Girls’ Happiness Plummets Circa Age 11, Says New Study and also a Billion Older Studies

A new study on youth wellness out of the UK is making headlines for its finding that reported rates of self-esteem, resilience, emotional wellbeing and “satisfaction with one’s community” plummet around the age of 11, and continue dipping until the age of 16 — and that this drop is far more severe for girls than it is for boys. Furthermore, researchers blame “the march of technology as one of several factors making teenagers unhappy, including obvious factors like hormones and changing friendship groups.” The Daily Mail is one of several news outlets who have seized on the “technology” angle and thus managed to stuff about twenty hot topics into its excessively long headline:”Children become less happy after age 11 amid rise of cyberbulling [sic], online porn and sexting- and it affects girls worse than boys.” But this phenomenon is hardly new or limited to the Internet Age. Far from it, actually. In America and in the UK, young girls have always struggled in pre-adolescence and have always born the brunt of adolescent horror; it’s just that the methods of said horror have changed. Before there was cyberbullying, there was plain old fashioned bullying, after all. Scapegoating technology may make the problem feel more manageable, but it also obscures how technology actually offers more hope for transformation than it does cause for concern.

But before we get into the older research and why we shouldn’t scapegoat technology, let’s look at the new stuff: this three-year study of 7,000 children was the combined effort of around 50 youth charities represented by charity sector think tank New Philanthrophy Capital. The Emerging Scholars Intervention Programme, “a three year Saturday school programme for bright, disadvantaged, 12 to 15 year old girls,” was one of the involved charities, and their programme leader Simon Davey said of the study:

“Technology and the pace of change have accelerated pressures, made them more extreme and increased competition. Girls in particular are more vulnerable to social pressures affecting their confidence and capability.”

Davey told The Daily Mail that their findings “reflect recent concerns about the insidiousness of sexism to which girls are now subject: the profusion of sexualised imagery in everyday life; readier access to pornography; and again, new technology, and specifically the ease with which images and videos can be shared among peers.” Although this study is specific to British teenagers, the issue of the internet and technology’s impact on adolescence specifically is perhaps one of a few areas where it is safe to discuss American and British research in the same breath.

The potential ramifications of easy “image-sharing among peers” is a problem, to be sure, and a big one. But as Alex Morris wrote in a New York Magazine article about the impact of online pornography, sexting and easy image-sharing on teenage girls, “Kids have always been both kind and brutal to one another about sex. They’ve always fretted about, and wanted to show off, their bodies. Nor is sexual precocity, and the dangers that can accompany it, a product of universal Wi-Fi. Kids came out in 1995. As for Skins, most of the kids I spoke to hadn’t bothered to watch it.” (One imagines Morris would’ve found different results for the latter had she been talking to kids in the UK.) Similarly, when I was growing up, hand-wringing was occurring over the rise of VHS, Polaroid cameras and mail-order catalogs which enabled amateur pornographers to cut theaters and photo developers out of their production and distribution process.

In 1991, the American Association of University Women released its report Shortchanging Girls, Shortchanging America, the most extensive survey on gender and self-esteem ever conducted. Over three thousand girls and boys between the ages of 9 and 15 were polled on questions which addressed self-esteem, educational experiences, interest in math and science, and career aspirations. Their findings were alarming, as discussed in the Peggy Orenstein book Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem and The Confidence Gap:

For a girl, the passage into adolescence is not just marked by menarche or a few new curves. It is marked by a loss of confidence in herself and her abilities, especially in math and science. It is marked by a scathingly critical attitude toward her body and a blossoming sense of personal inadequacy.

In spite of the changes in women’s roles in society, in spite of the changes in their own mothers’ lives, many of today’s girls fall into traditional patterns of low self-image, self-doubt, and self-censorship of their creative and intellectual potential. Although all children experience confusion and a faltering sense of self at adolescence, girls’ self-regard drops further than boys and never catches up.

The AAUW study found teenage girls emerge from adolescence with less confidence in their abilities and more vulnerability to suicidal thoughts, depression and hopelessness. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or even a social scientist) to tell you that girls’ happiness drops off circa puberty — British psychoanalyst Adam Phillips has written that “Puberty is everyone’s first experience of a sentient madness,” but the AAUW study made it clear that puberty itself was only one piece of the puzzle.

