I Was First Called a Slut at Age 13

8 Jul

by Kat Kelley

There are still moments, as I linger in front of the mirror for a few extra seconds,

Not quite sure what those high cheekbones or scarred knees have to do with that passion for healthcare policy or appetite for travel,

Or as I return home, heels in hand, and eyes on my toes, avoiding the gaze of families in pastels filing into the Holy Trinity Church on Sunday morning,

In which I still value myself, still derive my self-worth from my appearance and the value assigned to me by men.

And this, I do, because I was first called a slut at age 13.

They called me a slut, Chloe* and Morgan*, because I kissed a boy at a bonfire, amidst a game of a truth or dare. Chloe thought he was cute, and he kept up with the big kids at the skatepark, but I didn’t know of her crush. I just knew that he was in fact cute, and was in fact a talented skateboarder, and that I certainly wasn’t going to chicken out of truth or dare. They called me a slut and didn’t talk to me until backstage at the drama production, when Chloe and him entered into an intimate relationship of not acknowledging each other in the cafeteria, but staying up late at night on AOL instant messenger.

They called me a slut and I learned that women will just as soon impose double standards upon one another, just as soon slut shame as men. They called me a slut and I learned that “bros before hoes” meant something entirely different for women, that Morgan and Chloe would drop this “hoe” over envy of a “bro.”

They called me a “heartbreaker,” at age 8, as I leaned against my mother, tired from a day at the pool. “She’ll be a heartbreaker. And that one,” he grinned at my sister, “she’ll be a headbreaker.” At age 8, I already knew that I was the enviable one, deemed a conforming  heartbreaker, not an audacious headbreaker. My brother later teased me for my buck teeth, but I was a heartbreaker, and when his friend Ryan* said my freckles were cute, I nearly swooned.

They called me a heartbreaker, and I learned that my relationship with men, my image to men, even grown-ups, smiling down at me as if I were their own daughter, even professionals, briefcase in hand, would always be tainted by the value of beauty and the tragedy of uneven complexion, bad hair days, and the dreaded scale.

They called me a whore at age 14, and they institutionalized my title. A code word developed amongst our class, KIAW, which was shouted spontaneously in the hallways, mimicking the meow of a cat, for the last three weeks of eighth grade. Jake* and Mark*, whose prowess on the basketball court had propelled them to popularity,  hollered “KIAW” at me as I entered the classroom, or as I got onto the school bus. “That means they like you,” Hannah* said knowingly, but after a full day of signing yearbooks, I learned just what it really meant. ‘I’m real sorry,’ Jake looked down at his feet. “Kathleen Is A Whore, we thought it’d be funny, just between me and Jake, but then everyone started to say it.” Does everyone know what it means? I asked, holding my breath. “Yeahhhh,” eyes glued to his Vans, yes, each of these students with whom you’ve gone to school for the past 9 years, all think you are a whore.

They called me a whore, and I learned that my “sexual” history was infinitely more socially relevant and defining than the Valedictorian speech I gave that night, even though I quoted really smart people we had read about in History class and my teachers told my parents I had a lot of potential. They called me a whore because I snuck out of my parents house one night and met my high school boyfriend on the beach, and I wore spaghetti strapped tank tops, and I learned that the key to both enemies and admirers, and more importantly, attention as a woman, was not success but sex.

They called me a slut on an anonymous Facebook page, they counted my sexual exploits while singing the lyrics of their team’s traditional songs, they begged for stories during drinking games. Women joined in when they discovered my involvement with a romantic interest of theirs, and men dropped me as a “friend”  when I wasn’t DTF.

And so I still struggle to guard my self-worth from the influence of beauty and size, from who I’ve slept with, and who thinks I’m worth their time, because they first called me a slut at age 13, and they have yet to show me I’m worth anything more to them.

______________________________________________________________________________________

*All names have been changed.

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3 Responses to “I Was First Called a Slut at Age 13”

  1. Dominique Hayes July 14, 2013 at 10:21 am #

    So much this. THIS is why so many of us tie our self-worth–in whole or in part–to how we look. Because our whole culture does it–adults and professionals, friends, enemies, those who are both, it goes on and on.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Real Talk: Why I Don’t (Usually) Hook Up « Hella Basque - July 15, 2013

    […] I Was First Called a Slut at Age 13 (feministsatlarge.wordpress.com) […]

  2. Three Women You Truly Love - August 24, 2014

    […] to negotiate their own autonomy to be dismissed as crazy, as bossy, as a bitch, a whore, a cunt, a slut, a skank, an ugly witch, a crone, a donkey, a cumbucket, a MILF, a bimbo, a thing with “no ass” […]

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