Feminism | Posted by Lauren T on 05/24/2013

On Ending Slut Shaming

About a week ago, I was talking with one of my co-workers and she told me that students at her teenage daughter’s high school made a Facebook page dedicated to the school “sluts.” She proceeded to tell me that the page described the acts that the so-called “sluts” committed and even had pictures of the girls in question. I told my co-worker that that was called “slut shaming.” She did not know what I was talking about — that term was not in her vocabulary. Slut shaming is not something many people know about because of the stereotype that this is normal teenage behavior. But policing a young woman’s sexuality with hurtful comments, physical abuse, and/or sexual abuse, is not normal nor is it okay.

Slut shaming is a fairly new term, but the concept is ages old. Slut shaming is defined as making women feel guilty for engaging in sexual behavior that violates traditional gender expectations. Teen girls are often subjected to this treatment by other teens, but this is not limited to high school: even grown, successful women are subjected to the horrors of slut shaming. Women are shamed for having sex, and are treated especially badly if they are having sex before marriage and/or are unapologetically sleeping with multiple partners.

I believe that Leora Tanenbaum described the act of slut shaming most accurately in her book, Slut! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation:

“Being known as the school slut is a terrifying experience. In school, where social hierarchy counts for everything, the school “slut” is a pariah, a butt of jokes, a loser. Girls and boys both gang up on her. She endures cruel and sneering comments-slut is often interchangeable with whore and bitch-as she walks down the hallway. She is publicly humiliated in the classroom and cafeteria. Her body is considered public property: She is fair game for physical harassment. There is little the targeted girl can do to stop the behavior.

I experienced slut-shaming, and, more specifically, society’s focus on purity and virginity, recently when the topic of birth control came up at our weekly breakfast meeting at work. One of my higher ups asked why I take the pill, assuming that I was a virgin (which I’m not). Now, first of all this was obviously none of his business, but instead of telling him that, my knee-jerk reaction was to defend myself with the standard safe excuse: “ I take it to help regulate my period.” I had internalized the double standard that my purity defines who I am, not the work I do or my moral background.

I think my immediate need to defend my purity is a result of the abstinence only sex education I endured, in which two men told me I couldn’t re-wrap my “gift” if it had already been opened before marriage. I did not know what that meant for my future sexually-active self, but I do now. After losing my virginity, I kept thinking about the strangers who told me I could not have sex because virginity was so precious — it was a shaking experience. I couldn’t help but wonder if I was worthless without my virginity. Did I lose the only thing that kept me special? Thankfully, I don’t think like this anymore, but the guilt is still hard to shake and, as a teenager, this definitely shaped the way I thought about sex.

I also have a unique perspective because I was heavily involved with a Christian youth group called Young Life. I was on my way to becoming a leader of the North Houston Urban Young Life group, but then I took my first Women’s Studies class. As a Young Life leader, I was taught that while sex was great, God wanted us to be virginal until marriage and that everybody should save themselves for that special someone. Young Life did not specifically say that if you had sex you were a bad person, but they did make it clear that having sex would set back your relationship with God. I felt that I could not lead other teenage girls and impart the false message that their worth lies in their virginity, so I quit.

So how do we end all this? How do we stop slut shaming and this ridiculous idea that women are only as valuable as their “purity”? I cannot say I have a concrete plan, but there are steps that can be taken to ensure a brighter future for generations to come.

The first step is to teach real sex education, by which I mean not just accurate information regarding condoms, pregnancy, birth control, and STD prevention, but teaching kids that sex is a normal and healthy part of life.

The second step is for everybody to recognize that female sexuality exists and women do receive pleasure from sex. The thought that women and teenage girls don’t enjoy sex is ridiculous and we need to fix a society that values virginity at the expense of women’s sexual pleasure.

I think we also need to create a different definition of masculinity. I think masculine traits are defined by violence and brute strength. We need to redefine what it means to be masculine to include being caring and nurturing as well as courageous, strong and adventurous by raising sons who fully respect women, who are taught to not rape and who do not use sexist language or rhetoric.

I know these suggestions might seem utopian, but I believe it’s possible. Women are trying to end slut shaming through slut walks and speaking out against abstinence only sex education. If we keep this up, it’s only a matter of time before we reach true equality.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Rate this post




1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (4 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...






Read other posts about: , , , , , , , ,


Leave a Reply