#Slanegirl is the unfortunate hashtag that could follow a 17-year-old for the rest of her life.
The girl was photographed at an Eminem show at Slane Castle in Ireland on Sunday performing oral sex on two different men, and the photos exploded onto Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr—just about any social media site you’d image—and later a video even appeared on YouTube.
The image and hashtag #Slanegirl came attached with comments such as “slut,” “ho,” “disgusting,” “am I supposed to feel sorry for #Slaneslut? She deserves everything she gets,” “anyone want to know #Slanegirl? Can you give her my #” and finally the finger-wagging, as in “wanting to lock down your daughter away for life after seeing #Slanegirl’s lovely pictures.” #Slanegirl and #Slaneslut trended worldwide, and early posters allegedly were able to track her identity via social networks. By Tuesday, the photo had worked its way to Sickipedia and Know Your Meme, with captions like “Slanegirl will suck anything” next to a picture of a vacuum.
The girl reportedly sought medical treatment at a medical tent during the concert, although it’s unclear for what purpose. Gardai, the Irish police, have launched an investigation into the incident. Calling it “inappropriate” to comment at this time, a Gardai spokesman said “there is an investigation underway at this time and we request the media respect her privacy.”
According to numerous Irish media reports, the girl was hospitalized on Monday and was “distraught” after the photos went viral. The girls’ parents were allegedly notified that she had been assaulted at the concert, although the incident was unrelated to the photos. Rumors that she committed suicide were quickly discredited, although she was reportedly re-admitted to the hospital and “sedated” after the photos were posted online, and a source told the Irish Independent on Monday that the girl “was not medically fit to make a formal statement yet.” Police reportedly performed blood tests in relation to the alleged sexual assault. By Wednesday night, the Herald reported the girl had been discharged from the hospital.
A video appeared on YouTube on Tuesday of the girl allegedly being groped and pushed around by a group of young men at the concert. The video, which was quickly removed, allegedly showed her surrounded by as many as eight young men. The young men reportedly yelled insults while she kissed a man, the same one that she was performing oral sex on in one of the photos that went viral, and who is groping her. Sources told the Irish Independent that Gardai had already had access to the video before it went online.
Over 60 people were arrested at the concert (which had over 80,000 attendees), but Gardai could likely rack up more arrests more in relation to Slane girl. Police reportedly have traced the original posting to a man in Belfast.
Meanwhile, there has been some action among the people who shared the photos. Gardai is reportedly tracing who first posted the photo, and Facebook said in a statement that the user operations team had removed it as soon as it was reported. An Instagram spokesman said the sits it is co-operating “with the police/Gardai to support their investigation.” Twitter, meanwhile, appeared to have banned some of the people who shared the photos at first, according to the Daily Dot.
Early reports indicated that those who shared the photos could be in violation of child pornography laws, but since the age of consent in Ireland is 17 (the same age as the girl), this could be unlikely. A spokesperson for Twitter said in a statement that the site does not tolerate “child sexual exploitation” and said “when we are made aware of the links to images of or content promoting child sexual exploitation, they will be removed from the site without further notice and reported to The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).”
In the days after the incident, the girl's plight started to gain sympathy and support online—especially as it became more and more apparent that there was a double standard involved. As for the men in the picture, early reactions ranged from “men will be men” to hero-worshipping (especially since one of the men she performed oral sex on had his arms raised triumphantly).
“The conclusion that people jump to is she is a slut and it’s my duty to show as many people as possible,” said Emily Lindin, the writer behind the Unslut Project, which helps women share their own experiences to stop public shaming and is raising money toward a documentary film called Slut. “This really made me sick to my stomach—a young girl suffering in this place of public shame for getting a picture taken of her in public.”
Whether or not the girl was drugged still remains to be disclosed, although some leapt to defend the girl as simply being a person who wanted to enjoy sex. “Many people are saying we all make mistakes, that boys should be ashamed of themselves as much as she is, asking why no one is shaming the young men involved,” wrote a blogger on Sometimes It’s Just a Cigar. “Newsflash folks, people have sex at festivals, people like receiving blow jobs, and amazingly, a lot of women like giving them.”
The hashtag #slanegirlsolidarity popped up by Tuesday, with users tweeting comments like “Slut shaming is alive and well in Ireland, anyone who thought this is funny should be ashamed of themselves” and “Because slutshaming needs to end and because a patriarchal double standard decided her behavior wasn't appropriate,” although some Twitter users had started to use the hashtag to make crude jokes such as “If thou are not nicer to people, thou shalt have to suck my own c**k.”
“Welcome to today’s reminder that it’s different for girls,” wrote Sarah Ditum in the New Statesman . “A culture that hates women for having sex is one that simply hates women, and that is the grotty truth photographed at Slane.”
“We all have to take responsibility for this,” Lindin said. “In what kind of world do we live in that this is ok?”