The Epidemic Women Need to Talk About: Slut Shaming

slut

Last week, YouTube personality Jenna Marbles posted her video “Things I Don’t Understand About Girls Part 2: Slut Edition” and many people were disappointed because this video is one big slut-shaming party. For anyone who hasn’t heard or doesn’t understand the phrase “slut-shaming,” it’s when any person—no matter their gender—degrades a woman for having more or a different kind of sex than what is socially or personally acceptable. Using Jenna as an example, she prefers monogamous sex or at least sex with someone she knows well. Any girl whose sex life doesn’t fall into that category is deemed a “slut.” Jenna goes on to make it a point that these “sluts” do not respect themselves. A slut’s decision about sex, even if the sex is safe and both parties are consenting, is bad because it doesn’t fall in line with Jenna’s ideas about sex.

Slut shaming dehumanizes, demonizes and reduces sluts to a status that is not deserving of respect. Calling a girl a slut does not call her self-respect into question. As Laci Green pointed out in her video response to Jenna, “standing up for yourself, making your own decisions, not putting up with people’s bullshit” not “what kind of sex you have, what kind of clothes you wear, what kind of make up you put on” has to do with your self respect.

Laci also drew attention to the fact that slut shaming is a big society-wide problem. Jenna isn’t one of a few people in the world guilty of slut shaming. People do it every day and most, if not all, of your friends and family have been guilty of it. “Slut” tends to be one of the first insults we go to when we want to insult a woman, because it is degrading. Our society insults women by calling their sexual purity into question. Perpetuating the idea that a woman who has more sex is of lesser value than a “normal” woman, can help men to internalize that idea and justify hurting or being disrespectful toward women. As Hayley G. Hoover said, “That is how rape happens.”

Slut shaming is internalized by women and girls, who find themselves in a situation like Chesca Leigh: she was too inebriated to give consent, but was viewed as a slut—by her peers and herself—when a man took advantage of her. Even though it was rape, Chesca had internalized the idea that because she had made the bad decision of drinking, the assault was her fault. In her video, Chesca also brought up a New York Times article about an 11-year-old Texas girl who was raped by 18 boys and men. The article talked about how much make up the girl wore and how sexily she dressed, insinuating that her assault was her fault. The perception is that sluts, like this 11-year-old girl, cannot be raped.

In Jenna’s video, she describes a situation where a “nice” girl should take care of a “slut” who is black-out drunk and getting ready to go home with a guy. Aside from the fact that this situation is actually rape because the girl cannot give conscious consent, rather than “a bad decision” as Jenna describes, the idea that women should look out for each other out of a sense of responsibility toward their fellow women is a good one. There’s no reason this has to stop once we’re all safe and sound at home. Laci, Hayley, Chesca, and many others online wanted to stand up and speak out against slut shaming and on behalf of women. We do need to look out for one another, whether at a bar or just recognizing a video that is hurtful and attempting to explain why it is that video, and its inherent ideology, hurts women.



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  • http://televisionsoapbox.tumblr.com Carrie

    Great article, Molly! It’s pretty infuriating to see someone on youtube who has such a large following (most of which are teenage girls) expressing such dangerous and potentially damaging mentalities.

  • Elle

    Having witnessed some of the worst things happen to friends, I do not think Jenna is wholly out of line.

    I have been lucky. However, I have been the supportive friend who accompanies her friend to the clinic, I have loaned funds for an abortion, and I know many friends and acquaintances who survived horrific instances of rape and sexual assaults.

    I think it’s an oversimplification to dismiss her opinion as mere ‘slut-shaming’ because there are some nuanced and sophisticated arguments for being smarter about female sexuality hidden in that video.

    Great piece, btw!