Disclaimer: 

The following article discusses topics of a sensitive nature which may be disturbing and/or controversial to some readers. Hence, reader discretion is advised. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the authors and do not reflect Sunway University and Sunway College’s values.

Content warning: Mentions of sexual abuse, harassment, violence, and victim blaming.

This goes out to the women. Ever been scolded for daring to reveal your shoulders? Or ever been at the receiving end of your grandmother’s scathing looks for even daring to wear a skirt just above your knees?

Unfortunately, slut-shaming is a common and widely accepted practice in modern-day society, and it doesn’t only happen to women. Anyone, regardless of gender or their place on the spectrum, can be slut-shamed. If you’re thinking, “Hey, this is literally everyone!” you would be right. The most common victims, however, tend to be those who appear to be going off the bounds of socially acceptable behaviour. 

For example, fabulous as they are, drag queens (and kings), who are people that cross-dress flamboyantly, are more commonly known victims of slut shaming. They’re typically accepted as a part of the LGBTQ+ community and are very relevant to it.

Some may think that the stylishness of drag queens equates to a strong desire to seek attention, making the hate they attract justified. Still, this only serves as an example of LGBTQ+ community being targeted as victims of slut-shaming.

As mentioned, everyone can potentially be slut-shamed, though women are the most common victims. It seems that they aren’t capable of doing anything right as they are constantly ridiculed for being too feminine or too masculine, which can easily lead to them being wary of expressing themselves in fear of being unfairly judged.

The “What Were You Wearing” art exhibit, curated by University of Arkansas’ Jen Brockman and Dr. Mary Wyandt-Hiebert, displays normal, everyday clothes.

It is with steadily increasing horror that the viewer realises that these clothes are interpretations of what sexual violence victims were wearing based on the victims’ stories and accounts. These are clothes people were sexually harassed, abused, and raped in.

This exhibit was inspired by the question so many victims get asked, which is:

“What were you wearing?”

There it is, the worst type of criticism slut-shaming brings: victim blaming.

The issue never lies with the victim.

You are allowed to doubt. You need not believe every word, but you must not pin the blame on the victim in any way, shape, or form.

Slut-shaming shoves victims into themselves, into shame and guilt. It encourages rape culture. To blame a dead man for his shortcomings rather than the knife in his back is nothing less than foolish.

What can we do, no matter how small the impact, to even attempt to correct this?

In order to end slut-shaming, people need to stop blaming others for their personal fears and insecurities regarding their bodies and sex. “What Were You Wearing?” is a clear indication of the poisonous societal stigma encircling sexual assault and slut-shaming. It’s also important to recognise the absurd double standards. Indeed, men get slut-shamed too, but their plight is far from being as severe as that of girls and women. You don’t hear people telling men to “show less skin” or “dress less slutty”. “He dresses for attention,” isn’t a thing, yet most people refuse to recognise and reprimand blatant slut-shaming. In fact, the issue is so pervasive that even self-proclaimed feminists and progressive individuals tend to make inappropriate remarks, causing irreparable damage unbeknownst to them.

  • Blaming a victim if someone spreads a nude photo of them
  • Mocking someone else’s sexual practices or fashion sense
  • Accusing someone of dressing for attention or to get sex
  • Not speaking up if someone else is slut-shamed

Yes, these are all forms of slut-shaming. In 2011, before the behaviour came into question online, Soraya Chemaly described slut-shaming as “embarrassing, insulting, or otherwise denigrating a girl or woman for her real or extrapolated sexual behaviour, including for dressing in a sexual manner, having sexual feelings and exploring or exhibiting them”. It’s not a perfect definition, but it does a decent job of encompassing the countless forms of slut-shaming people encounter in real life and online.

At the tip of the slut-shaming iceberg, criticism for dressing or “unacceptable” behaviour can unfortunately come from anywhere, whether it be in the form of a parent, a guardian, a teacher, or a friend. The amount of sex one has doesn’t even factor into how much slut-shaming you’ll get! You can get into trouble for breaking the dress code that’s simply expected, not for any particular reason aside from prejudice and for reasons such as “keeping face”. 

That being said, adhere to proper dress codes at school or in the workplace. It’s just… not worth the trouble, most of the time, to mess with the rules. Please do not cite this article for rule-breaking.

Aside from that, people who do actually engage in all sorts of sexual activities shouldn’t be slut-shamed in the first place. As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone and involved parties  are keeping safe, there really are no up-sides to bullying or even abusing those who engage in these “offences”. Sex workers, in particular, are treated with little to no respect outside the workplace and are most commonly shamed for their job, even if it’s legal. This hatred can go so much further than simply calling someone a slut, and should be culled at the roots of it – simple name calling.

In essence, slut-shaming entails criticising someone for their transgression of accepted codes of sexual conduct, including berating them for behaviour, attire, or desires that are deemed unacceptable. You’ll hear people arguing that there should be a limit to our freedom, and though it is true in some instances and scenarios, oftentimes the proponents of this notion are none other than the perpetrators.

You’ll find that the men slut-shaming girls for hooking up on the first date are the same men coercing girls to do it. If no one calls him out, he’ll assume it is acceptable behaviour and continue doing it. It is true that speaking up puts us at risk of being turned against, labelled a slut or a “pressed feminist”, but it should be noted that silence is often regarded as agreement — and that’s so much worse. You might get a productive conversation out of it or you might not. Either way, it is still better than dismissing and therefore enabling toxic behaviour.

In recent times, the slut-shaming stigmas around LGBTQ+ individuals have become more apparent. In spite of millennials and Gen Zs learning to discuss taboo topics like casual sex and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), slut-shaming still runs rampant in queer communities, most of all among queer men. If girls and women rank #1 in terms of being slut shamed, and queer men rank #2, that leaves straight men to claim #3 — make no mistake, straight men get slut shamed too. Just not as often as the other two. He’ll just get called a “chad”, “fuckboy”, or “player” long before someone decides to label him a “slut”.

In 2014, Drs. McDavitt and Mutchler examined barriers and facilitators of sexual communication in an article published in the Journal of Adolescent Research. Judgmentalism, an attitude involving “moralistic devaluation of others based on either real or perceived behaviours”, proved common among queer men discussing their sexual exploits. McDavitt and Mutchler noted that calling a friend “slut” or “whore” can be a form of “playfully judgmental” talk which “… may also serve to alleviate tension and discomfort within scripts for sexual communication by injecting humour into dialogue around themes that could otherwise provoke fear” such as HIV/AIDS. However, this can confuse queer men, causing them to question if their behaviour is appropriate at all.

By actively educating yourself about these topics, you will start to notice these numerous forms of slut-shaming — some subtle, others blatant — and in doing so make a concerted effort to combat it. You can become capable of modelling this rejection of slut-shaming to others. You will learn to recognise it in conversations and interactions, but that’s the easiest part. You must choose to speak up, hold others accountable, and #PracticeWhatYouPreach.

By Erika, Karran

Recommended Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: