Friendly = Slutty?
Coming into sexuality is so confusing. At least it was for me.
Beyond the no-win of being ridiculed for not doing “it,” verses becoming the main topic of conversation if you do, there were other perplexities.
Most of my classmates had had something resembling sex by eighth grade. I was more naive, which some found hard to believe: Since I had more guy friends than girl friends how could I have been anything but a slut?
Girls and guys both seemed to think so.
Then along came another no-win as my friendliness was taken for flirtation. When I turned guys down I was called a tease.
On my fifteenth birthday a guy friend bought me a build-a-bear and asked me out. When I explained that I only saw him as a friend he got extremely angry. He told me that by being nice to him, laughing at his jokes and spending time together, I was leading him on and that was not fair. I was dumbfounded. How could being a good person now be turned against me? The only response I was capable of was, “Well, do you want me to be a bitch to you?”
My mother had taught me to be nice. But I think he may have preferred me being a bitch because that way it would have at least been clear where he stood.
It was a form of oppression that I was not familiar with.
After the same thing happened a few more times I began focusing on all of the ways I could be leading guys on. I decided to be more upfront about being “just friends.” But I found it awkward to say that because it felt like I was always assuming guys were into me. I also prefer being friends before dating, so I’d be eliminating future chances with that declaration.
Instead, I moved on to dissecting my clothing to ensure I was not sending the wrong message. But being self-conscious about my body, I stuck to pants, tanks and sweatshirts. No seduction there. Other than my over-developed chest, there was nothing sexy about me.
I had thought the problem was me and that I was bringing this all on myself.
Eventually I saw that I was not looking at the big picture. I was not seeing how culture comes into play. I had not seen that men, themselves, have their own set of norms, expectations and pressures.
I now believe that I should not have to be unfriendly, fearing men will think I’m leading them on. And I will not think twice about wearing a shirt that I like from worry that it might send the wrong message.
I no longer believe that the problem is with me, but with a society that too often blames women no matter what they do.
If you can’t please everyone, you must please yourself.
Erica is a student of mine who gave me permission to post this from a paper she wrote.