Amanda Todd, Bullying, and the Power of Naked Shame

amandatoddvideo

Just yesterday, I posted an article relating naked shame to the suicide of a young teen, Christian Adamek, who went streaking at his high school football game. Today, another tragedy came to my attention, after a girl at my daughter’s birthday party shared a YouTube video about Amanda Todd, a teen who was bullied to the point of suicide. The video was definitely not age appropriate for my child or the other kids watching it, and my wife and another mother were quite upset by it. We ended up having a long talk with our daughter about bullying. But when I sat down to watch the video myself, I was dismayed to discover yet another correlation between suicide and naked shame.

According to Wikipedia:

Todd writes that when she was in grade 7 (2009-2010), around the same time she moved in with her father,[11] she used video chat to meet new people over the Internet and she received compliments on her looks. A stranger convinced Todd to bare her breasts on camera. The individual later blackmailed her with threats to expose the topless photo to her friends unless she gave a “show”.[12]

After two years, Todd returned to live with her mother in March 2012.[11] Todd wrote that during the next Christmas break,[clarification needed][when?] police informed her at 4:00 a.m. that the photo was circulating on the Internet. Todd wrote that she experienced anxietydepression and panic disorder due to the experience. Her family moved to a new home, where Todd later stated that she began using drugs and alcohol.[12]

A year later, the individual reappeared, creating a Facebook profile which used the topless photograph as the profile image, and contacting classmates at her new school.

Just to be clear, I am not suggesting that Amanda would be alive today if not for this photo. Her suicide was the result of depression and prolonged emotional torment, and I have no doubt that her tormentors would have found other ways to abuse her. Bullying is an act of evil akin to murder and rape. Throughout middle and high school, I was victim to similar cruelty, and can identify with the sense of loneliness and hopelessness she must have felt before her death. I know what it means to have no one and to feel worthless. I, too, was driven close to suicide, and if not for my writing, may not be here today. If social media was a part of my childhood, I also might not be around. So, if anything, I mean no disrespect to Amanda or her family. She seemed a wonderful person and I am certain is deserving of all the love in the world.

But a big part of her story has to do with naked shame. Her topless photo was used to blackmail and humiliate her, and she suffered extreme anxiety as a result. Bullies make the case that the fault was hers, but teenagers lack the foresight that comes with age. Girls often fall into relationships with terrible people who post photos taken in private on social media sites. At the most vulnerable stages in their lives, it is common for teens to take risks in order to fit in and become popular, to smoke, use drugs, or have sex. But while smoking, drugs and sex are largely accepted in our society, even among teens, nude photos remain taboo. In rare cases, a girl’s body may be uploaded to the Internet through no fault of her own, due to hidden cameras in bathrooms and changing areas, or after being raped.

Images, in and of themselves, are harmless. They are neither toxic nor poisonous. They do not emit radiation and do not pose risk of bodily injury. But in a world that delays live broadcasts for seven seconds lest someone sees a breast, an image can have great power. As a society, we have agreed that the human body is shameful, an object of lust, and anyone caught with their pants down is considered a victim or a whore. With technological advances like camera phones and social media, teen suicide is at an unprecedented high, because the power to bully has grown a thousandfold, just as the ease with which images can be shared and accessed, so that a moment of embarrassment can cause a lifetime of humiliation. While we may never eliminate bullying, just as we can never rid the world of evil, we can rob bullies of the tools they use to torment. By changing our views on nudity, by accepting the body as innocent, people like Amanda Todd need never fear humiliation again.

