Dear Straight Talk: I’m 16 and my sister (a senior) has the deserved reputation of a “slut.” Our mom is an alcoholic who will sleep with anybody, even with my sister and me right in the next room, so I think my sister learned from her example. I am determined NOT to be like them. However, their reputations have rubbed off on me. I’m known as “the slut’s sister” at school and many kids assume I’m also a slut. Decent guys (and many girls) want nothing to do with me, the guys who are jerks make sexual comments, and my best friend’s mom won’t allow her to sleep over. I’ve done nothing wrong. Please help. — No Slut, Sacramento
Brie, 21, San Francisco: I hated high school. Numerous rumors were circulating about me. I stopped hanging out with the “cool” kids and joined those who accepted me. It made me much happier. All you can do is demonstrate that you’re not your sister. Take heart that high school is a blip in time and afterward, you can create your own reputation. In college, there’s no such nonsense. Your friend is better off not sleeping over, though. Your home environment is toxic.
Savannah, 19, Boston, Mass.: We cannot control what people think about us, but we can control how we think about ourselves, which helps others change. Have you confided in anyone your feelings about being labeled by association? An honest conversation with a couple of people could get the word out that you are your own person. Talk to your sister, too. Approach her lovingly about why she is acting out. Tell her how sad it makes you to see her disrespecting herself. Simple conversations can really help. So can therapy.
Colin, 19, Whittier: When rumors are flying, it’s easy to say, “Screw these people. They aren’t useful to me. They don’t treat me with respect, why should I respect them?” This Machiavellian mindset makes us forget that we need love, not just “useful” people. Rise above the gossip. Reach out and be friendly. Show respect, even to those not respecting you. Pick one positive thing about who you are, or want to be (smart, funny, artistic, compassionate, etc.), and start showing that side of you. Identify people with social sway who you might be able to “turn.” Little by little, without being obvious, confide in them and make them your friends.
Liva, 23, Villach, Austria: The way you talk about your mom and sister is disturbing and unkind. Clearly neither is in the best emotional place, so have compassion rather than being mean and judgmental. Don’t join the slut-shaming culture of your peers. Our sexualized culture also makes fun of girls who remain virgins. Slut-shaming is a huge societal problem. Step one toward healing: Don’t take part in it.
Katelyn, 18, Azusa: Even if you’re considering moving schools (which is a great idea), I would speak up when someone makes sexually suggestive comments or teases you. Involve the faculty if necessary. Find support through a mentor, club or church.
Dear “No Slut”: Reputations in high school can stick like glue. If possible, switch schools. If you can’t, the panel’s advice is deep, practical, and varied. I hope something clicks for you. Fallback position: Keep believing in yourself. It really does get better after high school. — Lauren
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