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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sluts: Are They Like Unicorns?

Posted By on Wed, Aug 17, 2011 at 10:00 AM

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Did your high school have a girl who was known as the slut? Do your remember her by both her first and last name? Did she give blow jobs in return for cigarettes? Did she do the entire football/track/basketball team? According to Emily White, the author of Fast Girls: Teenage Tribes and the Myth of the Slut, almost every American school has this slut legend -- the details change but the structure is the same.

Through extensive research, White discovered that there is a slut type: A girl outside of the norm is often labeled the slut, irrespective of her actual sexual behavior.

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Leora Tanenbaum, author of Slut! Growing up Female with a Bad Reputation was one. She says,

Why does any girl have a bad rep in school? The question itself unwittingly implies that something specific must have occurred to trigger the slut-bashing, and that therefore the girl at some level "deserves" to be harassed. But it doesn't always work that way. In many cases, a girl is labeled a "slut" simply because she doesn't fit in with her peers in some way -- she may be an early developer, overweight, from a different socioeconomic group, or someone the other girls are jealous of because she is perceived to be pretty or popular with guys. Even if there is a specific event that triggers the slut-bashing, this circumstance does not mean that her rep is her fault. After all, no one targets boys for their sexual behavior (real or imagined).

In Tanebaum's case, she was picked on because she went out with the guy a girlfriend was interested in. "She was very angry with me -- rightfully so -- and spread stories about me. Because I was an early developer, my physique matched the stereotype of the 'slut,' so the reputation stuck."

Leora Tanenbaum
  • Leora Tanenbaum

And sometimes, the girl will describe herself as a slut: I recently talked to my friend Zack, who was friends with the girl in question at his high school. According to her, she did have sex with several members of the football team at the same time. However, Zack even then thought she was only telling a story or exaggerating her bad-girlness as an act of defiant bravado. "You can't trust most of what comes out of a teenager's mouth," he observes.

Another man I talked to, Jaye, was asked to the prom by the so-called high school slut. "I believed the rumors, and turned her down, and ended up not going. She was really a nice girl, I think, and I missed out on something that could have been special. I hate the person I used to be."

But thankfully, we don't stay adolescent for long. So it's on us, as adults, to dispel that slut myth and raise our glasses in in honor of all those girls who have suffered or survived it.

The Sweet Spot is a blog column about alternative sexuality by Ginger Murray who is also the editor of Whore! magazine. Check back next week for more.

For more events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.

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Ginger Murray

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