9 thoughts on “Amanda Todd, Bullying, and the Power of Naked Shame

  1. Oh good grief! How far are you behind the news? Keep your kids away from anything to do with Amanda Todd, who flashed and masturbated online many times, took drugs, drank, and was basically a sleep-around. The kids see the story, then do a bit of research, then wham – it's questions like 'what is a whore?', 'what is a slut?', 'why are there videos of Amanda simulating masturbation and totally naked?'. Good grief. Google 'Amanda Todd BlogTV' and find out that she was BANNED from that channel for too much nudity; or 'Amanda Todd cutiielover' as she was called; or 'Mandaa&Shyy Ustream' to see she was planning a flash less than 3 weeks after the cops came (supposedly). Or 'Amanda Todd Motherless' or 'Amanda Todd Torrent'. Shame on you. As a parent, you have a duty to know what your kids are getting into. The stalker never existed. The bullying was entirely avoidable. Think, think! How do you suppose kids made remarks on HER OWN FACEBOOK PROFILE?. She had FRIENDED them. Amanda Todd was so bad online that complaints were received from the public TWICE – in December 2010 and in November 2011. All that you have read since is baloney encouraged by her parents and the media. 30 year old stalker? DO THE RESEARCH!!!!!!!! All crap. Unless, of course, you want to disbelieve the police and the Canadian courts. For Pete's sake, get a grip. In case you are interested, I suggest you research Aurora Eller or Jessi Slaughter. Or, for real tragedy, Megan Meier. And before you witter on about things like Ask.fm – Google 'self cyber bullying'. It's a f**king madhouse online, and it's not helped by people like you not finding out the truth.

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  2. It seems you did not bother to read this article beyond the first paragraph and missed the point entirely. Before you accuse me of not doing research, you could try researching what you are responding to. While it is agreed that children need to be monitored, and we do, often—this was at a girl's birthday party. There were dozens of kids around and one of them brought an iPod. It's impossible to censor everything at all times. But whether Amanda Todd was a “slut”, a “whore” or a porn star means nothing to me. She did not deserve to die. She did not deserve to be bullied. No one does. Sex and nudity, and expressions of sex and nudity, are not crimes, and do not hurt people. Even if she allowed people to post mean things to her on Facebook, that really does not change a thing. A common symptom of depression is self-hurt and self-mutilation (after all, what is suicide other than the ultimate self hurt?). I have been in a similar place in my life, visiting sites where I know I will be bullied, or allowing hurtful people on my FB page in the hopes of “winning the argument” or changing minds. Some people with deep psychological problems run toward abuse. They feel that they deserve to be hurt. It's the reason housewives stay in abusive relationships. But assuming for a moment you are correct and Amanda Todd is not all that she seems; your comment is still irrelevant. The point of my article was not to validate an individual, but to draw attention to the very real problem of girls, particularly teens, sharing nude photos of themselves, how nudity is used as a tool to bully. As a lifelong naturist, I believe that nudity is not-shameful. I argue that if society takes a similar stance, the sharing of such photos lose their power to abuse. In essence, Amanda Todd's name could be replaced by any other girl, and the theme would remain the same. Based on your statements, it appears that you are less concerned with bullying and suicide and more concerned with nudity, sex and masturbation. This is precisely the problem I see with our modern society, when we demonize nudity and sex to the point where we don't even consider how cruelly we treat others, or excuse the mistreatment of others by saying, “well, she was a whore, so she deserved it.” It is very sad. She could have slept with the entire football team and posted it on YouTube and that would be her right. No one deserves to be bullied. Ever.

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  3. LOL. Really, you quite miss the point. Does she have a right to essentially lie about everything she did? And surely you, as a naturist, can see the huge difference in going online naked as self-expression and doing it for 'likes' on Omegle etc. This isn't some cute story of a girl who was misunderstood – it's the story of a very clever girl who manipulated things online. And perhaps you should also be aware that she was a bully herself – picking on girls who she deemed to be less attractive. Most of her online behaviour had been forgotten, but she kept it going, aided and abetted no doubt parents. She didn't die from bullying – in the last two days of her existence, she was dumped by her boyfriend and that was the trigger.
    If she had innocently gone online for fun, all well and good, but she didn't, and you don't seem to get that. She wasn't shamed for nudity etc., she was shamed because she exploited it and boasted about it (going on webcam sites where people can send gifts for performances, and saying things like 'I will do more at 1000 likes' do not constitute the sort of stuff that you seem to admire). She wasn't demonised for 'innocent' actions – she was complained about and attacked for using her body in a way that was inappropriate at any age. She didn't masturbate for friends – she performed for large audiences of complete strangers.
    I completely see your points about the way we see things regarding sexuality, but even you can surely see that this wasn't about a simple act online – it went much deeper. Amanda knew what she was doing – she just never thought that people would not approve. But I guess you won't mind when your kids do something similar.

