By Madison Hoffman
Dear 18-Year-Old Judgmental Version of Myself,
You were naive and worried about what others thought of you. You were misinformed about sex. You used stereotypes to define others’ sexual actions and choices, as well as your own.
You used words like “slut,” “tease” and “whore” in jokes with your friends, but little did you know that you were contributing to an underlying misogynistic culture.
You shamed yourself for the one-night stands, yet chose the men who were praised for the number of women they slept with. More double standards piled up fueled by misguided cultural values.
Then, when friends would recall incoherent hookups with someone at a party, your first thoughts were to question how much they’d been drinking rather than make sure they were OK — or recognize that something wasn’t right.
You weren’t completely lost though. Thanks for not taking yourself too seriously and being open to change.
Thanks for standing your ground on your morals and being confident enough to have a voice and make you own decisions, even if you thought they were once mistakes.
Now: Here at 24 and the Door
When I was in high school, I always felt a need to adapt myself to others’ standards. I was me — but I didn’t really have my own voice. My ability to feel empowered was heavily shadowed by the everyday stereotypes that surrounded me. Even now, acknowledging the existence of sexual stereotypes is a subconscious notion such that I still register those types of judgments. Granted, I choose not to think about those stereotypes or act upon them, and instead I surround myself with positivity.
So how did I come to this drastic change of individuality and sex positivity in the last four years?
I’ve found guidance from my parents who’ve always allowed an open forum for ideas and let me make my own mistakes. They’ve always supported my decisions and reminded me how proud they are — constantly positive.
There’s something about consistent positive reinforcement that enhances an individual’s ability to strive to be great. My parents gave me that.
However, my parents weren’t the only shapers of my individuality.
In college I began surrounding myself with people who inspired me. They were a little different, but they actually gave a shit about something other than themselves.
At the beginning of this semester I was sitting in a room full of educated, bright and creative people. We were asked if we could support any cause, what would it be. Everyone had something to say about each cause they chose, and all of their reasoning was selfless.
When we decided on consent as our cause, it resonated with all of us. It stood out and needed a student voice; it needed our voice.
There was the door and I was ready to open it.
Choosing to approach consent through sex-positive messaging was our way of kicking down that door.
Controversial, yes. But how does that saying go? “If you’re not pissing someone off, you’re not doing your job.”
Controversy usually just means that someone is uncomfortable with an idea, but if we really look at what sex positivity is, it shouldn’t be uncomfortable at all.
Sex positivity empowers individuals to make their own choices, whether that’s choosing to say yes or no to sex. Sex positivity allows someone to have a voice and helps shape his or her individuality.
That actually sounds quite comforting to me. I’d rather have a voice, know my decisions from my mistakes and endorse a cause that really matters than silently allow ridicule and judgment from others to cloud a cause that research has proven needs championing.
To find more information about sex-positive messaging and consent, visit YesAlways.org.
The Yes! Always campaign is focused on educating students about consent. Look for the Yes! Always symbol and Consentress walking around campus for additional information.
Maddison Hoffman studies journalism. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.