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Slut-Shaming Is Not OK

Slut-shaming
By , 18, Contributor Originally Published: December 20, 2012 Revised: December 10, 2013

The first time I was slut-shamed was in the 2nd grade. I repeat: 2nd grade. On that fateful day in 2002, I was wearing my favorite skirt and a classmate—I’ll call him Cody—attempted to look up my skirt. When I confronted Cody, he said, “Well, you were the one who wore the skirt!” Who knew that childhood skirts were open invitations for sexual harassment at the mere height of four feet tall?

Slut-shaming is the practice of shaming, victimizing and/or attacking someone because of how they dress, appear or are perceived to behave. With slut shaming, we’re putting down anyone who expresses themselves in a way we disagree with.

Blame the Victim

While Cody didn’t directly call me a slut, he implied that my skirt wearing made it OK for him to look up it. Cody got the idea that it’s OK to look up my skirt from a variety of sources that told him that the way a woman (or in this case, a young girl) dresses gives him permission to treat her any way he wants.

One might expect the seven-year-old me to be outraged by Cody’s behavior. I did confront him, but the unfortunate truth is I was actually OK with it. I was socially conditioned, time and time again, that this type of behavior is OK. I accepted what Cody did to me. My subconscious thinking was that I chose to wear that skirt, or more likely, my mother chose it for me, and this is what happens when you wear a skirt.

The fact that this specific incident didn’t bother me then is what bothers me now. Incidents likes these bother me precisely because we’re socially conditioned that this behavior is OK, that young girls like me should be flattered by it and even that it’s our fault when someone looks up our skirts or harasses us.

I was socially conditioned, time and time again, that this type of behavior is OK.

The Effects of Slut Shaming

Guys aren’t the only ones who slut-shame. The first time I slut-shamed someone was the 6th grade. Slut-shaming can be as simple as saying “What a slut!” or declaring someone’s attire “slutty,” and that’s exactly what I did multiple times. I had no clue until very recently how much my behavior could hurt.

When we slut-shame, even in the most lighthearted way, we’re telling people that it’s not OK to be comfortable with their sexuality and self-expression. Do we really want to live in a world like that?

The awful truth is that many people still see slut-shaming the way I did when I was seven. Many people are apathetic or OK with it. People often don’t even realize when they are victims of slut-shaming. Were it not for my fiery feminism or love of sociology, I would probably be “OK with it” right now too.

The effect of slut-shaming is a lot bigger than anyone could think. People may not realize that slut-shaming contributes to victim blaming. When a person is called a slut, suddenly it’s OK to hurt her verbally or physically, and it’s all her fault for being a “slut.”

End Slut Shaming

Let’s be open about sexuality and talk about all the various aspects of it. Using my second grade example, shaming is an outward experience—an external force or something that happens to us. This makes it seem like slut-shaming is something that is almost impossible for us to have control over. While we don’t have control over how people use the word “slut,” we do have control over how we think about sexuality.

Perhaps if we start viewing our own sexuality as normal, we can become more accepting of how people express their gender or sexuality. Ending slut-shaming is a long, hard road, I’ll admit. But wouldn’t it be worth it? Once we’re comfortable with our own sexuality, we won’t have to worry about how other people dress or making judgments about what we think other people are doing. When we can live in a society where sexuality is seen as a healthy part of life, the shaming might end.

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