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The Perils of Slut-Shaming

Slut-shaming, is when someone, especially a woman, is made to feel guilty for her sexual behaviour or desires. In the most common sense, the term ‘slut’ it is used to make women feel ashamed for doing things men do all the time. It’s something that unfortunately, is prevalent in our everyday lives, and it doesn’t look like it is going anywhere anytime soon.

This week, a woman I know, infamous for shoving her ‘feminism’ down people’s throats at any given opportunity, called a good friend of mine a ‘slut’. Apart from being pretty nasty, it was also a comment that just confused me. As someone who claims other women are not ‘proper feminists’, calling another woman a ‘slut’ seemed to be completely contradictory to me, opening up a whole new can of worms. It made me more annoyed to hear it from her as someone who I thought would understand how poisonous slut-shaming is, and it made me think. It’s clearly not just some men who want to put women in their place – a position of sexual submissiveness – but it is, rather strangely, women too.

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Surely, the key concept of feminism is the hope to attain equality with men. We want to be treated as equals, and have our behaviour accepted in the same way as men. One of the most important things, I think, is to liberate women sexually, and allow women to speak as openly about it as men do. Unfortunately, it still seems, even at university, where you would assume everyone has a certain degree of intelligence, women and men are far from equal. A young woman who has sex with men, on her own terms, when she wants to, is labelled a slut. A young man, on the other hand, if he does the same, is heralded as a ‘lad’. How is this fair?

What makes it even worse, is when women shame other women for their perfectly natural sexual behaviour. If supposedly feminist women are throwing the word ‘slut’ around as a seemingly legitimate insult for other women, what hope do we have?

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Slut-shaming is the exact opposite of feminism. As the American journalist, Emily Bazelon, says, “Calling a girl a slut warns her that there’s a line: she can be sexual but not too sexual”.

As Jill Di Donato said last month, it’s about time we embraced our inner-Madonna, who had some powerful words for the media when they tried to shame her with leaked nude photos in 1985. She collaborated with Andy Warhol and Keith Herring to bite back, shouting, “I am not ashamed”. And you know what, that’s exactly what my friend did. She shrugged, refrained from retaliating with an equally spiteful remark, and laughed it off. After all, we should feel sorry for women who feel like they need slut-shame others to make themselves feel better.

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