Boston Globe: “Spike in violence in middle schools raises concerns”

Yesterday’s Boston Globe notes that violence and sexual harassment are becoming more common in middle schools in Massachusetts. Specialists lay the blame in part on images and attitudes in media. Here are excerpts:

Spike in violence in middle schools raises concerns

Educators, police, and national school violence specialists struggle to explain rising violence among younger students, which is also reflected in national statistics. They cite an array of causes, including violent video games, movies, and television shows and news coverage of violence at school and in the community, which results in copy-cat incidents.

Specialists also say that today’s students rebel earlier than previous generations did; have easier access to violent images, writing, and attitudes on the Internet and in online chat rooms; and have even less parental supervision than in preceding generations.

Between 2003-04 and 2005-06, violence or the threat of violence in suburban and rural middle schools grew 3.4 percent, despite a 3.9 percent decline in the overall middle school population …reports of sexual harassment were up 28 percent…

Nationally, violence in middle schools has been on the rise, as well, with 94 percent of middle schools reporting violent incidents in 2006 compared with 87 percent in 2000, according to the US Department of Education…

District attorneys are…training teachers and students about bullying, Internet safety, and sexual harassment…

Middle schoolers were also more likely to sexually harass their classmates than high schoolers, by a rate of 61 percent to 39 percent…

See also:

Traffic Control: The People’s War on Internet Porn
Average age of first exposure: 11

Abuse and Threats Drive Women Out of Online Participation (explicit language)
[Kathy Sierra’s] Web site, Creating Passionate Users, was about “the most fluffy and nice things,” she said. Sierra occasionally got the random “comment troll,” she said, but a little over a month ago, the posts became more threatening. Someone typed a comment on her blog about slitting her throat and ejaculating. The noose photo appeared next, on a site that sprang up to harass her…

Maggie Hays of Against Pornography: My Story (explicit language)
While I was in junior high school, I could sometimes overhear the boys’ conversations when they were talking about the latest porn videos they’d been watching at home, comments such as “You seen that girl in the porn movie; she had one dick in her pussy and another in her ass.” And they were all laughing. Other times, boys were using pornographic scenarios to terrorize us as girls — and, in some cases, to “shut us up.” This went from telling us what they had seen in a porn movie — things like “Hey, I saw this film yesterday. In it, there was a girl with a cock in her cunt, one in her ass, and one in her mouth at the same time.” — to telling us pornographic stories they invented with us and them included in this stuff they were saying, like “You suck my dick,” “I take you up the ass,” etc…

Young New Yorkers Talk about Porn’s Effect on their Relationships (explicit language)
Over beers recently, a 26-year-old businessman friend shocked me by casually remarking, “Dude, all of my friends are so obsessed with Internet porn that they can’t sleep with their girlfriends unless they act like porn stars.” A 20-year-old college student who bartends at a popular Soho lounge describes how an I-porn-filled adolescence shaped his perceptions of sex. “Looking at Internet porn was pretty much my sex education,” he says…

Porn Confuses Young Men about How to Behave
I travel around the country and speak to college audiences, both male and female, and mixed audiences, and one thing I find over and over again, in frank discussions, is that pornography is extremely influential in the lives of young boys growing up today, and girls, but specifically I speak to guys. This blizzard of images of women in degrading and humiliating positions, guys just come to think of that as normal.

There was an article in the New York Times last week about sexual harassment in schools, how there’s a whole new area of litigation that’s opening up with young girls who are sexually harassed. If you read that article on the front page of the Times last week, you’ll find that guys are saying that they don’t know what to do, what they can do and what they can’t do, what’s acceptable and what isn’t acceptable. As I read that, I said to myself, it’s obvious where they’re learning on one level what is and what isn’t acceptable. In other words, you could take some of the dialogue out of these kids’ mouths right out of a discussion of pornography that I’ve had on numerous occasions.

Canada: Rural Teens Even More Likely to View Porn than Urban; Parents, Sex Ed Somewhat Oblivious to Childrens’ Porn Viewing Habits
A total of 429 students aged 13 and 14 from 17 urban and rural schools across Alberta, Canada, were surveyed anonymously about if, how and how often they accessed sexually explicit media content on digital or satellite television, video and DVD and the Internet. Ninety per cent of males and 70 per cent of females reported accessing sexually explicit media content at least once. More than one-third of the boys reported viewing pornographic DVDs or videos “too many times to count”, compared to eight per cent of the girls surveyed.

