The S Word

23 July, 2014 Musing Musers, Random 61 comments

A thing you may not know about me: I was a slut in high school.

New_school_slut_easy_a

When I say that, I mean that when I was a YA, I was a person other people called a slut. As far as I was concerned, I was doing my thing and people were haters. As a result, I have a lot of thoughts (some are slightly aggressive thoughts) on the necessity of sex positive YA and doing away with the whole idea of slut as a negative concept. The way I see it is if everyone is being smart and respectful, then do your thing whatever your thing may be.

Unfortunately not everyone shares my attitude and my YA experience heavily reflected the religiously-driven oppressive attitude that is so detrimentally pervasive in regards to human sexuality.

For example:

  • The summer between seventh and eighth grade I sprouted boobs. Not like training bra boobs, I went straight to a full B cup leaning towards C basically overnight and I have the stretch marks to prove it. When school started post summer break I abruptly stopped being the weird girl who used to gallop around the parking lot at recess and became the big-boobed girl boys wanted to talk to. Unfortunately I hadn’t developed social skills yet so I’d usually respond with an awkward giggle before galloping away. My friends staged an intervention about my behavior and growing reputation. It should be noted that at this point I had yet to have my first kiss.
  • I wore a spaghetti strap tank top to an eighth grade school dance. I danced with a boy I’d been crushing on for months. It was that kind of awkward middle school slow-dancing where you lock your elbows and sway with about a foot of space between you. The principle pulled me aside and told me I needed to put on a sweater and cease my lewd behavior if I wanted to stay. To my knowledge no one else was reprimanded for their dress or behavior. On Monday, the school announcements included a bulletin on appropriate, lady-like behavior at school functions.
  • I went to a new school when I started high school, looking for a fresh start away from the tiny private school crowd that made up my elementary school. Towards the end of my freshman year I lost my virginity with my boyfriend. We’d been dating for six months, flirting for nine (this is like five years in high school time), he was my first “real” boyfriend and I thought I was in love with him. His mom found out and told all of her PTA (Parent Teacher Association) friends I was a whore. They told their kids. My boyfriend broke up with me that week.
  • I went to a party and hooked up with a guy I was friendly with from some of my classes. He tried to get me to go upstairs with him and I didn’t want to. He said (loudly, in the middle of the party) ‘Why the hell not? Everyone knows you’ll fuck anyone.’ He was not the last person to say something like this.
  • I was up at the front of the classroom talking to a teacher. A guy ran up and pulled my skirt down (I later found out it was a bet to see what kind of panties I was wearing). I kicked him in the nuts. I turned to the teacher and demanded to know if he was going to do anything. I pointed out that it was sexual harassment. He replied that my response was assault and advised me to dress less provocatively in the future (not that it matters, I was wearing a crew neck tshirt and a calf-length skirt).
  • There was a guy I had a thing for. We were kind of friends and we’d made out a few times. I drove him home one night and asked if I could come in. He told me he didn’t want a girlfriend. I told him that was fine, I didn’t want a boyfriend. On Monday he wouldn’t look me in the eye and I had a new locker room nickname. I never found out what it was, but it was bad enough that a friend punched another kid in the face over it. Two weeks later the guy was dating a “nice” girl. He never talked to me again.
  • I went to a party and hooked up with a guy I was friendly with from some of my classes. He tried to get me to go upstairs with him and I didn’t want to. I went anyway because what the hell, that’s all I was good for, right? How many people had to say the same thing before I accepted it as true?

These are just a handful of instances that stood out and stuck with me, most of the whispers and comments faded to background noise. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to turn this into a pity party. At this point in my life it’s all water under the bridge, I’ve embraced my fabulousness and am not ashamed of going after what I wanted. Also, high school wasn’t all bad. I had an amazing group of friends who had my back. But it still got pretty bad sometimes.

So how does this tie in to YA? (It does, I promise.) For as long as I’ve been able to read I’ve had a book in my hand (or close by). Reading has always been fun but it’s also been my escape. When life gets too stressful, I bury myself in books. This was especially true in high school. I lived for the stories where the cool guy would take off a girl’s glasses and she’d shake out her hair and they’d stroll off into their happily ever after. I was convinced that there was a guy out there who would recognize all of the things that made me me and love me for them. All I had to do was meet this perfect person and all of the bad shit would melt away (yes, I measured a lot of my self worth by external validation, sue me, I was 16).

shesallthat(Basically this minus the bet part)

As great as these books were (are) and as comforting as my fantasy boyfriend was, there was always something missing. Where were the girls who liked a lot of guys without it being something she had to atone for? Where were the girls who had sex with their boyfriends on a random Wednesday afternoon and it wasn’t a Major Plot Point? Where were the girls buying condoms and researching birth control? Where were the girls having sex with guys they had no interest in dating? I’m sure those books were out there but they weren’t prolific enough that I was finding them (keep in mind these were the days before the internet was a big thing). Hell, it was hard to find a YA book where a “nice” girl had sex at all. If I wanted a sexy read (and I did), I had to head for the adult section. (Which, naturally, only added fuel to the fire when my bag would spill and a romance novel would fall out.)

The message I subconsciously picked up from all of this was that there was something wrong with me. Normal girls weren’t interested in sex more than romance, good girls waited for the right guy and the right moment and then stayed with that guy forever (or at least for the rest of high school and maybe a little college). This compounded the messages I was absorbing every day and resulted in a whole lot of internalized self-hatred. Being the contrary-minded sort of person I am, I developed a ‘oh, you think this is bad? You haven’t seen anything yet’ attitude and acted accordingly. I’m not trying to excuse the trouble I got myself into, I was not a victim, I made my own choices. But looking back, I think it’s fair to say that a lot of my incredibly shitty attitude was a protective shell to keep people from hurting me. Maybe I wouldn’t have been quite so aggressively contrary if I hadn’t felt so isolated and wrong.

What I’m trying to say is that sex positive YA is important (sex positivity being the attitude that consensual, responsible sexual activity is healthy and normal whether or not you’re doing it). It’s necessary for all of the reasons all diverse representation is necessary. It gives girls like me something to relate to, something to hold on to and remind ourselves that we aren’t messed up in some fundamental way for having a sex drive and the gall to embrace it.

Honestly, it’s important for countless other reasons, some of them are covered here in a glorious twitter rant by Ellis (who has also put together a fantastic list of some excellent examples of sex positive YA). It’s important for the same reasons that eradicating the entire idea of sluts and negatively judging girls for their sexuality is important. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a girl wanting to get down in a safe, responsible manner of her choosing (or not get down, or dress however, or like whoever, or any of the million subtle ways we’re policed on a daily basis) and it is high fucking time we stop teaching people there is.

 

Meg Morley

Meg Morley

Co-bloggery at Cuddlebuggery
Meg is an all-around book nerd who just really wants to talk about books, preferably with other people but by herself will do. Find her on Goodreads.
Meg Morley
@brokeandbookish @mizgillianberry @loltergeist @paperiot @BooksofAmber WELCOME TO THE MADNESS WE ARE HERE FOR YOU - 1 min ago
Meg Morley

Latest posts by Meg Morley (see all)


61 Responses to “The S Word”

  1. Christina (A Reader of Fictions)

    I like that you galloped away from the boys. That’s very ugy.

    Ahahaha, middle school dancing. Also, “lewd behavior” ugh. I once got told off by a boss for having worn a shirt that was too low cut days before. She said it wasn’t so much that it was inappropriate on ME, but that it would be on someone with larger breasts, so it wasn’t fair for me to be able to wear it.

    Poor young Meg. How did his mom find out? Also, what an idiot dumping you for being a whore for…sexing HIM. I bet no one said shit to him.

    *hugs young Meg*

    I WILL KILL THIS TEACHER.

    My heart is breaking here, Megasaurus. You are the best and society is the worst and I want to go punch some people.

    What 16-year old didn’t think about external validation. Hell yes I expected a hot guy to come swoop me up and save me from my lonely life. Yeah, that didn’t happen.

    All of this. ALL OF THIS.
    Christina (A Reader of Fictions) recently posted…Review: Northanger Abbey by Val McDermidMy Profile

    • Meg Morley

      Hahahahaha, I thought ugys would like the galloping :D

      Ugh to your shirt situation. I mean, I get that if you work in a business-like environment you should dress business-like but that’s more about presenting a professional appearance than being too sexy. I mean shit, a fiercely tailored pencil skirt and blouse can be way sexier than a shirt cut down to your belly-button.

      His mom found out because we used to write each other notes (we didn’t have any classes together so we’d swap letters in the hallway) and he left one talking about it in his pants pocket and his mom did all of his laundry. Whomp whomp. I believe he got a lot of high fives when it all came out. Yay for double standards!

      *hugs back*

      That teacher was an asshole. He was a sub and sucked for a whole litany of reasons.

      You are the best and thank you for continually being such an awesome and smart person. I couldn’t have posted this if I didn’t have amazing friends (i.e. you) to be there if it all went horribly wrong.

      I feel like it’s important to at least reference the idea of not validating yourself by other people even though it’s a thing that everyone does because to hell with other people. Also the whole prince charming fantasy is fun but it can set you up for some major disappointment when you find out prince charming is either non-existent or a real live person who is not perfect because real live people are not perfect.

      *more hugs*

  2. Cathryn

    This is fantastic!!!! Thank you for posting this. I was probably the opposite in high school since I looked like I was 10 when I was 16. I didn’t even have my first kiss until freshman year in college and that’s when I went a little wild and got a reputation. I was so happy that a guy showed any interest that I didn’t care about the situation or the ramifications. My college was small so in some ways it was a lot like high school. I know that I was talked about by guys in the locker room and was definitely called slut by more than a few people. I also escaped into books but by that point I was reading the historical romance books where many times the same thing is happening as in the YA books. Your post hit home for me and I thank you for putting it out there.

    I’m off to go look at that list of sex positive YA.

    • Meg Morley

      Thank you for reading this!

      I love (and by love I mean violently hate) how you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t when it comes to sex. It’s confusing. People are going to do or not do with they’re going to do. Can we just get the judgement out of our collective, societal system and move on to things that actually matter?

      That list is AMAZING and includes so many of my favorite books. I highly recommend What I Thought Was True and Tiger Lily and Georgia Nicolson and the Lumatere Trilogy and Graceling and the Seven Realms series and honestly I could keep doing this for an hour.

  3. Beth W

    *applauds*
    This, exactly. I was also branded a slut (firstly, for getting boobs before anyone else, and secondly, for enjoying flirting of a witty nature- although I didn’t lose my virginity until age 19). I’ve been slut-shamed in a variety of ways (uncannily similar to yours) from ages 9-28 or so, almost entirely by other women (who feel threatened, apparently). I hate that whole ‘pull others down to feel justified in your own issues’ mentality, and I LOVE that there are grown-up discussions about this happening on blogs and Twitter. And, of course, in YA- give our girls good examples! Thank you for this post, and those links!
    Beth W recently posted…Humpday Confessions: New Car, Free Stuff & Swap TimeMy Profile

    • Meg Morley

      Ugh, I’m so sorry you’ve experienced it. I don’t understand how people can justify the whole ‘if you look a certain way when then you obviously act a certain way’ thing and how it’s okay when it comes women and sex but not with anything else. Where is the logic? Thank you for reading, this is an important conversation and I hugely appreciate you comment :)

  4. Gillian

    MEG MY DEAREST MOST BELOVED MEG I WANT TO MARRY YOU AND THIS POST and I wish I could think of something deeper and more relevant to say besides “Preach, sister” and then cuddlehug you for your wise words of wisdomosity and then i want to nutkick all the shitty people who slutshamed your fabulous self and all the other fabulous selves out there, in life and in fiction.

