Monday 30 June 2014

Sluts vs. Touch-Me-Nots: The Catch-22 of Being a Girl

Summer vacation has begun!  Laissez les bon temps rouler!

This is Frick's summer before 8th grade.  What a magical time.  It really takes me back to my own "Wonder Years".  For me the summer before 8th grade was when I got my first period.  It was a time where me and my girlfriends talked endlessly about sex and spent lots of time watching the boys skateboard out in front of my friend Jen's house.  We also spent lots of time talking and worrying about high school.

I remember being a little concerned about grade 9 initiation, mostly because me and my other friend Jen managed to piss off the entire graduating class of grade eight girls that year.  They were bullies who liked to push around us grade 7 girls because they felt, as 8th graders, they ruled the school and Jen and I were having none of it.  (Fun fact: I got into my first/only school yard fight with a grade 8 girl that year.  It was a bit of relief that aside from being much larger than me, she had no idea how to throw a punch.)

But what worried me more than getting bullied as a "minor niner" was trying to understand what it meant to be a teenaged girl, socially.  It turned out to be way more complicated than I had imagined.  One night, I think it was at one of our slumber parties, the Jens and I were all talking about what it was going to be like in high school.

Jen B:  I heard that in high school, if you're a girl, everyone calls you a slut or a touch-me-not.

Me:  What?  Really?  How does that work?

Jen B:  Well if you do anything with a boy, even just kissing, you'll be a slut and everyone will talk about you.

Me:  Well, that's easy.  I don't want to be a slut.

Jen B: Yeah, but if you're not a slut everyone will say you're a touch-me-not and no boys will ask you out.

( I don't know what your middle school culture was, but for us "touch-me-not" was our standard expression for some goody-two-shoes who never does anything bad and is a total loser and no one would, like, ever want to be labeled as a touch-me-not.  A touch-me-not can NEVER hope to be popular and being popular was a big deal.)

Me:  But I want boys to ask me out.  I don't want to be a loser.

Jen B:  Well then you'll have to be a slut then.

Me:  That's not fair!  What about the boys?  Does anyone say anything about them?

Jen B: (just shrugs.)

Me:  So those are our only choices?

Jen B:  Pretty much.

Me:  What do we do?

Jen B:  I don't know.

What I didn't know was that we weren't the ones who got to choose.   You got labeled by others whether you liked it or not.  You were held entirely responsible for any attention or lack of attention you got from boys, as if that were a thing you could possibly control.  If you were invisible to boys it proved you were an ugly, boring loser through your own choices like not wearing the right clothes or make up.  If you got attention from boys it proved you were a big whore through your own choices like not wearing the right clothes or make up.

The only way to avoid slut or touch-me-not status was to get a special magical talisman called a BOYFRIEND.  Girls with BOYFRIENDS were the only ones you couldn't mess with.  When you got a BOYFRIEND you got elevated to the status of being Bobby's Girl and that would make you popular because other girls would like you again and stop talking about you behind your back.  Having a BOYFRIEND proved you weren't an invisible touch-me-not loser.  Having a BOYFRIEND made other boys stop paying attention to you which proved you were not (or no longer) a slut.

The problem was, the only way to get a BOYFRIEND was to risk being called a slut because in order to get a BOYFRIEND you needed to attract the attention of a boy somehow.  And attracting the attention of boys on purpose?  SLUTTY McSLUTTERSON you are!

(Le sigh.)

I am very glad that Frick doesn't have to worry about being a slut. I'm not saying that his behaviour won't be strictly policed by his peers (Hello, Heteronormative Bro-Culture).  I'm just saying that at least his social navigations don't involve this lose-lose kind of bullshit.  At least with boys there was a possibility of winning that didn't involve some kind of relationship status symbol.

As for us girls, it seems we must lose no matter what we do.

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