promiscuous too, something men badly underestimate. However they haven’t evolved to be as rampantly promiscuous as men.

    Fourth, promiscuity poses more risk to women than to men. A woman has more to lose from choosing bad sex partners than a man does. She’s the one who gets stuck with going through a pregnancy and taking care of a baby alone if she chooses a deadbeat. For this reason, promiscuous women throughout history have historically been viewed as being a vastly more irresponsible risk takers than promiscuous men, who rightly or wrongly could always run away from the consequences of unwanted pregnancies easier than women could.

    These four reasons explain why the longstanding tradition came about of men being rewarded for multiple partners while women get socially punished for similar promiscuity. Of course all this is gradually changing, but we’re up against millenia of evolutionary and cultural conditioning here, so don’t expect any dramatic overnight reversals.

    Understand that I’m just explaining why the double standard came into existence and not condoning or condemning it. This is not an attempt to pass judgment or be self-righteous in any way. It’s just an explanation of why the two conditions are treated differently.

    August 26, 2013
    • And there are participants here who don’t know this?

      August 26, 2013
  12. Justathought #

    Reblogged this on Just A Lovely Thought.

    August 28, 2013

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