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How To Stop Slut-Shaming (And Why You Should Care)

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Slut-shaming has been a hot topic lately. I’ll admit, I’ve been guilty of it in the past – even the not-too-distant past.

It’s not right, and we know that, but we’ve been so conditioned to think that a woman who enjoys frequent sex, or dresses as if she does (whatever that really means) is, in some ways, an inferior, second-class citizen.

But slut-shaming is damaging to all women, even if it doesn’t directly touch you. No one wants to be the one who’s thought of like that – but almost everyone is guilty to doing it to someone else.

On the surface, slut-shaming is a form of unfair judgment that we often apply to people we don’t even know.

On a deeper level, though, it promotes rape culture – the idea that a woman who is sexually violated must have been doing something to deserve it.

insight_no-sluts-allowed

Rape is the only crime where the victim has to prove their innocence. It’s a vicious cycle and it really is time to knock it off – even if that’s easier said than done.

Interested in helping? None of the following things are going to completely wipe out the problem, but by helping to spread the word, you’re sending a message that our generation will no longer accept this.

Slut-shaming and victim blaming go hand-in-hand and I for one am tired of it. Ready to start modifying your own behavior?


1. Identify your slut-shaming thoughts.

It’s often been said that the first step towards a solution is identifying the problem. This is just as true with slut-shaming as with any other problem. If you notice yourself having thoughts that are negative towards women’s sexuality, try to catch yourself. Don’t play it off as catty. It’s not catty. It’s creating a society where women are expected to submit to sexual whims while magically remaining pure. This is a far more unattainable goal than fashion dolls have – not that fashion dolls don’t get slut shamed, too.

The fact that we could even have this conversation about a doll is absolutely ridiculous. The idea that a plastic toy for children could be “too sexualized” – like Bratz dolls with their oversized, pouty facial features, or Barbie with her impossibly long legs and unrealistic boobs (and let’s not forget every doll ever with painted-on makeup)… It’s too much, and we’re passing these horrible thoughts onto the next generation. By stopping ourselves from saying these things, especially around children, we are already taking a big step.


2. Try to figure out what the real problem is.

I think in the lesbian community, we’re at a particularly rough position in terms of the slut-shaming epidemic. While there are definitely some who stand up for the rights of every woman, there are also some of us who will watch a pornographic film, and then immediately after, jump on Facebook and judge someone for “dressing like a hoe” or posting too many suggestive selfies. No. You don’t get to have it both ways.

I make the whole “life goals or wife goals” joke, a lot. Sometimes, as women who love other women, the lines between what we aspire to be and what we’re attracted to are very blurred. But if a woman is seen to leave nothing to the imagination, we often put her in a third category: “I’d hit it, and then never talk to her again.” The problem here isn’t in what the woman is wearing – it’s in the fact that you’re unjustly sexualizing her, when all she’s trying to do is look good. And looking good is not a crime.


3. Once you think you’ve found the problem, dig a little deeper.

The first problem we run into is most likely not the only problem. In my experience, I know that a lot of my slut-shaming comes from disloyal ex-girlfriends, and my own “slutty” past. Knowing these little details doesn’t make it any easier to stop myself from saying the things I oughtn’t be saying, but it’s a step in the right direction. Be specific about why you have a problem with this woman’s sexuality – or her perceived sexuality, as is more often the case.

You might find that it’s coming from a place of jealousy – seeing someone attractive in an outfit you could never “pull off” and look as good as she does. Sometimes it’s insecurity, such as my own case. Sometimes it’s just ingrained into us – my dad used to have a saying: “If you’re not Madonna, cover your stomach up.” Of course, this was back in the early 90s – when I was a young child – so Madonna was the go-to provocative celebrity. I got it in my head that I wasn’t attractive enough to dress like that, which for some reason meant I thought I had the right to dictate who was “attractive enough” to dress like that.


4. Is it even related to sex… At all?

In most cases, people slut-shame under the guise that it has anything whatsoever to do with the woman’s sexuality. But very rarely is that actually the case. In fact, the only cases of slut-shaming that really have to do with sexuality is when your partner is unfaithful – and, even then, you’re entitled to your anger, but not the name-calling. Calling someone a slut or a whore is lazy and shows a lack of intelligence.

Let’s face it: Even if your partner cheats on you, her sexuality isn’t what you’ve got a problem with. Chances are, there are some overlaps in your sexual interests, so if she’s a slut, that makes you a slut, too. Instead, your problem lies with her disrespect for your relationship. Her disloyalty. Her callousness. Basically, it wasn’t the sex that was the problem – it was the fact that she cheated on you, and the two aren’t as closely related as you might think.


