[B]oys aren’t treating girls badly because they have sex; they’re treating them badly because we live in a culture that encourages disrespect toward girls. A man who dislikes women as a group does not change simply because he becomes intimate with one particular woman, and telling girls that love is the key to ending a man’s hurtful behavior plays into many of the most pernicious myths about abuse.
A 2005 survey revealed that one quarter of girls who have been in relationships reported that their boyfriends had pressured them to have sex they didn’t want. Thirteen percent said they had been physically abused by boyfriends. The feedback in the comments? Girls need to take responsibility for themselves. Girls need to have higher self-esteem.
Gee, if it weren’t for defective girls, teen dating violence would not be an issue. Victim-blaming is as old as dirt, of course, but a self-esteem boost is not the cure for gender oppression (or any oppression, for that matter).
Earlier, Jezebel covered the recently released Kendra Wilkinson “sex” tape. It’s considered a sex tape rather than a rape tape because bullying an unwilling woman for access to her body is totally normalized. In the comments, woman after woman sympathized with Kendra and told stories of similar experiences. Meanwhile, other people lamented that girls just don’t have enough self-esteem. If only girls wouldn’t put up with such treatment. If only they said “no” just one more time, if they said “no” louder, men wouldn’t rape them. We can’t expect men and boys to respect girls and women who haven’t overcome the “low self-esteem” resulting from a lifetime of sexist programming.
Queengeorge wrote a really wonderful post on this, concluding
It’s wonderful to teach girls the importance of confidence. But all of the confidence in the world won’t stop abusers. That isn’t how it works. And putting out the message that “self esteem” and a good upbringing are the things that will stop abuse – well, that’s just plain wrong. More than that, though, it sends abused women the message that if they’d only loved themselves a little more they never would have gotten hurt. And as a woman who loves herself quite a lot, I’m pretty sure that just isn’t true.
And I’ll leave it at that.