Aya de Leon

author – activist – faculty – mom

I am Slane Girl

When I was in my teens and early 20s, I made more than one unwise sexual decision. Maybe because I wanted a guy to like me. Maybe I was afraid of his anger or potential violence. Maybe he was a boyfriend I didn’t want to emotionally withdraw. But in the era before the Internet, there was only the small, localized consequence of having betrayed myself. Nowadays, sexism teaches young women that their value is sexual and that their job is to please men. And then the society equips everyone to catch that moment on camera. And then the young woman is trashed by the very sexist system that conditioned her to do the behavior in the first place.
The camera phones and upload capabilities are different now, but the push-you-to-do-it, punish-you-for-doing-it is the same as 20 years ago when I was a young woman. Here is where the Internet wants a confession. An X-rated tale of something I wouldn’t want photographed. Sorry. The Internet will have to be disappointed. Instead, I offer something sexism is not interested in, my emotional reality.

I grew up without my dad, and always felt as if I was insignificant to him. I had several early experiences of sexual trauma. None horrific and lurid, but all confusing. I grew up with the influence of US media.  Then I grew breasts and hips. Suddenly I was significant to men. It felt powerful to have something they seemed to want that much. But I could never figure out quite how to dole it out in the quantities that kept me in charge. I was just a little too desperate for love and approval that my sexy girl bravado could be undone in an evening, a moment.  Sometimes, on a bad night, I was that girl.  And I think of my former self when I see “Slane Girl” the young woman photographed performing oral sex on a young man at a public concert, her exposed face, name, and sexual decisions posted on the internet for all to see.

As a black woman, I recall when the Trayvon Martin trial was in the news. People said “I am Trayvon Martin.”  Nobody actually wanted to be Trayvon Martin, to lose their life, but we felt we could easily have been that innocent young man who didn’t deserve to be murdered. But people aren’t flocking in the same way to be Slane girl, and it’s difficult to paint her as innocent.  But I am Trayvon Martin and I am also Slane Girl.

In comparing these two cases, I am in no way saying they are equivalent.  They are not.  As a mother, I would rather have my child sexually humiliated on the internet than murdered any day of the week.  As a mother, my instinct is to tell the world, whatever brutality you dole out, bring my child back to me, and I will do everything in my power to repair the damage.  If I were Trayvon Martin’s mother, I would give anything to be in a physical therapy rehab center with my son right now, teaching him to walk for the second time, or if he were even more disabled to be feeding him again like when he was a baby.

Since I’m not saying that the cases are equivalent, why am I comparing them?   Because this is an accounting, as a black mother, of how the traps the society sets out for our children are different based on gender.  We worry about our daughters getting pregnant and our sons getting into gangs.  We worry about our daughters getting into abusive relationships and our sons getting shot.  We worry about our daughters getting raped and our sons going to prison.  And only then do we worry about our sons getting raped.  And the female prison population is rising.  But the traps we worry about for our sons have mostly to do with being on the wrong end of physical or societal violence, and our daughters being on the wrong end of sexism and gender-based violence.*

And there is a particular shame that goes along with girls gone wrong, or girls been done wrong.  Girls, when they discover their sexual “power” seem to be flying toward the sun with wings made of spandex and lipstick.  And the stakes keep getting higher.  A decade ago, flashing your breasts or leaking a sex tape was enough to make a stir.  Now, it only garners a few seconds of fame.  Nowadays you have to perform oral sex on a stranger in public in broad daylight to make a splash.

One similarity is that both young people are being blamed.  Internet comments blame the girl for her sexual choice.  Right wing radio hosts say Trayvon shouldn’t have worn the hoodie.  I have pictures of Travon’s family up on my blog—supporting them in their struggle for justice.  In contrast, I am unlikely to ever be able to find a picture of Slane Girl’s family to do the same.  They are unlikely to appear on a magazine cover—they probably fear the world’s judgment of them as parents. Well I’m here to tell you this:  You raised a girl who was vulnerable to making unwise sexual decisions, and so did my parents.

To the Slane girl:  you are not alone.  So many women are just like you.  Wanting the sexual excitement, not wanting the harassment, assault and humiliation.  Feeding off the light in a guy’s eyes in the moment of yes! and feeling sick to our stomach when the light goes out, the camera flashes, the contempt begins. We wanted to be picked up.  We didn’t want to be thrown away.

