Real Talk

This YA Author Is Shutting Down Slut-Shaming Trolls Everywhere

Archives

This YA Author Is Shutting Down Slut-Shaming Trolls Everywhere

This YA Author Is Shutting Down Slut-Shaming Trolls Everywhere
In JUST A GIRL, Carrie Mesrobian is setting fire to the unfair stereotypes and the societal constraints placed on teenage girls. Her main character, Rianne, is stuck with an “easy girl” reputation for doing the same exact things guys do without any judgment. Today Carrie Mesrobian, author of Just A Girl, is getting real about why society needs to stop judging girls for their sexual relationships. Keep reading for some #RealTalk on slut-shaming.

How Slut-Shaming and Double Standards Inspired Just A Girl

By Carrie Mesrobian
My fourth novel Just a Girl opens with a scene of the first time the main character Rianne has sex. For a lot of reasons, it doesn’t go well. Part of those reasons are created by Rianne and part are created by the world we live in. The core of this book is grounded in the places curiosity can lead a girl, both good and bad. Because I teach them and am the mother of one, I know that teenaged girls are amazing, talented, beautiful. Girls are, indeed, the future.
But like any adolescent, teenaged girls are unfinished. They are works-in-progress. Their frontal lobes aren’t fully developed. They are learning to move through the adult world. Though many of them are passionate and dedicated and strong, they are still figuring life out.
So why are we as a culture so quick to judge young women on almost every score?
I could make a list of things that we pick at when it comes to young women and their choices: whether they wear make-up, whether they play sports, whether they like princesses and pink, whether they are bold and loud or modest and shy, whether they are sexually active or not. We don’t look at these choices as a normal expression of curiosity in young women; we don’t allow them space and grace for exploration of their identity, of the world they will inherit.
Nothing is more heavily critiqued than a young woman’s sexual decisions. Take any publicized rape case and look at the questions: Was she drinking? Was she being smart? Was she alone? Or take any instance of a girl deciding to have sex: Was she being ‘safe’ sexually? Was she really sure she was gay? Did she really love the other person?
The fact that young men are rarely asked such questions when it comes to their sexual decision-making is precisely why I wrote Just a Girl. Young men are allowed to be curious. They are allowed their thrill-seeking adventures, they are expected to be “bad-ass” and daring. For a young woman, it’s fine to be a bad-ass, as long as it’s about something proper, like being on the Robotics Team at school or mastering a martial art. Sexual curiosity is penalized for young women in a way that bewildered me as a young woman myself, and still bewilders me now.
I remember being a girl who wanted to try things. Who wanted to sneak out of windows and get in cars with older boys and get drunk behind the grocery store before going to a school dance. My friends were the same way, and I loved my friends. But I knew that to throw my lot in with their thrill-seeking behavior meant I would forever be labeled “bad.” I remember hearing another girl in our grade saying that she’d made a list of all the girls who’d had sex. “I can tell by the way they walk, and act,” she said. My name was on that list and I had yet to have sex with anyone. But I had done plenty of things my parents didn’t know about; I was curious and up for crazy times. Thus, I was “bad.”
Is it bad to be a curious girl? I think our culture says yes, because like the questions mentioned above regarding rape and first sex, we have a way of shaming women about their sexual choices, and even the choices on the periphery of their sexual choices, like how they dress, the way they act, what they drink.
So much of our lives is defined by how we were treated in adolescence but so little of our lives is really spent there. How do we choose to look at the natural curiosity of young people? Adolescence is a time of risk and exploration, which makes it frightening for teenagers and their parents both. But is there any other way to become an adult, to come of age? If we are not allowed curiosity, how do we ever learn anything? I’m afraid that our culture’s practice of shaming women for sexual curiosity is yet another way to keep them from power and agency. When is the acceptable time for a girl to be sexually curious? When she’s 18? When she’s 21? When she’s finished her graduate degree? When she’s married?
What happens when girls are curious about the wrong things? That is the central question that led me to write Just a Girl, to create Rianne Hettrick-Wynne, the girl who is “bad” and too much like her father, who wonders about the wrong things and the wrong people. What kind of life might she build when her tendency to leap from idea to idea and experience to experience is not rewarded by our heavily linear culture? Is curiosity a liability or an asset to Rianne?
Whatever its label, I think sexual curiosity is natural. It is our reticence to discuss sex and our negativity toward young women in general that is unnatural. I am 42 years old and guess what? If being curious about sex is “bad” then I have been bad since age 14. Which is the age my daughter is, incidentally.
Do I worry about my daughter? Of course. Do I want to seal her up in her room with a bunch of textbooks and enrichment materials and never let her learn about the world on her own? Of course not. Everything in this life is a risk. Everything. I’ve put my money where my mouth is on this; her coming-of-age has begun and it’s already been messy and rocky. But the premium I put on her right to be curious—not just about sanctioned topics like school clubs or sports— outweighs this. We are here to learn about and explore our world and it is our curiosity that has distinguished us, made us innovate, evolve and reach incredible heights. I feel fear, yes. But I can’t let fear dominate my view of the world, or my daughter’s view. I will have nothing to do with penalizing young women in ways that we do not penalize boys for exercising their curiosity in all things.
Teenaged girls are amazing, talented and beautiful; there is no doubt about it—they are the future. It’s my intention to support them as they figure out the way we all get there.
Add Just A Girl to your Goodreads shelf! 


What is your take on slut-shaming? Let’s chat in the comments below. 

Must reads