Op Ed

Why We Need To Have Amber Cole’s Back More Than Ever

“Perhaps it was the memory of her father saying the word ‘slut’–slurring it just so–that made it sound disgusting and evil at the same time. It was a word he used when talking about the way they dressed. He didn’t want any daughter of his going out into the world looking like a slut. Sluts were worse than whores–a slut was somebody who had a choice, somebody who could have kept herself from falling but who wanted to fall. Sluts made choices. They were not victims. You could pity a whore but a slut you only despise.” -bell hooks, Wounds Of Passion

“”¦.I am Amber Cole’s father, and I am not raising a slut.” Jimi Izrael, Amber Cole Is My Daughter

Perhaps you have heard of Amber Cole, perhaps not.

Amber Cole’s name became public knowledge when a private sex act between her and a young man leaked onto the Internet, followed by the cyber-harassment of Cole, along with full-blown Internet gossip, bloggers weighing in on, “Why would she do it,” “Is she faking her Twitter,” and even asking if “she got what she deserves?” Hell, you can even see people laughing to it and critiquing her style. Did I mention there’s a song?

Here’s the thing. Amber Cole is 14. She’s a fourteen-year-old girl who, while engaged in a private sexual act, for reasons that are really no one’s business, was watched, as well as filmed without her knowledge. The video then went viral and people began cyber-bullying Cole – grown adults bullying a fourteen-year-old. As of now, the two young men who had filmed Cole have been arrested, but were not here to talk about their arrests and whether or not their arrests will actually teach them what they did was wrong or if it will just jump start an unfortunate slide into the prison industrial complex.

To those who were or are sharing this video or watching this video, why? Why are you watching a video of a 14-year-old girl? Would you share this video if this girl were white? Would you laugh as easily or would you rather think, “This is a violation?” Would you have as quickly watched and worried about watching the child pornography that this is? Or does Amber Cole not count as a child in your mind?

To Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube: yes, I know, you have so much content to monitor. But why was this video allowed up for four days after you had been notified about something that’s classified as child pornography?

To the silence of my white feminist peers, our silence on this is deafening and is doing no favors. To paraphrase Renee Martin over at Womanist Musings,

“If you can ignore what happened to Amber Cole, and think it is okay to go about your day without defending a 14-year-old girl who was used, but then defend someone like Palin, who has done nothing but harm women, then what you are doing isn’t really about advocating on behalf women, but advocating on behalf of White female empowerment.” – Renee Martin, Why Team Amber Cole Matters.

While one may not feel comfortable claiming Amber Cole as their own for whatever racial lines you may feel at unease for stepping on,  one thing is very, very clear. If we want to keep saying that whatever it is we are doing is in the name of women, then we need to get Amber Cole’s back because what happened to her is what we claim to fight against everyday, and if this flies this time, remember, there will always be a next.

To Jimi Izrael, the number one slut-shamer of the week, champion of this following gem:

I was always The Other Guy ““ the boy you do not see on the tape. The one who, because of religious beliefs, self-respect or common sense decides to have no part of such a thing. He is a nerd. He is an outsider. He is long gone, at home reading and writing. I want to meet The Other Guy and shake his hand. I’m trying to raise The Other Guy. But it is not easy. Girls don’t like The Other Guy. Being the Other Guy is not as cool as being one of the boys. I want to raise my boy to not be that kind of cool. Being a gentleman is cool. I want him to get the chance I did not have. I want him to to wait for that special girl.

I am Amber Cole’s father and I have seen the video. You probably have too. I would like to ask her mother’s boyfriend, Karrine Steffans, or Kim Kardashian where my daughter learned that. How she became proficient at such a difficult act. I want to know who has been teaching my little girl how to act like a woman while I have been trying to teach her to be a young lady”¦ I am Amber Cole’s father, and I am not raising a slut. White feminists can teach their own little girls to find empowerment through their crotches ““ my brown little girl cannot afford to be that carefree and cavalier with her life choices. Slutlife is the hard, lonely vocation of rich, educated, privileged white women who will fuck The World, contract social diseases and still, somehow find a husband.

