The thing to know about being a 12-year-old girl is this: You live with the awareness that other people’s eyes are always trained on you. The moment you pass from childhood into young womanhood, someone is always looking. You are subject to a massive amount of conflicting social pressure — you know you must sexualize yourself to be deemed worthwhile, but the burden is also on you avoid unwanted attention from the creeps who are suddenly cat-calling you, the nasty kids who sit atop the social hierarchy or, worse yet, the predators who may be trolling your social media profiles. And you know that if those gazes fix on you, single you out, your whole existence will become a barrage of insults and a daily gauntlet of intense emotional pain.
What I’m trying to convey here is that, although the Facebook page for “12-Year Old Slut Meme’s” has recently been tagged “Controversial Humor” in lieu of taking it down, the children whose names and images are culled for mockery are very, very unlikely to see it as a joke. Instead, it’s likely their worst nightmares come to life.
The posts are from various sources around the Internet, including Facebook; the “humor” is entirely based on the idea that child abuse is hilarious. Under the picture of a 15-year-old who said she had sex for a can of soda, for example, we get knee-slappers such as “she is soooooooooooo FUCKING UGLY HIDEOUS BITCH,” from Joules Bryce of New York Mills, New York. Or there’s the high road, taken by Damien Arvidson: “Do people really have so few morals as to prostitute themselves for a drink? Bitch needs a bullet.” You know what your mother always told you; sex is for someone you love, but death threats are a sweet gesture on any occasion.
Violence is an underpinning of the page — and its perverse stance as an arbiter of public morality. James Silverwood and Dom Terry, the men who run the page, have a very clear idea of parental responsibility: “Honestly, ask yourself, if you had a daughter and she was dressed like a 2 cent, cock thirty whore, would it make an ounce of difference whether or not she was 12 or 14? No, you’d be ashamed to the point of beating her regardless,” reads one post. Shawn Smith, a supporter of the page, notes in a BuzzFeed comment that “until the people as parents step up and smack the shit out of their slutty daughters instead of letting them get away with whoreish [sic] ‘Jersey Shore’ behavior then things ike [sic] this will never go away.”
So, you know, there you have it. You can either beat your daughter if you think she looks too sexy — a definite mark of good parenting, which is not at all likely to result in your paying massive therapy bills later — or a gang of several thousand strangers can verbally beat her for you. Simple enough!
But it’s not so simple for the 12-year-old girls. On the one hand, they’ve grown up playing with Bratz dolls and are now expected to look like models. On the other hand, if they do their sexuality “wrong” or awkwardly (in the way pretty much anyone is bound to, their first few years out of the gate), grown men will now show up to pummel them into submission — not to mention their peers, who have the option of doing it in the flesh. If you’re sexless, you’re FUCKING UGLY; if you’re sexual, you’re a “cock thirty whore.” Nobody gets out unscathed.
The only thing this does is to further the basic, traumatic mechanism of transitioning from childhood to womanhood: If you’re a girl and you have a sexuality, it’s going to be debated in Congress, shamed for being too much, shamed for not being enough, shamed for being the wrong kind, maybe picketed by Fred Phelps a couple of times, and then loudly debated on talk radio for the rest of your life. The message this page sends girls isn’t just that they’re “sluts;” it’s that they’re public property, that what they do with their bodies is not essentially their business or their decision. Which is the same message they’re getting from the rest of the culture; Terry, Silverwood and their followers may be sending the message in a more crass, louder, more poorly spelled form than, say, Pope Benedict. But it’s hard to ignore the feeling that, when you get down to it, Dom and James are emissaries of the world these girls will be encountering for the rest of their lives, unless something changes.
Jude Ellison Sady Doyle is an In These Times contributing writer. They are the author of Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear… and Why (Melville House, 2016) and was the founder of the blog Tiger Beatdown. You can follow them on Twitter at @sadydoyle.