This research wasn’t driven underground or only accessible in Ms. magazine, either. In 1994, Psychologist Mary Pipher’s book Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls began its three-year-run on The New York Times bestseller list, promising concerned parents a “call to arms” that would give them “compassion, strength and strategies with which to revive these Ophelias’ lost sense of self” by addressing the following:

Why are more American adolescent girls prey to depression, eating disorders, addictions, and suicide attempts than ever before?… We live in a look-obsessed, media-saturated, “girl-poisoning” culture. Despite the advantages of feminism, escalating levels of sexism and violence — from undervalued intelligence to sexual harassment in elementary school — cause girls to stifle their creative spirit and natural impulses, which, ultimately, destroys their self-esteem. Yet girls often blame themselves or their families for this “problem with no name” instead of looking at the world around them.

Reviving Ophelia notes in its introduction that childhood can be chock full of positive role models, citing fictional heroines like Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, Pippi Longstocking and Caddie Woodlawn (but let the record show that all these girls are white) who show that girls can  “bake pies, solve mysteries and go on quests” and “be androgynous, having the ability to act adaptively in any situation regardless of gender role constraints.” This changes dramatically in early adolescence, when girls “lose their resiliency and optimism and become less curious and inclined to take risks,” discarding “tomboyish” personalities in favor of becoming “deferential, self-critical and depressed.” But as the title of Reviving Ophelia — a reference to Hamlet’s suicidal girlfriend circa 1602 — suggests, this is hardly a new phenomenon. It is as old as girlhood itself. It’s also true that the hormonal changes happening to boys and girls in pre-adolescence are so profoundly uncomfortable and confusing that often the best we can hope for with kids that age is to enable them to live through it, precise levels of happiness aside. What’s alarming about these studies, however, is that boys usually are better at “bouncing back” after high school than women are. What happens during those years makes a permanent impact, as I’m sure many women (including me) can attest.

When you look at the AAUW study, the enormous success of Reviving Ophelia and this week’s New Philanthropy Captiol study together, it’s easy to see that all this data is valuable not because it reflects a cultural transformation but because it does no such thing. In the three or so decades where studying the self-esteem of young women has even been considered worthwhile, we’ve seen minimal change in those numbers. Undoubtedly, there are myriad factors in modern life that contribute to this latest incarnation of low self-esteem, including easy access to pornography, excessive texting, anonymous cyber-bullying and reality television, but for every misogynist situation our culture manages to sideline or eradicate, a new one will appear. This will always be true.

When we focus on these manifestations of a patriarchal culture rather than on fixing the culture itself, which should be everybody’s long-term goal, change might seem more manageable: internet censorship, for example, tends to be a popular proposed solution. It’s also a weird form of victim-blaming — if only teenage girls would put down their cell phones, they’d be so much happier!  But I would argue that the focus on technology as a contributor to this phenomenon is, at best, missing the point, and, at worst, aggressively counterproductive.

Although I can’t imagine how social media would’ve exacerbated the intense misery and depression I felt between the ages of 11-13 — a period of time when I cried myself to sleep most nights for reasons I couldn’t articulate (and it wasn’t because of puberty, as that came a bit later for me) — I also can’t imagine how some of my anxieties could’ve been alleviated by the increased opportunities for connection and understanding enabled by technology. The internet has increased accessibility to pornography, but it’s also increased accessibility to accurate sex ed. Thanks to tumblr, I’ve seen more body-positive imagery of women who are fat, of color, masculine-of-center or transgender in the last five years than I did in the previous 27 combined. Queer, transgender and disabled adolescent females now have access to a community online that could be nonexistent in their day-to-day lives. The internet provides a disheartening opportunity for vicious anonymous conversations, but it also creates a safe space for kids to have conversations with peers or even anonymous strangers that they’re too embarrassed or uncomfortable to have in real life.

