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Privacy and Perception Issue

As a Teen, I Was Haunted by the Sexual Persona I Created to Protect Myself

The person I created on the internet shielded me from the slut-shaming I endured at the hands of high school bullies. Rather than let their words break me, I molded my online image to embody sexuality.

This story appears in VICE magazine and Broadly's 2018 Privacy and Perception Photo Issue. Click HERE to subscribe to VICE magazine.

"Why don’t you want to have sex? I don’t understand.” Fifteen-year-old me is in the backseat of a classmate’s car. I would call him a friend, but he never really was that. We are half-dressed, eager, and young enough to think this is cool.

I blink, stalling for time. I try to explain to him that I am a virgin, that having sex right now just doesn’t interest me, that I simply do not want to. The concept goes right over his head.

“I don’t get it. It totally looks like you’re down. Why else would you post pictures of your boobs, like, bursting out of bikinis on Facebook?”

My whole life has been caught in a feedback loop of battling the public perceptions of the very internet persona I created to feel safe.

The slut-shaming began in high school, when I transferred to a new school district at age 14. Middle school was incontestably my awkward phase: I had a mouthful of braces, square glasses that didn’t quite fit my face, and a nose I hadn’t yet grown into. But after ordering a year’s worth of contact lenses and shedding the metal from my teeth, I was finally pretty for the first time in my life—or so I’d like to think—when I walked in as the new girl my freshman year of high school.

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