Female Sexuality and the “Slut-Shamer”

slut shaming

The phrase “slut shaming” often pops up in social media and magazine article commentary. What does this mean and how is it applied to women? And why is it only applied to women and not men, when guys are having just as much sexual interaction?

“Slut shaming” refers to the act of condemning a female for having a sexual relationship, and it doesn’t often go both ways- the male in the relationship typically being regarded as “cool” or heroic for engaging in sexual acts with a partner.

This double standard goes back a long way, from Biblical passages to Shakespearean literature to the covers of Us Weekly. Just ask Taylor Swift, who is constantly hounded by critics documenting her new relationships, while Harry Styles is expected to duck in and out of nightclubs with new women almost nightly. What is perhaps most surprising is that both males and females continue to keep this a relevant issue even today, society demanding that women remain virtuous, virginal and demure while men are encouraged to experiment, play the field and “conquer.” Women who vocally despise double standards placed on their gender often participate in “slut shaming” more than men. Why is this?

Sexual expression- or lack thereof- is something that is deeply personal to everyone, male or female. When we hear a rumor or judge certain behaviors as being sexually deviant- or even just being sexual, period- we tend to start putting people into boxes and holding them captive; never to live down a reputation, grow or change. Often this is done out of fear- fear about one’s own body and it’s capabilities, anxiety over relationships and our changing bodies and feelings, a pressure to engage in sexual behavior when we are not ourselves ready to do so. Sex is largely the unknown, kept behind closed doors, despite the fact that we see it on tv almost daily. What do we do with this information when we hear about it among our peers? How does it make you feel?

The truth is, whether or not someone is actually having a sexual relationship is besides the point. Women are often shamed and called “slut” just for talking to members of the opposite sex. Whether we see explicit flirting in the halls or hear about what happened ‘after that party,’ we never actually know what happens or why it happened. Experimenting with who you are as a sexual being is both personal and shared with another person. This is all the more reason to trust the people who you decide to share your sexuality with, but also reason to distrust rumors, avoid perpetuating double standards and stereotypes, and refrain from judging and name-calling.

We all move at a different pace, even though it can sometimes seem that everyone is speeding along when it comes to sex. Listen to yourself, feel proud of who you are, and importantly, be safe as you consider yourself as a sexual person. Sexuality is something that changes often over the course of your life. Evaluate where you are, never be afraid to change your mind, and be sensitive when you consider others as sexual persons.

In what ways do you see female sexuality being portrayed differently than male sexuality in popular culture? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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