Most important of all, although the internet gives girls access to a psychologically damaging culture, it also gives girls immediate access to feminist and womanist critiques of said culture, something most girls had to leave the house to access even 10 or 15 years ago. “Consciousness-raising” was one of second wave feminism’s easiest and most effective strategies — most patriarchal oppressions were simple for women to understand and oppose, all they needed was the information with which to do so. My adolescent world was rocked by the books I picked up at the library as a teenager, books like Schoolgirls and The Teenage Survival Guide. Bitch Magazine, which served as my entire introduction to a feminist critique of pop culture, is now not only accessible to girls with the resources and means to find a newsstand willing to peddle a feminist magazine called “Bitch,” but also to any girl with the resources and means to find the internet — a much larger group, to be sure. It’s also easier than ever to access the still-thriving ‘zine culture, which continues offering empowerment to diverse audiences in print, and to find other great print magazines still being made for women. We had Seventeen Magazine back then and now we still have Seventeen, but we also have Rookie and Everyone is Gay.  I must have been 18 or 19 by the time I saw Jeanne Kilbourne’s Killing Us Softly in a classroom. Today, I’m only a few clicks away from that and films like Missrepresentation. It’s unsurprising, then, that more female voters than ever before identify as feminists, including the overwhelming majority of female voters of color.

Maybe if we go back far enough, to a pre-television pre-mass-media era, we could find a period of time in which girls’ self-esteem did not dip dramatically at the age of 12. But we’d really only be able to say that about white middle-class girls, as the situation for every other group of girls was so blatantly depressing and self-defeating that parsing out the most influential factors on happiness would be a Sisyphean task. We would also be erasing the fact that what is now considered “bullying,” “discrimination” and “low self-esteem” was then considered “conversation,” “law enforcement” and “knowing your place.” Messages women absorbed on a daily basis about their worth and status were brutal and horrifying — even moreso for women of color, queer women, and any woman who didn’t conform to traditional beauty or gender-conforming standards — but these messages were socially acceptable and therefore deemed inherently unproblematic.

In other words: nobody gave a shit if women were unhappy and hated themselves until about fifty years ago, at which point psychologists and sociologists quickly determined that women were unhappy and hated themselves. There was never a self-esteem peak for young women from which we’ve gradually fallen thanks to technology — women requested access into a patriarchal culture, the patriarchy wasn’t into it, and here we are living in that reality, where we most likely will remain for quite some time. Consumerism and capitalism preys on women’s insecurities and thrives on our continued oppression. Luckily, thanks to this study and those that came before it, we have the numbers to prove it.

This survey was conducted by a group dedicated to making charities as effective as possible, and that’s a good thing, because a good offense is important, too — to strengthen programs like the aforementioned Emerging Scholars, and programs in the states like Black Girls Code and Rock Camp For Girls. We also need to continue to invest in independent media that consistently bites back against the unchangingly maddening and misogynist mainstream.

Ultimately, when we’re seeing a certain social phenomenon remain relatively consistent over time, it makes a lot more sense to look at what else hasn’t changed for that group over a period of time (e.g., the gender pay gap, rape culture, media misrepresentation), rather than what’s different (Snapchat). No one study can provide a definitive picture, but I don’t think anybody here has trouble believing that a lot of 13-year-old girls are unhappy now and that the same was true in 1991. Viscous stuff will always happen on the micro level at that age, within an adolescent social universe impervious to the world at large, and people of all ages are harmed by too much reliance on technology. But we can still strive to make a better world for girls and women, and to offer as much hope for momentary transcendence as possible. As the legendary family therapist Virginia Satir wrote in 1967, “Adolescents are not monsters. They are just people trying to learn how to make it among the adults in the world, who are probably not so sure themselves.”

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Riese is the 33-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City, and now lives in The Bay Area. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are!

Riese has written 1795 articles for us.

40 Comments

  1. Thumb up 16

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    Man, I totally feel this. Years 11-15 were just absolutely terrible for me. But I’m super glad I finally made it to 16 this year! Hopefully things get better from here.

    Great article, Riese.

  2. Thumb up 19

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    This article is so good.

    It’s like watching a live dissection, where Riese is picking apart the patriarchy and naming each part. And I feel a little bit nauseous, but mostly engrossed, better educated, and thrilled to have witnessed it.

    More, please.

  3. Thumb up 4

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    Fantastic post. I remember reading Reviving Ophelia in an Honors English class way back in high school (95-96, I think) and how much it impacted me at the time.

