Trigger warning : rape, sexual assault, virginity, victim blaming, slut shaming
The sexual revolution has started. Women have more power and control over their bodies and sexuality than ever before. Empowerment is on the rise. But one thing still is diminishing women in expressing their sexuality. It is also putting women in danger of violence and humiliation. Yes, I’m talking about slut shaming.
It has several definitions but one underlying message, telling women they should be ashamed of their sexual activity. That women should not be enjoying sex. That having sex is dirty or shameful or sinful. That a woman who has lots of sex is a slut or a whore. That a woman’s sexual activity is some sort of reflection on her value as a human being.
This is ingrained into many aspects of modern culture. It is reinforced by religions that place value on a woman’s virginity. It is emphasized by the abundance of rape culture in society paired with victim blaming. It is absurd that during criminal investigation some people are still predominantly concerned with what a woman was wearing when she was attacked, as if how a woman dressed means that she is “asking for it.”
Victim blaming is ripe in rape cases as the rapists' actions have been justified because of the way a woman was dressed or if she was drunk or if she consented to some sexual activity previously. None of these excuses should ever mean that someone is acquitted of a rape charge.
Also, the way a woman is dressed does not mean she is more honorable or respectful. She does not have more value as a person if she chooses to dress modestly. The same is said that if a woman chooses to wear short or revealing clothing, this is not an indication that she wants sexual attention. Women’s bodies are only sexualised by those who look at them and see a sexual object. This comes from the inferiority complex that women’s only purpose is to serve men, be it in a domestic role or sexually. Women’s choices and autonomy are often overlooked and undermined as we are seen as second-class citizens incapable of making our own choices. Even when we make choices we are belittled or judged based on which choices we make. If we choose to explore and enjoy sex we are slut-shamed. If we choose not to we are prudish or frigid. This comes down to the fact that women’s choices are not respected.
This could not be more apparent in rape cases where a woman is interrogated on how she communicated her lack of consent. Even in cases where she verbally says no or has to resort to physical violence to resist her attacker, a woman’s conduct has often been used by defendants to argue that it was not clear if she gave consent or not. This is absurd as any rational person would accept that no means no. Rapists should not be allowed to defend their actions as rape is a crime that stands with the victim and their lack of consent. We shouldn’t have to resort to verbal or physical altercations to make our voices heard. This shows that even when a woman is shouting and screaming no, her voice is totally disregarded and not listened to. The underlying sexism is a huge problem as women’s opinions are not seen as valuable as men’s.
I, like many other women and feminists, are sick of hearing this. Nothing can justify sexual assault or violence towards women. A woman should not be considered less of a person if she has had sex. What a woman chooses to wear does not then give anyone the right to see this as an invitation to grope, molest, or assault her. If a woman enjoys having sex or chooses to have sex with multiple partners, that’s her business and she shouldn’t be labeled in such a derogatory matter.
Men are not slut-shamed. In fact, there is almost a hero complex of a man who has had sexual relationships with multiple partners. He is praised and congratulated on his sexual promiscuity as it is seen as an achievement, whereas a woman is labeled a slut and forced to feel shame or less valuable for her choices.
Women should not be ashamed of enjoying healthy sex lives. We should be encouraged to explore our sexuality in a safe healthy way. We have the freedom to choose what we do with our own bodies. We deserve accurate and informative sex education. We have the right to access non-biased confidential information about contraception and birth control as well as receive medical attention if needed for emergency contraceptive or terminating an unwanted pregnancy. These issues are often ones that are frequently debated when to me there is nothing to discuss. Women’s choices should be respected as long as they are informed ones. A woman's choice should be respected. A woman should be respected.