—Hey dude, how many chicks have you slept with?
—I don’t know, maybe like 15 or 16?
—How many guys have you slept with?
—I’m not sure, maybe like 15 or 16?
—Oh my god, you’re such a slut.
Do I really need to explain how this is a double standard?
And this is just one aspect of sex-shaming. Don’t worry, there’s plenty more where that came from.
Sex-shaming is when you, intentionally or not, shame a person – and more specifically, a woman or other gender minority – for the way she dresses, how many people she’s slept with, how many people you think she’s slept with, what kind of relationships she has, or a number of a other things.
Basically, if you make a comment that puts a woman down based on her sexuality, how you perceive her sexuality, or how she chooses to express her sexuality, you’re sex-shaming her.
This generally doesn’t apply to men because in most cases, men are praised for expressing their sexuality or having a lot of sex. Whenever a man is called a slut, it’s usually as a joke or a compliment. Instead, they get called a stud or a player. This has its own negative ramifications of course, but that’s a topic for another day.
You may have heard this referred to as slut-shaming. They’re basically the same thing, but I’m choosing to use the term sex-shaming intentionally to avoid suing the word “slut” at all. It’s a hateful word, and I personally don’t want to use it – although you’re free to reclaim it if that feels meaningful for you. I think sex-shaming is a less problematic term because it doesn’t refer to anyone as a slut.
Because what does the word slut even mean? I think you all know this. I learned about this word in like elementary or middle school. It’s a woman who has a lot of different sexual partners. It has an extremely negative connotation because apparently women aren’t supposed to be sexual? In other news, it’s now the year 1860.
I think we can all recognize, if we stop and think about it, that that doesn’t make any sense. Having a lot of sexual partners doesn’t make you a bad person.
Darth Vader and Voldemort managed to be very evil, and we didn’t know anything about their sex lives.
Having sex with different people doesn’t make you looser or dirtier or anything like that. It’s funny how a woman can have sex with one man for years, and everyone think she’s pure because she’s only having sex with one person, but if she has sex with like four people over the span of a month, she’s somehow loose now. What?
Can you imagine if we treated any other activity like that?
—Hey, you wanna play soccer?
—I don’t know. Haven’t you been playing soccer since you were, like, twelve?
—Yeah, so? I’ve got some experience; it should be fun.
—Um, gross, no thanks. Your legs are probably all, like, tired and weak.
And it’s not that straight women who have straight relationships are the only victims of sex-shaming. It’s just that sex-shaming itself reinforces heteronormativity because it relies on women having sex with men and vice versa. Sex-shaming a woman assumes that she even has sex with men or wants male attention at all.
But sex-shaming doesn’t stop there, because it’s not only used against women who have a lot of sex. It can also be used against women who dress a certain way. Women who wear crop tops or low-cut shirts or short skirts, for example, are told to cover up and have some self-respect.
But you can have self-respect and still dress minimally. The clothes that you choose to wear do not make you a bad person – or a good person, for that matter. They’re just clothes. And when you make assumptions about a woman based on how she dresses, all you’re doing is telling women that they have to dress a certain way. But if they were to constantly cover up everything and never show skin, they’d get called a prude. Women really can’t win in a sex-shaming world.
And then there are the women who are shamed because of their sexual orientations and identities. Bisexual and pansexual folks have this slur thrown at them a lot because people don’t recognize bi- and pansexuality for what they are: completely valid sexual orientations.
Some women are sex-shamed for their professions. Women who engage in any kind of sex work are simply doing a job just like you or me, and you don’t need to shame them for that.
Some women are sex-shamed because they have open relationships or non-monogamous relationships. It’s 2015. Let women be in whatever consensual relationships they want to be in.
And then sometimes women are just shamed for no apparent reason other than someone doesn’t like them.
—She cheated on me!
—What a slut!
—She cheated on her test!
—What a slut!
—What a slut!
If you’re mad at someone, there are plenty of insults you can use that are gender-neutral. You don’t have to resort to calling them a slut, which reinforces sex-shaming. These include, but are not limited to: douche, asshole, piece of shit, and fuckface. You don’t need to be a boring ass insulter! Get creative! Just don’t call her a slut – because it unfairly attacks her sexuality.
This kind of behavior is super normalized in our society, and it manifests itself everywhere. Like, even when a parent tells their daughter that she can’t go out dressed “like that,” they’re teaching her that her body is a bad and indecent thing.
So in the future, all I ask is that you think about what you’re saying and what it implies. Are you insinuating that a woman is worth less because of her sexuality? Then you might want to think of a different way to express what you mean and think about why you have that preconceived idea of what a woman should act or dress like.
As for the word slut, just take it out of your vocabulary right now. There’s no need for it. It’s hurtful. Just drop it. There’s only one instance where it can arguably be used, and that’s in reclamation. If you’ve been called a slut and put down for your sexuality, it’s completely your right to reclaim that word and call yourself a slut if you want. But you definitely don’t have to.
And that’s everything I have to say about that. I hope you enjoyed this video. It is a part of a series I’m doing for Everyday Feminism, a website dedicated to helping you stand up to and break down everyday oppression. I’ll put some links down below so you can check out my previous videos in the series.
Be sure to let me know in the comments your thoughts on this. Have you ever been called a slut or something similar? Do you think it’s wrong the way we police women’s sexuality?
Alright, thank you so much for watching. I love you all, and I’ll see you next week. Bye!