    I also want to add this organization/camp for girls to the list – even though it’s Bay Area-based, it’s incredible, and not only changed the kiddo’s life, but her relationships with others, and especially with us: Girl Ventures.

    And here’s a really cool video!

  4. Thumb up 11

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    Thanks for referencing ‘Schoolgirls’. I did a report on that book as a freshman in high school, but I had forgotten the title ‘lo these many years later.
    I actually had to convince my teacher to let our group do a report on this book because, while the section we were working on was about marginalized groups in America, she expected everyone to focus on race and didn’t want to lose focus about talking about racism by bringing sexism into the conversation.
    We ended up convincing her by showing how her shutting down of our idea was an example of the stifled voices of women’s issues in these conversations. (I had been reading Ms. magazine at the library since I was in middle school.)
    The reaction to our presentation was also a good example of the general sexism that permeates our culture. The class got to ask questions after each presentation and most of the groups got questions that were curious but supportive in nature. Our group was kind of attacked about our ‘findings’ and had to defend the idea that this book needed to be written.
    After that, our teacher told me she was planning on adding sexism as a talking point to other sections of the curriculum.

    And I was always most proud of opening the world of feminist critique to my two group mates, who liked to come to me for the next 4 years whenever they became aware of sexist practices in their life.

    • Thumb up 8

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      also, intersectionality is a thing! (even if my spellchecker doesn’t think so) and the intersections of race, class and gender are addressed quite a bit in schoolgirls, as i recall

  5. Thumb up 7

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    I really think we need to be careful of conflating online community with actual real life community. Real life women and queer communities are under serious threat. In my city and in many others, queer communities are overrun by ‘allies’ deciding they own a space and making it unusable for queer people. There are no nightclubs – even queer ones – left I can safely go to as a queer person anymore without getting harassed by straight people.
    Tumblr and similar are overrun by very young people who are obsessed with being special, with no concept of the history and culture they exist in and no understanding of what queer community is. I would argue that in many ways, tumblr has been intensely damaging to queer and feminist movements – allowing real theory, analysis and community to be overtaken by personality cults and a total lack of real understanding.

    • Thumb up 3

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      Thank you. I’ve never liked the “queer community” on Tumblr, and I wondered if I was the only one who cringed at seeing it listed as a valuable resource. Are there amazing blogs that happen to be hosted on Tumblr? Hell yes! (Off the top of my head, Black Girl Dangerous used to be hosted there, Red Light Politics appears to still use the platform.)

      On the whole, though, I found the community there to be toxic; a friend once described it (as a mostly teenage space) as “low empathy, high conformity,” which is not a useful environment for social justice work or theorizing.

      I’m sure some people have found valuable space there, but I wouldn’t recommend “Tumblr,” now, in general, any more than I would have recommended “LiveJournal” in general when I was fourteen. (Full disclosure: I still have the LJ account I started when I was fourteen and I still write in it.)

      • Thumb up 4

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        I honestly think that it is more often than not a poisonous environment filled with shortsighted, poorly thought out theory. As someone who actually runs and organizes real queer spaces that are genuinely intersectional and safe, I feel like when I get in young people for whom their basis in queer community and theory is tumblr – I nearly have to deprogramme them into here is how the real world works because otherwise they themselves are at risk and they jeopardize the integrity of the space.

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          The queer spaces I’m involved with are 18+ either by definition or circumstance (mostly 23+ because it’s an expat community in a country where most foreigners are here on short term work visas, which require a four year degree), but I still cringe when someone mentions Tumblr. (It’s been mentioned even in the School Library Journal, which I read for work – professional, older (heterosexual&cisgender) librarians are reading that for cues about the queer community?)

          I’m glad that young people can find any queer community at all – especially rural young people (there was nothing where I grew up and the next closest thing was BL manga fandom) – but I would totally believe that Tumblr queer community/theory is doing more harm than good. It’s ahistorical, misunderstanding, self-centered and toxic… which, okay, is a lot like high school, but we don’t hold that up as a positive environment.

        • Thumb up 8

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          I actually agree with a lot of what you’re saying about how tumblr can be a really toxic environment in a lot of ways and i wouldn’t suggest it to somebody looking for a place to build a queer community (nor would i ever suggest it’s a replacement for a real-life community). honestly, i’m a bit older than the typical tumblr user and don’t understand how people do use tumblr as a place to build a community? the callout culture that thrives on tumblr really harshes my mellow and feels like it’s really aggressively alienating to anybody who isn’t up on whatever is happening in queer academia, and also really ahistorical, as you mentioned.

          i mentioned tumblr in this post specifically as a source for more diverse imagery of women than mainstream media provides, for women of all sexual orientations. when we started this website it took days to find enough pictures of women who weren’t skinny and white to make a gallery, but now thanks to tumblr, it only takes hours! i like looking at pictures on tumblr. and it’s always been a great place to build our readership for autostraddle and often find new writers. for my own purposes, tumblr has been pretty awesome.

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          I agree that Tumblr is not always the safest or most productive of spaces, especially due to its overly aggressive “callout culture,” as Riese terms it. But at the same time, I see it as a lifeline. As someone who has little to no queer community in the real world (and I’m currently living in semi-rural Idaho, so not much hope of that changing until I move), it’s been so important for me to have that space to feel a little less alone. Do you have any suggestions for alternative online resources?

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      I think we need an online community for LGBT teenagers because for some kids, the LGBT community doesn’t feel welcoming in real life. I am super feminine, and was really into ballet in high school. As a teenager (and even through college) I didn’t feel welcome in queer spaces because others would tell me I acted “too straight.” I wouldn’t call tumblr an always reliable source, but younger me owes a lot to online queer spaces because they gave me a sense of belonging when I wasn’t getting it anywhere else.

      • Thumb up 5

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        This is such a great piece.

        I totally understand and agree with most of the criticisms of Tumblr going on here, but I just want to point out that it’s not all bad. It is far from a perfect space, and ideally every queer or questioning kid would have access to real life community and resources, but that just isn’t the case. And there is something to be said for a site that can reach so many young people and give them access to places like AS, that they might not otherwise find on their own because they just don’t know what to look for.

        I was buried pretty deep in the closet, until I realized that most straight girls probably didn’t have *quite* so many pictures of women kissing on their tumblrs. And that’s when I really began to accept my sexuality. Tumblr was a really important part of that, not so much in what it offered in and of itself or even the tumblr community, but through tumblr I found Andrea Gibson, and Bell Hooks, and But I’m a Cheerleader, as well as countless other stories and sources that helped me get to where I am now.

  6. Thumb up 19

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    “In other words: nobody gave a shit if women were unhappy and hated themselves until about fifty years ago”

    ” — women requested access into a patriarchal culture, the patriarchy wasn’t into it, and here we are living in that reality”

    riese, i love it when you write a thing
    this was so good

  7. Thumb up 6

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    This is really thoughtful analysis of a very difficult situation. I think demonstrating that women are full, active participants in the world around us is a big part of helping to move past that self-esteem crash phase (or at least, what *should* only be a phase, at most). I think that encouraging girls in math and science as well as providing them with role models in those areas is an important piece of that.

  8. Thumb up 11

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    Online communities saved my life.

    I come from an area made up of 3 small towns, with a combined population of about 40,000 people. I regularly see confederate flags, and my own family uses “gay” as a way to describe someone who’s different and undesirable. My own mother won’t stand up for me in front of my bigoted family, because she ‘won’t go against them’, but doesn’t mind that I feel unsafe around him.

    I came of age as the internet did, getting online for the first time at 12, soon after AOL went from a per minute charge to a flat monthly rate. Were it not for places like tumblr, like the old alt. groups, were it not for the internet in general, I would likely not have survived my teenage years.

    I found a community online that, unlike the one I live in, unlike the school I went to at the time (a Catholic school that would later see violence that landed them in the national media), unlike the house I lived in and the family and ‘friends’ that surrounded me, accepted me as I was and helped me to figure out who I am.

    Even for the brief time I was in college, I didn’t feel nearly as accepted, since I (at the time) identified as bisexual and was called a “fence sitter” and a “L.U.G.” That’s the attitude in my town. Either you’re a gold standard gay, or you’re just a confused straight person. (Since then, I’ve found that simply ‘queer’ fits me best, thank you once again internet for helping me figure myself out.)

