When Esperanza begins desiring boys, she seeks out a friend in Sally, whom boys find desirable. Sally seems to be beautiful and cruel, like the women Esperanza admires in movies. She leans against the fence at school and doesn’t talk to anyone. Rumors about Sally’s promiscuity circulate, but Esperanza doesn’t believe them. Instead, she thinks of Sally as a kindred spirit, someone who also spends her time dreaming of escaping the neighborhood. Sally, however, is not interested only in driving boys crazy and then laughing them away, as the women in the movies do. Instead, she follows through with the sexual acts that her male peers initiate. Sally’s sexual exploits make Esperanza uncomfortable, since at this point Esperanza is interested in sex only abstractly. Eventually, this discomfort becomes extreme, and Sally ends up putting Esperanza in physical danger. Traumatized by her assault and heartbroken that Sally’s negligence was a factor in that assault, Esperanza’s understanding of her friend – and of women’s sexuality – changes dramatically. She realizes that by following in Sally’s footsteps, she has tried to mature too quickly.

While Sally’s lack of care plays a role in Esperanza’s sexual assault, Sally herself is also a victim of male abuse. Her father is a physically abusive misogynist who beats Sally when she shows signs of maturing from girlhood to womanhood. His treatment of her drives Sally to seek male attention elsewhere, and eventually she ends up marrying an older man to escape her father. This marriage only transports her from one cage to another. Her husband is controlling, and confines Sally to the house, severely limiting her contact with friends and the outside world. By the novel's end, Sally has become yet another woman on Mango Street who spends her life looking out of her window at a world that is no longer available to her. Sally has never known anything other than controlling, abusive men – and unlike Esperanza, who is constantly analyzing the world around her, Sally never becomes fully aware of the terrible reality of her circumstances. Instead, she accepts her role in a continuous cycle of misogynistic abuse, ultimately becoming a tragic, powerless figure in Esperanza’s life.