Fast Girls: Teenage Tribes and the Myth of the Slut by Emily White, reading at Powell’s on Hawthorne, 3723 SE Hawthorne, Monday, 7:30 pm
I f you went to a typical American high school, you likely remember at least one girl who was singled out as "the slut." You might not remember how the rumors started, but surely remember what they were: This girl was voracious; this girl fucked the entire football team. Like an urban legend, these stories were believed and passed on, regardless of their veracity.

In Fast Girls: Teenage Tribes and the Myth of the Slut, Emily White deconstructs the universal mythologies surrounding the slut, as well as the primitive, tribal world of the American high school. White's interest/obsession with the slut archetype began when she was a teenager at Portland's Washington High School. Within days of starting ninth grade, the new girl, Anna Thomas, exotically half-Filipina in a predominantly white school, was renamed Anna Wanna. "Anna wants every guy she can touch."

White wasn't friends with Anna--nobody was. But the rumors surrounding Anna, "elaborate and meticulous as fairy tales," held her in sway. Years later, White, then the editor of The Stranger, placed a query in Dan Savage's nationally syndicated column, asking "Are you now or were you the slut of your high school class?" She set up an 800-number in her house, and within 24 hours the phone started ringing. White interviewed over a hundred women and girls from across the country and found their stories of torment and censure remarkably similar, making clear that "the myth of the promiscuous female remained constant. It was a story with a specific cadence, identifiable themes and a clear moral: Don't end up here."

White is a skilled interviewer, and Fast Girls is most engaging when her subjects are allowed to speak at length. Drawing from literary and feminist texts, scientific studies, women's magazines, and old advertisements, White unpacks and demystifies the archetype of the slut and the power of the word itself. She writes, "The slut is not a monster but a signÉ a window into the unconscious, a way of deciphering how the culture dreams of women." Yes. Read this. Please. ERIN ERGENBRIGHT