Out in the Open

How being called a 'slut' launched a journey of sexual self-discovery

For Amanda Mester, having a reputation as a ‘slut’ in high school hurt, but it also helped make her the happy, healthy and sexually free person she is today.

'The pain became an open door for me that actually made me grateful,' says Amanda Mester

Amanda Mester and a friend in high school. (Courtesy of Amanda Mester)

There were two parts to Amanda Mester's reputation in high school. One was that she was brainy, often earning the best grades in her class. The other was that she was a 'slut.'

Amanda Mester (Courtesy of Amanda Mester)

"It felt pretty terrible for people to have this misconception about me. What it did, essentially, was that it prevented the good things that I was doing, my good qualities, from being the qualities that people focused on. So rather than being celebrated for winning a writing contest or for getting the highest grade on a chemistry test ... or being a good friend, being funny, being gregarious. These are all things that became muted in a sense because instead what was scintillating and titillating was the fact that Amanda was sleeping around."

Mester wasn't happy with the rumours and the judgments about her sex life, but it didn't shut down her sexual exploration. Instead, she found herself digging in to just why it was that there was such a strong social reaction to what for her was simply healthy and enjoyable sexual exploration. Not to mention the curious way that reaction was aimed at women only and not men who were engaging in the very same behaviour.

"My mom, I remember growing up, she had Camille Paglia's Sexual Personae on the bookshelf and it was one of the launching pads that started to give me the vocabulary that I needed to say 'Hey, you know what, they think I'm a slut because they've fallen victim to the same kind of societal definitions of sexuality that I have.'"

As she moved on from high school to college, her reputation followed her to some degree but she also began to find the language to express her sexually unencumbered outlook, which helped her feel more comfortable with her pursuit of sexual pleasure. She says she even started to feel sympathy for the people who were calling her a slut.

"The pain became an open door for me that actually made me grateful, in a way, to have been called a slut. I don't know if I would have launched into this journey of self discovery if I had not had such a bad reputation in high school." 


This story originally aired on April 8, 2018. It appears in the Out in the Open episode "Reputation".

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