This dumb bunny (since this is how you refer to me in your letter, to which I will not take personally though I suspect I should otherwise) knows if you were really concerned, you wouldn’t be slut-shaming. If you were really angry, really saddened, and really hurt by the violation of a young woman’s privacy, you wouldn’t cast lines between good girls and bad girls, sluts and not sluts. I think you found yourself a platform where you can use the experience of a young woman whose privacy was invaded for your own goddamn agenda. I think, “What the hell is slutlife and what makes you a goddamn authority?” Mr. Izrael, with all due respect to the work you have done, which is really, presenting stretched critiques made by black feminist and womanists without any acknowledgement to their contributions, this dumb bunny knows better than to fight fights with righteousness as a cover for misogyny and knows that if you think of one of us as sluts, than you think we are all sluts. I certainly am not the only one.

To, highlighted today by New York Magazine as part of the “new feminist rebirth,” for publishing Mr. Izrael’s troll-concerning letter and giving substance-less provocation a platform (I say this knowing that while Mr. Izrael has a few points in his piece worth possibly noting, it all becomes buried under a mound of slut-shaming and paternalizing): I hope those page clicks were worth it, because they came off the back of someone who was violated and then had a slut-shamer try and use it for his agenda. I hope that the stats were a nice little victory in getting a few more subscribers, as they did nothing but further condone rape culture. I hope that business is good and that everyone can sleep well, but please, just do us all some favors and cut the bullshit next time or at least be a little more transparent with having a writer whose book concentrates on the unmarriageability of black women on a “woman-friendly site.”

To the boys who filmed this: no one knows your names, yet everyone knows Amber’s. No one is claiming to be your dad or claiming that you are a “ho” or a “slut” or even drawing lines between your sexuality as a measure between good and bad. No one seemed to let y’all know that this isn’t okay. So here’s this said in a way I never could:

Our culture teaches boys that this is okay. That it is okay to use people. That you are expected to disregard a woman’s feelings, to do what you want with her, to find women who are pliable who you can mold, who will seek your favor and happily trade a few moments on her knees for her affection. Our society teaches boys that this is ok, that this is what you do with women. The onus is on women not to be used. Men do not hear “don’t be an abuser” in the same way men don’t hear “don’t be a rapist.” The onus is always on women keeping themselves safe, on women not putting themselves in positions to be attacked or exploited. And when something does happen, when teenagers being teenagers suddenly becomes a national news-story, everyone wants to talk about what the girl should have done to prevent herself from being in the situation.

Once again, we aren’t talking to the boys”¦

“¦We don’t tell boys what they learned is wrong. So we shouldn’t be surprised if they repeat the behavior, if that behavior becomes habit. We tell them, in our actions and words, that this was okay. Because there’s little outrage directed at these boys. So if they draw the conclusion that “she shouldn’t have let me do it” instead of “that whole situation that I orchestrated was wrong, and I hurt someone else very badly, and I hurt myself,” we shouldn’t be surprised.  And if these boys then repeat that behavior, then we shouldn’t be surprised.- Latoya Peterson, Because Amber Cole Is A Kid And Boys Will Be Boys 

And finally to Amber Cole. You aren’t my daughter, nor my sister, but your own person. As someone whose own sexual activities have been unwillingly made public for the consumption of others’ judgment, I can only say that it stings and it hurts.  Do what you need to do to move forward and don’t ever look back.

Until then, we got your back.

By TheLadyMiss

6 replies on “Why We Need To Have Amber Cole’s Back More Than Ever”

The thing I don’t get about all of the slut-shaming is this: Amber Cole was a child, who was abused (the filming and distributing of filming of a sexual act by a minor- even a consensual act- constitutes child abuse, at least in Canada).  Slut-shaming shouldn’t even be a factor, people should demanding justice for her, not bullying her and using this whole awful situation as an excuse to further erode the agency and freedom women have.

