While quarantining over the summer, I watched every season of “Jersey Shore.”
In one episode, the male housemates were shaming Angelina, another housemate, for having multiple sexual partners. They said that men were the only ones allowed to have sex with multiple people and the women were not. This rhetoric is very toxic to spread to a wide audience, considering I was in middle school when I first watched the show.
However, this was going on long before the show aired. Slut-shaming women has been taught for so long and exists in many institutions. For example, in school and in the workplace, women have always been told to cover their bodies so that they’re not distracting men. However, men are seldom told not to sexualize women’s bodies. All the responsibility falls on the woman’s shoulders.
Women are also often slut-shamed when they take ownership of their sexuality and capitalize off of it, like while doing sex work and similar jobs. Vice reported that the pandemic allowed more people to create OnlyFans content while they were quarantining to create more income.
People may slut-shame content creators on the platform without knowing how much labor goes into producing it. Content creator Taylor Stevens said she used to work 40 to 50 hours a week prior to quarantining, and now works 80 hours a week on her content. It seems that people have no issue streaming pornography for free, but have issues when women take ownership and make content that directly benefits them financially.
Although it’s mainly women taking the heat for displaying their sexuality, this trend seems to be making improvements. Many cultures have reclaimed derogatory terms and the word “slut” is no different.
The Washington Post reported that in 2011, women in the United States and Canada marched, while wearing minimal clothing, fighting the idea that what women wear makes them a target for sexual assault. People participating in these SlutWalks painted phrases like “slut pride” and “my dress is not a yes” on their bodies.
Freedom of sexual expression has been increasingly embraced, as shown by SlutWalks and the societies that have accepted formerly derogatory terms. However, slut-shaming still exists in many institutions, and it must be fought on every level.
On an institutional level, schools need to provide spaces for women to feel safer and not at risk of being sexualized. Sexual assault allegations need to be taken more seriously. On a micro level, people have to make the conscious effort to acknowledge that a person’s sexuality should not be policed.