Recent online coverage of the Slane Girl controversy, an online debate over photos and videos taken of a high school girl giving oral sex at an Eminem concert at Slane Castle, Ireland, points to the fact that internet bullying and online slut-shaming are major issues in our online generation. The photos were circulated through Twitter, turned into an internet meme, and garnered thousands of anti-feminist and slut-shaming comments on Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, amongst others. After the girl’s age was revealed (allegedly 17), accusations of distributing child pornography were even levied at these social media websites. BuzzFeed was the latest to publish an article on the Slane Girl controversy.
The BuzzFeed article, amongst other articles, is the latest benchmark of an ongoing trend of online slut shaming, and publicly outing women who are sexualized in the public eye. This troubling phenomenon is not a new story. For instance, Rush Limbaugh's offensive shaming of Sandra Fluke and the vicious online attacks on the Steubenville rape victim are just a few incidents of the growing swarm of internet naming and shaming.
Efforts to bring awareness to and combat online slut-shaming have gained traction in the last few years. International events such as Slutwalks and online projects such as the UnSlut Project work to “promote gender equality, sex positivity, and comprehensive sex education for all ages.”
The online coverage of the incident points to the fact that despite efforts to combat internet shaming, the phenomenon remains a pervasive part of our culture. There are several issues surrounding the Slane Girl incident. Firstly, taking photos and distributing them on the internet is unacceptable and constitutes a real form of online bullying. The Slane Girl was publicly shamed and bullied on the internet, with the Twitter hashtags #slaneslut and #slanegirl emerging within hours of the photos being uploaded online. The distribution of sexual images without the consent of all participants is disturbing and should not be tolerated, nevertheless turned into an internet meme.
The Slane Girl incident is also troubling because of its isolated bullying of the girl in question, while the boy receiving in the controversial photo has not been harassed, nor had his identity broadcast to the web. The viral spread of the graphic photos quickly resulted in the girl’s identity being outed to the internet community, leaving behind a permanent internet record. The Irish Independent reports that the girl has been recently hospitalized as a result of the circulating photos, and has even reported of being sexually assaulted at a separate event following the Slane Girl incident.
More pressingly, BuzzFeed's publishing of the graphic photos is perhaps even perpetrating the internet shaming by contributing to the issue. The Slane Girl affair could have been reported on without posting and distributing the graphic photos and videos themselves. Ultimately, by sensationalizing the photos and providing a platform for readers to leave further comments is only contributing to the online bullying of the girl in the photos.