Throughout middle school and high school, I remember being teased when I was not “hip” to the disgusting street vernacular of the moment in reference to some sex act or another. I got so that I stopped asking questions. Though the internet has caused an uptick in cyberbullying, being able to do a quick google search as to what a “tossed salad” is, on the sly between classes would have saved me a lot of grief. Particularly since I could have kept my initial “that’s disgusting” reaction to myself, and quietly nod in knowing agreement in the background.
Because, of course, it’s bad enough to not know what it is. It is worse to make a face, like a child, and say it is disgusting. Of course, no self-respecting young girl actually DOES these things, but she needs to know what they are, not make a face, and be able to discuss them “with the guys.” You know, so they could fully participate in slut-shaming the girls who DID (allegedly) perform these acts.
It was a disgusting, perpetual cycle. I was right to make a face.
So, yesterday, while in the car in a moment of weakness I flipped the station from my usual NPR affiliate. All Things Considered was blathering on about some human interest story that didn’t interest this human, and I instead chose to get my fix of bubble gum pop. Of course, this means weeding through some of the rest of the Top 40 garbage. Has Sirius/XM started a strictly bubble gum pop station? It could be from all decades, I’m not fussy – ABBA to NKOTB to Backstreet Boys to Carly Rae Jepsen. I like it all.
Of course, after Call Me Maybe finished playing (as it is played roughly once an hour, much to my delight), Flo Rida’s latest song came on. It’s called “Blow My Whistle.” Have you heard it yet?
No? Go ahead, read the lyrics. I’ll wait.
My reaction was not dissimilar to the outraged 13-year-old girl. It’s DISGUSTING. And this crap is played constantly on local top 40 stations across the country. 13-year-old girls are singing along, giggling about what the song means (and shaming the girls who don’t know), priming themselves to start shaming the girls who go and blow their boyfriend’s whistle. Because, you know, if you do that everyone is going to find out. And if you don’t do it, you’re a prude. Or, worse, they’ll say you did it when in fact you did not.
These kids live in a culture where they are expected to be precocious in their words but not their actions. They’re too afraid to question why someone feels the need to speculate why Katie’s skirt is flipped up slightly in the back (“She had a quickie with her boyfriend in the broom closet!”) or what Jessie did at that party on Saturday night with Steve.
I remember sitting through lunch while one boy regaled the tale of how his friend date-raped my friend at a party, comparing it to “Moses parting the red seas.” I sat there, enraged. The girls sitting around me were laughing uncomfortably, and I sat there wondering what exactly was so funny about this story. Yet the rage wasn’t at the boy who raped my friend, but at my friend, because the boy who raped her had a girlfriend. And it MUST have been her fault, right? Because the girlfriend agreed to quickies in the broom closet. She was a slut. And so was my friend.
But this guy? He was a catch. No one could understand why he wanted anything to do with these two girls, anyway.
The thought of this, 15 years later, still makes my stomach turn.
When I get into cranky “Get Off My Lawn” moments when I hear about “sex parties” or hear disgusting songs objectifying women on the radio, I think back to high school and realize, it really is not all that different. I wish it was. I wish young women could talk about their sexuality with one another and ask honest questions without the risk of being ridiculed or gossiped about. That sex isn’t seen as something shameful but as something complex and emotional. Abstinence education has only further fueled the fire of slut-shaming, as teens now have curriculum to back up their bullying.
This is one of those times when I wish I could say, “It was different when I was in high school. It is better now.” Unfortunately, we’re still so far away from that.
Flo Rida isn’t helping the cause.