Feminism / Society & Culture

Slut-Shaming Hurts Everyone

end-slut-shaming

There are many ways slut-shaming takes form on the internet. When I was growing up, the main places you could interact with other people online more or less directly were on forums and in chat rooms. Chat rooms at that time generally lacked the ability to exchange picture messages; these were the days of asking “a/s/l?” as your introduction to whomever was actually behind the computers as SeXiEmAmAc1taaa and xXxpimpinf00xXx. In a way, this was probably a lot safer and more anonymous than the several social media accounts that can be easily linked to the same person through photos, videos, and mutual friends today.

Still, I remember being young and sexually curious on these chat rooms and in forums, where I posted numerous photos of myself for attention before the advent of instagram #nofilter selfies. Sometimes people said nice things and it made me feel good. I wasn’t popular in school by any stretch of the imagination, and didn’t start getting romantic attention until high school.

Elsewhere though, I got called a number of nasty names and generally shamed for trying to garner the male attention I had been socialized to feel I needed. I even had some semi-nude pictures grabbed from my private photo account and subsequently posted. The internet can be a shitty and confusing place for young girls.

Today, sexy photos can be transmitted via text message, posted on Facebook, tweeted, instagramed, e-mailed, and otherwise permanently fixed in the caverns of the internet. There is even a website dedicated to publicly shaming ex-girlfriends by posting their private pictures on the website for everyone to see, although I won’t link it here because I don’t want to give them the extra traffic.

But there’s something about this equation that I find extremely puzzling.

There are easily as many dicks and naked dudes on the internet as there are sexy pictures of women. Take this for instance: if you were to visit Chatroulette, it is certain that within 2 “nexts” you would be surfing through a sea of dicks.

If you’ve ever used the site, even just once, you know this is true. If men are just as willing to show their naughty bits to the world, why aren’t they examined with the same scrutiny as women’s bodies? How was Anthony Weiner even given the option to run (unsuccessfully) for mayor of New York after showing is weiner (sorry, couldn’t resist) to the world? Why, in the year 2013, are we still clinging to hypocritical, unattainable double standards of sexual expectations when it comes to women and girls?

This inherent contradiction, combined with the terrifying trend of teen rapists shaming their victims by publishing photos and video of their assault online, are resulting in not only the degradation, exploitation, violation of women and girls, but even the end of their young lives.

You know their names. Rehtaeh Parsons. Amanda Todd. Cherice Moralez. Audrey Pott. For these girls, the victim-blaming and slut-shaming reached unbearable proportions, and they took their own lives. We failed them. The justice system failed them. Society failed them. We live in a world that values women and girls for their appearance, encourages them to cultivate their physical attractiveness and place their sense of worth as human beings on how sexually desirable they are. In this same world, arbitrary measures of “just sexy enough” and “too sexy” can tip the scales against these girls and women, and deem them the worst possible category, “whore.” Woe be to her who crosses that line.

The overarching message seems to be that women simply shouldn’t like sex. That girls should be sexy, but not sexual. Sexual is slutty.

But wait, what is a slut? And how much sex can a woman have before becoming a slut? No one knows! But golly, we can just tell when someone’s a slut and when they aren’t. On the flip side, boys are taught that their sexual identities and self-worth are directly tied to how virile they appear, or how many sexual partners they have had.

Boys are pressured to prove to each other (and themselves) that they are “real men” by having sexual conquests, and a lot of them. My question is: who are all of these boys expected to be having sex with? Not our precious delicate little flower girls!

The cross-cultural obsession with virginity is just one example of this fucked up double-standard. Or how about the fact that 2,000,000 girls aged 14 and under give birth every year worldwide? Let me rephrase that: 2 million rape victims give birth every year worldwide, because a child who is 14 years old or younger cannot consent to sex.

Given the way we treat girls, it is no wonder that our boys are perpetuating rape culture. We are raising boys who are socialized and pressured to have sex to prove their worth as men to the point where boundaries of consent are being systematically violated or ignored, especially when it comes to rape involving excessive alcohol consumption.

