Everyone I know is familiar with the sexual promiscuity double standard. Men who have sexual experience are studs. Women who have sexual experience are sluts or whores. Of course, the label slut doesn’t have to come from true promiscuity at all. It is just the perception of promiscuity. A girl or woman could be called a slut even if she is a virgin, as long as she dresses provocatively or has large breasts or speaks frankly about sex. She may not even do any of those things, but she may be someone other women look down upon for some reason or other.
I noticed two instances of slut-shaming this past weekend.
On one occasion, it was a social gathering, and one woman remarked that all the “whores” at her school were on the field hockey team. Most likely, they weren’t literally prostitutes. But the remark was intended to shame these women as definitely unlikeable and beneath her, and then vaguely too sexual.
On the other occasion, at church of all places, one church member remarked jokingly called another member a “slut” because of the latter’s shoes (which had been part of a Halloween costume) with stiletto heels. It was a joke, of course, and the recipient took it that way, too, but the joke hints at the truth—the truth being that even if you are a “good Christian,” if you also happen to be wearing certain clothes, you will be stigmatized sexually if you are a woman.
What baffles me most about this slut-shaming is that is often comes from other women, whether it is seriously putting down another group of women or jokingly putting down a close friend. Why do women engage in slut-shaming? Is it for the same reason men engage in wimp-shaming? I know a lot of men who call other men wimps, pussies, faggots, or any other name that denotes the men as “less manly” (manly, in this context, meaning heterosexual and not in any way like a woman, because “of course” the worst thing a man could be is like a woman). Men who do this seem insecure to me. They need to put other men down as less manly so they can appear comparatively more manly.
So is that what women slut-shaming other women is about? Do they worry they themselves might be labeled sluts? Do they want to appear less slutty? I don’t know. That may be part of it, but I don’t think it’s quite the same. After all, rarely do het men parade around in “gay” outfits and say “Look how gay I look” to other het men unless they want to get beat up. And yet a woman could wear what she considers herself to be a “slutty” outfit and say “Look how slutty I look” to her fellow non-slutty friends and get a couple of laughs and that’s it.
I don’t know what it is. And I’m also not sure if it’s my place to stop it. I’m always a bit wary, as a man, of telling women what is appropriate or inappropriate to do (from a feminist perspective). Any thoughts?