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True Confessions of a Former Slut Shamer – A Slut Shelf Giveaway

It’s true, I was one. A slut shamer that is. I judged you based on what you were wearing, calling you a slut in my head. You see, I fell victim to the lie that a girl, a woman, is only worth her sexuality. And it’s an insidious lie. So very deceitful because you and I – we are more than just how we look and whether or not we preserve our pure virgin snow white flower gift for a man on our wedding night.

“The problem with slut is when it comes to young, young girls,” she said. “Once that name gets attached to you. Like to a girl of 12? Boom. It ruins your life. You’re spending years getting over it.” But she said more. Slut also means that you’re nothing. That any guy can have you. That you have no self-worth.” – from Slut, How Do We Explain the Word to Our Girls

There are 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 52 weeks in a year. I’m not sure how we let ourselves believe that what we do in such a small amount of that time completely overshadows all the other parts of our lives. And I’m not sure why we let ourselves believe that our sexuality is somehow all about men, about pleasing them and fulfilling their needs, as if it was wrong to have needs and desires of our own. We let ourselves believe the lie and we are teaching these lies to each younger generation. Slowly, I’m starting to understand how dangerous the lie is and why we have to change what we teach the girls that come after us.

“Every snarky suggestion for a woman to “open books, not your legs” or viral outrage and scorn over a leaked sex tape systematically reinforces a Rape Culture in which women can only belong to one of two exclusive binaries: the morally sound and intelligent virgin or the morally bankrupt, uneducated slut”. – Lauren Miller


Let me tell you when the real moment of change came for me. Several years ago I read an online essay by a “former slut” (her words, not mine). She was a girl who was very sexually active in high school and she was ridiculed and exiled for it. She left school broken, lonely and ashamed. The thing is, she also revealed that she was very sexually active because she had been a victim of childhood sexual abuse and she was trying to find a sexual experience that would make her feel safe. She needed to erase that damage that had been done to her and write over it with a new sexual experience. And that’s when it hit me: we never truly know what is happening on the inside of another person. This topic comes up again when you discuss Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller, which I highly recommend.

Then I also had what us religious types like to call a “Come to Jesus Moment.” In the Bible, there is a story about a woman at a well. The men around her call her a slut, basically. They say her punishment is that she must be stoned. And Jesus, well he just looks at them and says, essentially, if you are free of sin then you are more than welcome to stone her to death, who wants to go first? When we slut shame people, our words and our actions are those stones, and they hurt. They can forever shape what a young person thinks or feels about themselves, their sense of worth. And by picking up those shame stones we are suggesting that we have nothing of our own to worry about.

The worst result of slut shaming is the impact it has on our culture and how we treat victims of rape and sexual violence. You know how a news report comes out and says a woman was raped and you think in your head, yes but look what she was wearing. That is the most insidious lie that comes out of slut shaming. No matter how a girl dresses or how many times she has chosen to have sex, a girl (or woman and yes even a man) never deserves to be raped. Dressing a certain way isn’t an invitation for rape. Being sexually active isn’t an invitation for rape. In fact, there is no rape invitation. Rape is a crime and deserves to be investigated and treated as such each and every time.

The truth is, our culture sends very confusing messages to our young girls. We sexualize them day in and day out. We tell both men and women that girls are objects to be ogled and groped, sexual play things put on this Earth to satisfy the sexual desires of a man. And we tell men that they can’t help themselves because boys will be boys after all. And then, when a girl decides to embrace her sexuality, we turn our backs on her; we vilify her. Female sexuality has become a game that girls can’t seem to win. A confusing and dangerous game. Healthy female sexuality is good for everyone; it’s what we call a win-win situation for society.

“So that’s the thing about judging and labeling girls “sluts”. You put their sexuality on trial in a way that justifies sexual violence against them.” – Christa Desir


So I slut shame no more. Female sexuality is a healthy and normal thing. How a person dresses and when and who a woman chooses to have sex with is both none of my business and a infinitely small part of their life. It does not determine their value or worth. It is a personal choice and I can’t force my own values and choices onto others. And I know that there is no universe in which I deserve to pick up a rock and stone another. And no matter what, no one ever deserves to be raped.

Why I am I sharing all of this? Last week author Alexandra Duncan discovered that her book, Salvage, had been placed on a shelf in Goodreads labelled “Slut Shelf”. So she put out a challenge to do a slut shelf giveaway. Yesterday, #SVYALit Project author Christa Desir wrote her own post about The Slut Shelf and Sexual Violence, which is important and you should read it. She is also doing a Slut Shelf giveaway. And today we are doing our own giveaway that includes an ARC of the book The S Word by Chelsea Pitcher (and you should read Lourdes’ fabulous essay about this book here) and a signed copy of Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller (thank you Trish!!) Simply leave a comment between now and Friday at midnight to be entered. U.S. residents only please.

Talking with Teens About Slut Shaming
Slut Shaming part 1 and part 2
Discussing The S Word by Chelsea Pitcher

Comments

  1. I was called a prude in school. Then, I was assumed gay because of my fear of becoming intimate with my boyfriend (at age 14). It seemed to me, at the time, that the girls who got called 'slut' were more popular than girls who got called 'gay.' And yet, both the 'sluts' and the 'gays' were touched, groped and set upon by certain boys. The 'sluts' because they were assumed “open to it.” The 'gays' because the boys were sure they could “switch us back.” In the end, the labels seemed just another way to define girls in relation to sex. Women/girls = sex, no matter what we did or didn't do and no matter what we were or weren't. Many adults I've met don't think much differently. Our society has a long way to go.

  2. Insightul post. Slut shaming goes on far too often! And it's widely accepted. I saw it go on a lot at the teen level as a teacher, but it really just runs rampant everywhere.

  3. Thank you for this post! I sometimes struggle with articulating these types of issues with teens, especially because it unfortunately becomes ingrained in their lives. You're writing, and books that tackle this issue, are an integral part of getting teens thinking about how they think about themselves and treat others.

  4. I went to an all girls school and to me it seemed that there was a clear divide between the popular girls (=read: the girls who got to go out at the weekend and hooked up with boys and usually had boyfriends as a result of that) and the rest. It's not that girls like me with parents who didn't let their kids go out at age 14 or 15 were “unpopular”, but to us it just seemed we weren't aware of the “code”, and that's why they all cliqued together. This was something that happened at school, though, and it is something that girls said to and thought about other girls. Once we all got to go out too, the boys we encountered didn't really see us as unpopular or prudes or anything, which in hindsight was quite cool of them. But when I look back at that time, it's just a pity that us girls felt like we had to put up that divide, which was completely artificial.

  5. Thanks for hosting this giveaway.

    I distinctly remember an instance last summer when a couple of girls at one of my programs started slut-shaming of another girl for wearing short-shorts when she briefly walked out of the room — in front of the boys in the group, one of whom was the absent girl's brother and another her boyfriend, but neither of whom felt ready to stand up in her defense. I put a stop to it as gently as I could (saying something like “It is very hot out and we don't have a dress code and there's no need to make fun of people for how they dress”) but I was *fuming* inside and I just didn't really know how to really put a stop to that kind of thinking. Reading all the thoughtful stuff people have been writing re: Slut Shelf lately has been super helpful and I think I'm more prepared for future problems like this.

  6. My thought on this: people usually react to one situation by acting out another. You never truly know what people have been through and are hiding. You never know what they are scared of. You never know what their intentions are for their actions. And it is NEVER okay to make assumptions.

  7. I'm a current senior in high school and I will admit that in my mind I often find myself judging my fellow students based on their sexual lives however I understand that just because they are sexuallly active doesn't mean they are a “slut”. Everyone goes through different paths of life and just because one chooses to experience certain things before others doesn't make their paths wrong or immoral. I grew up in a somewhat religious background which taught me to stay abstinent until marriage, but I realize that not everyone grew up with these beliefs. Also just because I'm Catholic doesn't mean I believe that having sex before marriage is immoral; it's just a choice an individual makes. However if one choices to have sex i only hope they understand their actions and stay safe! Everyday I'm surrounded by sexual related issues: pregnant classmates, TV shows/movies that have sexual events, and even books with adult scenes. Recently I actually read “Where The Stars Still Shine” by Trish Doller and I loved it! Not once did I think Callie was a “slut” because I knew parts of her background. She was unfairly thrown into unfortunate events as a child that haunted her as she grew up and because i was able to read these unfair memories they allowed me to understand Callie's decisions more. Unlike Callie's circumstances, I instinctively and unfairly judge my classmates because I don't know their past experiences therefore I don't relate or understand their choices as much. We are humans, it's in our nature to judge others' “flaws”; however who gives us the right to judge another's experiences? We all have “flaws” but that's what makes us human and honestly insensitive labels such as “slut” are just harsh and misguided words that should have never been invented.

  8. Always an important topic. Thanks for writing.

  9. As a high school teacher in the inner city I understand how true this is on a daily basis. I have a daughter and a son and I worry every day about the horrible mixed messages they receive in the hallways at school. Thanks for bringing my attention to this shelf on Goodreads. I think we should demand they take it down.

  10. I'm so happy that this topic, slut-shaming, is getting so much attention. This is becoming a serious problem that definitely needs to be addressed, and I'm glad that authors like Pitcher and Duncan are challenging the norms and trying to make a change.

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