The most stunning revelation in Lindin’s NPR interview was how the young author never assigned blame to the boys while she was in the thick of it. She absorbed misplaced guilt as if it were hers alone to bear. Her reputation as a slut began when she let a boy “go to third base”, and the rumor mill of middle school destroyed her friendships. As an adult, she longs to reach back in time comfort the teenage girl whose guilt led her to self-harm and suicide attempts.
On the bright side, the author grew up and spoke up and is a tremendously well-adjusted advocate for girls and women. As far as the boys she was involved with—they’ve grown up too. In fact, some of the boys who coerced her to “round those bases”, have come forward as adults to apologize to her. One of them has even joined her online Unslut Project whose goal is to, “undo the dangerous ‘slut’ shaming and sexual bullying in our schools, communities, media, and culture.” I applaud the courage of these men to own their past transgressions and to do something positive now to help curb the alarming tendency we have to perpetuate the normalcy of ‘slut shaming’—a phenomenon so widespread it has made its way into the legal nomenclature as well as the dictionary:
“Slut shaming- a form of social stigma applied to people, especially women and girls, who are perceived to violate traditional expectations for sexual behaviors. Some examples of circumstances where women are "slut-shamed" include violating accepted dress codes by dressing in perceived sexually provocative ways, requesting access to birth control, having premarital, casual, or promiscuous sex, or being raped or otherwise sexually assaulted (which is known as victim blaming).”
“Slut shaming- the judgment objectifying and passed on the sexuality of woman, often of teenage years, that her choice of revealing or tight apparel is indicative of consent if not encouragement to sexual intimacy.”
In my years as an educator, I witnessed the ramifications of slut shaming and how the ensuing rumors and guilt impacted a girl’s grades, social life, and sense of self. A few years ago, at a middle school in South Carolina, two eighth grade girls both wrote first-person accounts about sexual abuse and had the courage to read their stories out loud to the class. The following week, the same two girls were at one another’s throats because one had called the other a “slut”. These two girls who had bonded in their shared suffering were that quick to turn on each another.
When I reminded them of what they had in common, they wept and embraced. But a voice of reason is often absence in these battles waged under the radar of adult supervision. Texts and Instagram updates fuel the fires burning between classes and in the isolation of bedrooms with open laptops and closed doors.
I applaud Emily Lindin for opening the door to this conversation we should all be having. It gives me hope that my eight-year-old daughter will stand up for herself and her friends, and that I’ll have the courage to show her how.
Have you participated in slut shaming? Been the victim of those types of rumors? Please feel free to weigh in in the comments.