Sexual Bullying: Intimidation and Coercion on the Playground, Online and in the Media

Sexual bullying is a form of bullying and harassment that humiliates a person physically, verbally or emotionally.  It includes unwanted touching, pinching, grabbing or slapping of body parts that are often downplayed by boys and girls. While it may be the first attempt at flirtation, the target may experience toxic shame.  This type of bullying is covert, underreported, overlooked by adults and happening every day on school campuses and online.

What we see now in Hollywood with Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and influential men in banking, media and congress, is merely a droplet in a very large pool of people who have used their power to intimidate, devalue and manipulate those that yield less power.

Bullying by definition is an imbalance of power and just like harassment, it is not consensual.  When girls tear each other apart, they usually make fun of another girls’ body or spread rumors about a real or perceived sexual encounter. A very common tale is spreading that someone is bisexual, gay or a lesbian.

These types of rumors have devastating consequences. At a time when girls are developing and are grappling with their feelings, wanting to fit in can become more important than standing up for someone who is being bullied.

In many cases, being a bystander can leave as many emotional scars as being the target of bullying. And not knowing how to intervene or what to do when you are a target of bullying can be humiliating. According to experts, more than half of bullying stops when someone intervenes. (Hawkins, Pepler, & Craig, 2001). Middle school girls are more likely to speak up but become less confident when no action is taken to stop bullying by adults.

While gossiping and spreading rumors is more common among girls, boys put more pressure on girls to send them a naked or a semi-naked photo otherwise known as sexting. Boys are more likely to disseminate these sexts to their friends when they breakup.

The consequences of sexting can be devastating and have resulted in many girls taking their own lives. The peer pressure to send sexts is very real. Think of it now as the equivalent of going steady. Sending a sext is very common among middle school and high school students today, and it is a way for boys and girls to show that they like each other.

Not going along with peer pressure can make you stand out, which is far worst for many girls than snapping a photo. In today’s fast-paced world, where youth are gleaning more of their self-worth from Instagram, celebrities and their environment, they need to learn proactive social skills and empathy to help them thrive.

Beyond Bullies works with schools, hospitals, counseling centers, city and county employees to identify, prevent and handle bullying.  For more information or to schedule a training, contact Melissa Sherman, Executive Director of Beyond Bullies at


Nov 17 2017 in Home Page, Whats New admin Comments Off on Sexual Bullying: Intimidation and Coercion on the Playground, Online and in the Media

Comments are closed.