Polimicks

Leftist commentary from a mouthy bitch

Surviving the Slut Stigma

For years, I’ve wanted to write the definitive YA novel that would tell/show teen girls how to survive the harassment and emotional torture that comes along with the label “slut.”

But ultimately, I have to admit, I don’t know what to tell them.

I can credit my survival to stubborn-ness, the love of a pet, and leaving the state. Oh, and Anne McCafferey’s Dragonsinger series.

I can tell them that it gets better once you leave high school. That once you start going to College, even community college, you leave a lot of that bullshit behind. I can tell them one day it will not matter, it will still hurt when you look back on it, but it will not matter.

I can tell them that the girls who first label you “slut,” and it will be girls, are just as in terror of that label as you are. And that their pre-emptive labelling of you will be their “protection” against being labelled slut themselves.

I can also tell them that there is no protection from the “slut” label, and that regardless of how many other girls you slut-shame, label and lie about, it won’t stop others doing it to you.

It also doesn’t matter that you’ve never been kissed, never even held hands with a boy.

It doesn’t matter, because middle school is a social piranha tank and that label is the sweet, sweet smell of blood to your peers.

Now, I hear that many schools are starting to take things more seriously now, after the deaths of girls like Phoebe Prince, in part because of the perception that you can no longer just leave the abuse at the door when you get home. With social networking sites like Facebook, your harassers can attack you in your own home, and there is no respite. With more and more teenagers having their own cell phones, and the advent of texting, there’s this capability for 24/7 harassment.

The thing is, girls killed themselves over being called sluts when I was in middle school, too. But no one cared. And I wager that in a lot of cases where girls are killing themselves over that label, no one still cares. We’re only seeing the deaths of the conventionally pretty, middle class or above white girls who were harassed until they saw death as the only avenue to peace.

Slut knows no racial boundaries. In fact, girls of color are MORE likely to be harassed for perceived sluttiness than white girls, according to Leona Tannenbaum’s book, “Slut.”

I can tell girls that they shouldn’t kill themselves over it. That the people who have labelled them are not worth it, and that killing yourself lets those assholes win. But how do I give them the strength to not do it? How do I tell a girl that five more years of abuse, physical and mental, is preferable to hanging herself or taking an OD? How?

I can’t tell her that school authorities or even the people who are supposed to love and protect her will do a damn thing about it, no matter how bad it gets. I can’t tell her that her friends, her real friends, will stick by her, because when they don’t… Yeah, that just adds to the feelings of self-hate and worthlessness.

What I can tell her is it does stop. It does, eventually, get better. If you can move away, get away, delete your Facebook, change your number and just go… That it can be better sooner. But that odds are good you’ll just have to stick it out.

Get yourself a good therapist, now. And don’t just settle for the first one your folks take you to. If you don’t like that person, raise hell until they get you another one, or go to your local mental health services and get yourself into therapy. Seattle’s got funding for that: http://www.seattle.gov/humanservices/youth/mentalhealth.htm
So does the Eastside: http://www.youtheastsideservices.org/

I attended GLAD (Gay Lesbian Adolescent Drop-In, now B-Glad http://www.youtheastsideservices.org/services/06_01_bglad.php) group, through Youth Eastside Services, when I was still in my teens and coming to grips with my bisexuality. I’d gone initially to be supportive of my friend Paul, but eventually wound up going without him.

You shouldn’t have to survive the Slut stigma alone. And it’s hard to do. Hopefully you have friends who are strong enough to stand by you. If not, like I said, get thee to a therapist. You need coping strategies to survive this, and I do not recommend substance abuse as a coping mechanism. It’s not a good idea.

Mostly, I want to hug the girls who are going through what I survived. I want to tell them that you can survive it. Because you can. It sucks, and hurts. A lot. But you can survive it. You can. And believe this, that even if you don’t feel that anyone in your life loves you, they do. And I love you, I don’t even know you. But I love you and I want you to know that you’re not alone. That *I* know what you’re going through, and how much it hurts and how tempting that bottle of pills is. I know.

And I know you can survive it. I love you, I believe in you, I have faith in you.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think this hardened, cynical bitch has something in her eye.

This entry originally posted at http://polimicks.dreamwidth.org/

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4 comments on “Surviving the Slut Stigma

  1. living400lbs
    May 20, 2010

    Thanks for this.

    Like

  2. tanteterri
    May 20, 2010

    Oddly enough, I don’t recall anyone getting the “slut” label from my school. We had a cheerleader get pregnant, but personally the only label I thought applied was “stupid”, and I didn’t use it because I felt it was none of my business.
    It is so sad that words can hurt people as badly as any other weapon.

    Like

    • polimicks
      May 20, 2010

      Yeah, I was the school slut even though I was still a virgin, until I was raped at 15. I was raped because the guy I was dating thought I was a slut, and got really angry with me when he figured out I was a virgin.
      You gotta love “Well, everybody knows…” method of ascertaining truths.

      Like

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This entry was posted on May 20, 2010 by in Uncategorized.

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