Thursday, November 3, 2011

More Thoughts on Amber Cole

The story of Amber Cole is heartbreaking, upsetting, and thought-provoking all at once. After reading the previous blog regarding this story, entitled “Amber,” I wrote what began as a simple comment. But now I find myself deep in my own blog entry. There are so many questions to be asked, so many lines of thought to be explored. Why is cyberbullying such a problem in today’s society? Why are children growing up faster than ever before? Why were the youths (and adults) of America so quick to judge and ridicule Amber Cole yet so inattentive to the shameful actions of the three boys in the video? I have another question to add to the discussion.

The blogoshpere is replete with articles defending Amber Cole from her faceless attackers flooding the Internet with hurtful words of judgment. I agree. Such intense cyberbullying is an epidemic in this country, as well as the rest of the world. Adults need to start addressing this issue before it begins to spiral further out of control. The boys behind this video should be brought to justice. It appears that they will be. And our children must learn to respect each other and understand the consequences of their online attacks. But what do we do about other girls and boys who find themselves in Amber Cole’s situation?

As the Jimi Izrael article acknowledged, kid sex is as old as time. Teenagers will continue to explore their sexuality. Women like Amber are free to explore and to build a healthy and vibrant sex life. But when teenagers have sex, society turns a blind eye. Kid sex is as old as time, yes, but the realization of this doesn’t make us as a society comfortable with it. I believe this is why many discussions have not centered on the act portrayed in the video itself.

Amber was performing fellatio on her ex-boyfriend. She was trying to win back her first love. She wanted to win back this boy so badly that she undertook this intimate act in front of two other boys, who egged her on and laughed throughout. My heart breaks for Amber, not only for the pain of having this filmed and put on display for the world to see and ridicule, but it also breaks for her sense of self-worth.

I am not Amber Cole. I do not know every aspect of her life-experience that lead to this decision. However, I am left with this singular thought: self-worth. Who taught Amber, and others like her, that pressured and desperate sex is ok? It is not. There should not be pressure. Our children should be uncomfortable when their sexual partner invites his or her friends to watch and make jokes at their expense, right? Our children should not have to perform sexual favors in order to get members of the opposite sex to like them. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Relationships should be based in love and respect before sex enters the picture. Why are we putting the cart before the horse?

Ultimately, I am wondering how society can put the cart back in its rightful place? How do we reestablish a greater sense of self-worth in our children so that they are empowered to stand up and say no to this form of disrespectful behavior? Where do we guide them in finding their own healthy sexual choices? Or is this something that we should continue to ignore because these are our children and it makes us uncomfortable?


KayZee said...

Thank you for your response and additional post about Amber, Brown Eyed Girl. I too have been outraged by the details coming forth about Amber Cole's story. It's hard to organize anger and concern, especially when you're not sure who to "blame."

The American public might want to point to the parents to blame. But whose parents? Was it the boys' parents or Amber Cole's parents who weren't paying attention? Then again, these kids are at a sensitive age, when parents are often pushed away. Not to mention, would any parent ever think that their children would be engaging in this kind of behavior?

Maybe we should point to the boys who put pressure on Amber. But which boys? Was it just those involved, or is this the kind of pressure girls her age endure from the entire class? What about her female classmates? Did Amber feel pressured from things said in the hallways and seen amongst her peers?

I would offer that maybe it's the media that influenced all those whom participated in the film. Teen sex is prevalent in so many films and tv shows. But if we blame the media, we should also blame the internet. Everything gets spread so quickly. With the click of a "send" button, all control is lost. How are we to expect teenagers to understand that?

Regardless of who you want to blame, it's clear that many people are left with questions. All these questions seem to start with a resounding, "why?"

Brown Eyed Girl said...

Interesting thoughts, KayZee. You certainly hit the nail on the head. Prior to posting my thoughts, I realized that my musings had wandered off topic into a discussion of today's media and its portrayal of teens, sex, and other relationship "norms." I erased those portions from my original post but am happy to reintegrate and expand upon them.

