What is sexual bullying?

It happens all the time. But many of us don’t even know what it is. We spoke to BullyingUK about how to spot sexual bullying and how to stop it.

boy with hood up looking down carrying rucksack

You don't have to go along with it.

What is sexual bullying?

Sexual bullying is bullying related to sex, people you fancy, your body, how you dress or whether you are a boy or a girl.

Even though it happens a lot, we don’t always think of it as bullying.

What kind of thing counts a sexual bullying?

There are lots of different kinds of sexual bullying. It can happen face-to-face or online. Here are some examples you might have seen or had done to you.

  • Making comments about how you behave, what you’re wearing or who you fancy.
  • Making rude gestures, whispering or laughing.
  • Shouting things about the way you look.
  • Asking who you fancy or whether you’ve had sex.
  • Asking if you know what different words about sex mean.
  • Taking photos, sharing photos of you or putting pressure on you to share photos of yourself.
  • Undoing your bra or pulling at your clothes.
  • Spreading rumours about who you fancy, whether you’ve had sex or what you look like.
  • Saying you can’t do things because you are a girl or a boy.
  • Touching or groping you without asking (if someone touches you when you don’t want them to this could be sexual assault).

But those kind of things happen all the time – isn’t it just a laugh?

You’re right, it happens all the time. But it isn’t just a laugh.

Even if someone doesn’t seem upset, they’re probably uncomfortable, embarrassed and scared.

The Mix user, Gemma, was bullied in a sexual way. She said “I started feeling sick at the thought of going school, hated myself and my body, lost my appetite, stayed in my room and cried myself to sleep.”

I’m being bullied in a sexual way – what should I do?

“It’s normal to feel ashamed, guilty or anxious,” says Paul Williams from BullyingUK. “But please remember that you’re not alone. There are steps you can take to make things better.”

  • We know you hear this a lot but try to ignore the bullies. They want you to respond because it makes them feel powerful.
  • Keep a record of what happens and when. Put a note in your phone or – if it happens online – take screenshots.
  • Talk to an adult you trust about what is happening. Read these tips on asking an adult for help.
  • Talk to close friends about how you feel. They might have had similar experiences. Perhaps you could talk to an adult you trust together?
  • Talk to us about it. We can help you work out what to do.
  • Report anything that happens online.
  • If the person you talk to doesn’t help, don’t give up. They are in the wrong, not you.

How can I stop it happening around me?

It takes a lot of courage to stand up to any kind of bully. But you can help other people feel less alone.

  • Go and talk to them. Check they are ok.
  • Record what happens (write it down, take photos or screenshots or – if it’s safe – film it).
  • Offer to go with them to tell someone.

OK, I get it’s not cool – but if I don’t do it, my friends will think I’m weird.

Sexual bullying happens so much it can feel normal. It’s hard to change how you act with your friends.

Paul says that it’s important to trust your instincts. “Remember if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Think about the impact your behaviour could have on the person on the receiving end. How would the other person feel? Would you want to be responsible for this?”

But it’s not just disrespectful and unkind – it can get you into trouble:

You can choose not to get involved. It’s a scary choice but it’s a strong one. Most people will respect you more if you refuse to take part.

Next Steps

  • BullyingUK offers advice and support to victims of bullying. Call on 0808 800 2222.
  • Do you want to understand your relationship better? Love Smart helps you work it all out.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

Tags:

bullying| consent

By Clare Foster

Updated on 15-Feb-2017