I Don’t Get It: Slut Shaming 101

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Words || Rayna Bland

Okay ladies – have you ever been called a slut before? I sure as well have and let me tell you, to a low-self esteem, popularity obsessed, and boy-crazed teenager – that shit stung. Gossip spreads like wildfire and, before you know it, that girl Caroline from homeroom who let you borrow her pen once is coming to role call with her pencil case padlocked.  

But this isn’t just a social scandal or an allegory about high school bullying. Slut shaming is a culture of victim blaming and misogyny has serious consequences for the way women are viewed and treated. 

What is Slut-Shaming?

It’s pretty simple. The term “slut” is a versatile, misogynistic insult that is used to criticise a woman for her perceived sexual behaviour.

Soraya Chemaly, author of the acclaimed “Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger” defines slut-shaming as an act that is “embarrassing, insulting or otherwise denigrating a girl or woman for her real or extrapolated sexual behaviour, including for dressing in a sexual way, having sexual feelings and/or exploring and exhibiting them.”

Slut-shamers? More like slut-lamers.

Slut-shaming creates the myth that a woman is vile and dirty because of the clothing she wears, what she says, and how she lives her life. The intended effect of this myth is to make women feel as though they are morally and socially ‘lesser’. This kind of gross behaviour and thought occurs in all shapes and sizes. 

Here I bring you three manifestations of this ugly, jealous and sexist monster.

The Double Standard.

I want you to close your eyes and think about whether you can think of any male equivalents to the word ‘slut’. 

“Fuckboy?” you offer delightedly. “No – man-whore!”

But a fuckboy is not just someone who is sexually active – it is someone who cheats, lies and acts in disregard of others. The descriptor isn’t focused on the man’s promiscuity, it is about his deceptiveness. And the word ‘man-whore’ is just an unoriginal extension of the word ‘whore’ (a word reserved for women yet again) that is barely used or believed in. How fun! Worse still, the word “whore” plays into a history of devaluing and denegrating sex work. 

My point is, this whole category of slut-shaming vocabulary exists specifically to punish women for their sexual behaviour. This offensive language discourages women from embracing their natural sexuality and inhibits their confidence. The word slut is a sexist word, and a word that men don’t have to endure. Calling someone a slut is inherently sexist.

Revenge Porn

Nudes – a cute, abbrievated term for a naked picture. A fun and sexy way to share in privacy your birthday suit with someone whom you fuck or love, or maybe just yourself because “DAMN I LOOK GOOD!”.

However, things occasionally go awry. People break trust, breach promises and share confidential photos without consent.

This happened to someone I spoke with. The source had dated someone for 2 years and, when they broke up, he shared private photos of her.

The experience was alienating. She admits “It was horrible, people I thought were my friends laughed behind my back calling me a slut. Some even made remarks to my face. I confided with my mum and she condemned me for ever taking the photos.”

How is this okay? How can this woman – who has the right to privacy and ownership of her body and photos – be seen as the problem? 

Shaming nudity only allows people to be afraid of sex and themselves. If you ask me (or just any reasonable person) it is clear that the one sharing pictures without consent is the wrongdoer here. And, to be perfectly clear: he was the criminal here. That’s right: recording, distributing or even threatening to distribute naked pictures without someone’s consent is a crime in NSW. 

Have fun being a registered sex offender. 

Also, there is nothing wrong with embracing your sexuality and expressing that through photography. Your body, your photo and your autonomy!!

For a more comprehensive understanding of how slut-shaming takes place everyday life I recommend that you read up on The Unslut Project founded by Emily Lindin.

But what was she wearing?

In 1999 there was a ruling by the Italian Supreme court in which a “conviction was overturned because the justices felt that, since the victim was wearing tight jeans, she must have helped her rapist remove her jeans, thereby implying consent.”

This ruling assumes that because of the victim’s clothing she must have consented to being assaulted. Since this ruling, Denim Day has asked people to wear a pair of jeans on a Wednesday in April to raise awareness for sexual assault.

Imagine that you go to a museum and you see the most beautiful painting ever. Gorgeous brush strokes, great colours and you think “I would LOVE that in my lounge.”

Of course you don’t steal the painting, it’s wrong! That painting is not owned by you and frankly, it doesn’t want your greasy mitts on it.

And if you did steal the painting, you’d be met with heavy criticism. Exercise some control like the rest of us and leave the painting alone. It is not the painting’s fault it was stolen.

Just like it is not the victims fault they were attacked. The fault lies with the attacker. It lies with their lack of control, their entitlement and their savagery – the fault does not lie with a pair of jeans. 

Shutting down your slut-lamers.

Have you been slut-shamed, reader? If someone has made you feel guilty for being sexual or confident, then the answer is yes. If someone has used targeted language to isolate you as a dirty and disrespectful woman because of presumed sexual antics, then the answer is yes.

And this is not okay.

Slut-shaming leads to victim blaming and it allows the continuous social oppression of all women. It hinders people from believing sex is normal. Overall, it perpetuates the ability to demean others and limits the freedom of sexuality.

How can we fix this?

We need to take back the word slut. Make it powerless to the attackers.  We need to question those who slut-shame. Speak up when you see others being slut-shamed and don’t stand for the alienation of womanhood.