What Is “Scooping”? And Why Don’t We Just Call It “Sexual Assault”?

Middle school totally blows for everyone. It’s a rule. It’s, like, written in the Bible or something. But I’d bet it blows a hell of a lot more when you’re a 6th grader who gets groped by her classmate and both your school administrators and the media act like it’s just a “schoolboy prank.”

That’s what has happened to an 11-year-old girl at Castaic Middle School, in Castaic, California: The girl said she was leaning over her locker when a boy came up behind her and grabbed her breasts. The kids at her middle school call that behavior “scooping.” After it took two days for the school to inform him about the incident and administrators failed to explain the boy’s punishment, the 6th grade girl’s father, Chris Dawson, went to TV station KTLA with the story. KTLA reported the incident and came up with this genius headline: “Scooping: Sexual Assault or Schoolboy Prank?”

Because there is such a thin line between inappropriately touching someone and a funny “prank,” right?For all you oldsters out there who, like me, have never heard of “scooping,” Urban Dictionary defines it as:

When a male puts their hand up a girl’s shirt, lift the bra up and feel up the girl’s tit while their hand is under the bra.

See, when I was a young’un, we just called that “feeling up.” And when some random classmate boy did it to a girl in the hallway, it was called “groping,” “fondling” or “sexual assault.”

Why did KTLA even feel the need to question whether “scooping” was funny or serious? If their headline had used the harsher-sounding word “groping” instead of “scooping,” would they still have questioned whether it was just a prank? If the news story had been about a 50-year-old man “scooping”/”groping” a girl, would they have asked if that was just a prank? Why do we assume because the inappropriate behavior was done by a middle school boy that it’s a less serious offense?

Young men should not get a free pass — from adults and from the media — for what is clearly a sexual violation just because of their age or any other reason. Writing for Ms. magazine’s blog, author Shira Tarrant said it is “as if sexual assault could be misunderstood as a simple prank –a Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn boys-will-be-boys shenanigan!” Sexual assault is never just a prank, and by suggestively framing the issue like this the media becomes part of the problem. We need to call out sexualized groping for what it is, and not hide behind coy language or veiled references.

Unfortunately, this is just another case of the media doing wrong by women and girls. KTLA, you should have called a spade a spade. This was not a “schoolboy prank.” [KTLA.com, Ms. Magazine]