Slut Shaming and Double Standards

By: Sophie Schwartz

In today’s society sex is everywhere—on the TV, in the magazines and tied to almost everything we talk about (especially in college).  From our culture’s sex-obsession comes an odd and disturbing double standard between men and women. In our culture men who are sexually promiscuous are seen as players and heroes. Pop culture teaches men that if they are not getting around then they are not manly men. Meanwhile in double standard land, if a woman is sexually promiscuous or even rumored to be, she is a slut. She is seen as amoral, dirty and undesirable. Why do we punish women for what we celebrate in men? It’s called slut shaming. Our culture is built around slut shaming and it needs to stop.

What exactly is slut shaming? According to a blog I frequent, finallyfeminism101, “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.” Media teaches us that sexually active women are sluts and being a slut is bad. This puts women in a difficult spot. If we act on our sexual desire—which for most people is inevitable—we are sluts, but if we don’t then we are prudes, which is also bad. Either way we end up hating ourselves and society shakes a finger in our face. A lot of what we (women, I am a woman and am writing from a cis female point of view) experience from the media can be seen as the result of the Madonna-whore complex. First identified by Sigmund Freud, this psychological complex is said to develop in men who see women as either pure Madonnas or filthy prostitutes. Neither option seems appealing. We are shamed for being sluts but we are equally as ridiculed for sexual inexperience.

Is it better to be a virgin than a slut? It seems to me to be a two-sided coin; on one hand virgins are praised for their restraint and purity, and on the other virgins are looked down upon as being naïve, inexperienced and uncool. Young women in our day and age are expected to walk this unachievable idealized line between slut and prude.

Part of the reason being a virgin has a negative connotation is because virginity is often associated with an uptight attitude. These days it is assumed that if you are a virgin you must be saving yourself for marriage or you’re a prude. No one is a prude. Sex is an experience that is different for everyone, just because a person is more hesitant to engage in it than another does not mean they deserve to be ridiculed for it. Our society is obsessed with sex and sexuality. People need to step back and remember what we do and whom we do it with is no ones business but our own. Society views sex as powerful but mostly when viewed from a male perspective. Women should be able to be proud of their sex life too and not feel the need to hide it. Women are so afraid of being judged by society for their sexual choices that they end of judging themselves, which can lead to self-hate and feelings of shame.

So why what don’t we do this to men? Again, it has to do with power. The more sex a man has the more powerful he seems and maybe feels. In our society men are supposed to be powerful and women are supposed to be weak and submissive. Men can be slut shamed too, though it is less common it’s still important to acknowledge. Slut shaming is a way to take power away from women, or whoever is being shamed. If a woman feels ashamed of her sexuality she can’t ever gain power from her own experiences.

Yes, women slut shame too and deem other girls’ sexual activity shameful. I think girl hate is the most hurtful of all. We bring each other down and degrade each other because we feel bad about ourselves. Instead of being happy for our peers who are sexual active or dress a certain way or whatever, women gossip and degrade one another. Slut shaming is heavily practiced in the media, leading girls to believe that it is ok to hate each other.

Ok, we know what slut shaming is, now how do we fix it? This is the more complicated part. First of all, we need to respect each other, especially girls. When you are about to call some one a slut, try to think why you are doing it. Is she too sexually active in your opinion or do you just not like her? Are you jealous? Second, try to be more aware of slut shaming that goes on around you. If you hear someone bashing a girl (or anyone) for being a “slut,” step in and defend that person. Words hurt and continue to hurt people throughout their entire lives. I ask everyone who reads this article to stop before they ever call someone a slut and reflect on trigger that caused such a hateful reaction.

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14 Comments Add yours

  1. Joy Shain says:

    Not much has changed since I was in my teens and 20s in the ’70s and ’80s. The term “slut” has continued to be used. We need to be more respectful of all women!

  2. Jeanne-Marie says:

    Amen!

  3. Erika says:

    I really like the “girl-hate” point. It reminds me of what Tina Fey’s character in Mean Girls says to the female students after there’s the rioting over the “Burn Book.” It’s something to the effect of, if girls call each other mean names (especially gender-based ones) then we make it okay for everyone else to call us mean names, too. Instead, we gotta stick together!

  4. Jeanne-Marie says:

    So I have a question,
    is the term “slut” always deemed a negative one? Can a person (regardless of gender) more sexually active than others be termed a slut, but have that just mean that they are more sexually active than others? I don’t know if I’m asking this question very well over the internet, but I am just not sure if this term can actually vary with connotation.

  5. Fran Cats says:

    I think slut shaming has been going on for a very long time and the fact that it is still going on and the fact that people don’t even see it as a problem is very troubling. They make it seem like a norm when it shouldn’t be at all, it should be appalling when someone calls a girl a slut for having sex rather than being appalled that she has had sex. There is nothing wrong with girls having sex. I hate that society raises us to believe that we are supposed to keep our knees together yet if a boy asks for it we are expected to let them in immediately. Great Article!

  6. Nicole says:

    Sluts deserve to be shamed. It’s one thing to enjoy sex and promiscuous with just one person, but with several at a time? If you feel the need to shag every guy you come across just because you “enjoy sex” then you are a disgusting, whorish, and low class excuse for a human being and you deserve all the sh*t that comes your way. The only reason you people defend slutty behavior is probably because you’re all sluts yourselves. Learn to have some self-respect and don’t sleep with a tons of guys at the same time.

    1. Gabbi says:

      I agree 100%. If you don’t want to be treated like a whore, don’t present yourself as one.

    2. lizard says:

      Ladies – unless you going to hate on lads for the same promiscuous behaviours, and completely lay off the rumour-mongering that has ruined many a woman’s reputation, you need to shut yer bloody gobs!

  7. Nicole says:

    *be promiscuous

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  9. matt says:

    Shame male sluts too, as long as there is love there will be pride and jealousy and being a male or female town bicycle hurts people.

  10. Tim says:

    Women are termed sluts because they have the biological responsibility after the fact. The man has no biological responsibility and can do as he pleases with no consequences. A woman who, knowing the consequences, chooses to be loose, she is risking much more than any man. Therefor she IS a slut. Use a little intelligence ladies and stop finding excuses for being a whore.

  11. Jade Swisher says:

    Reblogged this on Summer jade .

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