We are raising girls who are encouraged to evaluate their self-worth on the basis of how many men find them attractive that lead many into dangerous situations. To compound the matter, we have an increasingly inter-connected world that makes it entirely too easy to perpetuate these problems. Clearly, internet slut-shaming (and all other forms of slut-shaming) are a symptom of a larger problem. So what can we do?

Well, ladies, for one thing, we can support each other. We can make ourselves available to girls who are going through it, and try to reach out and tell them they aren’t alone and the world just sucks sometimes. We can try to make Change.org petitions to get Facebook to stop allowing sexually explicit photos of minors be exchanged on their platform. We can try to get them to not use a dead rape victim’s image on advertisements.

Honestly, though, the biggest thing we can do is stop trying to live up to these insane expectations. Stop being ashamed of our sexuality. Stop buying into the lie that sex and women’s bodies and reproductive functions are “gross” and shouldn’t be talked about.

Share information with each other. Slut-shame some men for a change! Even the playing field. Or even better, socialize our boys better. Teach them that they have value without having to stick their penis into something. Start talking about male sexual assault and the effects it can have on boys and young men. Fight against the exploitation of rape and sexual assault victims. Most importantly, women need to stop judging other women.

The frustrating truth is that there is no one-stop-shop solution to sexism or the many horrific problems it causes in the world. In this inter-connected world, we can distribute information worldwide at lightning speed.

The old adage tells us that knowledge is power. We have power to spread information in a way that can make a significant difference, it’s just a matter of being able to steer the conversation. Let’s change the dialogue.

IMAGE: Flickr

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Amelia Shroyer is a native Texan who moved abroad in a fit of fearlessness in 2011 and works in online marketing and translation. She is into writing, painting, playing classic adventure rpgs, and revolutionary art. She writes regularly for her blog Pay My Rant. She also sings in a band called Fort Knightly. She has a background in political science and French, and lives in Berlin with her partner and her cat Dakeeti.

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4 thoughts on “Slut-Shaming Hurts Everyone

  1. Pingback: 7 Things Every Woman Should Know About Sex (Or At Least Remind Herself) |

  2. Pingback: There’s something about leggings… | Work.in.Progress

  3. As a dude, I thank you for writing this. Growing up, I didn’t think girls really wanted to have sex. You had to lure them into it. It was shocking when I learned otherwise. It challenged many of the gender roles I’d been taught consciously and subconsciously. No one had ever taught me this, but I’d believed men were superior, white men being the most superior, if I’m being totally honest.

    I would never have shamed a girl for having sex, because I was never a mean person, but when girls chose to be sexual with others guys and not me, it aroused a bunch of feelings in me: envy, jealousy, bitterness, and insecurity. Maybe I’d start to resent the girl because it was easier than admitting the fault was with me.

    But the more I thought about it and looked it logically, I realized that if a woman is a “slut” for having multiple partners, then so is a man. So why bother call anyone a slut? We all want to have sex. So why judge, right?

    I think sometimes men put women on pedestals and expect them to be better than us. Sex appeals to our lower nature and we expect women to be better than that. But when they crave sex just as much as us, the illusion is broken, and we see that they are just people. That can be hard to deal with. I don’t think like that anymore, but I did, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

    I think once we start to take the shame out of sex, it’ll go a long way to stopping the slut-shaming.

    • Thank you so much for reading this. Your POV is awesome. I agree: why should anyone be blamed for their natural urges? I don’t think sex a “low” part of us. I think the way we execute, expect, assign and go about attaining sex is. Men wanting sex = awesome. Men coercing or shaming women into it or because of it? No way. Men wanting sex = awesome. Men lying to-and-using women for it? Nope. It goes the same way with women. Once we put the HUMANITY back into sex, I think it will be good. Once we start devaluing gender role, I think it’ll be fucking HOT.

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