    • Meg Morley

      OBVIOUSLY I ACCEPT! Cuddlehugs right back. I like to think that karma has nutkicked everyone who deserves it (I have no idea if this is true but shhhhhh yes it is).

    • Meg Morley

      I’m kind of jealous, I have the worst resting bitch face. I’ll start smiling or cracking up about something I’m thinking and then people assume I’m friendly and want to make small talk. Thank you for commenting! Talking about this stuff is the best first step to making it stop.

  5. Pili

    *applauds*
    It makes my blood boil how we continue to shame women for their sexuality to this day, blame them for being raped and then having their sexuality exploited in ads and movies and the like… And the thing is, if we want it to stop, it’s US the women the first ones that need to stop that behaviour, to change whatever stupid prejucides against ourselves that we got stuck in our heads and make sure we change things!
    Pili recently posted…Waiting On Wednesday #52!!My Profile

    • Meg Morley

      So true. We sexualize girls from a creepily young age and then turn on them if they act the way we’ve taught them to. It’s awful and senseless. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  6. Ellis

    Meg, I love you, and the fact that you wrote this absolutely amazing and super important post is one of the many reasons why. I hate that people have treated you like this, and that they felt justified to say and do all of that to you makes me want to murder them. Judgemental, whore-shaming, victim-blaming teachers and authority figures included.

    They have a responsibility to know better and should not encourage despicable behaviour like that but shitty, narrow-minded people are of all ages it seems. That second example enrages me so much (they all do) and the whole thing about appropriate ladylike behaviour is such utter bullshit.

    “The message I subconsciously picked up from all of this was that there was something wrong with me. ”

    THIS. This is what many people don’t get. It’s very easy to tell someone they should just shrug it off and that they shouldn’t care about what other people say and think, but it very much does matter, especially when this translates to a pattern of how people think they can treat you. Again, I’m so so sorry this happened to you and I sincerely hope karma is going to whack these people in the face several times. And otherwise I will.

    Thank you for including me. It might sound silly but I feel quite honoured, to be honest. This is a wonderful post and I admire you so much for being willing to go so personal (amongst the many other qualities that have produced undying admiration in a certain waffle). I think it’s important that you did this, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to help a bunch of other people who’ve had similar experiences, however vaguely they resemble yours. I love you.

    *eternal hugs*
    Ellis recently posted…Top Ten…ish Characters I Would Want With Me On A Deserted IslandMy Profile

    • Meg Morley

      I love you too Ellis! Seriously, I don’t think I would have posted this without you. You constantly inspire me with you brilliance and eloquence about this stuff and all other things (basically you’re the best is where I’m going with this). Thank you for being constantly amazing and wonderful and supportive and I’m not crying okay? It’s just face water. Don’t worry about it.

      But yes, agree agree agree. People tend to brush off the part where you internalize all of these horrible messages, often without even realizing it, and they build up and fester and perpetuate behavior that we are capable of being so much better than.

      We need to get over this bullshit so we can turn our attention to larger issues that our actually deserving of society’s collective focus. Not who’s sleeping with who or not or where or how many times and all of this trivial shit that is no one’s business in the first place.

      Thank you for your words and lists and being you.

      *eternal hugs*

  7. Zarah

    I. Love. You.
    Thank you for having the spine to stand up for you – past and present – and to represent the kind of women I would love for my teenage daughters to look up to (if I had kids.) You rock.
    Zarah recently posted…I’m not saying…My Profile

    • Meg Morley

      This is quite possibly the coolest thing anyone has ever said to me (I’m not used to thinking of myself in a role model-y context), thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  8. Kiersten @ We Live and Breathe Books
    Twitter:

    You’re totally right: I think the whole “slut” stigma is something we as a society need to eradicate. While I’ve never been called a slut, I am guilty to having slut-shamed in middle school and high school. To be honest, I didn’t even think of it as wrong when I was doing it. But the more I think about it, there’s no reason to treat people that way – to bully them because they like something that’s totally nature. I think it’s fine for everyone to have their own opinions about promiscuity but you shouldn’t project your opinion onto everyone you know, shaming them for being different. It’s really just another form of bullying and it’s kind of anti-feminist if you think about it. If men can do whatever they want with their bodies and not get criticized, women should have the same privilege.

    On a side note I cannot believe that thing with the teacher happened to you. I live in New Jersey so I don’t think the stigma was as bad for girls I knew as opposed to other areas (although it was still bad).

  9. Dahlia Adler
    Twitter:

    How did you make me love you MORE? I did not even know there was higher to go!!

    I wasn’t a “slut” in high school. Instead, my first kiss was with a boy who was very sweet on the walk in which he kissed me, if you ignore that I said I didn’t want to go on that walk multiple times, until I got pulled out of my seat and was too embarrassed by everyone encouragingly watching us to stand my ground. (Good thing he decided he was in love with my best friend a few weeks later.) After that, I didn’t kiss another boy for a year and a half, and when I did, I was an asshole about it, and let myself be *his* first kiss, and I wasn’t sweet about it at all. Because all I wanted was to own “the first kiss” back, but really, nothing can do that.

