From: Linda Purrington (
Date: Mon Sep 27 1999 - 16:08:25 EDT

"Why I Wrote 'Slut!'"
by Leora Tanenbaum

I never thought I would end up as the author of a book whose
title is a four-letter word, but I wanted to educate people
about the all-too-common experience of slut bashing. Just
about every high school in the country has a designated
slut. Being known as the school slut is terrifying:
classmates gang up on you and kids yell out "slut," "whore,"
or "b---" when you walk down the hallway or enter the
cafeteria. It is a humiliating position to be in and one
that far too many teenage girls--whose self-esteem may be
already suffering--are subjected to.

I'm in a position to know: I myself was known as a slut when
I was a freshman in high school, 15 years ago. The
reputation developed after I fooled around with a guy whom a
popular friend of mine had her eye on. Big mistake. She was
so angry with me that she spread the word around school that
I was a slut. For a long time guys and girls both called me
names to my face and whispered about me behind my back.
Everyone gossiped about me. I discuss my personal experience
in "Slut!"--and writing about it was cathartic, particularly
since it's a slice of my life that I had never really
discussed with anyone until now.

Most people assume that if a girl is called a slut, she must
deserve the reputation. And it's true that the school slut
may exhibit a casual attitude about sex, and she may in fact
be quite promiscuous. But when a guy is sexually active, no
one stigmatizes him. To the contrary: he is congratulated
for being a stud. The sexual double standard clearly didn't
go away with the sexual revolution.

I interviewed 50 girls and women who, like me, had been
targeted as sluts. And the most surprising thing I
discovered is that most of them had not actually been
sexually active. Some of them had never even kissed a boy
when they developed their reputations. The bottom line is
that any girl can be picked on as a slut--including your
daughter, niece, or sister. If you are a teenage girl, it
could even happen to you.

So how is a girl targeted in the first place? One factor is
if she is an early developer or is just very busty. Another
factor is if a girl is a social outsider--if she fails to
conform in some way (new in school, overweight, a class
minority, or considered "weird" for whatever reason). Also,
a girl might be picked on if she is very attractive and has
the attention of boys: this causes other girls to envy her,
and sometimes they fabricate a rumor of sexual activity to
make her less popular. Finally, when a girl is raped, either
by a stranger or by someone she knows, most people are
inclined to disbelieve her. They assume that the sex was
consensual, and that therefore the girl must be a slut.

When you are publicly humiliated, you develop coping
mechanisms. Often these coping mechanisms are unhealthy.
Many girls turn to alcohol or drugs. Many develop eating
problems, especially if their reputations were stirred up by
their physique. Many girls become severely depressed to the
point of contemplating and attempting suicide. Many girls
develop a real and serious hang-up about sex that persists
into their adult years.

If you are a parent, teach your daughters and sons that
girls as well as boys have sexual feelings, and that sexual
feelings are entirely normal. That way they won't have to
pin their sexual anxieties on a scapegoat and then distance
themselves from her. If you are an educator, know that slut
bashing, if it is persistent and severe, is a form of sexual
harassment, and that it is your legal obligation to ensure
that the behavior stops. And if you are a teen, don't join
in with your friends if they pick on a girl as a slut.
Nobody deserves to be belittled in this way and, besides,
you never know: you could be the next target yourself.

Featured in this e-mail:

"Slut! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation"
by Leora Tanenbaum

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