I was out with two dear friends on Wednesday night and we got to talking about our reputations (this is back when we had reputations, I suppose. Now, who gives a damn?) and the subject of early sexual identity came up in about five seconds flat. Amidst our stories of humiliation at the hands of our peers my girlfriend Steph leans forward to tell Sara and I that a boy – she still remembers his name – said to her once, “You’re the type of girl a guy marries. Not the type he dates.”
This statement was so foreign to me I had to really sit back a moment mentally and consider the implications. See, I was the (proverbial, not actual) girl this boy was “dating” even as he set sights on eventually marrying Steph. I wouldn’t even say “date” is the right verbiage – more like, “feels up”, “gets head from”, or “fucks”, depending on the age, crassness level, and intentions of the boy in question. I am slightly ashamed to admit that for a number of years in high school I was the “girl on the side” to a socially popular boyfriend of mine who officially dated girls more likely to be Homecoming Queens (literally) or at least safely in the “Good Girl” category. I can’t excuse myself for participating in this vile behavior except to wave a vague hand at the usual lack of self-respect an adolescent female shows herself – but I also remember by the time I was fourteen my sexual identity had been forced on me somehow. The real Me might have been funny, plain-talking, smart, wanton, brash, voluptuous and (socially and sexually) available – in short, a real (developing) person. But somehow inherent in those character traits – or perhaps formative to some of them – was the identity of Slut.
At fourteen, before sexual intercourse, and before I had even a clue as to what it was all about, I still knew I wasn’t Good. I could choose to fight the battle against the Slut label stamped on my forehead, or I could give up, become the Slut, and have a good time. I mean, come on – it wasn’t much of a choice!
As much as I know you, dear readers, would love to hear more of the dirty details, that’s not what I have been thinking about since Steph’s comment. I also won’t even stop for a moment to ponder what makes boys and girls agree on and establish the Virgin-Whore continuum – neither Virgin nor Whore are entirely desirable for men, and women struggle their whole lives to integrate these qualities – because this is a mystery that remains entirely unsolved for me. No, I’ve spent the last couple days thinking about my friend and wondering if I myself can stop pedestaling the Good Girls. Not so much Steph in particular (who I adore anyway), but all the Good Girls I’ve run across in my life and (mentally) rolled my eyes at how easy they had it.
And now that I’ve been thinking about it, I’m starting to see how being the Slut worked out well for me in some ways. I have found that being on the Easy end of the spectrum (which often has nothing to do with how Easy in fact you are, but is in fact a complicated algorithm involving how socially aggressive and assertive a woman is, along with special considerations such as, in my case, breast size and fabulousness) lends a lot of comfort with the male of the species. I have never been the prettiest, best-dressed, or most well-connected female in the group, but men always felt available to me, if occasionally on limited terms (say, Friday nights only, after climbing up into my bedroom window). Being on the Slutty end of things gave me power and a certain laissez-faire attitude toward feminine etiquette. I managed to get through the first few years of femalehood without worrying much about the size of my ass, my fashion mishaps or successes, or “what people would think” (most of them liked me – another bonus to being a Slut). The Slut identity gave me a jump-start on being my own woman, although I won’t say this came without a cost (that “cost” is what I’ve been irritated at the Good Girls for not having to pay).
I got to have my cake and eat it to, though, because as it ended up I did get married (securing the position by getting knocked up out of wedlock, a classic Whore stratagem!). It turns out all my time with men helps me like them, for the most part. Or at least, the one I ended up with. Being married a handful of years and friends to those married only a handful of years, there is a temporary embargo on the Are You A Slut? subtle (and not so subtle) queries that men (and women!) throw my way. But I wonder if, when marriages start to fall apart, as kids grow, as we make friends with more divorcees and singletons, my long-lost Slut persona will be sniffed out like that of a fine truffle by a discerning swine. At the PTA potluck one look at the barrette tangled in my hair, the flushed cheeks, the hot pink bra strap slightly twisted underneath a shirt missing a button, and the perceptive man will know it: