The Real Story That Inspired Pinky's Controversial Tampon Scene

In Refinery29's newest Shatterbox film, Pinky, directors Roja Gashtili and Julia Lerman take on the world of teenage girls. Centering on a group of friends in middle school, the short film captures just how complicated, tense, and fraught girl groups can be. "You can feel an intense closeness and bond to your girlfriends, but that closeness can be an embrace, or them circling you like wolves," Lerman says, noting that the directors took cues from boxing videos and fight scenes for their climactic ending.
Not surprisingly, Pinky's plot centers on one major coming-of-age moment — getting a period. Inspired by a childhood slumber party that Gashtili attended, the tense conclusion of the film sparked many debates around consent, coming of age, and sexual assault. Ahead, Gashtili recalls the slumber party that inspired Pinky.
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"I failed really hard at being 13 — I still looked like an 8-year-old, and I knew I didn't fit in. I was always really nerdy, and all of a sudden, these girls were growing up, becoming 'sexy,' and that escaped me.
"So I knew something was happening that I was missing out on. We all came back to school after summer, and everyone was different. People had already started going to the mall and dating, and I hadn't been asked to do any of that. Like, one time this girl said something offhand, like, 'Why do they even call it a blow job? You don’t even blow it.' I thought to myself, 'Well now I have to go figure out what this is.' And boobs. I remember coming back from summer and someone said, 'Have you seen X’s body?' And I went over to gym class to chat with her and I was struck by this girl actually having boobs, while I was flat.
"The first sleepover after that summer was the last sleepover I was invited to in my friend group, who had all suddenly blossomed into cool girls. There were maybe six girls, and one of the girls got her period, so she asked for a pad. And I didn't know about tampons — my mother just didn’t know about tampons and didn't teach me about them. But this girl, she asked for a pad and it turned into mayhem. All the other girls were like, 'Hell no, you have to wear a tampon,' and started pressuring her to use one. I remember people holding her down, her saying, 'No, no,' and then going into the bathroom to put it in herself. All the other girls watched her really closely to make sure she did it, and I stood in the corner, so quiet, hoping to be invisible because I realized at any moment that energy could turn on me. That moment stayed with me a long time, as a defining moment of what it felt like to be that age.
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"That's what I remember. I will say this: My best friend who was there that night — and she’s still my best friend — she told me, 'It didn’t happen like that at all. We just convinced her to put in a tampon. And you created this huge thing that that didn’t exist.' But for me, I know what I remember. I was an uncomfortable teenager, and I watched that scene of these girls bullying this other girl, and there being a moment that night of like, whew, I'm glad it wasn't me. And my best friend, she was a much cooler person. It’s always a bigger thing for the nerd who wasn’t prepared for it. You’re always scared of doing the wrong thing. One misstep and they can turn against you.
"That moment cemented the idea that I wasn't ready to be a part of the girl group. And eventually I was asked to not join them at lunch anymore, which I think is a typical teenage experience. But we're so consumed by our friends in that moment. People think that we're obsessed with boys as teenagers but we both felt much more obsessed with our friends: What’s your place in the group, do you get to stay in the group, do you even belong in that group?
"The girl? I think she ended up being a part of the group. And I think at 14, when things like that happen, you’re just like, Thank god they accepted me. And I know it was the wrong thing that happened to her, but in that moment, that’s what you care about."
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