    Completely different, obviously, but the point remains that THE THINGS THAT HAPPEN TO US IN HIGH SCHOOL MATTER. I am obsessed with writing consent into my sex scenes because I want them to be part of that conversation. And every YA author has to make the decision about how (s)he’s going to approach the issue of sex, and what contribution they want to make to the greater discussion. And I hope that conversation is moving in a sex-positive direction, and a consent-celebration direction; I sure as hell do my best to support the authors and books I think take it there. Because no one should think the shit that happened to you in high school is okay. It isn’t. And pop culture, including YA Lit, should be making that clear.
    Dahlia Adler recently posted…A Little Bit About UNDER THE LIGHTSMy Profile

  10. Brittany Todd
    Twitter:

    A-freakin-men sister! I tend to laugh at the scenes where fthey “do it” in YA books cause that isn’t what real life is like. Granted these are stories but still why can’t it be talked about or closer to reality. I was the same way as you when I was younger minus the boobs. High school can be a cruel and damaging time. The worst part is thatThe things that are world ending don’t end up mattering at all a few years after. I’m from south jersey and my school was pretty liberal but I still had a bit of bad rep. Anyway thank for this post. I’m sure many of us empathize and your awesome for putting it out there. We as women need to stop letting anyone make us feel bad for wanting to be sexual creatures. We should be able to embrace it and talk about it without labels or judgement.
    Brittany Todd recently posted…♡Stormfront by K.R. Conway♡My Profile

  11. Lauren

    This whole post is awesome. You’re not alone in those experiences; a lot of those things happened to me as a teenager, and in fact the one time I didn’t go upstairs with a boy at a party, the next day the entire school was abuzz with the story of how ‘frigid’ I was. Nice. And it really upsets me that this still happens in schools. My eldest daughter is 14, and I was called in to see the principal over her apparently fighting in the hallways. As it turned out, a boy had asked her out, and when she said ‘no’, the boy tried to drag her by the arm into the nearest toilets – God knows what for and thankfully we didn’t have to find out because my daughter punched him in the face and broke his nose. By the time I got to the school I could hear my baby yelling at her principal that “men like [him] are the reason my mum taught me how to throw a punch because [he] lets boys think that’s okay!” I have never been such a proud mama bear to be honest. But this is the point; girls are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t, and it’s about time YA lit started teaching our young adults that this shouldn’t be the way the world works. In short, thank you for this beautiful post!

  12. Morgan
    Twitter:

    Thank you for writing this wonderful post; I had about zero experience in high school (and most of college) but it was more from a shyness perspective than a not-wanting-to kind of thing. Or the guys I liked weren’t interested and the ones who were bolted after a few days. I didn’t wait to lose my virginity on purpose per se; the older I got, the more freaked out a guy would get when I’d tell them. I was virgin shamed in a way and started thinking there was something wrong with me. Guys would stop calling me or hanging out. But luckily I did find a nice guy that I dated who wanted to talk it through and make sure it was a good experience. Took longer than I thought haha- I was 23! I think it’s awesome that you were trying to figure out how to be yourself in the midst of so many shitty attitudes. People can be cruel, and horrible. Maybe I wasn’t cool enough to hear rumors or maybe my school was a bit more progressive, but I really don’t have any memories of slut shaming in high school. Which is rare. My roommate right after college dated and slept with a lot of people and I never thought anything of it. I knew she was safe and I knew she could take care of herself; who was I to judge who she wanted to have fun with? And she is one of the most amazing people I know. I hope more sex positive stories come out in YA as well. Young girls need them.

  13. idkelinz

    I love that you shared your experiences–ugh that sounds like a tough growing up. I’m so happy you wrote this though because at 27, I walked down the street today in Philly, and a guy said from the window of his truck “Nice boobs” to me. I felt awful like I dressed the wrong way or something. And while it’s not involving sex, it’s the whole “feeling like it’s your fault when you’re just being you”. And I totally love the idea of promoting healthy sex in YA. In all honesty, I think youths today are into some stuff many before never had even thought to have experienced so it would be nice to see the positive come out in literature…it’s a start!

    Also, solidarity sisters…a little before 7th I sprouted heavily upstairs and was most definitely socially awkward (ha! still am) when you’re that age–how to handle all that? Lastly–your teacher was a DICK–you shouldn’t be wearing a skirt? To hell with them! The kid justifiably needed that kick to the crotch! *kisses*

  14. Kaja

    This is wonderful!
    My experience was totally different (I was a *really* late bloomer), but I always found it incredibly sad that girls felt shamed for having desires and wanting sexual experience. I wasn’t raised in a religious environment, but many of my friends were and they had real issues with their self-esteem.
    Thanks for writing this post!
    Kaja recently posted…Exploring SummerMy Profile

  15. Addy Rae

    Very, very well said, and you made me think.

    I was the ‘frigid’ girl in HS, always turning down any guys/girls who approached, even to be friends sometimes. Not because I wasn’t interested, but because I had a LOT of health issues going on that I didn’t want my classmates to know about, and the meds were making me miserably sick. I really couldn’t deal with anything more, you know? So I got the ‘cold fish’ and ‘hostile goth’ labels.

    There was slut shaming at our school, and it irritated me when the backlash landed on my friends, but I’m sorry to say I didn’t really care that much otherwise. Didn’t care who slept with who or why it mattered in the least, didn’t care that other people were getting hurt. Too wound up in me, me, me! Focused on hiding the sick.

    It’s a shame, looking back on it. :(

  16. Judith

    I think you are AMAZING (in general, but also) for writing this post. I’m mostly super angry at all those authority figures for letting you feel like shit, because fucking hell. I’m so sorry this happened to you and I would really like to punch all those people in the face now. I’m glad you now realize how awesome you are. <3

    I don't have experience with being called a slut, but I DO have experience with virgin shaming. I was a late bloomer, even my first kiss at fifteen was considered late by some people, and people (I used to say friends but no) often called me out for my lack of experience. Which, of course, made me even more insecure and close myself off from experiences. Hell, I'm still insecure because of that, even though I have also realized that I am awesome and those people can go fuck themselves.

    I'm a huge fan of Ellis's list because I think it's SO important that YA has a sex-positive attitude, not just about teens but about girls in general, because yes, girls also have/like sex. This is why I think the Anatomy series by Daria Snadowsky, Virgin by Radhika Sanghani and all Huntley Fitzpatrick books are so so important. ESPECIALLY What I Thought Was True. Oh, and Boomerang, which is NA but that is not of important.

    Am I even making sense anymore? Idek, I'm just typing whatever comes to mind. Anyway, I think you're the greatest for typing this and screw all those other people.
    Judith recently posted…Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved BeforeMy Profile

  17. Ilex

    Meg, I love this post and I want to simultaneously hug your high school self and smack a few other people from your anecdotes, so how many arms do I need for that?

    I was guilty of some slut-shaming in high school. Then my best friend became friends with a major “slut,” so I started hanging around with that girl as well, and my whole perception/attitude changed. I stopped slut-shaming after that, and no one in my books gets to do it, either — not without getting called on it.

    The whole slut-thing and girls and sex is such a mess. I was slut-shaming partly because I was jealous of those girls with big breasts that boys were actually interested in when I was a 2 x 4. And partly because I was jealous of any girls who were getting to have sex, when my sex drive was driving me crazy and I had no one but myself to do anything about it with. I don’t know what-all is behind other people’s slut-shaming, but that was definitely the base of mine. Those girls had to be bad!! It’s pretty embarrassing in retrospect.

    I’m all for sex positive stories about girls because I’m so sick of this weird double-standard that’s applied to female sexuality. We’re supposed to present ourselves as if we’re eager for sex (a la female pop stars) — but at the same time, we’re not REALLY supposed to like sex, or want it for ourselves; it’s still supposed to be a male-realm thing. It’s so horribly confusing.

    And when I was working for a bit on one story with a male protagonist and one with a female protagonist, I found it so easy to let the boy have sexual feelings and awareness and to masturbate — and so hard to let the girl do the same things, because my inner censor jumped in for her (“this story will be banned from all school libraries! Nobody thinks it’s okay for girls to feel this way!”). It makes me so angry that my inner censor is saying that at all. And all my girl character is doing is reflecting how I felt at her age.

    Sorry, too long! But thank you, Meg, for being so open about yourself. Your post and the comments here have all been great. We all need to keep talking about this stuff.

  18. Carrie Mesrobian
    Twitter:

    Brilliant. Thank you for posting this. The experiences you described are so familiar to me…but somehow the rest of the world doesn’t hear or see them. And we need to hear and see them MORE.

    We can’t talk about sexual assault and rape – when sex is bad – if we can’t even speak out it when it’s good. And we need examples of it being good!

    I will check out Ellis’ book recs tomorrow – I’ve been kicked off GoodReads after my allotte 5 minutes of the day – and I loved her rant, too.

    Thank you again.

  19. Paula Stokes

    I heart you. I was a sheltered good girl in high school, always feeling this pressure to behave the way other girls seemed to. Eventually I broke out of that oppressive shell and became what many would call a slut in my 20s. Depending on who you talk to, I might still be a slut. And you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing.

    I’m all for people waiting for their One True Love or marriage or whatever if that’s what they want to do. But what’s right for one person isn’t necessarily right for the next person. A girl who likes sex or hooking up or embracing her urges instead of cloistering herself away in a facade of propriety isn’t an inferior human being. Two people hooking up on the first date isn’t always a girl desperate for validation or a guy taking advantage. Sometimes it’s just two people who are in that place where they need or want a physical connection. And that’s okay. And even if people think it’s not okay, it’s still happening, whether or not authors write about it.
    Paula Stokes recently posted…Lainey and Bianca’s first date tipsMy Profile

  20. Nemo @ the Moonlight Library

    At the opposite end of the spectrum, I wasn’t sexually active as a teenager and I was made to feel like there was something wrong with me for not being interested in boys or sex, or even having sex with my long-term high school boyfriend, who eventually dumped me for someone who would have sex with him.

    There was something wrong with me. It was called trauma from a pre-teen sexual assault. I felt shamed as a virgin so I lied about my sexual history with my ex. What kind of girl dates a guy for two years and doesn’t have sex with him? The kind of girl who doesn’t even know what ‘horny’ feels like until she’s well past the age of consent. And then, no hook-ups. Romantic partners only – too vulnerable for anything else. Ended up losing my virginity to the man I recently married.

