Examining the Motivations for Slut-Shaming - URBANETTE: Lifestyle Magazine & Blog

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Examining the Motivations for Slut-Shaming

“Sexy pirate” costumes and Brazilian-cut bikinis are not the issue. The issue is that women aren’t the ones taking ownership of their own sexuality.

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We’ve all felt the pressure. Whether women are being told to be pure and chaste, or being cast as sexual objects in the media, the message is the same: as a woman, our only value lies in our body and what we do –or don’t do– with our body.

This is most commonly described as the virgin/whore dichotomy and can be seen in nearly any establishment or ideal that focuses on women.

Examining the Motivations for Slut-Shaming

In the US, we are experiencing some serious moral confusion over women’s bodies. The confusion is borne out of the intersection of hypersexualization in the media and the conservative agenda that pushes abstinence and demands decreased funding for Planned Parenthood.

Take beauty pageants, for example. Many contestants tout traditional values such as abstinence until marriage and female purity — immediately after strutting around in a bikini on stage. However, the very fiber of these pageants is, well, beauty, and outward appearance. Like any other realm that places females in a challenger role, from running for president to auditioning for a movie role, the foundation is built upon the notion that sex sells.

One telling example of this disturbing dichotomy is former Miss California Carrie Prejean, who gained favor because she promoted herself as a virgin, waiting for marriage. Americans all over the country ‘respected’ her for her purity while drooling over the breast implants that the Miss California organization subsidized for her. Then, when some racy photos of her came out, the Miss California winner lost her crown due to “breach of contract.”

This story is rife with contradictions and is a very telling example of the short-circuit we encounter when it comes to women and their sexuality. Are we supposed to be pure …or are we supposed to be sexual objects? I propose that much of this dichotomy is derived from fear of female sexuality.

Examining the Motivations for Slut-Shaming

Women are hidden behind burkas or victim-blamed in rape cases because the idea of self-possessed female sexuality is subconsciously threatening.

In a Jezebel interview with Jessica Valenti, author of ‘The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women,’ answers a question about the intricacies of female sexuality and the complexity of the female orgasm. The supposition being that these “purists,” or people obsessed with female purity, simply do not understand female sexuality. This leads to fear, and fear leads to ignorance, anger, and sometimes violence.

A sexy woman is less terrifying if she’s only an image in a magazine; a sexual object without feeling, desire, or all the mysteries of her sexuality. But God forbid she’s a real-life woman taking ownership of her sexuality.

And the lack of information from a young age does not help. In the US, the government allocates funding for abstinence-only sex education in public high schools. With federal funding, which many schools need, and pressure from religious groups in the US, many schools choose to teach this abstinence-only sex education. Not only is abstinence-only education harmful to teens in that it paradoxically promotes more teenage pregnancies, the spread of STDs, and abortions, but it often aims its rhetoric at young girls.

Examining the Motivations for Slut-Shaming

In The Purity Myth, Valenti outlines some strategies used by abstinence only sex educators to push the purity agenda on teen girls. One method involves a male volunteer from the class and a piece of tape. The educator places the tape on the boy’s arm and pulls it off again. The piece of tape is presented to the class and the educator exclaims, “See how dirty the tape is? This is what happens when you have sex before marriage.” The idea being that the girl is the tape, and when she comes into contact with the opposite sex before the sanctity of marriage, she becomes “dirty.”

This and many other examples of defining a woman’s virginity as a “gift” for her future husband, only to be unwrapped on the wedding night, is the cause of misunderstanding, fear, and the perpetuation of chastity as the standard of female morality.

And this is the real issue. Women wearing itsy-bitsy bikinis or “sexy pirate” costumes on Halloween is not the issue, and these things certainly do not make women ‘sluts’. The issue is that women aren’t the ones taking ownership of their own sexuality.

Valenti talks about the overlap between the agendas of the virginity movement in America and the feminist movement. The question being that both movements are against the hypersexualization of women: “The big difference, of course, is that, with feminists, we’re choosing what kind of sexuality we’d like to put out there; with the virginity movement it’s adults (and a lot of men) deciding what appropriate sexuality is for younger women. It’s anyone and everyone except young women themselves defining young women’s sexuality.”

Examining the Motivations for Slut-Shaming

Shouldn’t we be deciding for ourselves what’s appropriate without the fear of slut-shaming? The thing that many people seem to forget is the will of each individual woman. What if the mostly nude woman on the cover of Vanity Fair reached her lifetime ambition by posing in front of that camera? Is that any less valuable than a woman achieving her goal of becoming a neurosurgeon? Does a woman’s sexuality really define her morality, her intelligence, or her humanity?

We don’t need to to tear down the models in the magazines, or slut-shame the women wearing mini skirts, or tell young women that they must be modest in order to set the balance of men and women at an even keel. The only way we can ever hope to overcome the prejudices against women is to completely divorce the idea of sexuality with morality. We can all start by examining our motivations. So the next time you think about calling a woman a slut for any of the myriad of pre-conditioned reasons, stop, think, and try to see this woman as more than just her body.

Read more: Is Religion Afraid of Women?

Ariana is a writer and world traveler. Her writing covers her three main passions: women’s empowerment, travel, and culture. The beauty of the world is not just in scenic mountain views or turquoise waters; it’s in doing the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning. For Ariana, that thing is stringing words together.

Reader Discussion: 172 Comments

  1. Jay C

    I believe that the only thing that matters is happiness… if you are virgin or not that doesn’t matter all. ALl that matters is your feelings and good human nature. So-called body parts are used for those reasons only, whether you use it before marriage or after marriage it depends on your own ethics. But we get one life and enjoying it to the fullest is everyone’s right.
    And if a girl is not a virgin it doesn’t mean that she is bad or she is lusty. Nobody can make assumptions about it and nobody has rights to assume also. If they do so they should first think about their own character 1st then others.

  2. I am a Catholic, but I lost my virginity even before marriage. I don’t care if I lost it at the early age, as long as I don’t have any regret because I lost it with whom I love.

    • Vicky Valdez

      You are a brave woman. In this generation, being a virgin is like being a nerd. People will tease you, bully you, and make fun of you.

  3. For the record, I don’t care if you chose to have premarital sex IDC if you are beating cheeks or getting your cheeks beat but really how are you gonna take someone’s virginity before you marry them, and then get mad you can’t find a virgin partner later.

  4. Winston Moreno

    All ladies deserve to be respected and appreciated despite their body size, bust size, sexuality, height, virginity, skin color, ethnicity, mood swings, unpredictability, sensitivity, vanity. After all, they’re the most perfectly imperfect gifts a guy could ever ask for.

  5. Ivelisse Ervin

    You can regain everything but time and your virginity, don’t waste it on someone who isn’t worth it.

  6. Betsy Rose

    What I love about this article is they are not degrading the people who lost their virginity even before marriage. I know it is important, but it depends on the people’s belief.

  7. Jerrie Ridlon

    So respect should be based on how you wear? It’s a bullcrap! Stop that kind of thinking people.

  8. Terri East

    If you do that, they will still judge you. In this world, it’s very hard to mix with other people without any judgments.

  9. There’s a huge difference between a whore and a model. They wear sexy clothes because it is their job to wear them. ?

  10. Sharon Novak

    There’s nothing wrong with wearing what you want to wear. It’s our life, your decision. Let them judge you, but never let them dictate you.

    • LINA

      If you do that, they will still judge you. In this world, it’s very hard to mix with other people without any judgments.

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