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Slut-shaming is accusing someone — usually girls and women — of being “too sexual,” and using that as an excuse to humiliate, bully, or harass them. The reason slut-shamers target people is to make themselves feel more powerful by putting other people down.

Examples of slut-shaming include: 

  • calling someone a “slut,” 
  • demeaning someone for wearing revealing clothes (regardless of what they’re actually wearing), 
  • spreading rumors about someone’s sex life, 
  • trash-talking someone for having sex (regardless of what’s true), 
  • victim-blaming someone for a sexual assault, and 
  • yelling at someone for going to a sexual health care center. 

Slut-shaming can happen online or IRL; directly or behind someone’s back; from people you know or don’t know.

Slut-shaming comes from the myth that sex is wrong, dirty, or immoral, especially if you’re female. That’s why slut-shaming also is a cruel form of sexism. The main message is: It’s not okay to enjoy sex or be sexual if you’re female or feminine. 

But that’s not true at all. In reality, it’s healthy to have sex and express your sexuality in any way that makes you feel comfortable and brings you pleasure — as long as there’s consent and you’re not hurting anybody. Sex is a natural part of life. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying it, no matter your gender. 

Slut-shaming goes way back. In patriarchal societies throughout history, men have used their power to control others — especially girls and women. People started using the word “slut in the 20th century to continue to oppress girls and women. It’s been used to harass women who speak up about sexual health and reproductive rights. It’s also racist and classist: women of color, immigrant women, and lower-income women are often the most targeted. 

Slut-shaming does 2 hypocritical things. It: 

  1. sexualizes girls and women — treating them as sex objects instead of full human beings, and
  2. controls girls’ and women’s bodies — ordering them to look, act, and dress a certain way, and hide their own sexuality.

Slut-shaming has far-reaching effects:

  • The threat of slut-shaming can force girls and women to live in fear of bullying and rejection. It also keeps them from being their full, authentic selves and living complete lives.
  • It enforces secrecy and shame around sex, making people less likely to speak up about important things — like sexual assault.
  • It can stop people from getting sexual health care by making them feel ashamed to get tested for STDs, learn about condoms, or talk about birth control.

No one deserves to be slut-shamed  — no matter what. 

If you’ve been slut-shamed, learn about bullying and consider reporting or blocking online bullies. You can also talk to a counselor at the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline via online chat or at 1-800-656-4673. 

If someone you know has been slut-shamed, learn how to speak up with Right to Be’s bystander training

If you have slut-shamed someone else, reflect on why you did it (and try to be honest). Maybe you’re repeating harmful ideas about sex that you heard from friends, family, or the media. Maybe you have insecurities about sex, or maybe somebody slut-shamed you at some point. Whatever the reason, you may have deeply hurt them, so consider apologizing. 

If you get the urge to slut-shame, try to figure out your emotions underneath the urge instead. Remember that insulting someone doesn’t make you a better person.

Bottom line: Slut-shaming is wrong. Nobody should face punishment for being themselves and enjoying their sexuality.

Tags: Sexism, sexual assault, patriarchy, sexual bullying, sexual harassment

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