5. Just go ahead and remove those “slutty” words from your vocabulary right now.

Slut. Whore. Skank. Hoe. Loose. Easy. These words exist specifically to vilify female sexuality – which has been wrought with so many contradictions over the years. After all, women are expected to “give it up” to their partners on demand – if we don’t, we’re a prude, or we must be getting it from somewhere else. But we’re expected to play hard-to-get, too, which is dangerous territory because it intentionally blurs the lines between rape and not-sluttiness.

This has a much more direct impact when these “slutty” words are applied to actual victims of sexual violence. I can remember back when I first started to talk about my rape… The first person I told took it upon himself to tell everyone that we were mutually friends with. Each one of them individually called me up to tell me I was a slut, because their impression was that I had just moved to a new city and I had already “hooked up” with someone. And you know what happened? I didn’t talk to anyone else about it for years – even though it was still going on for quite some time.

Now, you might be thinking, “But she wasn’t raped – she’s just promiscuous.” But this is something you might not actually know. Most victims of sexual violence keep it inside. Some have even been convinced by their abusers that they did, in fact, want it, no matter how many times they said no, or cried, or tried to get away. Our society leans so firmly on the implied sexualization of women that even young girls – I’m talking single digit ages here – get catcalled on the street. Is it the harasser’s fault for being a creep? Nope – let’s blame the girl who was just trying to get home from school. Do you see the problem here?


6. Ignore the stigmas associated with Social Justice Warriors.

I think it’s absolutely horrible that “social justice” and “political correctness” have become dirty words, too. I mean, yeah, expecting the whole internet to protect your feelings is a bit of a reach, but at the same time… Why is it so friggin’ hard for people to just be decent to one another? Use your social media for good, and help to break down the idea that people don’t have to care about each other.

Of course, the reason SJWs get such a bad rep is that many of them take an aggressive stance with the whole thing. Not only is that not helping the cause, but it’s probably actually hurting it. Think about it: You see someone who would be widely labeled as a “feminazi”, cussing others out for their distasteful use of the word “cunt”, perhaps. Instead of standing behind her, other less-radical feminists tend to disappear into the woodwork, or in some cases, even lash out against the woman who’s trying to make things equal.

Do you want to be the angry woman that everyone decries as a kook, or do you want to be the one who actually makes a difference?


7. Speak up!

It might be one of the scariest ways to battle slut-shaming, but it’s usually the most effective. If a friend, family member, or loved one is actively slut-shaming in front of you (hint: it’s not always as easy to see as simply calling a woman a slut), call them on it. Remember to be polite and logical in your response.

If your friends or family members are laughing at misogynistic jokes, or any rape jokes, or anything along those lines, you have the right (and responsibility as a woman) to stand up against this, too. Of course, I wish everyone would stand up against stuff like this, but if everyone did then no one would need to, right? When you call attention to someone’s pro-rape commentary, no matter what the specifics are, you are sending a message that you will not stand for women’s forced sexualization. Unless you and a woman are actively engaging in consensual sex, her sex life is none of your business. Deal with it.

But, of course, rape jokes are still a big deal. People toss the word “rape” around like it’s nothing. I raped that guy in Call of Duty last night. While this doesn’t fit into the same category as slut-shaming, it’s another damaging effect of rape culture. And no, not because it might trigger and/or offend someone, but because it makes light of a seriously emotionally-damaging situation. When you use the word “rape” in place of other unrelated verbs, you are taking away the power of the word, which basically minimizes the idea of rape in the first place – and in a world where victims are still asked first “Well, what were you wearing?” instead of “What can I do to help?” … it’s obvious to see that this is not a good status quo.


8. Actually make a difference.

As important as it is to take a stand against passive rape culture, it’s of the utmost importance that we put an end to active rape culture. If you see someone slut-shaming, you should do your part to help protect them. Maybe no one is exactly responsible for anyone else’s actions or happiness, but the consequence of slut-shaming is sometimes suicide. Could you live with yourself if you knew that a few words of kindness could have saved someone’s life?

This means taking action when someone you know has been subjected to sexual violence and harassment, too. When someone leers at your female friend and makes unwanted sexual advances – even after your friend has turned them down – speak up! As women we should be protecting one another, especially with a subject as serious as rape culture. Don’t be the one who asks a rape victim what they did to entice their rapist. Instead, be the one who tells them that you are there to lift them up.

(And remember, men can be victims of rape culture and slut-shaming, too, although women tend to take most of it – just because it’s less obvious doesn’t mean it’s not there.)

Can we all agree that slut-shaming is so over?

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