    Without the internet, without a community that I could connect with that didn’t judge me, I’d be miserable. And that still holds true.

    Bottom line (since I rambled and I’m so sorry about that!), at the age of nearly 30 years old, thanks to the internet, I’m living a more fulfilling life than I ever could if I didn’t have a way to get online. My entire social life is online because I don’t belong in the gay community here, and I sure as hell don’t fit in the straight one.

    So while yes, sometimes, it can be damaging, for many of us, it’s the only way we feel like we’re not alone, and the only support system we have.

  9. Thumb up 12

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    This was an enlightening article for me as a middle and high school math teacher. I witness this self-confidence drop as it happens in my seventh graders, and it’s heartbreaking. I’ll have to do some thinking over the summer about what I can do to help alleviate the social and math ability-related shit that girls wade through as adolescents. Thank you for writing, Riese.

  10. Thumb up 5

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    Girls are also most likely to get kidnapped at age 11 so that’s great.
    I hated being eleven. It was the most confusing time, I started my period, I was in sixth and seventh grade, I hated my body/self the most. Girls were talking about sex (and how much it hurt) and I think I was most aware at that age of what was in store for me as a female, the expectations and the limitations, and consequently I was terrified of growing up. So much angst, so much confusion. Lots and lots of really, really dark thoughts. All I really wanted to do was be in a sort of Ramona Quimby state forever.
    Still do.
    My little sister is eleven now but I think it started earlier for her, like eight or nine, because I guess puberty is starting earlier and earlier and those expectations are hitting girls earlier. It sucks.

  11. Thumb up 3

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    Great article, Riese.

    I’m at the point in grad school where I’m picking topics for my thesis and everything looks shiny.

    Also, there are canyons smaller than the scars that are left on me during that time in my life. Online wasn’t big for me at that time, but definitely helped me out later on.

  12. Thumb up 1

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    Great article – I just have one point to raise. I understand that porn has negatively impacted a vast multitude of young girls’ (and all female-assigned or transfeminine people’s) sexualities and body images and self-perceptions of their agency. But in a similar way to your positive experiences with Tumblr, I’ve found my interaction with porn an invaluable vehicle to liberation. Many of the queer gender and sexuality activists I most admire are porn stars. As a nonbinary FAAB person, I had never even imagined the likes of Jiz Lee, Papi Coxx, Jacques LeFemme, or even people like Buck Angel, before I encountered them in porn. And there is absolutely no way I would have as little dysphoria as I do if I didn’t have their examples to follow in self-love. So I would ask that you maybe be a little more careful in condemning porn – perhaps condemn mainstream porn, or unethical porn, or the rapey gross heteropatriarchal sex-negative shittiness that actually harms people.

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      For me, porn (or at least porny fanfiction) was a way for me to explore my sexuality with zero risk of pregnancy or disease, where I never felt pressured to do anything I wasn’t comfortable with, and if I did decide I wasn’t comfortable with something, I could easily and instantly leave it.

  13. Thumb up 2

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    The Internet is where I learned that there was a word for people like me. The Internet was the first place I felt safe coming out, long before I managed to do so to my friends or family. The Internet was where strangers gave me unconditional support and understanding when my real-life best friends failed. The Internet gave me the resources to learn my own history, because it sure as hell wasn’t being taught to me in school. The Internet gave me stories about people like me that I would never have dared rent or buy or check out of the library where my parents could see. Ever since I was fourteen and questioning and clueless and terrified, the Internet has told me I am not alone. Of course the Internet is full of terrible things, just as the rest of the world is. But I have no idea what I would have done without it; I cannot imagine how desperately unbearably alone and afraid and uncomprehending I would have been. Inasmuch as I am whole, inasmuch as I made it through high school in one piece — I don’t owe it all to the Internet, but I do owe the first debt and perhaps the biggest, from the very beginning when I needed it most, and I owe it a thousand other little debts along the way, from the silly gay pun on tumblr that cracked me up to the video of the L.A. Gay Men’s Chorus singing “True Colors” that I watched for courage for the millionth time right before I finally clicked “send” on the letter in which I came out to my parents. (I know, so cliche! But I needed it and it was there for me.)

  14. Thumb up 5

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    Fabulous article!

    It really hit home. It’s scary how misogynist messages permeate into our personal spheres- I was in girl guides around age 11, where I pledged to know and to use my gifts and skills, and to share joy in the sisterhood- it was great! But at age 11 I also had my first major depression and disordered eating. Now I work with kids and I see how very young 11 is. How utterly fucked up is the world

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        Depression came into my life at about that age as well. I’m only now learning to recognize the destructive Wormtongue-voice that leads me there and know that it is not mine and that it lies. Part of me is comforted to know that I’m far from alone in this — but I would so much rather be the only one, it’s heartbreaking that so many young humans suffer so much.

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    I loved this so much. often I have that feeling of vague sexist bullshit (e.g., teenage girls are at fault for letting themselves be cyber-bullied) and then autostraddle articulates the issue perfectly.

  16. Thumb up 4

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    Yep, life from 10-16 was the worst. To sum those years up, I just felt like I was being scrutinised and judged for something that I didn’t quite understand yet (i.e. my body), and I was damned if I complained and damned if I didn’t. Honestly I don’t feel like I’d be here today if it hadn’t been for the internet, showing that there was an exciting, understanding world out there. It’s how I discovered my favourite music and books.

  17. Thumb up 1

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    From my personnal experience, I started feeling less happy and more delusional much later in life.

    It was last weekend. I went to a huge college party and drank tons of alcohol, only not enough because everyone was drunker than me and that made me feel arkward. Then people started a mosh pit in the middle of the dance floor, and being that I’m only 5′ tall, I got trashed around, and a douchebag ruined both my shoes by stepping on them with his muddy boots, while also eptying half his beer on my brand new lbd. I was seriously pissed, so I went to get my coat to leave, and it had been stolen. Moreover, I couldn’t find my snapback anymore. A girl who wanted to dirty dance had stolen it from me (which I was okay with), but then, a boy who wanted to dirty dance with her stole it from her head (which I’m much less okay with.)

    So last Saturday 3 AM, I came to the conclusion than humans should be avoided at all costs when all drinks are 1.50$.

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      I just want to add, to avoid sounding biphobic at all, that I’m so, so fine with girls dirty dancing with boys AND with girls, and with the bar staff, and with the police outside too. It’s really the part where my snapback goes missing that’s the bother.

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    This is a really important subject, and a well-written article. My earlier teen years were terrible. I felt so uncomfortable with how I looked that I refused to wear anything other than dark-colored tshirts so I could be sure no one would look at me differently or notice I was wearing a bra. I was sad 24/7. I’m not glad, exactly, but maybe feel a little better to hear I wasn’t alone in this. It’s a huge issue. I wasted years of my life trying to get out of a slump, and it’s so incredibly important to me to let younger girls know that things don’t have to be that bad, and that they aren’t the ones to blame for how they are made to feel.
    Great article!

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    I’d just like to mention that for girls in the UK, the ones in the survey, 11 is the age at which they start secondary school. I’m not saying that everything discussed here isn’t relevant, but from a child’s perspective, starting a big new school with lots of new friendship groups and teachers and older kids is probably one of the main things going on in their life.

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      It would be interesting to compare whether same sex and mixed sex school environments affect girls differently when they start at secondary too. I imagine most people in the survey went to mixed sex schools.

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    Great article. This is especially important to me for calling out this “blame” centred on girls themselves and their use of technology. This is great encouragement to look at the positive groups already at work amongst girl culture and how we can actually help adolescent girls instead of demonising them. And I second this note on the positive aspects of internet technology for example teaching me about safe relationships, enjoyable happy sex, and diverse lifestyles and relationship structures that were censored from my own life.

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    This –> “When we’re seeing a certain social phenomenon remain relatively consistent over time, it makes a lot more sense to look at what else hasn’t changed for that group over a period of time (e.g., the gender pay gap, rape culture, media misrepresentation), rather than what’s different.”

    It sounds like you’re restating what historian Judith Bennett has termed “patriarchal continuity.” Her book _History Matters_ is a powerful piece of feminist scholarship. Have you read it? She traces histories of oppression across an 800-year time period, showing how continuity can be a more powerful analytical (and activist) tool than change-over-time.

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