The #slanegirl hashtag refers to photographs of a teenage girl performing oral sex on at least two men in the audience of the Eminem concert at Slane Castle in Ireland. I do not know the exact details since it’s hard to shift through the rumours, of which there are many, and I do not want to accidentally come across the images. I do believe that photographing anyone without their consent is wrong: I don’t care if this is a child skipping in puddles, a celebrity picking their nose or Prince Harry naked. Taking photos without consent and then distributing them is unacceptable and feeds into bullying culture, particularly since most of the images shared without consent are of people in embarrassing situations.
This situation isn’t just the sharing of embarrassing photos: it’s sexual violence. Sharing photos of people engaged in sex, even if they are in public venue, is sexual violence. I don’t care if that isn’t the position of the law. It’s what the law should be. The distribution of images of sex without the full consent of all participants is sexual violence.
The fact that the photos are of a teenage girl makes this crime child sexual abuse since a teenager cannot legally consent to sex with an adult nor can they consent to their images being shared publicly. If it were images of an adult woman performing a sex act, it would still be a case of sexual violence. This is without investigating the issue of consent due to substance misuse or the fact that these images have been shared online.
Every single person who has shared or retweeted these images has committed sexual violence. The people who first put the images online deserve to be prosecuted, as does every single person who has shared them including the people who claimed to be sharing them to demonstrate their “moral outrage” at the images being placed online.
I hope every single person who has helped to repeatedly sexually violate this young girl gets prosecuted and ends up with a criminal record.
That said, I am equally concerned about the positive discussions of the article #Slanegirl and the shaming of female desire on Twitter.* The article claims to be a challenge to the shaming of female sexuality but that’s not quite what is happening in the piece. Ignoring the deliberate misrepresentation of radical feminist discourse of female sexuality**, which is disgraceful, the piece assumes that the young girl was an active participant in the act. As yet, we have no confirmation of this ‘fact’. In fact current media reports put the young girl below the age of consent which would make this a story of child sexual abuse. It doesn’t matter if the young girl was an active participant, the fact that adult men were involved makes this a crime. The Irish Independent is also suggesting that the young girl was sexually assaulted at the concert in an attack separate to that which is seen in the photos uploaded. This is a story of the sexual violation of a young girl. It is not the time to ‘celebrate’ female sexual desire.
Shaming women for enjoying sex is misogyny. It is about reinforcing patriarchal control of women’s bodies and creating a dichotomy of good and bad women. However, whether or not individual women enjoy specific sexual acts cannot be separated from a political analysis of the treatment of women as a class. The bodies of women and children are objectified and pornified daily. Suggesting that adult men using the body of a teenage girl for their sexual gratification is something we should celebrate as an example of female sexual desire completely decontextualises sexual violence. It ignores the reality of women’s lives and it belittles the pain this young girl is experiencing due to the abuse. It is rape culture.
Teenagers exploring their sexuality together is a different situation to adult men preying on young teenage girls. It is a constant in our culture and it occurs daily. The only difference now is that the authorities seem to be taking the abuse seriously. This is not to say that teenagers engaged in public sexual acts aren’t problematic but that this situation involving a young child is not a celebration of female sexual desire. It’s just another story of the abuse of a young girl by men and those who seek to minimise the responsibility of sexually abusive men.
This is rape culture.
A child has been sexually violated. Repeatedly.
It is not a story of female sexual desire. This is a story of sexual violence.
* The comments underneath the article are a disgusting display of male violence, misogyny and the shaming of women.
*This particular blogger has an obsession with radical feminism and has been caught on numerous occasions making outright lies about radical feminist theory.