Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Slut Shaming



So there’s this thing in YA – well, it’s this thing everywhere, really, but let’s talk about it in YA – called slut shaming. What’s slut shaming? It’s where a female character is hated, or has bad things happen to her, for the crime of being sexually active (or being presumed to be so.)

Let’s just make it clear. Boys who are sexually active are lauded. Girls? Sluts.


You will never hear it said of a boy, “God, he’s slept with heaps of girls. He’s such a slut!” At least, not in a demeaning manner. Because when a boy gets laid, he gets a pat on the back. A girl gets a reputation.

And when it comes to slut shaming, girls can be the biggest offenders. Ask any teenager.

I have no issues with slut shaming in books when there is a point to it. When we see consequences for the characters involved, or when we’re challenged to recognise the prejudice and think about it. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

How often is the alpha female in YA fiction (you know the one: the cheerleader. The one in the popular clique. The one with the hottest boyfriend in school) hated by the other girl (the unpopular one. The one no clique will have. The one who wants to be with the hottest boy in school, if only he’d notice her)? And how often does that unpopular girl (who’s usually the heroine) think of the cheerleader as a slut?

Because maybe she dresses in short skirts. Maybe she flirts with boys. Maybe she gets drunk sometimes... 

I don’t like this. It’s unnecessary. It’s also insidious.

Because often it’s more subtle than that. Often it’s a case of a writer making sure that bad things happen to bad people. Except, I’m sorry, it takes more than a teenage girl being perceived as sexually active to be deserving of punishment.

In a genre where most of the readers and writers are female, it would be nice to see an end to casual slut shaming.

Oh, and don't think this shit doesn't have real-world consequences. Just ask that girl in Stubenville if she was asking for it. 

8 comments:

  1. I'm thinking this goes way back to when us guys weren't much different than what you see in a nature documentary - the male of the species tries to mate with as many as he can, while chasing off all competitors.

    And then we evolved to where us guys could have harems and slaves, but if a woman took control of her own body and made her own choices, that had to be ended with stoning her to death.

    Today, though, is much better. Wilt Chamberlain is lauded by guys for sleeping with over ten thousand women, 'cause after all, he's a stud athlete, but if a woman should do that, she's still a disgrace to the sport and to her country, but we break her spirit with only words and scorn.

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    1. Absolutely! Heaven forbid that a woman might enjoy sex for its own sake. I think it's bad enough that a woman )or, particularly, a girl) is called a slut and hated because she has sex, but it works the other way as well. Where if you hate a woman, she becomes a slut, whether or not she's done anything or not.

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  2. I'm sick of that shit, too. If I ever read that, that's the end of that book for me, I don't care if it's well-written or whatever. Boys who have sex may be at the very worst thought of as "bad", but they're not nearly as stigmatized and vilified as girls. Then when you complain about the double standard, you're dismissed with some bullshit reason.

    So yeah. I'm with you. Let's start calling out people for slut-shaming. I don't care if it falls on deaf ears. I'm saying something.

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    1. Like I said, I don't mind it in a book when it's used in a thoughtful way, or has a point to it. Even if it's not questioned by the other characters, it should be questioned by the readers. It's the casual slut shaming that goes on that annoys me. It only reinforces the notion that girls are to be objectified as purely sexual objects, and that the worst crime a teenage girl can commit is to be sexually active.

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  3. I read an interesting article a while back about the vilification of makeup in YA novels--how female YA characters are often naturally beautiful and don't need makeup while the "bad girls" wear too much makeup in an effort to look good--a slut stereotype. Naturally beautiful=naturally good and sexually "pure", too much makeup=slutty/inviting sexual attention. And yet the cosmetic industry makes most of its money preying on women's self-esteem and suggesting we need makeup to make ourselves more attractive to others.

    Craziness.

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    1. Wow, that's fascinating, and something I hadn't picked up on. And yeah, thanks cosmetics industry!

      Time to write a YA story where the heroine is naturally good looking AND sexually active. Just needs a plot!

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  4. I was talking to my friend about it, and we were thinking maybe a heroine with limp hair and large pores who shoots a bow and arrow in a food stained sweatsuit and has an active sex life about which she feels zero guilt.

    Oh, um, plot, you say? Didn't get that far.

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