Slut-shaming

Slut-shaming is the practice of criticizing people, especially women and girls, who are perceived to violate expectations of behavior and appearance regarding issues related to sexuality.[1][2][3] The term is used to reclaim the word slut and empower women and girls to have agency over their own sexuality.[3] It may also be used in reference to gay men, who may face disapproval for sexual behaviors considered promiscuous.[1][4] Slut-shaming rarely happens to heterosexual men.[1]

Examples of slut-shaming include being criticized or punished for violating dress code policies by dressing in perceived sexually provocative ways, requesting access to birth control,[5][6][7] having premarital, casual, or promiscuous sex, engaging in prostitution,[8][9] or when being victim blamed for being raped or otherwise sexually assaulted.[10][11]

Definitions and characteristics

Slut-shaming involves criticizing women for their transgression of accepted codes of sexual conduct,[12] i.e., admonishing them for behavior, attire or desires that are more sexual than society finds acceptable.[13][14][15][16] Author Jessalynn Keller stated, "The phrase [slut-shaming] became popularized alongside the SlutWalk marches and functions similarly to the 'War on Women,' producing affective connections while additionally working to reclaim the word 'slut' as a source of power and agency for girls and women."[3]

Slut-shaming is used by men and women.[17][18] Slut-shaming functions among girls and women as a way of sublimating sexual jealousy "into a socially acceptable form of social critique of girls' or women's sexual expression."[12] The term is also used to describe victim blaming for rape and other sexual assault. This is done by stating the crime was caused (either in part or in full) by the woman wearing revealing clothing or acting in a sexually provocative manner, before refusing consent to sex,[10] thereby absolving the perpetrator of guilt. Sexually lenient individuals can be at risk of social isolation.[19]

The action of slut-shaming can be considered to be a form of social punishment and is an aspect of sexism. The social movement falls into the category of feminism. This raises controversy because gender roles do have a significant role in the social movement. The topic of slut-shaming sheds light on the social issues that are associated with the double standard. This is because slut-shaming is usually toward girls and women, and boys and men usually do not get slut-shamed. Slut-shaming is common in America because it is such a high-context culture.[20] Being in a high-context culture, it is easier to be victim blamed. Slut-shaming is strongly associated with victim-blaming.[21]

Researchers from Cornell University found that sentiments similar to slut-shaming appeared in nonsexual, same-sex friendship context as well.[19] The researchers had college women read a vignette describing an imaginary female peer, "Joan", then rate their feelings about her personality.[19] To one group of women, Joan was described as having two lifetime sexual partners; to another group, she had had 20 partners.[22] The study found that women—even women who were more promiscuous themselves—rated the Joan with 20 partners as "less competent, emotionally stable, warm, and dominant than the Joan who'd only boasted two".[19][22]