We have nothing to be ashamed of.  Our system provides a cozy home for rape culture and can boast epidemic rates of sexual abuse.  Our system raises boys to grow into men who throw women away, including their partners and daughters, and families.  Our system promotes misogynist pornography as the #1 form of sex education, and conditions men to bully and humiliate women.  Our system coerces girls and women to participate in sexism then blames us for all of it.  We are the repository for all the shame of the society, but I refuse to be the identified problem.  I was a girl who fell into a trap, and I climbed out and grew into a woman who has a full range of choices, sexual and otherwise.

A different race, a different generation, and half the world away, I am Slane girl

*These traps the society sets for young people assume that the young people are heterosexual.  There is another set of traps for queer youth, but most straight parents are not aware of these traps beyond the basics, and many are not even aware that their kids are queer.  Many queer young people report their parents worrying about the wrong things…worrying their daughters will get pregnant, or that their sons will get into gangs, not that they will get targeted with homophobic violence or that they will be brutalized by internalized oppression.  And some queer youth will fall into traditionally heterosexual traps, as they attempt to follow the crowd and protect themselves from being targeted with homophobia.  As more queer youth come out early to parents who are willing to learn, and we have more out, queer families, parents can reorient themselves to more strategically support and protect queer young people.

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9 comments on “I am Slane Girl

  1. Jem
    September 8, 2013

    People should take responsibility for their actions. Seems to me you are saying it’s everybody’s fault but your own (her own). Women need to stop blaming men for everything. In this country (Ireland) if 2 15 year old children have sex the boy gets done for statutory rape not the girl. Why? Why is the boy held accountable and not the girl? Sexism. In this country many men stay in unhappy marriages because they know if they divorce they will not see their children anymore. Why does the legal system think that children are better with their mothers? Sexism. In this country if a man and woman rob a bank the woman gets 2 years and the man gets 5, why? Sexism. The women prison is clean and open, the mens is a shithole whereby men still slop out daily (this is banned in Europe yet Mountjoy prison still does it). Sexism. If a drunken man and a drunken woman have sex society deems that the man has taken advantage of the woman, not the other way around, why? Sexism. The girl in the video is the victim but not the man, why? They both are idiots, they both are drunk, they are both responsible.

    • SonnyGoten (@SonnyGoten)
      September 10, 2013

      The difference is that the girl is getting a lot more slander for the act than the guy is. In fact, the guy even gets some cyber pats on his shoulder by certain idiots on the world wide web. Will the girl get any too? Not likely…

  2. shailjapatel
    September 8, 2013

    This essay should be required reading for every 11-year old, every parent and teacher, everyone who works with young people. Thank you for your courage, honesty and brilliance.

    • Barbara Pace
      September 30, 2014

      LOL. Yes, every 11 year old should read this.
      *eyeroll*

  3. Synables
    September 30, 2013

    I am, I was and forever will be a Slane girl.
    I remember having sex with the idea that if I did what the guy wanted I would be happy because hey he would be happy. I discovered at an early age as long as I had a boyfriend I would than be worthy.

    I was twenty-three when I decided I wasn’t happy being that woman. I wanted more I deserved more. Thank you for posting this, it means so much to know we slain girls are not alone.

    Te Amo to My Slane Sisterhood.

  4. Synables
    September 30, 2013

    Reblogged this on Finding Ohna.

  5. Jayden
    March 17, 2014

    The other day, while I was at work, my sister stole my iPad and tested
    to see if it can survive a 40 foot drop, just so she can be
    a youtube sensation. My apple ipad is now destroyed and she has 83 views.
    I know this is entirely off topic but I had to share it with someone!

  6. Pingback: I am Slane Girl | naruthapa's Blog

  7. Barbara Pace
    September 30, 2014

    ” We wanted to be picked up. We didn’t want to be thrown away.”
    Sorry, but a girl blowing multiple guys in public is not indicative of looking for deep emotional connections. Stop making excuses for her stupid actions and buyer’s remorse.

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This entry was posted on September 6, 2013 by in Uncategorized.

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