Take, for example, today's music. Rihanna recently released her latest music video for "We Found Love." [1] The video almost romanticizes some aspects of drug abuse and domestic violence (i.e., 'You almost wish you could have that bad stuff back again so that you can have the good.'). As teenagers grow, they should feel free to experiment and explore the world, finding themselves in the process. But preteens, not only teens and adults, are listening to these songs and videos. At some point, the media must assume some responsibility for what it is exposing young, impressionable youths to. The "norm" is being redefined before our very eyes in young children who have not yet had the opportunity to grow and develop their own sense of meaning first.

It is important that society take responsibility for ignoring the changing sexual "norms" for our children. We cannot ignore them simply because it would be uncomfortable to admit that our young people are having sex earlier than ever. However, I hope my article is not misunderstood as an attempt to focus blame on one particular social group or person. I am asking the same question as you- Why? Why has it come to this? Were there any precursors or warnings that we missed? Is there any way to reverse this devastating trend of increasing cyberbullying and decreasing self-worth?

I believe each of us has a role to play. Not because each of us are to blame. Rather, I believe that each of us has the opportunity to reverse these trends by reaching out to those young people around us and offering a non-judgmental sounding board. Before young people mature and develop into adults, they look to other adults for guidance or modeling. Whether they accept our modeling or not is entirely up to them. But each of us must first be willing to provide that strong example of what is right and what is wrong in a healthy relationship. We have to take that initiative, rather than let our children learn from Jersey Shore, etc. what a relationship should look like.


Rose Sawyer said...

Blame it on my aversion to technology, but prior to reading your blog post I hadn't heard of Amber Cole.

KayZee, you ask, "would any parent ever think that their children would be engaging in this kind of behavior?" Maybe I'm unduly cynical, but I don't find it at all surprising that a fourteen year old is willing to perform oral sex in an attempt to win back her ex-boyfriend -- as Andrew King-Ries' article points out, "The teenage years are a time of intense development and transition." And as Jimi Izrael points out, sex is and has always been a part of that development and of those transitions. (I do find troubling that she was willing to do so in front of two other boys -- and if I were her parents, would want to have a long talk with her about self-respect and ways of finding happiness. But even this misdirected attempt to get attention is, I think, the type of thing that can be corrected by maturity, therapy, or both.)

Nor do I find it surprising that Amber Cole's act was videotaped -- with the way that technology is breaking down our collective sense of what's "private," nearly everything seems to be virtually-preserved these days. (See, again, the King-Ries article.)

What does surprise, bother, and intensely worry me about the Amber Cole story, however, is that there was such a wide audience for her video. I agree with you, Brown Eyed Girl, that each of us has a role to play. But I disagree with your assessment that not each of us is to blame. Amber Cole's experience was originally a private act, the type of mistake whose details, in an ideal world, fade into regret, leaving only a lesson indelibly stamped on one's mind. Amber Cole is, in my mind, too young to be blamed for her behavior. But each casual viewer who turned one girl’s youthful indiscretion into news -- those individuals should be ashamed (and shamed).

I don't worry that we are living in a world where fourteen year olds make mistakes. I do worry, however, that we live in a society where a fourteen year old’s mistakes are considered news or entertainment.

hanestagless said...

Because my most recent blog posts have been about sex-segregated institutions, after reading about Amber Cole, my first thought was whether such institutions would have benefited Amber. Brown Eyed Girl, I agree that lack of self-worth contributes greatly to young girls succumbing to pressure to have sex. Programs like Girl Scouts, GirlVentures, and other girl-only programs seek to empower young girls and give them confidence in today’s world. We don’t know anything about Amber’s background. Yet, perhaps with a program like GirlVentures, Amber would have found the self-worth she needed to stand up to sexual pressures.

Another aspect about this story was the school’s response. According to the news, Amber and her classmates performed the sexual act on school property. School officials were quick to respond that they were not in the high school, but were “outside a building not used for instructional purposes.” Of course, I understand the school’s response to distance itself from any blame for the incident. However, the school could have accepted responsibility for the students’ activities within the school leading up to the sexual act.

I’m curious to know what further actions the school is taking to prevent another Amber Cole incident. The same article notes that the school is cooperating with the police and working with the families of the involved students to provide support. The article doesn’t mention whether the school is undertaking additional counseling for its female students. There’s no indication whether the school is examining the effects of its teaching methods or overall culture on the confidence of its female students. Perhaps if the media or public would place more responsibility and blame on the school, they would realize that the Amber Cole incident is not an anomaly, but is becoming an increasing norm.