The Slut-Shaming Cycle Ends at Home
Mar 2011 22

The Slut-Shaming Cycle Ends at Home

Posted In Blog,Favorites,Love,Relationships,Sex,Society

by Keith Daniels

“Slut-shaming” is exemplified by the double-standard that says that if a man has many sexual partners, he’s a hot stud, while if a woman does the same, she’s a filthy skank. It’s a heavily entrenched idea in our society, and it’s constantly and often subtly reinforced by both men and women. Even the word I just used, “stud,” demonstrates the problem. How many words can you think of that positively refer to a promiscuous man? How many, without qualifiers, can you think of for a woman? Few can say we’ve never been guilty of propagating this bias, oftentimes born out of jealousy, insecurity, and shame about our own desires.


So how do we rid ourselves of this antiquated thought process? As with many intuitive but revolutionary ideas, shaping the next generation’s minds probably offers better hope than teaching old dogs new tricks, but talking to your children about sex at all is notoriously awkward and difficult – much less raising them to be sex positive and unencumbered by gender bias. Luckily, we’ve got amazing mothers like Good Vibrations Magazine’s Airial Clark to show us how it can be done.

“Mom, I’m a nerd.” He said to me as he climbed in the backseat of our car. He sounded resolute. Like, some deal had been sealed and all there was left to do was accept the consequences. But, really, being a nerd has never bothered him before. His version of nerd has a lil swagger to it. But today there was none of that, “girls don’t like me. I’m too nerdy. I’m not cool enough. Not dangerous. Not s…” and that is when the gush of words stopped abruptly.

“Were you about to say sexy? You’re worried about not being sexy? Really, E, are you supposed to be sexy in the 5th grade?”

“Some people are!”

“Ya? Like who?”

After making me promise I wouldn’t call the school and make a deal about it, he confided in me that some of his classmates were kissing after school. He then told me about a girl in his class, Z, and how she had kissed 3 boys this year, “3, Mom! Can you imagine? And everybody knows. She just kisses whoever she wants and her sister is so embarrassed. I don’t blame her, I would be ashamed to have my sister act like that! Sheesh.”

Wait? What? This is where it gets interesting for me as a sex positive parent. My son just went from wishing he was sexy to shaming a girl for being just that? I rolled up my sleeves and got ready to do some unpacking.

Slut-shaming has serious consequences. Barely a month ago, a Canadian judge gave a convicted rapist zero jail-time because he thought the victim had given a “perceived invitation” because her revealing clothing indicated “sex was in the air,” and dismissed the rape as “inconsiderate.” This is sadly far from the only example of this sort of injustice. Slut-shaming is often done, it’s believed, out of a misguided attempt to encourage healthy behavior in so-called “good girls,” but as Leora Tanenbaum says in her book Slut! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation, the use of a “bad reputation” as a form of sexual control can cause lasting damage:

A reputation acquired in adolescence can damage a young woman’s self-perception for years. She may become a target for other forms of harassment and even rape, since her peers see her as “easy” and therefore not entitled to say “no.” She may become sexually active with a large number of partners (even if she had not been sexually active before her reputation). Or she may shut down her sexual side completely, wearing baggy clothes and being unable to allow a boyfriend to even kiss her.

Let’s just hope that, with moms like Airial on the job, fewer women will have to face this problem in the next generation.

Images borrowed from Lesandrist and FuriousFanBoys.com/.