Sandra Benedetto: Does “Feminist” Writer’s Slut Shaming Mea Culpa Explain Why Hillary Can’t Win?

This article first appeared in the 2015 Bold & Brassy Fall Style Issue.

I Was an Ignorant Slut Shamer

By Laurell P. Townsend-Houghten*

Devoted B&B Gals, Guys, and Others, I have a confession to make. Yours truly is slap-the-cuffs-on-me guilty of the feminista cardinal sin du jour: slut shaming. If it’s hard for you to believe, it’s even harder for me to admit, trust me. You know that I am a passionate advocate for female empowerment, which makes this admission downright mortifying. What I wouldn’t give for Marty McFly to escort me back to 2001 in my Prius so I could scrape away those Puffy Paint scarlet letters.

Whoa, you’re protesting into your steaming cup of oolong, you lost me! OK, I’ll start from the beginning, and I promise to be real with you every step of the way. When I was in the 7th grade, there was this girl — I’ll call her Chastity, wink, wink — who was rumored to have pleasured an 8th grade boy, whom I’ll refer to as Romeo. It was said to have happened in the gym under the bleachers while a basketball game was going on.

I and the other members of my girl squad at the time were relatively inexperienced (we’re talking adorably tentative steals to second base), so naturally I was appalled when my best friend’s brother’s friend described what Chastity had done. Some of the other girls will now say that they reacted out of a lack of understanding, even jealousy, because we hadn’t advanced as far on the, uh, yardstick of sexual experience as Chastity; but that’s just them trying to rewrite history. I promised to tell you the ugly truth, so let me set the record straight and tell you that our initial reaction was one of disgust.

May I digress for a moment? Frankly, fellatio is as unpalatable at the age of 27 as it was at the age of 12. The patriarchy would lead us to believe that choking on a man’s proverbial chicken is sexy. I challenge you to find someone who would agree. However, I’ll set my antipathy aside and recommend that you flip to page 46 for some hot tips (pun intended!) on doing it like a pro. We may not make the rules, but that’s no excuse for not knowing how to play the game.

Where was I? Oh, yes — lamenting Chastity’s poor choices. The sad thing is that girls like Chastity, who evidently didn’t have any positive female role models, start buying into this hypersexual mentality when they’re barely out of training bras. Now that I think about it, Chastity was already quite developed and thus should have been wearing bras with better support. I can only assume that this was part of the reason she succumbed to the perils of oral sex several months before the rest of us did.

It wasn’t just the gross-out factor of the act itself that we disapproved of, it was that Chastity’s sexual misdeeds were flaunted so publicly. The incident supposedly happened on a Wednesday night and everyone who mattered knew about it Thursday by lunchtime. My girlfriends and I responded the only way that made sense at the time, by using Puffy Paints to write WHORE on her locker. In case you’re thinking That’s not so bad, I regret to say that wasn’t all we did.

In gym class while running laps we’d cough “McSlut” when we passed her (she had a Scottish surname). It bears noting that Chastity was slower than we were, not only because she was top-heavy, but also because she was classically unathletic, which meant we lapped her several times during one session. Unfortunately, the catchphrase caught on. As it turns out, some of us had a gift for wordplay even then!

Today I cringe when I recall our rude behavior. Here she was, this friendless, slightly-below-average-looking girl, simply trying to navigate the rocky road that is adolescence; and rather than continue to ignore her as usual, we ruined her week by making her feel worse than she probably already did about committing sodomy (allegedly). At least there is some consolation in the fact that Romeo’s reputation emerged unscathed. In fact, if memory serves, he was voted Prince of the 8th grade dance that year.

Chastity, if you’re reading this, I hope you know that we meant well. We may have gone about it the wrong way, but — and our friend Machiavelli will back me up on this — we were justified if you never again (or ever?) gave head under the bleachers. To that point, I can assure everyone that our interventions were successful, because the next rumor that went around school was not about Chastity at all, but about a girl named Trixie** giving rim jobs in the boys bathroom. Nobody had a chance to slut shame Trixie because her parents transferred her to another district.

Whew! So, there it is, my embarrassing confession laid bare for all of you to read. Truth be told, I feel a weight lifted from my shoulders. Dare I say that part of me is grateful for having gone through this ordeal? If the outcome is a renewed commitment to helping the more vulnerable women among you learn from your mistakes, it was all worth it. I long for the day when girls like Chastity can live by Joan Jett’s immortal words and not “give a damn ’bout [her] bad reputation”. Until then, please keep the slut shaming to a minimum. I know I will.

*not a real person

**not her real name

mags

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