Danielle, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, 2010; photograph by Rania Matar from her book <i>A Girl and Her Room</i> (2012), which collects her portraits of teenage girls in their bedrooms in the US and Lebanon. It includes essays by Susan Minot and Anne Tuck

All young female social media users, Sales contends, are assailed “on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis” by misogynist jokes, pornographic images, and demeaning comments that “are offensive and potentially damaging to their well-being and sense of self-esteem.” In addition to this steady stream of low-level sexual harassment, many girls are subject to more aggressive forms of sexual teasing and coercion: having their attractiveness crudely assessed on “hot or not” websites, receiving unsolicited “dick pics” on their phones, being pestered or blackmailed for nude photos. (A group of thirteen-year-olds in Florida explain to Sales that girls who acquiesce to demands for “nudes” run the risk of having their photos posted on amateur porn sites, or “slut pages,” while those who demur are usually punished in some other way—by being branded “prudes,” or by having sexual rumors spread about them.)

The unsparing gaze that social media train on girls’ sexuality—the supreme value that they place on being sexually appealing—engenders a widespread female anxiety about physical appearance that is highly conducive to “self-objectification,” Sales claims. All of her interview subjects agree that on sites like Instagram and Facebook, female popularity (as quantified by the number of “likes” a girl’s photos receive) depends on being deemed “hot.” “You have to have a perfect body and big butt,” a fifteen-year-old from the Bronx observes grimly. “For a girl, you have to be that certain way to get the boys’ attention.” Girls who spend long enough in this competitive beauty pageant atmosphere don’t need to be coerced into serving themselves up as masturbatory fantasies, Sales argues. Taking their cues from celebrities like Kim Kardashian—whose vast following on Instagram Sales identifies as a marker of social media’s decadent values—they post “tit pics,” “butt pics,” and a variety of other soft-porn selfies as a means of guaranteeing maximum male attention and approbation. “I guarantee you,” a seventeen-year-old from New Jersey tells Sales..»

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