I struggled for decades to find my "inner sexy" after having survived bullying at 12 years old.
I’m 32 and I don’t know if I have ever fully recovered from seventh grade. When I graduated my beloved elementary school and went to a much bigger middle school across town, some of my old classmates also switched to the same middle school, one of whom was my sixth grade ex-boyfriend.
We had a messy “separation” after I came back from summer camp and realized that he was no longer interested in knowing me anymore, no less holding my hand at the park and buying me beanie babies.
I was scared enough as it was, going to a new school, and having him there was even worse. However, I never could have imagined things would have been as bad as they got for me.
See, he became the most popular boy in seventh grade. He had a following of little boys that wanted to be like him—a starter on the junior league football team and new boyfriend of the prettiest girl in our middle school. I, on the other hand, was not so popular. I was tall and shy. I just wanted to make some friends, get good grades and blend. However, my ex didn’t want to let that happen.
He apparently told his friends about how we once dated and for some reason or another (probably because it was popular in rap music at the time), they started to call me “the hooch.” And they didn't mean whiskey.
They would pretend to cough and say the word as I passed in a hallway at by their table in the cafeteria. They wrote it on notes and left it in my backpack, they called my house and said it and hung up. It was terrible. I felt like I was branded and plagued with a description I didn’t even fully understand at that age.
Well, “hooch” later turned into “slut” and other names. There were rumors spread about my private parts and my abilities to perform oral sex. Mind you, I didn’t even know what a “blow job” really was and had never even touched a penis. I can’t imagine how hurt I would have been if I had actually been sexual at the time.
Eventually the boys got bored with me and found new targets but at this point I had just a few girl friends that wanted to be associated with me.
Now, I know that kids are childish and that I was not even sexually active at the time, but the point is I BELIEVED these things about myself. I thought I was a “dirty” young lady and whatever tall-girl slouch I had had before then, was severely exaggerated by my new self-image.
And I didn’t really know who to talk to about it all. I asked my mom what a “hooch” was and she answered, “A promiscuous woman?” She didn’t even really know. I was far too ashamed to tell her that the kids at school were calling me that. I was too ashamed to actively seek out counsel from any adult.
Sexually derogatory words are used a lot by kids and most don’t even know the meanings of the words they use. Girls as young as seven years old get labeled in school as “sluts” and “hoes”, whether they are sexually activity or not. And many end up becoming very sexually active because of these labels.
One rumor about a girl’s breast size can define her sexual lifestyle all through high school and beyond. Many girls lose their self-esteem and think that their identity is wrapped up in these names and references. They go along with the attention and lose a sense of self-respect. They start having sex and being sexual way too early and for all the WRONG reasons.
My reaction was that I became more shy, more ashamed and “cut off” from my body. I associated sex and feeling sexual with bad memories and strong negative consequences. I was a beautiful girl back then and I am an attractive woman now, but it took a long time to feel comfortable feeling sexy! I thought of myself as a pretty girl with no sex appeal-- a potato without salt. Aka. bland.
Ugh! All the self-imposed labels that come with name calling.
Girls need to be protected from a young age. It’s bad enough that Sandra Fluke has to be the brunt of such hostility, what about preteenage and teenage girls? No wonder more adult women don’t step up and say, “I’m sexual, I love sex and I’m proud!” They learned the consequences from a young age, whether they received the teasing or they watched it happen!
If you have a preteen daughter, explain to her that sex is an important part of life and kids know this but don’t understand it all-- they throw names and statements around without understanding their true meanings or implications, and if she sees these kinds of things happening in school, not to pay any mind.
Tell her that she is gorgeous, smart, and capable of anything. Tell her she will probably find a wonderful husband one day who’ll love her like crazy. And then throw her young, little butt into loads of empowering activities like sports and music, which can help her build a positive self-image.