As I announced yesterday, this week is about digging deeper into the myths, realities, and privileged behavior that not only contributes to slut-shaming, but imposes it. We start our excavation into the realm of slut-shaming — and to a larger extent the stigmas around human sexuality — with the genesis for The Sin City Siren SLUT RIOT campaign. SCS intern De’Liza was assigned to review a feminist book and she chose Fast Girls: Teenage Tribes and the Myth of the Slut. As a high school student herself, what De’Liza found was a disturbingly fertile topic and this book just scratches the surface.
This is where we start the SLUT RIOT. Get ready for a week of posts, images, video, and more — culminating in a tweet-chat on Friday, Aug. 9 at noon (Pacific) with our media partner Feminism 2.0. (And don’t forget to enter the contest!)
Take it away, De’Liza:
Fast Girls: Teenage Tribes and the Myth of the Slut captures slut-shaming at its core. Written as an investigative collection of stories from over a hundred girls who unfortunately “earned” the reputation of the all too familiar badge of high school slut. In order to get to the root of the cause, journalist Emily White places a query that opens up a new communication about something that has always seemed to be so forbidden, “mythical,” and taboo.
Are you or were you the slut of your high school? Whether you earned the reputation or not, I would like to talk to you for an article I am writing. Confidentiality guaranteed.
White’s simple question and guaranteed confidentiality allowed an influx of women young and old to finally get their chance of redemption, those that have been waiting years after their fateful high school years to shed the pain that slut-shaming has placed upon their sleeves. Throughout the interviews and heartbreaking stories we find that the myth of the slut is much more complex than the chatter about some girl’s scantily clad attire. We find that when a young female is forced into a surrounding full of sexually ignorant adolescents as well as adults, girls become subjected to what seems like an alternate reality — a new world where no one views you as a child anymore, but now a person capable of “woman things” and those woman things means sex.
As adolescents’ bodies flood with hormones, rumors become something for them to hold on to. The wordless crashing power of sex makes teenagers want to name it, control it, find a pattern for it. The slut becomes a way for the adolescent mind to draw a map.
To showcase this White depicts an event that is happening right before her eyes. Her research environment is inside of Seattle’s Calhoun High School, where she finds herself observing the “tribes” in action. The term tribes is used to depict the archaic behavior of slut-shaming as well as the apparent isolation that has already been concocted between the groups of students: the jocks, the cheerleaders, the nerds, and of course, the infamous slut. In one scene, as the students fill up the bleachers for a massive school pep event, the air reeks of opportunity to spread the newest rumor, “Heather Adams masturbates.” But what is a rumor without the accompanied statement “pass it on”? Ear-to-ear whispers allow the rumor to spread like wildfire, escalating to compete with the monotony of daily life. What sluts are to teenagers are what moths are to luminous lamp posts. Emily White describes the myth of the slut as a creation, because what is a slut without rumors and backlash? Not a slut. The lines blue between truth and myth. It’s impossible to differentiate the slut from the rumor.
In the clouded atmosphere of the collective dirty mind, the slut takes on a sheen of unreality; she’s not really a girl, she’s more like a hallucination.
It all begins with a message. One message similar to the last snowflake upon the awaited avalanche that is ready to tumble. We find these messages, this language, given about the slut everywhere, especially in the places where privacy is expected. When I enter my high school bathroom stalls, I see the blueprints made to create this “slut.” It all starts with an idea, or more so a fear of a girl’s sexuality. Etchings out of pencil or permanent marker seem like modern hieroglyphics, all plastered to tell the tale of selected girls’ supposed rendezvous: “Millicent is not a virgin,” “Mandy does oral.” Like target practice, these words are aimed at the young girls, ready to destroy. Another form of oppression created by patriarchal society, that is focused on devaluing the woman — to make her an outcast and an abomination of all things “pure.”
But why has this type of behavior been carried out for this long? Like a continuum, the slut stories are echoing throughout each and every generation. The victim of shame is not excused because of race, age, profession, virginity, or not. We women are all up for potential attacks. My mother is a 4’9″ Filipina. Her small stature is accompanied with a sweet tone and smile and even in her fifties she faces this slut-shaming. In the line of a restaurant my mother went closer to speak to her friend. But a 6’3″ male in his mid-twenties thought that my mother had cut in the line. As she held her composure and told him she did not, he began to call her a bitch, then proceeded to call her a whore. A whore? His “archaic, irrational compulsion” was passed down from generations of hatred and male privilege. As the man kept repeating names such as bitch and whore, my blood began to boil! I have never felt such anger inside of me! My hope for humanity dimmed as this man proceeded to slut-shame my mother. His goal was to use the same oppression towards women that has been used for centuries, to knock down a woman, on one of the most vulnerable areas of life — her sexuality.
My hope is that one day when my three-year-old niece grows into a young woman she will not have to face this world being stigmatized by her gender, to not be hindered by names that are meant to hurt like bullets. In my heart I hope that slut-shaming comes to an end and that a new conversation will emerge, not a talk about someone’s virginity and the fear of someone disbanding this idea of “purity.” My wish is that her future will not know the myth of the slut, for the myth of the slut has become all but a forgotten tale.