My Experience with Slut Shaming at Kenyon

I remember clearly the first time it bothered me. I woke up that Sunday morning, feeling just fine about the events of the night before. Then I looked at my phone to see a text from one of my friends.

“They were all talking about you at brunch this morning.”

Before this, I had tried to not let other people’s opinions bother me. I ignored sly comments about my high “number,” or about the clothes I wore when I went out. I was having fun and I wasn’t hurting anyone. I didn’t see why anyone would care what I did on the weekends: it was my life, my choices, my business. But not everyone saw it that way.

I had hooked up with someone that I apparently wasn’t supposed to, the teammate of one of my exes. I didn’t think it was a big deal: the break up was months ago, and it was a big team. But when I walked downstairs to go to the library that morning, I ran into one of my friends sitting in the common area with a couple of my ex’s teammates. When they saw me, they started sniggering. I felt my face get red and a pit form in my stomach. When my friend asked about my weekend, one of them interrupted and said, “Oh we all heard about the highlights of Maddie’s weekend.”

I felt like I was going to be sick.

From that moment on, I felt like my social life was on display. And not just for the choices I had made that one weekend, but every weekend before and after. Suddenly, everyone seemed to know what I had done and with whom I did it the previous night before I even woke up in the morning. I would meet people and they would say, “Oh, you’re the girl who hooked up with so-and-so.” My “hook up life” was all anyone wanted to talk to me about, and they would speculate whether I was there or not. Even some of my friends started to give me a hard time, saying “Do you know that your number is higher than some of the lacrosse boys’?,” and “Maybe you guys should have a competition!”

I’ll never forget the looks I got on Middle Path or the way people would stop talking when I walked into the room. I felt like the main attraction at a freak show. “Look, there she is. The slut,” and everyone would stare. No one ever really said it to my face, but the comments always made their way back to me. I would cry in the shower where no one could hear me. I stopped going to Sunday brunch. I started avoiding people all together, staying in my room where no one would laugh or comment or stare.

This story has a happy ending, but only because I am lucky to have some amazing friends. This group of friends saw what the slut shaming was doing to me and told me to screw what other people thought. They said that it is my life and how I choose to live it is my business, and if I am happy with my choices, that is all that matters. People have no right to make me feel ashamed of something I felt no shame for in the first place. My friends picked me up and supported me through a really shitty time.

Unfortunately, not everyone has supportive friends. If you don’t have a core group of people to lean on, getting slut shamed can make you feel incredibly depressed and alone, and no one deserves to feel like that.

The hook up culture here at Kenyon is unique and difficult to navigate. It can be both a blessing and a curse. However, the slut shaming that comes with it is not ok: it’s bullying under a different name. What someone chooses to do with their time and their body is none of your business. Their hook up life doesn’t define them, and it shouldn’t serve as your daily dose of gossip. You may think that those comments you make at meal times with your friends are harmless, and that no one will ever hear, but let me tell you: we hear them and it hurts. We are people too. We are more than what we do on weekends. We have hobbies and friends and interests that don’t involve hooking up with people. So, the next time you want to talk to me, ask about my dog, or my family, or why I love Ben and Jerry’s so much. I am so much more than my hook up life. All you have to do is ask.

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