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  4. And just an addition: You write 'She could have slept with the entire football team and posted it on YouTube and that would be her right.' Well – not quite. She was 14. Underage. What she was doing was against the Law. And displaying it is termed child pornogaphy. But maybe you're saying it's all OK for young children to do that sort of thing. It's just the rest of society that says it's not wise.

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  5. Everything I have read on the Internet disagrees with your comments, including Wikepedia, and numerous other reputable news sites. I trust these sources more than some creepy guy with a weird obsession over a dead girl. But again, assuming you are correct in everything you say, it is still irrelevant. You seem to feel that there can be some justification for bullying when there isn't. Whether she posted a nude photo of herself for 'likes' or self-expression, who cares? Either way, it is not a crime, it is not unethical or immoral, and it is her choice to do so. You talk about 'a clever girl who manipulated things'—how nefarious! And yet what does that mean? Aren't we all manipulating the Internet to achieve our own ends? Is manipulation a crime? As for her death, she died of depression, which was exacerbated by the bullying she endured. People of normal mental health do not suddenly kill themselves over mean comments or break-ups with boyfriends, and if Amanda suffered from depression (and based on everything you are saying, it would certainly seems so) then she deserves our compassion, not our condemnation. This is what's missing in your comments. I find your lack of compassion staggering and appalling, and I suspect that you are one of her bullies, and I will not tolerate it use of my blog as a platform for hate. Please find another blog to continue your hateful screed because I won't be posting it here.

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  6. It is not illegal for a child to display child pornography. The criminals in such a case would be the people who were having sex with her who were over the age limit. Furthermore, if she did sleep with the football team at age 14, then we could be certain that she has mental problems, likely depression, and is deserving of our compassion, not our hatred.

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  7. To Mr. Alimonis: Your replies are maybe the best and truest to form, that I've read thus far regarding Amanda Todd. You show true compassion and understanding of an “unwell” human being in every sense, which is ultimately more important than highlighting all the wrong doings of all people involved including Amanda. There are many lessons which can be used from this child's short life, but for me, the biggest lesson is to see past other's faults because we all have them. To be able to forgive and move towards solutions instead of spouting poison about others. What good does that amount to? How can it help anyone? There is much wisdom in what you wrote. Thank you

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  8. This is sad and shocking. It’s just plain sad and unfair to not allow non-sexual nudity and not allow anyone to go nude. Seriously, what’s wrong with people? I don’t understand the aversion to the harmless thing of nudism! I just want to be nude and free, don’t mind who I see naked nor do I mind who sees me naked but I’m just wanting to go free and naked with no one caring because it’s not practical to wear clothes all the time! I live in central California and is quite hot in the summer with a good number of 100+ degree Fahrenheit days and why would I want or need extra heat then? How can society accept violence, rape, war, abuse, and no matter how brutal the violence is like on TV and movies and have even children see that but not wholesome non-sexual nudity??!! We need to get out there and positively have nudism to make it be widespread and accepted. If I could I would be naked all the time. Everyone should have a right to be nude. How can our skin which is harmless be shamed and blurred out on the media, Facebook, Instagram, and movies but allow even the worst of violence? We were all born naked and maybe nature meant us to stay that way! It all begins at home – the parents need to teach their children to not be ashamed of nudity or the human body because body shame isn’t natural or beneficial. It would be great if I were raised nudist. I love being naked and nudism should be available to everyone. It’s tragic to have to go to means of suicide and depression just for the absurdity of naked shame and aversion. No one can own or control our bodies and it should be dictated by each and every one of us to what we do with it in terms of being as bare as we dare. Puritanism is just so bad. We don’t come into the world already learning racism, sexism, xenophobia, or naked shame. yet we’re told that nakedness ought to be hidden from view. Why did the huge ways of communal nudity end in the first place? It’s yet another reason why the nudity taboo is unethical and must go!

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