Slut-shaming, also known as slut-bashing, is the idea of shaming and/or attacking a woman or a girl for being sexual, having one or more sexual partners, acknowledging sexual feelings, and/or acting on sexual feelings. Furthermore, it’s “about the implication that if a woman has sex that traditional society disapproves of, she should feel guilty and inferior” (Alon Levy, Slut Shaming). It is damaging not only to the girls and women targeted, but to women in general an society as a whole. It should be noted that slut-shaming can occur even if the term “slut” itself is not used.
Why women slut-shame
As with many sexist phenomenon, women aren’t just the targets of slut-shaming, they are often the perpetrators as well. Not to mention that many times women will slut-shame in one moment and go on to revel in their “sluttiness” in the next. This, especially when compared to male behavior regarding sexuality, can be seen as confusing and contradictory:
So is that what women slut-shaming other women is about? Do they worry they themselves might be labeled sluts? Do they want to appear less slutty? I don’t know. That may be part of it, but I don’t think it’s quite the same. After all, rarely do het men parade around in “gay” outfits and say “Look how gay I look” to other het men unless they want to get beat up. And yet a woman could wear what she considers herself to be a “slutty” outfit and say “Look how slutty I look” to her fellow non-slutty friends and get a couple of laughs and that’s it.
The first thing to realize when talking about women slut-shaming each other is that infighting among oppressed groups is a necessary part for keeping those groups oppressed; ergo women are encouraged, through internalized sexism, to distrust each other and fight for male approval. In other words:
Slut-shaming is one of the chief ways that women attempt to compete with each other for male approval in a patriarchy that defines women’s worth by their physical attractiveness and limits their ability to distinguish themselves by other means.
It is also important to keep in mind that, in a patriarchal society, “male approval” translates into a form of power (albeit a limited one). Even in societies where women have access to other ways in which to attain power, girls are still encouraged from a young age to seek out and maintain male approval as a way to secure their own power in the world.
Tanenbaum looks at this phenomenon as it relates to slut-shaming:
Slut-bashing is a cheap and easy way to feel powerful. If you feel insecure or ashamed about your own sexual desires, all you have to do is call a girl a “slut” and suddenly you’re the one who is “good” and on top of the social pecking order.
earned $72.20 dollars for taking photos of the beautiful gusta and picking up money from recycle boutique. bought a bag for $15 - perfect for a book, wallet and diary bought another moleskine diary for 2011 (SO EXPENSIVE) and some coolo shoes from most wanted.
played with freya and ingrid at…
that was a good day.
i liked when we ordered a tall pool from HQ to put down the middle of our spacecraft. so that we could wash and play with rubber duckies. and when we made the soup to make us big and we ate it with straws. it had a lot of paprika in it because that’s good for evenness of stretching. and when you shot the cupcakes and soup out from the launcher at the top and we had to bounce to make it work. and when we found the translator telephones so that we could communicate with the aliens who were actually tiny.
Falling in love, we said; I fell for him. We were falling women. We believed in it, this downward motion: so lovely, like flying, and yet at the same time so dire, so extreme, so unlikely. God is love, they once said, but we reversed that, and love, like heaven, was always just around the corner. The more difficult it was to love the particular man beside us, the more we believed in Love, abstract and total. We were waiting, always, for the incarnation. That word, made flesh.
And sometimes it happened, for a time. That kind of love comes and goes and is hard to remember afterwards, like pain. You would look at the man one day and you would think, I loved you, and the tense would be past, and you would be filled with a sense of wonder, because it was such an amazing and precarious and dumb thing to have done; and you would know too why your friends had been evasive about it, at the time.
There is a good deal of comfort, now, in remembering this.
”—The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (via comablood)