This week I learned the story of Amber Cole. I was surprised that I had not heard her story, let alone her name, prior to today. But I feel as though there are many elements of feminism, along with the very obvious child safety issues, associated with her “fame.”
For those of you that have not heard of Amber Cole, she is a 14 year-old young woman (many would argue still a “girl”) who was filmed giving oral sex to her boyfriend. The video also featured two other young men, who were filming the event. They were encouraging her and laughing as they filmed. Then, the video was posted online. It went “viral” and suddenly, it wasn’t just the two other young men who had seen the act, but the whole worldwide web.
I have heard these types of stories too often. Recently released studies find that, in fact, 1 in 5 teens have sent a sexually explicit photo via the internet, or cell phone. The trend of “sexting” is becoming more and more popular, especially amongst middle school and high school students. The next step in this kind of behavior is sending videos of sexual acts. “Good Morning America” did a piece about the prevalence of sex videos amongst teenagers as well.
So, is Amber Cole’s story one of just another bad teenage decision? Or is it something more? I venture to say it is something different. Once her video went viral, she was initially bullied for her roll. Unfortunately, that’s usually how high school students react. Stories of teenagers being tormented for partaking in “sexting” have made national headlines. But in Amber’s case, the reaction has been quite different. A “Leave Amber Alone” campaign started on the popular video-sharing site “YouTube.” Teenagers from around the country have shown their support by uploading videos, asking people to simply let Amber be.
Perhaps the most moving response came from the writer Jimi Izrael. He wrote this piece titled, “I Am Amber Cole’s Father.” He’s not really her father, although, her real father is reportedly outraged by his daughter’s “fame.” Izrael speaks about the shock he felt when he read her story. He writes about his feelings of anger about why a girl would know how to do the things she did.
Izrael also brings up two other interesting thoughts. He talks about the young men involved in the video. How did these boys think that it was okay? How did they learn to treat women like this? We cannot excuse them under the “boys will be boys” motto. But at the same times, he says he “knows” these boys because he too was once a young man.
Izrael also addresses race. As he sees it, there is a difference between how young white women and young black women act. This kind of behavior might be acceptable for young white women, he suggests, but, he argues, young black women cannot “afford” these risks. Whether you agree with his sentiments or not, I believe his piece is incredibly interesting.
Amber’s story is gaining more and more media attention. With this attention comes various rumors which I will refrain from discussing. But at the root of it all, and maybe the media is forgetting this, is that material such as this is child pornography. We may gloss over that fact because the video went viral, some argue she was “trying” to gain attention, and perhaps just “boys will be boys.” But it’s all unacceptable.