In September 2016 I wrote about my experiences at university and why I dropped out. Unfortunately, I received this message from a fake facebook account soon after:
This was pretty shocking to read as it’s been years since this sort of comment has been made directly to me. It shows how after an honest blog post, a youtube video and, well, time, people are determined to believe a slut-shaming, rumouring-spreading man over a victim, even when the evidence is right there. Slut-shaming and the ideas behind it shouldn’t be a ‘thing’ in the 21st century. It shouldn’t be an insult to call someone a slut. It shouldn’t be used to devalue someone or make them feel bad. Because, you know what? Someone else’s sex life is not anyone’s business. It doesn’t matter how many people someone has slept with. It doesn’t affect anyone else’s life. It doesn’t make them a bad person, ‘easy’, more likely to cheat, or not ‘pure’, which is a whole other argument that I won’t get into. So, why does it matter? And why can men get away with being players or bachelors, but women get blasted for being slags and whores?
The rumours that surrounded me were that I had slept with half of Cheltenham (including people on my course) and apparently that I was a prostitute. This was the most socially harmful thing for me that my bullies could think of, which goes to show how women who have multiple partners are seen. But why did they believe that making everyone think I was a ‘slut’ was so hurtful?
Past and Present
Obviously this sort of thinking stems from ‘back in the day’ when women were little more than slaves and were expected to be virgins until their wedding night. But this isn’t a history lesson, it’s a discussion about the modern-day issue.
In this day and age, when multiple partners in a lifetime is the norm (especially at university where settling down with one person is seem as a little out-of-the-ordinary), it baffles me why slut-shaming is still occurring to women every single day. Comments from others like “isn’t that dress a little slutty?” can seem innocent but only reinforce the negative connotations of sleeping around. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard a man ask his friend if his t-shirt makes him look like a player… in a negative way, anyway. There’s a huge double-standard there. In fact, in a study of North American English, there were 220 words for a sexually promiscuous woman but only 20 for a sexually promiscuous man [Sandra McKay and Nancy H. Hornberger (Cambridge University Press, 1995)].
Googling “why is slut-shaming still around?” showed me hundreds of results saying that slut-shaming is a good thing and just encourages women to not be promiscuous. There were thousands of people saying that girls shouldn’t be encouraged to sleep around. But NOT slut-shaming doesn’t encourage them to have multiple partners, it just doesn’t shame them for the choice to do so. And in this cruel world, we should be being a bit nicer to each other.
Why Does It Happen?
Slutshaming could be a way of making yourself feel better about your decisions. If sleeping around is seen as a negative thing, bashing someone who has done that could make you feel better about yourself (“Well, at least I’m not a slut!”). Part of keeping oppressed groups oppressed is making the oppressed fight with each other, which explains why women slut-shame each other instead of supporting our sisters’ choices and freedom. We’re taught to fight for male attention and judge others for their decisions, rather than just letting people be who they want to be and not caring about anyone except ourselves and our loved ones. It doesn’t help that there are so many myths that get passed around school, like vaginas get loose if its owner has lots of sex (yet another way of making women feel inadequate). Um, a vagina can push out a baby and spring back. Because it’s a muscle.
Of course, slut-shaming can affect women more than just harming their reputation. Rapes happen daily but aren’t believed or are considered ‘deserved’ because the victim was a promiscuous before it happened, or was drunk, or was wearing a short skirt. I don’t need to say anything more about this. It should be obvious.
In this time of high divorce rates and most people building a career before they’re ready to settle down with a monogamous partner, multiple partners should be seen as normal for both genders. But it’s not. And that’s upsetting. Where’s the equality? Women sleep around as much as men and if all parties involved are consenting and safe then it shouldn’t be anyone’s business. So, why is promiscuity a bad thing? Answer: it’s not. Society just believes it is.