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Have You Ever Slut-Shamed Anyone?

You might not even realize you're doing it.
PHOTO: Nick Onken

Here’s the deal: Women love sex. We also love our bodies, and we love showing our fine features off. So how come when men act in ways that express those same ideas, it’s evidence of masculinity, but when women do it, we’re called sluts?

Writer and feminist Andrea Rubenstein defines “slut-shaming” as “the idea of shaming and/or attacking a woman or a girl for being sexual, having one or more sexual partners, acknowledging sexual feelings, and/or acting on sexual feelings”—all things men freely do without censure.

There’s a real double standard here, one that has been set in place over centuries of male dominance in society, so much so that even women themselves perpetuate it.

Below, some ways you might be slut-shaming your fellow women without being aware of it.

1. Calling another woman a “slut,” “skank,” “whore,” or “pokpok” because of what she’s wearing or how much makeup she has on.

This reaction is borne out of the assumption that women only dress and get dolled up to attract men. Come on, girls—you know that’s not the case. You know we also do it to impress other women, and most of all, to feel good about ourselves! And secondly: Her body, her call. End of discussion.

2. Criticizing another woman for sexual conduct you don’t agree with.

It’s one thing to be uncomfortable with lifestyle choices you don’t agree with; it’s entirely another to attack other women who practice these choices just because they don’t match yours. Again, a woman’s body is her business; she is free to do with it as she wants. And if that means indulging in some weird kink or racking up a number of sexual partners in her lifetime, as long as she’s not harming herself or others, then by all means, you do you, sis.

3. Not wanting to have anything to do with a woman you’ve judged as a slut.

Women can be very cliquish, denying other women entry into groups because they carry qualities they don’t like—perceived sexual promiscuity among them. This kind of attitude just highlights how big a threat we deem “sluts” to be. We should dig deep and ask ourselves: Are we envious of the power and confidence these women seem to carry in spades?

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4. When dealing with a friend, teasing her or expressing concern for her over behaviors you deem slut-like.

If the “slut” in question is a friend of yours, you might not express your disapproval of her actions outright, but instead do it in subtle ways, like teasing her about the Tinder dates she has gone on or voicing concern that she looks “easy” in her hubadera outfit. Whether meant as a joke or a helpful comment, words have power, and such unsolicited input even from friends can shame a woman.

5. Criticizing another woman for making the first move.

It’s the 21st century; it doesn’t make sense for us to be fighting for political, social, and economic equality in this day and age when we can’t even cheer on our female peers as they take the reins in the dating world.

6. Making unfair assumptions about a woman you’ve judged as a slut.

Say, if she has lots of male friends, she must be casually hooking up with some of them. Or if she’s dating a new guy, she must be wasting no time sleeping with him. Whether those assumptions turn out to be true or not, here’s something you should remind yourself: IT’S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.

7. Fearing that a woman you perceive as a slut is out to steal your boyfriend or husband.

In situations where a guy cheats, why do many of us spew more vitriol at the other woman than at the man “because she’s a slut?” Doing so absolves the man of the blame that should rightly fall on him as the committed party in the affair. If you don’t want to worry about another woman stealing your man, then date a man you can trust enough to stay faithful. Period.

8. Believing that sexual assault victims who were drunk or dressed provocatively at the time of the incident were “asking for it” or “deserve it.”

As anyone who has been following the controversial Stanford rape case knows, just because a woman is helplessly drunk does NOT mean she is asking for sex. She could be drunk, passed out, and with her lady parts peeking out, and it would still not be okay for a man to force himself upon her when she is clearly in no position to give consent. We ladies should know better than to participate in such victim-blaming; sexual assault is sexual assault, no matter how much skin a woman showed or how many shots she’s downed.

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9. Believing it’s a woman’s responsibility to ward off men because men can’t control themselves.

This is the kind of scary thinking that makes a person—whether male or female—a rape apologist. It stems from the archaic patriarchal view that women’s bodies exist for men’s consumption—a view that many women unknowingly uphold. The fact that women who are comfortable in their own bodies are told to cover up by their fellow women “because men might get tempted” is sad proof that we still have a long way to go in fighting sexism within our ranks.

10. Reducing a woman to the slut label despite other qualities or qualifications she has.

Take the case of R&B singer Kehlani, who attempted suicide after a public slut-shaming in the Twitterverse over evidence of her supposed infidelity that turned out to be false. Her humble beginnings, her promising career, her Grammy nomination—nobody cared about those. All people cared about in that moment was condemning her as a slut, and it almost destroyed her life.

11. Getting other women in on the slut-shaming by gossiping or openly throwing the label around.

If you won’t listen to us, maybe you’ll listen to Mean Girls’ Ms. Norbury: “You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores.” Women should be the first to look out for one another in the fight against sexism and misogyny—those are our real enemies, not each other.

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