Siren or Slut?

September 2, 2007 at 11:33 pm (Adolescence, Female Stereotypes, Movies, Relationships, Second Life, Sex, Sexuality)

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Back in junior high and high school, defining a girl by her sexuality seemed an accepted norm. Did she or didn’t she? Would she or wouldn’t she? Even today, hallways all over the world are lit up daily as the rumor mill chews and spits out women’s mangled reputations for an audience of her “peers.” These rumors–which can be derived from facts (she did it), fiction (she didn’t do it but folks say she did), or merely by how a girl carries herself (she exudes sexuality through her manner & dress so she MUST have done it)–unfortunately carry the grave potential of clouding a girl’s entire school experience. Or at least it seems that way at the time.

As women mature, we like to think we evolve to be defined less by our sexuality and more by our professional accomplishments, our roles as wives and mothers, or by our stunning intellect and graceful beauty. Yet, in Second Life and in real life, I hate to admit our sexuality seems to remain one of the co-stars in the storyline that defines who we are.

I recently experienced evidence of this predilection with a couple of male friends in SL. Each situation began with assumptions being made about my level of desire, followed by attempts to lead me down the path to intimacy. And only after very awkward conversations did the roots of these messy plotlines become clear: both men had—perhaps somewhat unwittingly or subconsciously—assigned me the role of hyper sexual seductress because of my blogs about sex and the tendency I have to flirt openly in world, and not because I had outwardly indicated I was interested in sex at that moment.

Is this an undeserved label? Probably not entirely as I admittedly wear my sensuality pretty close to my skin. Therefore I should not be surprised when men respond. Perhaps I should instead be flattered (which I am). However, it is also worth recognizing that we often make assumptions about others that influence how we feel about and interact with them. And many times these assumptions are not always right on target. Who we think they are is not necessarily who they really are.

As I explore this idea, I’m reminded of two movies that vividly capture the emergence of female sexual identity and the definitions assigned to girls who will and girls who won’t. The 1980 movie Little Darlings, and the more recent American Beauty, both explore the dichotomy of the vixen—who turns out to be all tease and all talk—and the more introverted, less overtly sexual virgin. In the end it is the virgin who goes all the way, while the vixen loses her nerve. And while this is hardly indicative of an overwhelming trend, it does speak to the propensity we have to mistakenly assign girls the role of slut or siren based on limited information.

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