In a world where a name or category exists for almost everything, it can be incredibly difficult to resist the urge to label people. This is especially true for the millennial generation—a population of technologically savvy 20-something to 30-something year-olds who basically coined the term “hookup culture.” As a 20-year-old college student, I’ve noticed that within this “culture” there are many double standards and stereotypes that judge and label based on certain actions and behaviors of individuals or groups. As a result, we have the latest human sexuality neologism: slut-shaming—making a person feel guilty for certain sexual actions that contradict conventional gender expectations or roles.
The popular and satirical––and usually on point––online dictionary of slang and phrases Urban Dictionary defines slut-shaming as “an unfortunate phenomenon in which people degrade or mock a woman because she enjoys having sex, has sex a lot or may even just be rumored to participate in sexual activity.”
The label “slut” is a product of the “hookup culture” in college and is especially prevalent for females, who are shamed by both their female counterparts and other males for being “too promiscuous” or open with their sexual endeavors. A woman’s expressed sexuality and confidence is deemed as “slutty,” “loose” or “easy.”
Women in particular are incredibly judgmental of one another—and even with themselves––when it comes to causal sex. I’ve overheard various conversations among college girlfriends who, after recounting a fun weekend, begin to regret going home with “that guy” or hooking up with someone while drunk and their friend will shockingly agree.
If in the moment she feels attraction and is having fun with no harm done, why is this shame so heavy? If she is at a party flirting or wearing something that she chose to wear, why should others judge her when she is clearly expressing her sexual freedom?
For men, however, it seems to be more acceptable when they express their sexuality. It’s alright when they talk and joke about hooking up with a girl or multiple girls over the course of a weekend and a couple of beers. Yet, females feel guilt or humiliation when they do the same—or they avoid it all together by not discussing it.
We are all sexual beings with emotional and physical desires, wants and needs. Slut-shaming is a way of putting someone down to either feel more powerful or to avoid insecurities. And when someone does it to themselves, it shows how our society—a predominately Christian-influenced American society—has made sex seem like a bad thing for women to talk about or even express.
Regardless of the reasons behind slut shaming, it is a term that comes out of a misled, misinformed misogynistic culture that has contributed to the degradation of females and confusion of sexual freedom with predatory motives or the “easiness” of a girl.
While the actual “slut” does not exist per se, the reality of the shaming does and so do the negative externalities that come with it, making all the more reason to end it.