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Feminspire | April 23, 2014

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Virgin Shaming & Online Bullying: Can We Stop, Please?

Virgin Shaming & Online Bullying: Can We Stop, Please?

I have seen people dress in purple to support anti-bullying. I have heard lectures about the golden rule. I have seen presentations, received e-mails, joined Facebook events and re-tweeted till the end of the world — all in the name of ending bullying. In the vicious cycle that is putting down individuals for being out of the norm, we do all we can to fight back. And yet it astonishes me that it still happens. In fact, it frightens me. In a world where social media has linked together our generation, made us more aware of the world around us, and increased our ability to act upon the injustice we see, why is it that people are still manipulating these tools for cruel ends?

Earlier today, a friend of mine was visibly upset about a situation involving her sister and her sister’s roommate. After walking in on the roommate and her roommate’s boyfriend having sex and expressing her discomfort at being confronted with this, my friend’s sister became the victim of severe verbal and online bullying. Few roommate situations are perfect, but this was far worse than the situation warranted — than any situation could warrant. They defamed this girl based not only on her personal character but on her family, her religion, and her beliefs in tirades on multiple public forums. But that wasn’t all.

They focused on her reaction to their relationship, vilifying the girl’s Catholic views and belittling her being a virgin. Not that they had any actual knowledge of her sexual history — they just assumed. The boyfriend’s tweet said that there must only be “1 or 2″ virgins left in the world who are in her age range.

He actually belittled a young women who made a decision that is hers to make about her own body. A piece of information that is entirely and irrevocably personal and has absolutely nothing to do with him or her roommate or, really, anyone except her.

The roommate then led a rampage on Facebook and Twitter, insisting that her roommate was, among other things, “a bitch, a virgin and a prude.” She even went to the lengths of insulting her roommate’s mother.

After dealing with administration and housing, a room change was immediately enacted. It’s lucky that the college administration was understanding and allowed for this particular emergency circumstance to be dealt with quickly and efficiently, but in many cases, that isn’t possible — or it simply isn’t done. And it wasn’t the best solution, either. The roommate couldn’t help but bid farewell on a social medium, tweeting about how glad she was to be able to have her boyfriend over without having to worry about a “prude roomie.” Really, the bullies got what they wanted in this scenario; they drove this girl out of her home, where you would hope you would be allowed to have a safe space.

How is this still happening? How, after countless youth suicides and viral anti-bullying awareness campaigns, are people still engaging in vicious tactics as a way of communicating problems, even beyond middle and high school? Aren’t we supposed to know right from wrong by now? It’s up to us to make sure that this changes for future generations, and that it really does get better, so when will we start?

This girl and her boyfriend may never read this, and even if they do, they may dismiss it as a condescending lecture. But if they and any other bullies do come across this page, I hope they see that the truth is that life doesn’t like bullies. You don’t get further in life by bringing down someone else, and if you do, you aren’t worthy of your successes.

That’s not enough of a reason? How about this: bullying kills. Not in a metaphorical sense, either: Bullying. Is. Killing. People. The Centre for Suicide Prevention cited suicide as being the second largest cause of death for youth ages 10-24. The second largest. So every time you make fun of someone for something that you probably don’t understand, you are enacting behavior that can result in death. Simply because they got on your nerves or you don’t like their clothes or they’re not in your friend group. Is it worth it?

Have you experienced bullying, online or offline? What do you think we can do to stop it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Written by Nikki Gladstone.
Follow her on twitter!