Modern feminism still doesn’t know how it feels about sex.  Sometimes there’s a very “I don’t see sex” vibe to the whole thing (read any Jezebel post in which people claim that pole dancing can be viewed as a context-free form of exercise).  Sometimes you’ll see outright condemnation of women who aren’t comfortable having a lot of casual sex with strangers (that’s not what sex positivity means, okay?).  Obviously it was wrong to film it; there’s no point in writing about that aspect of this story.  This event keeps garnering articles because people are trying to find a politically correct way to say that as adults, they hypocritically don’t think 14-year-olds should be engaging in sex acts.  It’s like…”[feminism, sociological buzzwords]…BUT….something about THIS INCIDENT bothers me!!!!!”  People are just mad that kids are doing this at all and they’re trying to put a high-minded spin on it.

exactly – as someone who was sexually active at 14, the whole idea that kids are not sexual is kinda moot. The matter comes down to the fact that she was filmed without her consent and adults watched it and then felt the authority to judge her and attack her. Also by circling the video on the internet, it comes down to child pornography. Thats whats f-ed up. There is definitely that hesitancy or confusion you describe – we really dont always know how to deal with sex. By saying oh but shes a child she shouldn’t be having sex ignores the reality of kids having sex, which is similar to arguments made by abstinence only folks. Highly different reasoning, same idea that kids don’t or shouldnt be having sex. This gets even stickier when notions of race are involved, and one of the reasons it seems that so many are willing to devalue what happened to cole and quickly throw it under the “black women are all hyper-sexual” bus, but its more complicated than that.

One of my favorite pieces I have ever read on sex positivity was an interview with robert jensen over at the good men project. He says:

Well certainly there are elements of contemporary culture that are repressive sexual arenas, especially conservative, religious trends for instance which have problems with all sorts of sexual expression. To me, the question isn’t about sexual liberation versus sexual freedom, the question is: How do we construct a healthy sexual culture that understands sex in the context of fostering healthy human relationships?




Is Sex Positive Ever Negative

Erotica, Patriarchy and Pornography

There’s also that blind spot in age-of-consent laws.  I’ve always wondered if specifying a “legal” age really meant that kids under 18 (or 16 or whatever) technically aren’t supposed to have any sex at all, even with other minors.  Otherwise, why is it legal for a 17-year-old to sleep with another 17-year-old, and then have it become illegal when one of them has a birthday?  If a 14-year-old is legally allowed to have sex, why is it illegal to watch her doing it?

If a 14-year-old is legally allowed to have sex, why is it illegal to watch her doing it?

This is where you lost me.

I do think there is harm in age of consent laws – look at the Marcus Dixon case. “legal age” changes from state to state, so one could end up with an aggravated child molestation cause in one state and not the other for what otherwise is consenting sex.

So as for your mentioned bit above, just because a 14 year is having sex, doesn’t mean its okay to watch it, especially as a grown ass adult. Why watch a 14 year old, whose sexual self is only now developing, when there is plenty of other porn out there? What is it about a 14 year old that “appeals” to someone? Is it the fact that they look like a grown woman ( yet is 14) or the fact that they look like a child (as they are)? This is where it gets real murky- In the Cole case, it adds to the hypersexualization of young black women, a notoriously racist stereotype that defines black women by the “maturity” of their bodies, as well as the purpose  their bodies supposedly serve. It supports the idea that a minor’s sexuality is consumable – part of the Lolita Effect – which comes down to the fact that even if a minor is beginning to explore their sexuality, it doesn’t somehow makes them fair game in terms of 1. legally consenting to have their sexual acts video taped and be accessed by thousands and 2. those who are only beginning to find their sexuality don’t always know how to find contraception or express boundaries/needs or find safe spaces if something happens. Often times, there is an abuse of this inexperience by adults, especially under the context of “anything goes” or the idea that kids have the same sexual understanding of most adults. It doesn’t mean that kids should be policed and monitored, but it does mean that there is a seriously unexamined idea when its assumed that if minors can have sex with minors, than people should be able to watch it.

I would recommend reading this: Sexpot Virgins from Gigi Durham about the role of hyper-sexualization on minors and what it means when their bodies become consumable by adults.

I guess I was rhetorically trying to ask…oh jeez, this is so hard to articulate, which is why people are just calling Amber a ho and moving on.  I think people are caught up in thinking that if they think it’s okay for kids to have sex, they can’t come up with a logical reason why the existence of the video is wrong (saying “She’s a child!” doesn’t satisfy logic, and as we’ve already agreed, it negates her right to have sex in the first place).  The only way a lot of people can solidly declare that child porn is wrong is by saying that minor sex is wrong and that Amber shouldn’t have been doing it to begin with.

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