American Association of University Women
According to the report [“Hostile Hallways: Bullying, Teasing, and Sexual Harassment in School (2001)”], based on a national survey of 2,064 public school students in 8th through 11th grades conducted by Harris Interactive:

  • 83% of girls and 79% of boys report having ever experienced harassment. 

    • The number of boys reporting experiences with harassment often or occasionally has increased since 1993 (56% vs. 49%), although girls are still somewhat more likely to experience it.
    • For many students sexual harassment is an ongoing experience: over 1 in 4 students experience it “often.”
    • These numbers do not differ by whether the school is urban or suburban or rural.

  • 76% of students have experienced non-physical harassment while 58% have experienced physical harassment. Non-physical harassment includes taunting, rumors, graffiti, jokes or gestures. One-third of all students report experiencing physical harassment “often or occasionally.”
Porn’s “Verbatim” Accounts of the Pleasures of Child Sexual Abuse Don’t Square with Reality
Researchers estimate that, in our country, about 10% of boys and 25% of girls are sexually abused…

People on the Left and the Right Share Blame for the Sexual Miseducation of Americans
The pornography industry is serving as the vehicle for so many boys’ and men’s sexual socialization. And the level of brutality that has been normalized in mainstream pornography, the level of sexist brutality, is just astounding. Many people have not been paying attention, but I think they need to pay attention. It’s very disturbing, I think, for a lot of people to see–with eyes wide open–what boys and men are masturbating to.

Link of Media to Violence Accepted, But Porn Has No Effect?
Film critic Michael Medved notes that: “More than 3,000 research projects and scientific studies between 1960 and 1992 have confirmed the connection between a steady diet of violent entertainment and aggressive and anti-social behavior.”[37] The American Academy of Pediatrics concluded: “The vast majority of studies conclude that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between media violence and real-life violence. The link is undeniable and uncontestable…”[38]

One of the most common findings from media studies is that “increased media viewing is associated with more stereotypical views, especially about gender,” and that “being exposed to consistent and repeated stereotypical gender images shapes cognitive structures.”[45] Simply stated, what we see affects how we think.

United Kingdom: A Glaring Counter-Example to the Theory that Internet Porn is Cathartic
Law professor Anthony D’Amato, and more recently Todd Kendall (PDF) of Clemson University, have attempted to correlate increased Internet penetration with decreasing rates of rape. Since the Internet is a major vector for porn, they suggest that more porn in the home means fewer people will rape. In short, they claim that porn is cathartic.

We have already discussed some of the flaws in this argument, the origins of which go back over 30 years. A new counter-example has recently come to our attention. Between 2000-2005, the number of Internet users in the United Kingdom increased from 15.4 million to 35.8 million (InternetWorldStats). During this time, the overall population only grew from 58.8 million to 59.9 million, so the proportion of Internet users in the population grew from 26% to 60%.

If the D’Amato/Kendall theory was correct, you would expect a measurable decrease in the number of reported rapes. However, the opposite trend was seen. In the period 1999-2000, just under 8,000 rapes of a female were reported in England and Wales. This level then increased every year until by the 2005-2006 period, over 13,000 rapes of a female were reported (Home Office Crime Statistics). This was during a time when the overall population increased by just 2%…

We note that not only has the presumed volume of porn consumed in the UK has increased since 2000, but that the nature of the porn consumed is becoming more hardcore. The Guardian reports in “Men and porn”, 11/8/03:

In its hardcore form, pornography is now accessed in the UK by an estimated 33% of all internet users. Since the British Board of Film Classification relaxed its guidelines in 2000, hardcore video pornography now makes up between 13% and 17% of censors’ viewing, compared with just 1% three years ago…
Interview of Dr. Edward Donnerstein (by phone) by Catharine A. MacKinnon, January 10, 1984
Donnerstein: “The most interesting thing about the X-rated commercially released market is how the violence is displayed, which I think is the most important thing. While maybe only 25 or 30 percent of them contain overt violence, I think we probably all find that 90-95 percent of the time when a women is sexually assaulted or raped or aggressed against someway in these films, she is turned on and shows pleasure, enjoyment and so on and so on…

The problem is that what you are doing is conditioning sexual release, or relief, which is a very positive thing in men, to violence or to rape. One doesn’t have to be a scientist to understand what conditioning does… I think the whole idea of catharsis really has to be put aside…

How to Talk about Porn with Your 11-Year-Old Son