    This is why I’m concerned about sex in YA – I like seeing it present and healthy because I know it happens and I hate slut-shaming, but as a non-sexually-active teen I can’t possibly connect or identify with (fictional) teen girls who feel sexually attraction. I know a lot of it is to do with my past trauma, but since I didn’t even know what sexual attraction was until I was in my twenties, I find it really hard to identify with sexually active fictional teen girls.
    Nemo @ the Moonlight Library recently posted…2 Year Blogiversary Giveaway and a Brief HiatusMy Profile

  21. Allison L
    Twitter:

    Wow! First of all, thank you for this post, Meg. It is very thought provoking. I do feel that there is a definite lack of sex positive books in YA. When I was younger, I never thought much about it because while I loved reading I could more or less relate to the “unnoticed” girls in books. I also remember when my school started presenting all these rules about how a girl could or could not dress because it may be distracting to the boys in class and some people were very upset about it but I couldn’t understand why. I didn’t completely understand the unfairness and the labels which were being presented. I remember when girls my age tried to act out against it, and I didn’t understand the need to because I wasn’t one to cause trouble or to cause a scene. I was shy and quiet and basically at the time, I think I wanted to stay that way.

    Now, I understand the importance of fighting against those rules, and I know how wrong slut shaming is. I also know the importance of discussing sex and allowing it to be present in YA books. Not including it sends the wrong message to anyone who may read YA books. Ignoring it does not make it go away. By including it, an author can offer a representation of a teenage girl or boy who may other wise feel ignored. An author can also promote ideas of safe sex and the importance of consent in relationships. Or dressing the way that makes you feel comfortable. Or that it’s okay to spend your Friday nights curled up on the couch with a book instead of out at a party. There should definitely be more books out there that fit a wide range of high school experiences. Not one experience is necessarily the same. This is important. What happens in high school can in many ways shape the rest of your life.

  22. Christina (My Life In Books)
    Twitter:

    I seriously wish there was a way to push a big “LOVE” button for this post and all the replies. I didn’t have sex until the summer before my freshman year of college but it was extremely liberating and had I known what sex could be like in high school…well, let’s just say that I probably would have had a “reputation” as well.

    Sex is such a natural human urge for intimacy and pleasure. As long as there’s protection involved, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. More sex-positive YA!!

  23. Natalie Monroe
    Twitter:

    This is such a fantastic post and highlights a lot of what I think is wrong with sex portrayed in YA. It’s always a one time thing and usually done in the last book to ‘cement’ the heroine and hero’s relationship. And it’s ALWAYS off-screen. I know tweens read YA, but thanks to the Internet, I’m sure they’re a lot more educated on the subject than parents think (or want they to be) they are.

  24. Linda from La La in the Library.
    Twitter:

    I find a few problems with this. First of all the YA demographic includes 12-14 year olds. Also, if YA starts to “normalize” high school age sex then the girls who already feel pressured to have sex before they are ready, will feel even more pressured. Birth control, no matter how well planned and used isn’t 100%, and condoms break all the time. The only thing that protects against stds are condoms, so if one breaks a teen would be exposing themselves to some incurable, life devastating diseases.
    Linda from La La in the Library. recently posted…NeEdFuL THING…My Profile

    • Ilex

      Linda, I can understand your concerns.

      But I don’t think the point of sex-positive YA is to give the impression that “everyone is doing it.” Rather, it’s to show one girl making her own decisions about why she wants sex (or not), and hopefully giving readers some insight into why those reasons may be “good” (i.e., fulfilling) or not. IMO, even younger kids who are nowhere near ready to actually have sex themselves can definitely benefit from seeing these kinds of considerations, so when the time comes, they can apply them to their own experiences. And they may decide to have sex — or not. Most of the YA novels that I’ve read which are sex-positive have also been clear that not wanting to have sex is okay, too.

      I think the odds of a teen catching an incurable, life-devastating disease from another teen are pretty low, but I agree that this is a very good reason for caution. I don’t think I’ve read any YA novels involving sex which were all “rah rah no risks,” though.

  25. Laura Plus Books

    OMG YES PLEASE. Like, I’ve been single my whole life since I’m still young but is it wrong that I want more real books? I get why people would want to read books about nice, pretty, smart girls who think they’re ugly or whatever because they can relate. But seriously, where the hell are the girls who are actually confident about themselves? I’m so freaking sick of these girls who are all “ew boys and ew I’m so ugly blah blah” and then a prince sweeps them off their feet. And the poor ‘slut’ is the villain in the story and goes to shit. Like what? I’m just getting so bored and I totally need this drama!
    Laura Plus Books recently posted…Author Interview: Italy & Shakespeare – Masquerade by Kylie FornasierMy Profile

  26. Huntley Fitzpatrick

    I love this post and all the responses so very much. I want to repost it on my FB. Would that be okay?

    The last thing any girl needs is shaming and blaming. Encouraging kids to think things through and make the choices that are right for them is so incredibly important. Essential.

    In high school, I was a “good” girl and felt guilty about my own feelings of not wanting to be quite so good. In college, I was stalked by someone I barely knew. It was bad–hate mail for me, hate mail for any guy he saw me with. I felt terribly ashamed, as though I’d done something awful. I kept the sitation largel to myself, and a few close friends, and relatives. I didn’t even want to tell the boy I was in love with about it. When I finally did, he asked “What did you do to bring this on?” That hurt more than anything.

    So, yes, YA needs to cover the whole spectrum on this subject, and girls and women need to support one another and everyone’s choices–which I see great examples of in these follow up notes.

    Clearly, you were as strong and amazing as a teenager as you have obviously grown up to be.

  27. Gaby @ Queen Ella Bee Reads

    I realize now that, even though I tweeted about this, I never left you a comment. So here we go:

    First: I love you and all of the things you are no matter what. You’re great/fantastic/hilarious/awesome and all of those things in spite of all those terrible things you had to go through. Especially that teacher I swear when I finish my time machine I’m going back there to get at that teacher.

