Slut.

By: Ginger Mayo

When I was 13 years old, my best friend told me that people had been whispering about me. She told me that my flirtations with my then crush were perceived as quite scandalous, and were major talk on the weekend after the party with the breezers and spin the bottle.

She told me that someone called me a slut.

I wish I was some absurd anomaly – that flat chested, awkward little 13 year old me was the only girl in the world subject to such explicit shaming for wearing a pushup bra I bought for tweens at Kmart and talking to my crush. I wish no one else at that tender age would be labeled such a foreign and contemptuous word. But the reality is, most teenage girls can attest to this experience. Actually, it is more rare for an impressionable, malleable and vulnerable young girl not to be called a slut before her 13th birthday. But I know why even the sweetest, most well meaning thirteen year olds call each other this terrible word – because it’s the cruelest stab at a girl, and girls are always taught to stab each other in contest for the male gaze.

The word always punctured a particularly sensitive part of me – it made me feel like I was not only cheap to boys, but also lessened in the view of girls. It made me feel disposable and clichéd- it isn’t hard to be a slut, and there are plenty of them around. What made me special?

At the end of sophomore year, after a particularly messy and heartbreaking split, being with boys was one of the only ways to soothe my anger. Despite all of my early (and very flawed) feminist views, which encouraged me to stay away from boys, I felt particularly raw and agape. I needed boys, I needed the sexual experience – all these things made me feel better. Not because I was being validated by them – but rather because it reminded me of the possibilities that had opened up after the heartbreak. I had options to explore – I had people to meet and parties to go to. It was encouraging. It made me realize that I had an entire sexual part of me that hadn’t been explored for years.

At post prom, everyone cut lose. We pre-gamed at my friend’s house, and we all bought particularly short dresses to wear. We had anticipated this night – each of my friends had their respective boys that they were excited to get with. It was an opportunity for our entire class to let off steam. I was moving countries, so I had a particularly bittersweet sentiment about the gathering. On one hand I felt it was the perfect opportunity for me to flirt with the boys I always had wanted too, and on the other hand it was a crucial moment in establishing my reputation after I left. But more than anything, I didn’t want to think. I wanted to be in that same state of bliss where I trusted myself to make the right decisions, and to follow what felt right, in my body and mind. The party proceeded.

Then, the night turned into a nightmare.

The next morning I woke up with a text from my best friend. She was gushing on about everyone’s reactions to the party. She linked me an Ask.fm page, which had been created the morning after – a post party gossip column, where everyone confessed (anonymously) what they had done, what they’d seen people do, and whatever secrets they had been told. It was horrendous – a culmination of a sick high school desire to fester in our own drama and to completely destroy every individual one had ever felt wronged by. I scrolled through the first couple of answers, which were laden with heinous cruelty. And then my name popped up.

 

“XXXXX is such a whore. She was such a desperate slut last night.”

“It’s so sad to see XXXXX be so slutty. She used to be so cool”

“You put a little alcohol in her and XXXXX becomes a fucking slut”

 

I tried not to let it bother me. Anonymous grey faces, hiding behind a screen, gossiping? There’s no value in that. But I couldn’t pretend – it did bother me. It bothered me a lot. I feverishly scrolled through all the answers and questions, pressing command F to search my name. Numerous results of the same kind popped up – one after another, I became paranoid and teary. This was how people were going to remember me – as some dumb slut.

But let’s break that down – why is being a slut so bad? Why was the fact that I was openly promiscuous so disgusting? Why was my sexual pleasure so repulsive to people? The fact that I relished my sexuality and loved these experiences somehow made me less valuable – worse of a person. Why did it enrage these people so much that I had multiple sexual partners? In engagements that I had pursued, myself? It didn’t make sense. Yeah, perhaps It wasn’t my most elegant night. But did I always have to be calm, cool, collected? In control and sexy, but not sexual?

The idea that the worse thing we can call a woman is being promiscuous is a huge indicator of the ingrained misogyny we don’t even begin to analyze. Why is it bad to be promiscuous? Because it destroys the virginal archetype that men want their girlfriends, mates and partners to have. It increases the ‘competition’ that is encouraged between young women for the male gaze. It indicates a woman’s freedom and autonomy over her body, and surprise – her own sexual pleasure, which can often be seen as offensive to both men and women. It liberates a woman from her duty to remain clean and pure, so when the man who eventually chooses her is ready, he can have her clean and untouched for his own.

After a few weeks, the website (which continued to slander me, and others – I got called a ‘used tissue’ at one point) was shut down, and the creators were exposed. It turned out, it was my best friend from 8th grade – the girl who’s house I pre-gamed at. I was long gone by then, but I was still heartbroken. In an attempt to somehow eradicate the slovenly past that I had accepted as true, I began vowing my abstinence from boys in my new school. I swore I wouldn’t get a boyfriend, or hook up with anyone. I would be the good girl. I started controlling every little part of myself – everything I could. I was so dead set on starting new and fresh, because I couldn’t bare to be called a slut again. I just hated that word – it stung me hard in the chest every time I heard it.

Before I knew it, I was knee deep in dangerous mental affliction. In my pursuit of controlling those parts of me that were so vehemently criticized, I had lost control of my mental and physical health. I was a wreck, and any little thing that slipped through my control was seen as a crushing failure. For so long I’d tried to suppress the dirty, ‘slutty’ part of me that I was convinced made me worthless. I was so lost, all because of that stupid little word.

I never really understood the fascination these folks had with the girls who chose to be sexual – but it truly enraged them to a point of bullying and harassment. It took a lot of emotional trauma and work to get over the fact that people resented me so much for it. I’m getting better now, and I’m trying to think critically about what happened to me in that time of my life. What it was exactly, that made me believe I wasn’t worth any of the space I occupied. And I realize the stupidity of it all, now – I was so afraid to take care of myself, because the one time I chose to listen to myself my best friend anonymously cyber bullied me, people judged me, and I left an entire country and chapter behind me without a shred of closure.

While my particular circumstances perhaps augmented the traumatic nature of the event, the principle behind it remains the same. Next time you think to yourself, ‘Wow, she’s such a slut’, think of what you’re saying. Why do you think that? What makes that word have substance? Why does she deserve that? Fight the internalized misogyny that permeates all of us. Fight the idea that you have to tear down a girl to bring yourself up. You’re better than that. We all are.


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