Can We Please Stop Slut-Shaming?

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while, but it’s one of those concerns I have a hard time putting to words. Mostly, it’s feelings like, “This is not fair,” or more succinctly, “Grr.”

Women have sex. Did you know that? Sometimes these women who have sex aren’t married. Still with me?  Some of these unmarried women have sex multiple times, sometimes with a range of men. You know that thing that men do where they sleep with different people? Some women do that too. Do you remember how men who sleep with multiple partners get called sluts? Yeah, me neither.

I can’t remember when I first heard the term “slut-shaming,” but I feel it’s been a part of our national consciousness or unconsciousness for years. There is an entire section on my favorite feminist blog, Jezebel, devoted to the many, many atrocious reports of slut-shaming. If you don’t believe me, check it out: http://jezebel.com/slut-shaming/. You can read about slut-shaming in high schools, in colleges, in politics, and during Halloween. Remember earlier this year when Sandra Fluke wanted to testify to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about insurance plans needing to provide contraception? Remember Rush Limbaugh’s response? He called her a slut because she advocated for safer sex.

As the War on Women rages on (this past election brought us some victories, don’t get me wrong), much of it whittles down to words. If you talk about sex and contraception in politics, it becomes a women’s rights issue. That’s funny because the last time I checked men have sex too and (hopefully) they use contraception as well. I know that it’s our bodies that ultimately become the “baby homes,” but my God if it’s not unfair that all the burden seems to be lumped on us, as well as all the criticism. I’ve walked into Planned Parenthood, past the picketer accusing me of murdering babies, for my yearly women’s health exam. You know what I experienced? A cervical cancer scare, something I would have never known had I not walked past the judgmental picketer’s stares.

Since when did modern America become 19th century England? The last time I checked, I wasn’t wearing a corset and living in the “private sphere.” And yet the same Victorian notions of men as the sexual beasts and women as the devout ladies who must contain said beasts until their wedding nights still exist. Or, if we’re not the madonnas, we’re the whores. We’re the Victoria’s Secret models or the scantily-clad pop stars. American culture sexualizes women and then punishes, slut-shames, them for being sexual. This is quite the conundrum.

So women sometimes have sex outside of wedlock. So women sometimes wear short skirts. So women sometimes walk alone. So women sometimes take shots at bars. None of these things mean, “Rape me.” None of these things mean, “I’m a slut, so please tell me so.” Recently, while talking to my dad about the TV show The New Girl he said to me, “Did you see last week’s episode? She had sex with that guy awfully fast. That was pretty slutty.” I swallowed my fury, the same impotent fury I’ve been stuck with since hitting the age where I looked around and realized things were just a bit off balance, and said, “I don’t like to use that word. It’s unfair to women because you wouldn’t call a man that.” We moved on in the conversation. Did I change his mind about anything? Probably not, but I had to say something. I had to say something.

That’s the point: we have to say something. I’m not saying anything new in this post. I have no new wisdom to bring to this debate. But that doesn’t mean I’ll stay quiet. Women shouldn’t stay quiet about this issue. Slut-shaming is NOT OKAY. So talk about it. Read about it. Do something about it. But please don’t be quiet about it.

Stop slut-shamingCheck out this awesome organization that promotes women’s rights and stands up against this disgusting, patriarchal practice of calling women sluts who express their sexuality in a healthy, adult, open way: http://slutwalkseattle.com/about. These slut walks are happening around the world, including in Portland (although I’m not sure one happened last year as their website wasn’t up to date). Post in the comments if you have any other organizations like this you’d like to advocate for.

Let’s start talking about our sexuality like adults and stop slut-shaming.

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