Philobiblon: The school slut

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The school slut

Now I think about it, every school, college and similar collection of adolescents or young adults with which I have been involved had a school slut, or, to be more precise, had a girl or woman identified as such.

At primary school, there was Sharon* who, reputedly, would let you watch her kissing boys if you paid her. She was the only one of us who came from a working-class, perhaps even under-class background. She was different, and was so labelled.

At high school, there was Melinda, who when I look back now was almost certainly a victim of some form of abuse. She claimed never to be able to do PE because she wasn't wearing any undies (knickers), claimed to have had sex with boys in railway waiting rooms. She disappeared for unexplained reasons in Year 11.

Later, as a tutor in a university college, I overheard a young man of 20-odd hotly denying that he had intercourse with Sue, the college slut, supposed to have slept with just about every male there, and usually seen in a angry drunken condition very early at any event. He had a reputation as a lady-killer, and that was all to his benefit in the student hierarchy, but he obviously thought sleeping with Sue would lower that. "She only slept on my floor," he said. He obviously wasn't believed.

I was moved to muse on this by Fast Girls: Teenage Tribes and the Myth of the Slut, by Emily White, which documents the phenomenon in America. She documents how girls who develop secondary sexual characteristics earlier than their peers, those who are, like Sharon, of a different class to their peers, who have unusual family set-ups, who stand out even in ways that would seem to have no particularly link to sexuality, can suddenly be labelled; the same stories - particularly "the football team myth" told about them.

It is The Lord of the Flies, with sex.

And of course there is so much around today, as always, to support this demonisation, while a boy who sleeps around is utterly different, a Don Juan, as in my college case, someone to be admired.

White quotes the alarming example from 1930 of the Catholic "philosopher" Dietrich Von Hildebrand, who wrote In Defense of Purity that the "loose" woman is indulging in a "significant squandering of self" and when a man sleeps with a loose woman he enters a "mystery of terrible sin" in which he is in danger of losing his soul. "In this black-hearted woman's embrace, man is in the grip of a 'diabolically evil lust'." (p. 90)

It is noticeable that White doesn't quote modern authors along these lines - although reading all of the posts Feminist Blogs about abstinence-only sex "education" in the US I bet she could have found plenty. If she was trying to avoid controversy and to get the book read in places where it might do some good, I can only sympathise.

Some of White's case studies just make you want to cry. She's reporting on a boring school assembly at which the pupils start to talk among themselves.

"The rumour goes like this: Heather Adams masturbates. Pass it on!

The rumour begins among the jocks behind me. Soon it has been heard by a dozen kids or more. Pass it on, pass it on. Over and over the phrase is repeated, cupped hands touching ears, the whisper as loud as a stage whisper: "Heather Adams masturbates. Pass it on!"

"Gross!" says the female recipient of this news, a red-faced beanpole. She hesitates for a moment, then whispers the news into the ear of the girl sitting in front of her . "Are you kidding?" the girl shouts. "She is soooo sick!"

The rumour moves west through the crowd. The point of the rumour, its defining quality, is that it moves. The rumour can't stop. It's a hot rock that must be passed quickly before it begins to burn." (p.33-34)

When I compare this to my post a couple of days ago on ancient Roman sex - a gift of Venus to be enjoyed by all - I can only think that Christianity has an awful lot to answer for.

*It was a long time ago, but I've changed all these names just in case.

7 Comments:

Blogger Miss Education said...

Shit, I was that girl in middle and high school and, still living in my hometown, still have to battle that old reputation on occasions.

2/01/2005 10:20:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

God, I can only sympathise. I was an early developer - "bra baby" was my nickname in sixth grade, because I needed one well before anyone else - but, probably luckily, my approved high school role was class nerd/oddity (I walked around reading Herodotus in Year 7, so no one thought to cast me in the slut direction.)

2/02/2005 02:27:00 am  
Blogger Dr. Charles said...

truly fascinating sociology. Although the don juan type may be lionized by his male peers and scorned as a dog by his female partners, the end measure finds him sexually successful. the truly promiscuous slut is both scorned by males and females, and may be sexually active or inactive. In either scenario, women in general stay consistent in attitude... although considering the way young girls dress in school nowadays makes me wonder if the rules aren't being subtly re-written.

2/02/2005 03:25:00 am  
Blogger Dr. Charles said...

that last comment was incoherent - i'm reading it today with more sleep - sorry!

2/03/2005 02:04:00 am  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

No worries, know the feeling. But I do think hidden in your "sleep commenting" is the long-time assumption that sleeping around does make Darwinian sense for the male of any species, yet I can recall some study, in the past year or two, that argued a cogent case for the opposite.

Since any one instance of intercourse has only a fairly low chance of leading to a pregnancy, staying around with one woman for some time is more likely to produce offspring than gadding about on a daily basis. Anyone remember the details?

2/03/2005 02:54:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My younger sister reported that she found out that a rumor was circulating at her high school that she had men come to her house and sleep with her. When she tracked down the rumor she found out it got started because my brother and I, both out of high school and out of our parents' home before they moved to a new neighborhood and this new high school, would occasionally come home for a visit and spend the night. Aren't rumors fun?!
JoKeR
www.riviere.ws

2/03/2005 04:19:00 pm  
Blogger Dr. Charles said...

i know there are different reprductive strategies, and that circumstances unique to time and place decide which are successful. in some birds at least, the threat of a female cuckholding her male partner is often enough to inspire male devotion. long term monogamy may make more sense for species that require lots of time/energy investment to raise young (and this also cuts down on disease and risk of combat). i used to be well versed in all that sociobiology, but as i write this i realize how long ago that was. edward o. williams was one of the big names if you're interested.

2/04/2005 05:11:00 am  

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