Loose Girl

Ruminations of a Girl Gone Wild

What We're Talking About When We Talk About Loose Girls

The truth behind 'the slut' is often not what you think

Some people have taken issue with my use of the phrase ‘loose girls.’ I understand the trouble. It has an obvious negative connotation. The assumption, of course, is that if a girl is 'loose' and has lots of sex with lots of people, then she’s a bad person, a slut. It's not new information that our culture works hard to shame girls who express their sexuality, and girls and women, maybe even more than boys and men, put that pressure to be "good" and chaste on one another. 

          When I wrote my memoir Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity about the decades I spent giving my body over to boys and men in a desperate plea for attention, I didn’t have any of these thoughts in mind. I wasn’t thinking about connotations, or whether girls should or shouldn’t be able to have sex whenever and however they want. I didn’t think about feminism, although I was a feminist then, and still am now. I thought only about the feelings that had strangled me all those years, the many times I walked away from a boy, filled once more with shame, not because I had sex with him, but because of my neediness for him, because boys never ever seemed to need me the way I needed them. And the truth is, I didn’t need them. I needed love, yes. I needed attention. But it wasn’t for many years that I came to understand that the notion that a boy would fill me in those ways was a misguided fantasy. In the process, I didn’t almost die. I didn’t contract more than a couple treatable STDs. I never tried to give myself a back alley abortion. But I did get raped. I did lose the ability to differentiate all that much between the rape and the boys to whom I gave consent. I did give up dreams and interests and all of my self-respect in the hopes that just one boy would choose me and make me worthwhile as a result.

            Perhaps it’s not surprising to know that no one did. It wasn’t until I learned to separate my fantasies from reality, until I learned to see the person in front of me as a human being also with needs, not just someone there to serve me. It was a long road, but I got there eventually, and slowly, so very slowly, I learned to have real intimacy.

            The many girls and women – and even men – who have contacted me since the book came out didn’t think of connotations either. They weren’t concerned with whether I was fighting to either make sure girls could have sex or to try to stop them. They simply connected with my story. They saw themselves in it. They said, “This is my story too.”

            So, I’m often confused critics get upset that I would even write such a book, that I would call those of us who struggled in this particular way with boys and men ‘loose girls.’ Why would it ever be a bad thing to share an emotional truth that so many others needed to hear too?

            Recently I posted a “Loose Girl Assessment” to my counseling website. An acquaintance wrote me, “Oh, maybe I qualify as a loose girl because I had fun sleeping with lots of men before I got married.” I wrote back, “If you had fun, you weren’t a loose girl.” And that, my friends, is the distinction.

            

Kerry Cohen is the author of Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity, as well as four young adult novels. She lives and works in Portland, Oregon.

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