The Shame of Slut-Shaming

Slut-shaming is the act of shaming a woman or girl for her sexual acts, even if those acts don’t fall into the definition of “slutty.” (I know there is a movement to take back the word slut in an attempt to remove the negative power it has and draw attention to rape culture, but I still just hate that word. Or more accurately, that our culture so casually uses it to judge women. Where’s the male equivalent? Oh, yeah. It’s “Way to go, Bro!)

I want to make it absolutely, perfectly clear that no one should be shamed for their sexual acts, whether they are “slutty” or not. Shame is never a good or healthy response to any act. All shaming does to people is make them feel small and wretched and worthless. This is also representative of the virgin/whore dichotomy. Apparently, women can only be one or the other and nothing in between.

Today I listened to a short news story by an amateur reporter on Upworthy. The reporter is a high school student named Temitayo Fagbenle and reported on slut-shaming, what it is, how it impacts her classmates, and how with social media and the Internet any images shared can continue to haunt the victim for her entire life.

We all have different opinions about the proper time and place and age for sexual activity. But those opinions are quite irrelevant in this case. What is relevant is how we treat each other, and the differences between how society treats sexually active women and sexually active men.

barney-stinson-awesome1For example, the popular TV show “How I Met Your Mother” features the character Barney Stinson, a man whose main hobby is finding women and sleeping with them, usually by using trickery and his “Playbook.”

Is Barney the character shamed? No. He’s applauded and is one of the most popular characters on TV, with some of his catchphrases even making it into modern conversation.

If Barney were a female character, the story would be different. In fact, possibly no TV writer would write a female version of this character because she would be deemed a slut from the get go, not “legen-wait for it-dary” like Barney is.

But that’s just fiction. What about real life?

The interviews this amateur reporter conducted included an interview with a guy who had taken sexually explicit pictures of his girlfriend and then sent them to all his friends. Those friends sent the pictures to other friends and on and on until everyone in the school had seen the pictures. This guy admitted that people applauded him, liked him more, wanted to be his friend.

But what about the girl? Shamed.

Quite the double-standard.

This is a terrible but common story. Girls are often unknowingly filmed or photographed and those videos and pictures are spread like wildfire. Then the girl is shamed and forever haunted by the possibility of those pictures surfacing again and again–even as minors, where there should be an incredible amount of protection against this kind of thing.

But what really got me heated after listening to this story was the comments people made. It seems many people did not grasp the point of the story because they said things such as, “The problem here seems to be that the boys involved in this are not shamed not that the girls are shamed as they should be ashamed,” and “…stop acting like sluts.”

Do you know what happens when society shames sexual activity? People develop unhealthy relationships with sex. In addition, this story is about minors! And these adult commenters are calling underage girls sluts! Also, sexual activity does not equate to sluttiness. Many girls who are slut-shamed have only ever had one partner but still found their activity photographed or videoed and shared with the entire Internet. However, let me point out again that shaming women who do have multiple partners is still wrong. SHAME AND JUDGEMENT IS NEVER THE RIGHT COURSE OF ACTION!!!!

But the grand ole point of all this is that as a society we think it is okay to shame and judge women for the exact same behavior for which we applaud men. And to a very large degree the people who share photos and videos of these girls are ignored, despite that their sharing of these images and videos is illegal (not to mention despicable).

In a very disturbing portion of the story, the reporter tells of how a photo of a girl (a minor) with nothing but a shirt on appeared on Facebook. In just a short amount of time the image had received hundreds of likes and the guy who posted it had received thousands of friend requests. When the reporter flagged the image as inappropriate, they replied that the image of a half-naked underage girl does not fall into any of Facebook’s “inappropriate” categories. (This is the same company that removes images of mothers breastfeeding, which is in no way inappropriate or sexual, and allows pro-rape memes.)

Do you see the problem(s)? Listen to the story, think about how you view women and men, stop the shaming.

Author: Tamsen Maloy |

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