The Silhouette of Slut Shaming

She doesn’t fuck around, she’s a good girl. Ever heard that before? How about ‘look at what she’s wearing, has she no self-respect.’ What about something like, ‘I want a lady in the street, but a freak in the bed.’ Ever heard, ‘she’s elegant and classy, she’s the girl you bring home to your mum,’ or ‘leave a little to the imagination,’ or ‘if you show your legs you can’t show your cleavage, it’s one or the other.’ What about something like, ‘she fucks everyone, she must have some deep-rooted issues.’

What about, ‘she’s a filthy slut’?

All of the above are everyday examples that wreak of ‘slut shaming.’ Slut shaming refers to certain attitudes that criticise, judge and demonise females for violating traditional gender norms about women’s sexuality. It’s the deep rooted sentiment that a woman’s worth is somehow dependent on her ‘flower’ or her sexuality.

Here’s everything that’s wrong with slut shaming:

1- We’re damned if we do, we’re damned if we don’t

When a woman engages in casual sex, she’s a slut. Even if a woman just dates men, it’s assumed she’s sleeping with them, and she’s a slut. Taylor Swift, is infamously known and heavily criticised for dating many men, and she has described herself as a ‘national lightning rod for slut-shaming.’

When a woman says things of a sexual nature she’s a slut- Olivia Melville made headlines when a man posted to Facebook a screenshot of her Tinder profile which contained the rapper, Drake’s lyric, “The type of girl that will suck you dry and then eat some lunch with you,” accompanied with his caption ‘Stay classy ladies.’ Since, the incident Melville has been subject to sexual harassment.

Even when a woman says things that could be inferred as sexual, she’s a slut. When a woman dresses provocatively she’s a slut. Miley Cyrus and Kim Kardashian West to name a few, are demonised for how they choose to dress, to the point that their success and accomplishments are undermined and disregarded.

Essentially anytime a woman expresses her sexuality, she’s a slut. And yes, this is a sexist issue because there is no male equivalent. Women are sluts and men are glorified for the same actions. Slut shaming is a form of sexism and is a sexual injustice.

What’s more, is that for females who don’t necessarily violate traditional gender norms, then their femininity is called into question, they are seen as undesirable and prudish with no sexual desires. So, there’s really no way out for women. We are damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

2- Mixed expectations

The greatest irony of slut shaming is that our culture actively encourages the sexualisation of females. We live in a hypersexualised world where sex sells, yet when a woman embraces her sexuality for herself she’s a slut. So it’s okay for society to dictate how a woman should look, act, dress and behave, but it’s not okay for a woman to dictate how she lives her life. So, really, slut shaming is another way of policing how a woman should live their lives and undermines a woman’s right to personal autonomy.

3- A supposed ‘correlation’ between sex and worth

Slut shaming incorrectly assumes that the way women dress or act is reflective of their self-worth and self-respect. The thing is- women have sexual desires too! Just because a woman sleeps around doesn’t mean they have no self-respect or self-worth, they might just like  sex- it’s really as simple as that.

4- It’s us against the world

Slut shaming can occur at the hands of society, men and yes- women too. Yes- many women, and this is arguably the worst kind of slut-shaming. Women who slut shame other women reinforce this girl on girl hate, when we should be empowering other women, I mean, women already have to face it from the rest of society, we need more female solidarity.  People who have slut shamed others have lost their jobs. A Sydney man Michael Nolan, would call women sluts on Facebook, until feminist writer, Clementine Ford brought it to the public’s attention and he was subsequently fired from his job. But is the court of public opinion in bringing perpetrators of slut shaming to justice enough?  Should there be slut-shaming specific laws in Australia? What would such laws look like? Food for thought.

5- The harm is significant

To be labelled a ‘slut’ diminishes a woman’s worth, respectability, reputation, and reduces her to ‘damaged goods.’

Sadly, it is not uncommon for victims of slut shaming to take their lives because of the harm, humiliation, ridicule and harassment that comes with slut shaming. Advances in technology also make incidents of slut shaming more prevalent and easier to carry out. Revenge porn is a serious example of slut shaming, and involves the spread of sexually explicit material of usually women, typically by ex-lovers, to humiliate and degrade a girl. Victims of revenge porn can experience sexual harassment, depression, humiliation and their employability can be compromised.

6- Perpetuates broader social injustices

Slut shaming has serious social implications as it actually fuels rape culture and victim blaming. The term ‘rape culture’ brings to light how females are blamed for acts of sexual violence committed against them, because of how they dressed or how they behaved. Controversial statements from police officers and politicians have tried to justify incidents of rape by victim blaming a female’s provocative clothing or sexual promiscuity. Which makes the awareness of slut shaming even more important, because it affects a wide range of sexual injustices.

But, things are changing:

Now, luckily there is an emerging movement to reclaim the word ‘slut,’ to rid it from negative connotations and to use it as a tool of women’s sexual empowerment.  Rapper Brooke Candy in a lyric says ‘that it’s time to take the word back slut is now a compliment.’ Amber Rose, a famous player in bringing awareness to slut shaming and reducing the shame around female sexuality created the ‘Amber Rose Slut Walk.’ Furthermore, sex positivity is being encouraged by ‘The Unslut Project’ where people can openly talk about their sexual experiences, free from judgement to work against sexual bullying and slut shaming.

So, if you’re someone who believes that women should have personal autonomy and should be in control of how they live their lives, sexually promiscuous or not, without fear of condemnation and judgment, then slut shaming should be on your radar. Slut shaming affects all women.

For too long women have been told: to be afraid and ashamed of their sexuality; that the sexual woman is the unworthy bad woman. For too long, women have been told how to dress, speak and act. The silhouette of slut shaming is broad, dangerous and not a pretty sight, it is so important to be prepared to speak up if you see, hear or feel it, however trivial the circumstances.

Featured Image: Zac Quitzau. Facebook: Zac’s Doodles

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