Thinking Out-loud #1: The Shame in Slut-Shaming

Published by Andrae Smith in the blog In My Thinking Chair. Views: 400

With the start of the new year, I find myself clinging to a quote I heard a few years back, "To get something you've never had, you must do something you've never done." Now that we're a week into 2014, I have decided to try an array of new things and start experiencing a new side of life. Among these things, I've decided to try blogging as a way to play around with "voice" and share some thoughts. I don't really have much to say within a specific field (yet), so I've decided to call my blog "Thinking Out-loud." That's all I'm really doing anyway. So, without further adieu, I open my first blog with a topic that's been on my mind since I first heard the term a few weeks ago: "slut-shaming."

I first heard this term while eating lunch at one of the University dining halls. Since I'm usually alone, I sometimes find myself tuning in to the conversations around me. That evening, there was a group of girls at the table behind me, all blond-haired, blue-eyed, and pretty. They were talking about one of the preachers on campus calling them whores for their overly-short shorts and scanty shirts (which were hardly more than bras really). The first girl said it was a form of "slut-shaming" and that he had no right to judge them.

The next time I encountered the word was while surfing the internet (I probably should have been studying at the time, but you know how it is when you get a little free time). There was an article about high school bullying and included on the list of inappropriate activities was slut-shaming. By this point I was curious as to what the term really meant.

Coming from a Christian background, labeling a promiscuous woman (or man) as a whore (or manwhore) for whorish behavior seemed perfectly rational--even if I wouldn't actually call that person out of character in public. After looking into it, I realized that type of base labeling does have it's consequences. So what is Slut Shaming anyway? Well I'll tell you, but that means I have to get into the less fun stuff. (Don't you just wish we could sit and gossip like the girls at the dining hall, or discuss the validity of words like "slut" and "whore"?)

Slut-shaming is an important issue that's actually been floating around the internet for a while, and has even made its way to the main stream news in a few instances. It is the degradation of women by the use of derogatory words such as "slut" or "whore" for the purpose of suppressing their sexuality. The idea is that anyone who labels women who have sex with multiple partners or have generally embraced their sexuality as a slut is degrading women (thus, slut-shaming).

One response to slut-shaming has been to embrace such words as "slut" and "whore" and use them jokingly until they lose their true negative connotation. In other words, embrace the lifestyle, make it a joke, and in time the words lose their power because no one cares. This is theoretically similar to black people embracing "nigga" as an acceptable variant from "nigger" or women's recent acceptance of the word "bitch" as potentially empowering (e.g. "I'm the new head bitch"; "I'm the bottom bitch of this operation"; etc).

In my honest opinion, I agree that the use of words like "whore" and "slut" to label women who embrace their sexuality (and thereby associate them with trash and social disgust) does need to be stopped. It is potentially more harmful to a developing woman's psychological and emotional growth, as well as her ideas of self worth. In fact such labels may scar her and lead her to devalue herself in her own mind, counteracting the intended purpose of the slur. We do not realize that despite the intentions, the point of the word is to devalue the women it names, not scare them into chastity. That fear will only hold for so long, but they will eventually have sex and like it and many simply accept being called something they really aren't. They then risk falling into a devalued lifestyle because everyone thinks negatively of them already (what do they have to lose, right?).

That said, I do not believe these words should be taken lightly either. Sex is natural for humans and is something that should be embraced AND respected. It has become more socially acceptable to have sex before marriage, but only with one partner at a time. I will not condemn that. Sex is something sacred and should be an expression of love between two people. Though we may not see it, the emotions that arise from a sexual relationship arise from the spiritual nature of sex. Even so I will not personally condemn a woman or man who is not committed but has many sexual partners--so long as they are honest and open about what they are doing. (Don't be a liar or a player or a cheater >:/). I disagree with that lifestyle, but It's not my place to judge their lives.

However, I will say that promiscuity without regard for consequences or a level of self-respect (or respect for those who may be affected by your actions) is what constitutes "whorish" behavior. When a woman (or man) allows her(him)self to become an object or image of sex, without regard to the rest of their identity, it is unhealthy. When their is no concern for who you sleep with, where you do it, or how you do it, it is unsafe. When your sole value in yourself comes from how much sex you can have, it is abomination. That is not to say such people are trash and unworthy of love or respect, but rather the behavior is disrespectful, irreverent, and carnal.

Moreover, it is my opinion that slut-shaming should be stopped. We should allow men and women to embrace and express their sexuality in their own way without judging or condemning them. However, we should raise our children with respect for what sex really is, so that when they are old enough to make their decisions, they take pride in themselves and their image. We should raise our children to be proud and confident in themselves, and to respect the temples that are their bodies. This is not a religious statement but rather one of self-respect, self-awareness, and self-caution. We must, as a people, understand the power that is held in sex and be mindful of all possible consequences. We must understand sex as something natural and acceptable, but deserving of respect. Only then can it be something embraced and enjoyed without the idea of one being a "slut" or "whore". Words to describe sexual behavior should not be taken lightly in their effect, but neither should the deed itself.

So there you have it: slut-shaming in a nutshell and all my thoughts surrounding the matter. What do you think? Is slut-shaming real or just an excuse to turn the magnifying glass back on "haters"? Is it a problem? Whatever your thoughts, comment below and let me know. Agree or disagree, remember, I'm just one guy thinking out-loud. Your thoughts are the ones that matter. ;)
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