Growing up, slut shaming was something I was all too familiar with. Comments would get thrown around at parties about whichever girl who decided to go into a room with a boy. Rumours would be spread weeks after parties where hookups happened. Even being seen kissing someone could start a rumour that something more happened - but it would go further than that.

Those comments and rumours transformed into calling a girl “the town bicycle” and saying that she would “do anything with anyone who said something nice to her.” Looking back on my high school years and realizing how devastating these comments are at such a young age shed a new light on slut shaming. The truth is, words have consequences, and the effects of slut shaming in high school can be felt for years to come.

“I had been fooling around with this guy in high school. He regularly hooked up with other girls, but never made that a big deal. When he heard I had been at a party and kissed someone, he texted me freaking out saying that I was a whore and he didn’t know where else I had been. It was normal for him to hook up (and do more than make out with someone), while we were never exclusive and he was embarrassed to be seen with me except at his own place. It wasn’t the first instance he called me something demeaning either. I was sixteen, and that affected how I viewed myself and whether I was ‘worthy’ of eventually being in a relationship or not. Maybe to him it seemed like words, but they affected me then and sometimes they still affect me now.” Suzanne, 24
 “I’ve always been an outgoing person. When I moved from the big city to the small town, that didn’t change. I made some friends and then made some more friends, and then a boyfriend. I was sixteen and fickle, and the relationships I had were short-lived. It wasn’t long before I started getting a reputation for being ‘loose’ and at first, I could handle it, but then it got worse. I was getting bullied by other girls for dating so many people and my mental health, which had already been an issue that I had to work on, just got worse. It got so bad that eventually I left and went to another school. What I did should have been no issue of anyone else. I felt that I had no one, just because I decided to date more people than what the girls I knew thought to be ‘normal.’” Kelly, 23

These are just two instances of slut-shaming in high school, and the effects it can have on people. Young girls are especially susceptible to words, and during their teenage years, self-worth and self-esteem seem to be commodities. With the pressure to fit in and to be ‘popular,’ being slut-shamed can decrease young girls’ self-esteem significantly, to the point where even in their adult years they may wonder if they are ‘worthy’ of being in a relationship because a boy in high school called them a slut or feel isolated by their peers. This doesn’t even touch dress codes, which often perpetuate slut-shaming. At my high school, if a girl wore volleyball shorts, she was ‘loose’ or ‘promiscuous’ because of the length of the shorts, which were prohibited by dress code but allowed in gym class. If a girl chose to wear those shorts in gym, they ‘wanted attention’ which was only bolstered by the school dress code labeling of those shorts as a distraction.

Who a girl chooses to date in high school, the amount of people she decides to date, and the clothes she wears have no affect on anyone other than the parties involved. Experiences from high school stick with us, and unfortunately the negative stick a little bit harder - which leaves girls reeling from experiences of slut-shaming in high school for years to come.

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