Cyberbullying and the Innocence Narrative


Publish Date:
July 22, 2013
Publication Title:
Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review
Journal Article Volume 48 Pages 357
  • Andrew Gilden, Cyberbullying and the Innocence Narrative, 48 Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review 357 (2013).


This Article critically examines recent debates about the bullying and harassment of gay teens. A string of suicides in the fall of 2010 yielded a wide range of legal reforms at both the state and federal levels. The accompanying debates, however, have largely employed one-dimensional accounts of the difficulties faced by gay teens, excluding more nuanced, complex and empowered accounts of teenage sexuality. Although many gay teens are certainly vulnerable to bullying and harassment, these entrenched narratives of innocence and vulnerability have been used to justify both strong protectionism — e.g., through questionable hate crimes prosecutions — and ubiquitous paternalism — e.g., through “anti-bullying” monitoring and reporting — while obscuring the sexual agency of gay teens. This Article will (1) track the persistent use of a gay teen innocence narrative in several legal and cultural contexts; (2) explore how recent anti-bullying efforts reify such innocence at the potential expense of gay teens’ social and sexual agency; and (3) situate this filtering of gay teens’ experiences within the broader context of the LGBT rights movement.