Slut-shaming is a toxic, age-old practice used to police women’s sexuality and vilify victims of sexual assault. Many people think slut-shaming is just gossip, but it has been used to excuse rapists’ behaviors and thereby support perpetrators by blaming the victims. Whether you’ve heard about slut-shaming from Amber Rose, Monica Lewinsky, or a local high school girl, it should never be taken lightly. Slut-shaming can make a judge sympathize with a rapist and wreak havoc on one’s mental health. As women, our personal lifestyle choices should not be used as ammo against us. Our bodies are not to be sexualized by men to make themselves feel better for their intolerable crimes against us. Our voices are not to be silenced because we had sex, wore a skirt, or any other reason people come up with to guilt us for our own tragedies. With this in mind, I asked five people to share their personal experiences with slut-shaming:

  1. “I was wearing a big t-shirt and shorts at school one day. A teacher pulled me aside and publicly screamed at me saying that I needed to ‘get some self respect and self pride’ because of my clothing choices. She accused me of having no sense of pride because she thought that how I dressed correlated to who I was sexually. The teacher later told me that she believed girls only wore ‘cleavage-revealing clothing for the young boys around them.’ From that event, I felt incredibly low in myself and had low self esteem for a while. It genuinely made me feel that my clothing choices made me slutty or sexually promiscuous.”  - Sophia, 17
     
  2. “I was raped at a party and when the guy bragged about it, everyone turned on me and said I shouldn’t have been drinking or wearing shorts. They were saying that it was my fault. I basically had no friends after that.” - Madison, 18
     
  3. “Rumors were spread that I sent nude pictures to this boy I was talking to. One of our mutual friends stopped talking to me and he called me a slut. That really upset me because we used to be really good friends before he heard the rumor. Now he wanted nothing to do with me. Later, I got involved with a different boy. The rumor stuck around though because one day he came up to me and called me his ‘little slut’ in a hurtful way. That was like a slap to the face.” - Nicole, 18
     
  4. “I was slut-shamed at the beach by some older men when I was in Cabo with my friends for my senior year spring break trip. It felt demeaning to be talked to in this way. It is not okay. Society, in general, needs to realize that slut-shaming damages someone’s self esteem and self worth.” - Anonymous, 18
     
  5. “The worst part about sexual assault and slut-shaming is the aftermath when people tell you that it could’ve been prevented if you hadn’t sent out ‘signals.’ I was assaulted by an ex-boyfriend when I was sixteen years old. He felt that because we were dating, that meant I owed him sex. The event was traumatizing on its own, but when I confided in my friends, they made it much worse. They told me that I shouldn’t worry about it because he was my boyfriend, we’d probably have sex later anyways, and they asked if I was sure I just didn’t regret it later on when it hurt. When I broke up with him and confronted him about the event, my friends jumped to his defense, saying the break up was ‘an overreaction’ and that I could ‘get over it the next time we had sex.’ It affected not only my trust with other men, but also the way I view the society around me. I felt like I was the problem, as if I had provoked the event, instead of feeling as I should have. I should have felt deserving of support in the aftermath of an incredibly traumatizing experience.” - Lily, 18

Slut-shaming can make a big difference in one’s recovery and mental health. Hopefully, by reading these five stories of real people’s experiences, other people can learn the dangers of slut-shaming in our world today. It’s not just a harmless rumor, funny joke, or even justification for a sexual assault. The truth is that slut-shaming affects girls worldwide in various forms. Talk to the women around you, read their words online, and believe them when they tell you that slut-shaming hurts more than just an ego or reputation.

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