Slut shaming has no place in our time: the ideas and history behind slut shaming

Slut shaming is illogical because it targets only one gender, thereby discriminating against that gender. It also prescribes different rules for each gender (the double standard). This double standard is self defeating, because it says boys should have lots of sex while girls should have less or little (or even none, depending on which area you live in). This means that some girls must be ‘sluts’, otherwise how would the boys get experience? So the double standard at once creates ‘sluts’ and then penalizes them.

All that is pretty obvious, but the notions behind it are less often discussed. As far as I can see, what lies behind slut shaming is the double standard, and what lies behind that is not a single idea, but several different ones – and, contrary to what you might expect, they aren’t all misogynistic:

The ideas

Sex and ethics/morality are somehow linked (and closely linked)

Less sex is favoured or superior to more sex (for both genders)

Women more than men are superior if they have less sex

Sex is something bad that makes a woman less worthy and a man less moral the more they have it (or each time they have it?)

Marital sex is the most superior; premarital sex is inferior, casual sex even more so and sex work the most inferior of all.

The superiority or inferiority of the sex a person has – especially if that person is female – profoundly affects the superiority/morality or inferiority/immorality of the whole person. (So marital sex = good woman, pure, upstanding, faithful) and premarital sex traditionally dirty, wrong, immoral, and those who had it were sluts, whores, easy or sinners.

These boundaries are rigidly defined, so polyamorous marriage is (in contemporary British society) stigmatised far more than casual sex, even though it is marital sex! (The same goes for transgender and same sex marriages).

All of these components come from the dark times before democracy, before any attempt at gender, racial and class equality, when gender norms were rigid. The Church and the rich men controlled society and greatly influenced the beliefs of a largely uneducated and poor populace. Children and animals were not given much protection, and this society was created by rich men for rich men. Nobody else had a say in creating these beliefs. (There have been Jews and gypsies here for centuries, and black Muslims (who were not slaves) since the reign of Elizabeth I – which is where the surname ‘Blackamore’ meaning ‘black Moor’ comes from – but they didn’t get much of an input. Neither did the gays, of course.)

More specifically, rich men wanted to ensure that their property was passed on to their own children (especially since the first son traditionally received most of the inheritance, so it wasn’t a case of giving out only a small amount of your fortune to one or two kids who weren’t yours, as it would be today.) For this reason, the middle class men in the Victorian era tolerated “children of the mist” because their property was passed to all their children equally. But the upper class could not bear the thought of nearly all their money going to a son who wasn’t theirs. So the rich men had to enforce chastity on women so that they wouldn’t accidentally marry a pregnant young girl or have an unfaithful wife. (Marriages were arranged and were business alliances until just before the Victorian era, so cheating was more to be expected than it is nowadays.) So the idea that women should be more chaste than men is a product of control of women (and financial resources) by rich men. If women had also controlled financial resources or children had made their own fortunes rather than solely relying on inheritance (both of which are happening now) then enforcing chastity on women wouldn’t be so important.

The idea that sex is bad probably comes from the Catholic Church (ie not even from Britain, it was an idea forced on us from Rome) and was later reinforced by Puritans also (Calvin claimed that the prohibition on adultery extended also to premarital sex). Again, this idea wasn’t decided upon by the public or electorate. It was decided upon by an international religious institution (controlled by priveleged men) and centuries later was adopted by other religious leaders.

Slut shaming is the expression of a society which was not only misogynistic, but also plutocratic, undemocratic and unequal. Sure, our society is unequal now, but at least we have the ethics to recognise that and work towards changing it. Slut shaming and the ideas behind it were forced on us/our ancestors by the priveleged ruling classes; we did not get a say. So, even if it wasn’t misogynistic, slut shaming should still be abandoned as inappropriate and as a symbol of how we were previously controlled and silenced by the upper classes.

Slut shaming has no place in our society and as well as being misogynistic, it is a shameful reminder of a time when ordinary people wouldn’t have had a voice at all and we wouldn’t even have been permitted access to information that allows us to blog and tweet now (assuming we had the resources to pay to learn how to read).

Because the double standard is self-defeating, and because slut shaming involves all of those component ideas, it is very illogical. And if you don;t believe in one of its component ideas, the whole notion of slut shaming as legitimate or morally neutral falls apart,

What do you think? Is slut shaming ever logical? Are there any other component ideas which go into it?

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2 thoughts on “Slut shaming has no place in our time: the ideas and history behind slut shaming

  1. gopal August 27, 2013 at 6:53 pm Reply

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  2. gopal August 27, 2013 at 6:55 pm Reply

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