A teenage girl is pinned to the ground at a park near her house. Curious teenage boys take turns groping her. They laugh as she tries to get free. Eventually they stop before it goes too far. The girl never tells anyone what happened that day because at the time she doesn’t think it was sexual harassment.
Filmmaker Lynn Glazier captured this story in her new documentary “It’s A Teens World.”
“The life of kids today is really complicated,” she said. “I wanted to capture their world through their eyes … figure out if they know where the boundary is when it comes to harassment.”
Glazier has noticed an increase in harassment amongst teens in recent years. She made it her mission to get to the heart of the problem. She followed 21 teens in Toronto and was given a behind-the-scenes look at the sexual pressures they face today.
During a visit at Centennial College to promote her new documentary, she told students it’s all in the eyes of the beholder.
“Somebody’s border is going to be different than somebody else’s,” she said. “Some might not be offended or upset when a guy gets into their space and grabs their (breasts). But a lot of other people do get bothered. So, how do you know where the line is?”
She believes that the media are partly responsible for the confusion because they depict teenagers adopting the values of celebrity culture.
“Girls think that if Paris Hilton can put out a sex tape and get a lot of attention, then so can they,” she said. “Some girls think it’s liberating to be gawked at … but it warps their view of sexuality.”
In some cases, she said, boys use the invitation to touch or cat call at girls to their advantage, to try and gain acceptance amongst their male peers.
“This is how guys enforce the status quo on other guys and it’s a form of sexual harassment in itself,” Glazier said.
Dale Callender is a youth counsellor at Northern Secondary School in Toronto. He believes young people need to be educated on what constitutes harassment.
“I see suggestive clothing, comments, looks, whistles; it happens in all schools,” he said. “I think it’s a lack of education. It needs to start with people like me to tell them what’s right and what’s wrong.”
Callender gives students the opportunity to discuss these issues in confidence. Posters and announcements are used to encourage them to talk. There’s also a committee at Northern called the Safe School Committee. It surveys students to get their opinions about what areas of the school are most unsafe and when they feel the most uncomfortable.
Glazier believes her film can accompany parents and counsellors as they help teens gain self-awareness when it comes to harassment.
“There was a transformation throughout this documentary,” she said. “Opinions at the beginning turned into self recognition. The awareness grew. It helped teens reconsider what they were doing and say ‘hey, I need to stop this.”