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Dispelling the dangerous myth of the party girl: Vicky Mochama

The party girl image is about limiting women’s choices about their sexuality and then penalizing them for those choices. It has nothing to do with the woman.

TorStar News Service

Party. Girl. Two excellent words signifying excellent things.

But together the words twist into a stereotype that has filtered into our culture in ways that endanger women.

You would think the standard definition is a young woman who enjoys parties. But the cultural definition that I am taking from our bastion of social enlightenment, Urban Dictionary, is a lot more telling.

A party girl, according to Internet wordsmiths, is: “A girl who will party hard anywhere, even if the party is s--- she will get down and get naked.”

That is the first definition offered; the second is even more derogatory.

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(The Urban Dictionary may be crowdsourced, but it is miles ahead of the Big Three — the OED, Merriam-Webster and — which do not have as exhaustive an entry for “lit” as they should.)

In that definition, a party girl isn’t simply a woman who likes parties. She is a woman who likes having sex. Pass the smelling salts. Not only that, she’s willing to have sex with anyone.

Women risk being labelled “whores” simply by appearing to have fun. For racialized women, our very bodies are hypersexualized; our hips apparently gave consent.

Decades of activism by feminists, as well as a body of jurisprudence, have championed the notion that compromised consent is, in fact, not consent at all. Yet in 2017, a judge bought into the cultural idea that a woman has, by having fun, consented to sex.

In the trial of the Halifax taxi driver who was found not guilty last month of sexually assaulting a passenger, defence lawyer Luke Craggs leaned on the stereotype, saying the complainant became a different “type of person” when drunk.

The theory found a welcoming home in the mind of the judge who delivered the verdict.

But in a draft paper for the Canadian Bar Review, Dalhousie law professor Elaine Craig calls bull.

“It is difficult not to question whether Judge Lenehan’s speculation, implausible conclusions and legally incorrect reasoning were informed by the stereotype that unchaste women, or promiscuous party girls, will consent to sex with anyone,” Craig writes, according to the Canadian Press.

If you saw me in Kingston, Ont., in October six years ago, I was probably several drinks in and having a great time in a truly tiny dress. Chances are you would have thought I was a party girl.

You might not have thought I was a student making friends and relaxing during a Model United Nations weekend.

All this to say: the party girl image has nothing to do with the woman. It validates those who do not respect consent. It is about limiting women’s choices about their sexuality and then penalizing them for those choices.

It has everything to do with denying women their autonomy.

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