    Second: I love that you told your story. And then applied it to things in my YA. My experiences as a girl who is, romantically, Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed are very different from yours (in fact, probably the reverse I got a lot of crap for not hooking up), but somehow still hurtful and I think all of these stories need to be told in YA. Not every girl is the timid one who’s kissed a couple boys but none of it’s been meaningful and has some life issue and then needs the PERFECT BOY to swoop in and do all the good kissing while simultaneously assisting in the life issue fixing.

    So what I’m saying is we should pair up and write companion books, one about a girl who does a lot of kissing and gets shit for it and another who doesn’t do any kissing and gets a lot of shit for it. It could be a duology of excellence. And it could not be about some perfect boy swooping in (although we could throw in a nice boy for swoons). YOU IN?
    Gaby @ Queen Ella Bee Reads recently posted…Review: Don’t Even Think About It by Sarah MlynowskiMy Profile

  28. Alexia @ Adventures in Reading
    Twitter:

    Amazing post. Simply amazing Meg. Ginormous hugs to you. I hate, hate, HATE that you were put through this. I’m absolutely LIVID right now and I have an overwhelming urge to punch everyone who degraded you or made it out to be all on you and the boys weren’t penalized.

    I was never really interested in sex in high school but yet I wore skirts & tops that apparently “signaled my sexual desires” <—– direct quote from my high school principal. The skirts I wore were of the appropriate, school dress code length and the tops weren't inappropriate (despite the fact that I was very busty) But yet, I still got called in for dressing inappropriately and for "making the guys focus on sex instead of their grades" Um NEWSFLASH jerks, teenage boys think about sex, a LOT.

    It was all very hurtful as I never ever violated the school dress code, but the fact that I had big boobs was being held against me. Something I couldn't change was being held against me.

    The hysterical part was I was VERY focused on my studies. I kept a 3.0 GPA all through high school, but my smarts were never really talked about. It was all about how my boobs were distracting the boys.

    I swear I didn't mean to go off on a tangent, but this post reminded me of my own experience in high school. Thank you for writing on this topic, and again, ginormous hugs to you.
    Alexia @ Adventures in Reading recently posted…Review: One Man Guy by Michael BarakivaMy Profile

    • mclicious
      Twitter:

      I just hope that I can help break the cycle, as someone who works with teenaged girls. It’s really, really hard to turn off and comes so naturally, which is scary, but I guess that’s what we were trained to do by a) experiencing it and b) living in a world that encourages it.

  29. Mel@thedailyprophecy

    Thank you for sharing this. I guess I was the complete opposite of you. Guys only hurt me with their words, because I was supposed to be too ugly etc. So I absolutely understand this: “How many people had to say the same thing before I accepted it as true?”

    You know what I find the most horrible thing about this; how the teachers handled some situations. They should have known better than that.

    This post is awesome and I think it’s also very important to have more books about this matter. I’m definitely going to keep my eyes on Ellis her list. And I’m out of words, I just want to applaud.
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…Fairytale News 39. Spoilers (2).My Profile

  30. Amy B

    I applaud you, Meg! What a well-written and thought-provoking post. Thank you.

    I hate that you (or anyone) went through the social shaming that lead to this post, but I admire your strength and courage in sharing your experiences.

  31. Sasha Dawn
    Twitter:

    I don’t know where to begin, but I’m clapping over here–standing ovation.

    My BFF of 37 years and I parted ways last year over slut-shaming. As a YA, she was a girl making assumptions about other girls (i.e., me) when really, our comfort levels with physicality were simply different. This didn’t mean she didn’t have sex. It meant that when she had it, she was ashamed for having done it…and I’d never felt that way. Last year, I became engaged to a guy I’ve known for over half my life. We’d been dating for only five months at the time, and she started again with the slut-shaming. Because she wouldn’t have been comfortable enough to make a commitment after 5 months, this was just another bad Sasha-like decision–one I hadn’t thought through, obviously, just like the day in high school I opted to take a detour with the running back on the railroad tracks. Therefore, I shouldn’t have been comfortable accepting a proposal, either. I was “crazy,” obviously, and in her mind, I needed her to intervene, to save me, to STOP THE INSANITY.

    Ummmm, no. What needed to stop was our friendship. Which wasn’t really a friendship, I now know, as much as it was a punching bag and a high-horsed right hook.

    High schools are full of people like my former BFF–and unfortunately, the world is, too. Bosses, law enforcement, school officials… Remember Lindsey Stocker’s mission earlier this year? Her message: “Instead of shaming girls for their bodies, teach boys that girls are not sexual objects.” And still, Miss Stocker was suspended.

    On the other side of the coin, my ex-husband used to shame me for my wardrobe, wouldn’t talk to me if I happened to draw the attention of men OR women, and we eventually divorced because HE cheated on ME (with a woman, with alcohol, with his job, with just about everything.) But I looked good in a catsuit, so it was all my fault, right? Because I made him feel insecure? Because I drove him to it? Trust me, I couldn’t make that man do ANYTHING I wanted him to do.

    I’m commiserating with you because this topic incenses me. I’m angered because girls turn on each other. Because men (boys) feel they should have the right to label us, and they judge us on separate criteria than the criteria against which they measure their friends. Because Americans seem to have accepted the fact that THIS IS JUST THE WAY IT IS, and things will never change. F*** that.

    It’s time people pay attention to what’s happening in their own pants. It’s scientific. It has nothing to do with good or bad. Some people are wired to want it, and some people won’t admit that it’s all right to seek what they want. And don’t even start to quote Biblical passages to prove me wrong. If we’re living by that rhetorical context, 14-year-old girls would still be passed off to 38-year-old men in the interest of growing the population. (The Bible sends good messages, but the world is a different place than it was in Jesus’ day. And I think that’s evident, don’t you?)

