Think about high school movies where a large group of girls or guys are discussing dating. You know the scene — a bunch of guys in a locker room talking about the weekend, or girls gossiping by a locker. For the sake of this post, even though we know that this kind of talk happens everywhere, we’re going to call it locker room banter.
What kind of impression are you left with after hearing these conversations? For the most part, one is left with a bunch of negative ideas, and this kind of talk (or banter) that goes on in the locker room can have serious consequences when it comes to dating abuse. Locker room banter is any degrading, objectifying, or sexually explicit language directed against a person or a group.
We all know how it starts in real life: a group is gathered around and one person starts with “Did you hear about…” It happens so often that it may seem hard to think of it as something negative. At loveisrespect, we are here to set the record straight: under NO circumstances is this type of talk acceptable.
Promoting and even tolerating things like “He is a slut” or “All girls are easy” strengthens abusive attitudes, making it seem like they are acceptable and normal. Let’s take a closer look at why this banter can be so destructive.
Banter is a slippery slope that can open up the flood gates for degrading words to spread. How long does it take for the gossip to spread like wildfire? (I’m not a mathematician, but my guess is 5-6 hours at a typical school.) Regardless of whether the gossip is true or not, it’s not OK because it violates that person’s privacy.
Everyone is entitled to have certain things like their sexual history, dating history and medical history kept a secret. It should be up to the person to reveal such secrets, and when others divulge this sort of thing in a locker room where nothing is kept quiet, it takes away the person’s right to privacy. Acting this way is a slippery slope because it can easily lead to abuse. In relationships, taking away someone’s privacy and spreading degrading words about the person is considered emotional abuse.
Not only does banter damage a person’s right to privacy, it encourages people to act abusively. Banter typically involves a person’s sexual past, going into detail about how a person will do certain things or is “easy to hook up with”. This can easily lead someone hearing this to think that they can take advantage of the person sexually. It can also lead to the idea that it’s OK to be forceful with sex because the person will eventually “come around” or “get into things” since he/she has a sexual past. Taking away a person’s right to choose or pressuring a person to do a sexual act is considered sexual abuse. It doesn’t matter if you have had sex with the person or the person has been sexually active: a person has the right to choose every time. It’s important to respect a person’s choice, and banter does the opposite of that by strengthening the idea that sexual abuse is OK.
The locker room is not the only place banter takes place. It can happen anywhere where two or more people are: in a car, at the mall, in the halls at school, on the phone, even on Facebook… the list could go on and on. Think about your daily life. Where does your banter happen often? Are you contributing to it?
Fortunately, there is a solution to banter: the golden rule. The golden rule is to treat others the way you would want to be treated. Another way to think about it is to put yourself in the shoes of that person. For example, how would you feel if someone started telling the entire school about what happened with your boyfriend/girlfriend last night? Dating abuse exists in part because of the negative attitudes and behaviors that banter supports. Even though it may be hard, speaking out against banter can help change the course of dating abuse, and having friends who are on the same page as you can increase the message. So go ahead: be bold and stand up for what’s right. Share the ways you are saying “no” to banter in your life!