The Slut Evolution

Content Warning: Rape

By: Natasha Campbell

We've all heard it.
 A word that seems ingrained in our culture. People, especially youth, use it as a verb, a noun, an adjective, and even a greeting.
 "Hey, slut."

 That's right, slut.
 I am a formerly assumed slut, turned real slut, turned feminist, turned domesticated.
 I grew up in the south; southern morale and values run deep where I'm from. I'm from Alabama, a town so small that if you blink, you miss it.
 My hometown has one red light, one caution light, and a four-way stop.
 Almost everyone knows everyone else, and this all results in them knowing your business.
 My immediate family is southern Methodist, Baptist, and whichever denomination screams at you the whole service.

 I was raised to abstain, no dates, no boys, no mingling.
 I'm not saying it was wrong, I'm grateful for my parents. I was a tow the line kind, my sister was not.
 My sister viewed sex as an activity, like sleeping, eating, or smoking weed. As a teenager, sex for her was just something to do. She even kicked off earlier than her classmates, at the ripe age of twelve.
 By her teenage years, and my formative years (as we are four years apart) I will approximate she had been with a hundred partners.
 I always looked up to her. I admired her fierce ability to be who she was: she was never a chameleon. She wasn't afraid to be herself.
 
 By the time she was seventeen, she had developed a name for herself in our small town. Through this, I found that we often inherit the name of our family.
 I was thirteen the first time I was called a slut, whore, hoe, or lot lizard.
I had never seen a penis, had my first kiss, nor even held a boy's hand.
 The stigma was set. I'm not saying all people were rotten, that's not true nor fair. I had friends and a very fulfilling life.
 
 However, I had signs saying 'SLUT' and my name hung on walls.
 I was brought to the office when a colored turkey with my name and 'SLUT' was found decorating an elementary hallway.
 I was seventeen when I was allowed on my first date. I was almost eighteen when I lost my “V card.”
 Everyone I graduated with but select few assumed I slept around, though none in my class ever asked me out.
 I have never been to a school dance, except prom. My father took me to my junior prom.  I was never asked to a single school dance, never invited to school parties or events. I was humiliated by the fact that everyone I knew went to events and had dates, except me.
 I had someone write "SLUT" in permanent marker on my locker.
 Right after graduation, two friends and I went to a restaurant. A car drove by my parked car as I ordered food, and a voice from inside of it screamed: "SLUT!"
 My insides shrank. My stomach dropped. I had only been with ONE person, and he hadn't spoken of it, yet someone I did not know yelled a demeaning name at me in public.
 
 I did go through a "phase" in my life. To date, the men from this phase have kept closed-lipped about it.
 The truth is, my best friend was raped at eight years old. An elderly man raped her, two days in a row. This man had come after her younger sister, at age four, the second day and she protected her.
 People often do not take time to understand a person. My friend started her journey in fear of the word "no"; in fear of someone taking it from her, so she embraced the word "yes".
  I was raped as a teenager, and took it upon myself to experiment with my image. I dyed my hair, cut bangs, and dated guys people often saw as unsavory.
 My rapists told people I was a slut, and that I had asked for it but changed my mind later on.
 I slept around a bit for about a year, all in the hopes of becoming anyone but the girl I was before.
 I was shamed in public, time and again for things I had not done.
 I never dated anyone from my hometown and tried not to spend time at the local stores.

 When I met my husband, I told him he would hear lots of rumors about me. It is sad when a person has to open a conversation with, "always ask me about it, and I'll tell you the truth".

 Our society focuses on shaming sexual desires, race, religion, political views, and anything that deviates from a societal norm.
 Slut shaming is real. Youth will turn to the term “slut” when they have no other term to use.
 As I aged, I reclaimed the term slut. I embraced this sexually deviant side of myself, and it became a part of my stride.
 The truth is, as malleable and influential youth, these terms mold our self-esteem and how we see not only ourselves, but other people. Our sex lives are no one’s business.
 Each individual is entitled to love what they love, desire what they desire, and have sex with who they want to have sex with. Sexual orientation or experience does not equate any person to being a slut.
 You can even find in the dictionary that a slut is a woman with "many casual sexual partners" or "low value of cleanliness".
 Why does this label matter so much?
 Who does this effect?
 I can tell you from personal experience that it affects the individual on a deep level. I cannot tell you how many tears I shed wondering what was wrong with me. Why did no one like me? Why was I never asked out or to an event? Why did my appearance warrant me being violated?
 The truth is I was never a slut, at least not as the world perceives the word. I was an average, shy, lonely teenage girl who carried the word slut around like a scarlet letter. A symbol of assault and misunderstood shame that was passed on.

 I now know that I deserved to have a dance like every other girl. I deserved to have a limo ride to a nice restaurant in a fancy dress. I deserved to have a date to the movies, just like everyone else.

 I deserved someone to tell me that my voice mattered. Every voice matters.

 

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