I am an 18-year-old student from Gorham, and I have just realized what a monstrous problem online sexual harassment has become in our society.

For many reasons I have never participated in social media. I had read several thoughtful commentaries warning of the hateful speech and misogynist attitudes metastasizing through the internet, its connection to President Donald Trump’s election, and the growing problem of “toxic masculinity.”

However, I had never had any direct contact with online sexism until recently, when a female friend, currently in high school, told me her story. She had been solicited for sex by a male acquaintance from school via text, and when she refused, was subjected to a barrage of hateful and threatening comments. I saw the things that this despicable man-child wrote to my friend, and I was truly horrified: they included vulgar and disgusting personal insults, racial slurs, vile threats, and a suggestion that she should kill herself. My friend cut off contact with this person, of course, but she should never have had to undergo such an experience.

I am ashamed to share a gender or indeed a species with boys like that. I urge anyone who cares about women growing up in the internet age to support their loved ones. Teachers, make it clear to your students that this behavior is unacceptable, and offer yourselves as someone to talk to for female (or any) students being sexually harassed online. Parents, talk to your kids about this and tell them that you will support them and fight for them if they are the victims of online attacks. And to the men and boys of my generation: It is an absolute baseline standard of decency, the lowest possible bar, to not attack women online for not having sex with you. Be better than this.

 

Samuel Matey 

Gorham 


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