What’s Sex Got To Do With … Social Media?

 

Pop-culture continues to change. And each generation after the next creates an entire identity through events that were occurring, movies that were coming out, and music that was being heard. Social media and websites that enable users to create and share content in a social network, heavily influence today’s pop-culture. Social media sites frequently used by today’s millennial generation primarily use YouTube, Twitter, and Tumblr.

YouTube, a video-sharing site does more than feature the latest pop-culture. YouTube can also be seen as a community. One YouTube “celebrity”, Sam Pepper, used this site for his “social experiment” in which he sexually harassed women to prove that men are victims of sexual harassment. According to many, Pepper most likely used the title of a “social experiment” to cover up his illegal, rape culture-reinforcing prank. YouTube has over 4 billion views per day and many of its viewers are of the millennial generation. Popularized videos on YouTube are what shape the pop-culture of this generation. If thousands of children are watching videos on YouTube that normalize sexual harassment, it leaves society in a very sticky situation for a terrible crime. As Kristen Barber points out that society tends to understand rape as a natural consequence of men’s uncontrollable sexual desire. It’s important that each generation understands that this normalization of rape culture is something that should not linger through future generations.

YouTube is one form of social media that has proven to normalize sexual harassment. Twitter, another form of social media, on the other hand has done quite the opposite. Through the use of “hashtags”, which identify messages on a specific topic through a “#”, awareness about many social issues have been raised. After the release of the video of Ray Rice assaulting his wife, the hashtag #WhyIStayed trended, bringing awareness about domestic violence and putting a face to each story. As Donna Ferrato displays in her art exhibit I Am Unbeatable, it’s difficult for women to come out of homes of domestic violence. This twitter hashtag was personalized victims of domestic abuse in the same way that Ferrato’s artwork did. Another hashtag that trended included #YesAllWomen and was used as a form of protest against the entitlement that men, including UC Santa Barbara shooter Elliot Rodger, felt.

Another form of social media also includes Tumblr, a micro-blogging platform primarily used by the millennial generation. According to Urban Dictionary, a “Tumblr feminist” is described as a “young girl (usually between the ages of 16-21) who became a feminist after she got a Tumblr account”. Although this definition does not positively characterize young feminists, it does imply one thing: Tumblr is being used to bring awareness about feminism. Through re-blogging, blogging, and liking blog posts on Tumblr, young kids are learning about feminism and sexuality.

Social media has been scene to both normalize inequality as well as teach young children and raise awareness about gender inequality. Does social media help more or hurt more the efforts put into achieving gender equality and raising awareness about the problems of heteronormativity.

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