One of the pertinent bits of info that I originally shared with my bundle of joy is the need for not being labeled a slut at school.

Being a mother is hard work, #thatisall. Well, not really all but that sentiment feels overwhelmingly true. I could say “being a parent” instead of mother, but I am a woman, so let’s be real about what I mean: Being a woman is hard and even though I was a woman before I became a mother, I truly didn’t know that much about what being a woman was until I brought one into the world.

You have to look at everything differently when another human being escapes the security and familiarity of your womb and breathes the stale air of reality. Sure, you shelter them from day one, but since you know they will be on their own one day, you begin the long journey of preparing them for your arms to no longer surround them. Yes, from day 1. You want them to grow up to be strong, self-loving, self-respecting, and true to themselves (whatever that means as I strive for it myself) — but there is so much to share with them in the measly 18 or so years you have before they have rolled their last eyeball at your advice and taken off into the world. So damn much.

One of the pertinent bits of info that I originally shared with my bundle of joy is the need for not being labeled a slut at school.

Okay, let me go back.

My mother who grew up in the 1940s and ’50s made sure to tell me to not be the slut at school. Okay, not in those particular words because Gloria is a much more refined woman than I could ever be. I’m crude and have the mouth of a sailor (does anyone use that phrase anymore?) and I cuss like a fool. But Gloria used her own words to tell me to be the good girl and never the girl surrounded by rumors of her being “easy.”

Whether you grew up like Gloria in the ’40s and ’50s or like me in the ’70s and ’80s, you probably wanted to be the good girl — because the good girl never had boys calling her a slut. A slut was any girl having sex, especially having sex with more than one guy and maybe even liking it. It didn’t matter if the boys were sleeping with anything with a hole — they were not only allowed but expected to do that. We were not. It was trashy — and as the famous cliché remains: Why buy the cow, when you can get the milk for free?

Boys didn’t marry sluts. They used them up, but never made them wives or girlfriends. My mother told me many years ago that one of her friends who had a steady boyfriend always gave him sex when he asked. That was the reason he didn’t marry her. She never said no. Crazy? Well, it’s the truth and it’s a little sad. She obviously loved him and wanted to make him happy. Give him want he wants or try and figure out that sweet spot of withholding sex that will make him marry you?

So I passed this scare tactic onto my daughter as my mother had passed it onto me and my sister. Never be a slut. As if that weren’t bad enough, I also passed on the notion that double standards were just a way of life and there was nothing she could do about it. There wasn’t any anger in my voice or heart when I told her that because, I reasoned, it was that way when my mother was young and when I was young and she should expect the same. As if we were never evolving in this world to become better human beings and women were never expected to be equal in anything.

She’s 19 now and as I fear for her in the ways only a loving parent can, I realize I have been wrong on a few things in rearing her. For one, I learned about slut shaming in the past few years and how destructive and wrong it is and how even women can do it.

Slut shaming is making a girl or woman feel guilty about her sexual behavior. It includes when we shame women for their style of dress and their actions. Just being a guy could never ring true for girls as we have been taught to wear the burden of our sexuality secretly and dress our men-attracting bodies accordingly.

When a woman gets raped she somehow had something to do with it unless it was an intruder who broke into her locked home with drawn blinds as she slept in flannel pjs. In any other circumstance, apparently, you were not being as diligent as you should have been to not get raped. This has been our reality for years, decades even, and it sickens me that I was a party to this disgusting tradition of owning our own discriminations like a badge of shame. Not only that, but I passed this on to my daughter — and drilled it in her as a good mother should. Now I see my wrongness, my wayward advice that does no one any good but does unmeasurable amounts of civil and physical harm.

Now, I could beat myself up all day long for being so close-minded and un-evolving, but instead I own my faults and am reevaluating my methods. You see, I have a 13-year-old son at home and I have to raise him to know this madness is just that — a sheer madness of hatred directed at women for their beautiful bodies and minds. I have since turned my back on my role as a fear-mongering mother and become a much more nurturing woman who wants to teach her children the correct way to deal with men and women and sexual decisions, whether it is about finding a mate or just dressing up for a date. I know what I did was wrong and this double standard will only disappear when women and men are both allowed to own their sexuality and not blame others for their actions.

My daughter is 19 and I tell her to be herself, dress as she wants (we live in Denver, so I do advise to dress warm during the cold months), but to protect herself and love being who she is. There will no longer be a double standard in my mind or in my home, and I am readdressing those conversations I had with her as I reaffirm a better motto for myself as a woman and a mother. I am owning my sexuality and making sure she owns hers as well. If a man cannot control his hands, mouth, or dick then he needs to be held accountable for it — and it is not any responsibility of hers if he does not. Fuck this double standard and fuck society for making me think it was just the way it is. I am not a strong woman if I cannot say that, feel it, and mean it. I am a woman who is raising a son and a daughter in a world where slut shaming will be eradicated — because we will strike it down with our right to be treated equally and respectfully.

Whether I am wearing a cat suit or a business suit, respect me. Whether I say yes or no to your advances, respect me.

To my daughter: I am sorry for leading you astray, Megan. But I have found the error of my ways and will right my wrongs so that you will one day teach your daughter that being herself is okay and there ain’t a damn thing more to say than that.

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  • Mary Burrell

    I am going to sound like some old prude but i think young women need to honor their bodies and young men especially young men need to be taught to respect women