By now, most of you will have heard about (or possibly even seen) the Tulisa "sex tape". As is the nature of these things, the story spread fast, and Tulisa has been unique in her swift response: getting an immediate injunction in a bid to stem the humiliation of an intimate moment becoming glaringly public.
Tulisa was quick to post her video response telling her side of the story, which has allowed her to explain the relationship, and the sense of betrayed trust. While some starlets might "leak" sex tapes as a publicity stunt (not naming any names, *cough* Kim Kardashian *cough*), Tulisa seems to have been genuinely betrayed by a former lover, which must be an incredibly painful experience. And she's far from the only one.
Young women all over the world are facing the humiliation of having their most intimate moments shared, and being branded "sluts" as a result. With smartphones and webcams essential to teen communication, girls are under greater pressure to be not just presentable at all times (the terror of Facebook picture sharing and commenting), but to be "sexy", and to prove that to boyfriends and crushes in order to win their attention.
Striptease videos are becoming more common, and nude or scantily-dressed photos are easily sent from phone to phone, without the girl ever knowing. While a girl might have made a "sexy" missive at the behest of her beau, or under her own steam, she's got no control over it once the image is sent, or how it's perceived by others once it's been shared. So then she goes from trying to be sexy for her boyfriend to being branded a "slut" for having done it.
It's not about getting all pearl-clutchy and "Think of the children!" about the sexualisation of children - this is not the Daily Mail, after all. Teens have always found ways to explore their sexuality, and there have always been good and bad sides to that. What is new, however, is the greater pressure young women feel to appear "sexy" publicly on social media etc. A 2011 Demos report found that girls in the UK have shockingly low self-esteem, and their self-image is defined by what the group thinks of them. As a result many are defining their body confidence on the number of "likes" their bikini shots or "model-style" profile pictures get on Facebook.
But there's still that fine, invisible line between images that are deemed "sexy" and those seen as "slutty". It's a cruel dichotomy that follows young women into adult life, as the growth of the SlutWalk movement has shown. In spite of advances in equality, women are still deeply ambivalent about body confidence and expressing their sexuality.
There should be no shame in a woman making a sex tape with a partner, so long as it's all consensual and private. If it gets shared, the shame should sit with the opportunist that shares it, and the mean spirits who judge it, not with the girl who trustingly made it. Tulisa has honestly expressed that, and I hope she takes this opportunity to show girls that there is no shame in sex or sexiness, so long as you don't define yourself by others' perceptions of it.
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