    That said, I still wrote the slut-shamer…as the antagonist (see Lindsey in OBLIVION). I’m always surprised when readers tell me they don’t like the slut-shamer, and that I ought not to have written her that way. If the world wasn’t full of Lindseys, I wouldn’t have written one. It’s a message about tolerance, people. I’m doing my part to tell the YA girls (via example) that those shamers have no right to measure anyone but themselves.

    And bravo, Meg, for doing your part, too. xo!

  32. Hipster Owls Bookcase

    I just read an article about this…

    “The double standard remains: Why is it that a girl who has sex is a whore/slut, but a boy who has sex is a stud/player?

    It’s simple: The word slut is a decidedly female insult, and using it enhances gender discrimination.

    No harm can come from being more sex-positive and less chauvinistic in our speech patterns. I dare each and every one of you to give it a try.”

    http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/07/stop-saying-slut/?utm_content=buffer45c6b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer
    Hipster Owls Bookcase recently posted…He Loves Me, He Loves Me NotMy Profile

  33. Diamond
    Twitter:

    I completely agree with you. We definitely need more sex positive YA. I really like books where the female has sex with more than one guy, and isn’t painted in a bad light for it. I feel like sex is ignored in a lot of YA, and it’s frustrating because ignoring something doesn’t make it go away.

    Your experiences are very cringe worthy. It makes me sad because I’ve had similar experiences (most likely any woman reading this post has) and it’s unacceptable. :|

    Great post.

  34. Stephanie
    Twitter:

    I wasn’t called a slut per se, but here’s my story. In March of my freshman year, I was diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism. I had been placed on a steroid medication to regulate my heart rate. Over the summer, I had gained twenty-five pounds going from 108 to 133. Needless to say, I returned to school three months later much thicker than when I left in May. On my first day of high school (back then high school was 10-12), the first comment said to me was, “Stephanie, who you been f*cking?” Throughout the remainder of the day, everybody continued to comment on how thick I had become. I had lost my virginity over the summer, but my weight gain was a result of the medication not that one-time, 5-minute experience. Nevertheless to my classmates, I was deemed sexually active because I had gained a considerable amount of weight in a few short months.
    Stephanie recently posted…Merlin’s Shadow (The Merlin Spiral #2)My Profile

  35. Rebecca @ The Library Canary
    Twitter:

    First of all, I am so sorry that you were treated that way. That is seriously awful. Second of all, thank you so much for writing this post! I was a lot like you in HS. I don’t know, I was just more interested in sex than the other girls (or maybe just more open about it). I once had a guy tell me that I had an aura of sex around me. bahahahaha. Still laugh over that one. But because of it, I was bullied a lot and slut-shamed. And I agree that it’s really important to have positive sex talk in books. It shouldn’t be shameful for a girl to want to experiment. Why is it okay for guys and not girls? It shouldn’t be that way. A girl does need to respect herself, but if she does and she still wants to have tons of sex (as long as she’s safe about it) I don’t see what the problem is. And we need to stop attacking these girls for doing just that. Absolutely love this post, Meg!
    Rebecca @ The Library Canary recently posted…Ten Authors I Own The Most Books FromMy Profile

  36. Anya
    Twitter:

    Oh Meg, I love you and this post so much! I chose to have sex at 15 and nothing similarly bad happened because of it which I’m quite grateful for. Not to criticize, but I don’t even like the phrase losing your virginity since it implies this negative idea that you’re losing something important, screw that! I was a damn horny teen and I’m happy I found the dragon riders of pern books since they were pretty sex positive and steamy fun to boot ;)
    Anya recently posted…Updates from the Lair 8/3/14My Profile

  37. Bec
    Twitter:

    I am so sorry that those teachers disregarded you like that. That is shameful and horrible and they should have been fired.

    Terribly, this is the world we live in. Girls are told to cover up so that boys don’t look at them or don’t get tempted. Why are we responsible for men being unable to keep it in their pants? It pisses me off. I was also a relatively fast developer, and had E cups for the majority of high school. We had to wear a uniform, so it wasn’t so bad. But I was always careful of what I wore on casual days.

    Sex positive YA should definitely be more prolific than it is. Now you mention it, in all of the YA books I read, the sex is a huge deal. I mean, it’s good that everyone’s made sure that they’re ready, emotionally and everything, but sex isn’t a big deal. Bottom line: we’re all animals. And animals have primal urges. Sex is one of them. It’s natural and yet people who have it are constantly being shamed. Like when you go to a supermarket and buy condoms to protect yourself and you hurry in and out because you’re scared of being judged. What is that?

    My first time wasn’t all that special. I was curious. That was what it all boiled down to. We were safe and both consenting, so it was all good. But I’ve never regretted that decision. I’ve never wanted that special rose-petal first time, because no one knows what the hell they’re doing the first time anyway.

    So, yeah, I’ll stop hogging the comment feed and simply say, again, YES we need more sex positive YA!
    Bec recently posted…#9 “Stoner” by John WilliamsMy Profile

  38. Natalie Crown
    Twitter:

    So, I was off being a true adventurer and I missed this post. I am SAD about it because it is perfection.

    First, your stories about school and those TEACHERS make me RAGE. I don’t like it from kids, but I can kinda understand it. Kids are mean. BUT THE TEACHERS? THE AUTHORITY. *breathes*

    I’m so happy to see that you have embraced your fabulousness and that you can hair flip your way past those shitty shitty people.

    And just…everything you (and others) have said about sex positive YA is so spot on, and SO important. So yeah, I’m late to the party BUT WHAT A PARTY.
    Natalie Crown recently posted…Adventures in China – IT IS OVERMy Profile

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge