On Slut-Shaming

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There are things you have to face quite often when you are a woman: sexist jokes about doing the dishes, comments when you don’t find those jokes funny, filthy insinuations, indecent propositions, humiliating dog-whistles in the streets, fearing the walk home alone at night.

From all these regular instances of daily sexism, there are some that don’t affect me as much as they perhaps should. I am rarely scared walking home at night. However, I feel like I could burst from anger whenever I hear people reducing women to an iron and a sponge. But, of the many examples of everyday sexism, what disturbs me the most is without a doubt, slut shaming.

Slut shaming is a typical thing to hear about a woman having some fun in a club, wearing an above-the-knee dress, or simply having an experimental or blooming sex life.

Except for asexual people, who have no desire for one, we humans pretty much all have some form of a sex life. Sometimes satisfying, sometimes not. Some of us need a lot of sex to feel good and not frustrated, some of us don’t. Some of us would like to try a lot of different things, have many experiences, and enjoy them. Some of us would be perfectly content with ten minutes of missionary the first Sunday night of each month. Both are fine.

Sex is often one of the most private and intimate parts of life. Yet, it seems like people are internally calculating how many partners you have had in your life, and with that total number, can judge whether you are a “slut” or not.

The perturbing thing behind this concept is clearly that being blamed for having sex is yet another privilege reserved for women. A woman who has had many sexual partners in her life would be automatically classed in the “slut” category. A man who has had the exact same number of sexual partners would often be classed as “cool” or “experienced.” In the worst scenario, the guy would be a “Don Juan.” Is it just too hard to figure out that we can actually have sex not because we are in love, not because we want a baby but also because we, too, want a simple and blissful shag?

So, I am curious: when does one become a “slut”? It seems like the formula to calculate slutdom is to link the number of partners you’ve had with the duration of the relationship. So if you had one partner with whom you stayed for 10 years, you are probably still  “respectable” (as long as you also meet all the other conditions such as dress well, don’t use too much makeup, don’t speak to too many men, don’t laugh too much and/or too loudly, don’t look men in the eyes, etc.). But if you have had TWO partners and stayed with each one week, I’m sorry to tell you that you’ve crossed the line and that you’ve fallen into a world of depravity.

By these measures, I do belong to the “slut” category, and have for a long time. I probably even broke the slut-barometer to enter the out-of-league-slut-category. As surprising as it might be, I am very well, and nobody has managed to make me feel guilty about all the fun I had whilst being a “slut”.

However, I find it quite humiliating that people allow themselves to have a proper opinion about my sex life. Why would they be concerned? I mean, I know that during my “sluttiest” period I wasn’t really discreet. I often went home with someone after a drunk night in a club. So, I didn’t really do anything to “preserve” my reputation. But how could people be concerned with something as boring as the people I had sex with? Is it frustration? Jealousy? Lack of self-confidence?  

I don’t recall that any of the guys I slept with ever had a problem with their reputation, except maybe a new trophy that would increase their “coolness” potential.

I remember, 4 years ago, I was seeing this guy, who already had a girlfriend but who was supposed to break up with her. He didn’t do it (How weird and completely surprising!) because I was “too cold” (a heart-of-stone-slut), and it was too risky for him to leave her if I didn’t cry, fight and redecorate his apartment with rose petals to prove how much I wanted to be with him. The whole town knew that he was unfaithful to his girlfriend, and that he was going out every Friday and Saturday nights to “fish,” as they said. But who was guilty? Certainly not him.

One night, he said to me, “I think I caught a STD, and it must be your fault.” I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard. He was the guy who was unfaithful, but somehow I was the can of worms. Anyway, at some point I stopped seeing this guy, for the good reason that he was, and he certainly still is, a total dick. But then I became the “home wrecker” (which I have found to be one category of “slut”), whilst he was “a seductive man”

So, why would my reputation suffer from a jury of conformity ambassadors whilst a guy who commits the same crime would be acclaimed by the exact same person? If this guy deserves to be a “cool guy,” why would I be a “slut”? And why is being a slut a bad thing? Why would my desires matter less than his? Why does he deserve a good one-night stand and I do not?

It seems that we still conform to the ancient theories about men and women. It feels like we are just asking women to wait patiently with our nice little dresses and our pure virginity whilst Prince Charming is competing for “who’s got the biggest dick” with his mates at the pub.

Now that I am in a relationship, I also hear “WHAT? You are in a serious relationship? Are you holding out?” as if I was going to suffocate under the pressure of fidelity. Like, yes, I’m okay thanks, I’m not sick. The fact that I had fun a part of my life doesn’t make me incapable of love.

Lately I’ve had the feeling that the world is evolving somehow, that a big movement is starting to take place and that it is going to revolutionize the place of women in society.  But then, I read an article about how a man has been acquitted of the rape of a 17-year-old girl in an alleyway because she was wearing a thong and I’m back to reality — which is that until we stop slut-shaming, we will never get far.

Agathe Rochet OWTL Contributor
Agathe Rochet : Feminist. Sexuality and relationship writer. Punk & Football addict. Forensic psychology enthusiast. Singer (even if nobody likes it except me).
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