RSS Feed Visit our Tumblr blog Visit us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Write us an emailDonate to SPARK!

The slut-shaming of you, me, and Kristen Stewart

by YingYing Shang

When Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders’ public cheating scandal and break-up exploded in the news, Stewart bore the brunt of the attack, rather than the married man that she had cheated on Robert Pattinson with. “Slut!” the Internet and fans everywhere hissed. “Trampire!”

Stewart made a bad decision, as the young are prone to make. But that the humiliation would fall entirely on her shoulders shows an underlying misogyny in society. The public neglected to blame Sanders, an older married man who might full well take advantage of her youth and inexperience, and instead plunged straight in to slut-shaming over twitter and the blogosphere. Stewart’s role in the movie sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman was cut; its title was changed simply to “The Huntsman,” while Sanders’ career and position in the movie was not affected.  Sanders, as a man, did not experience the vicious public backlash, even though both committed the same deed.

I’m not a Twilight fan or even a Kristen Stewart fan, but this scandal clearly shows the slut-shaming and misogyny still omnipresent in today’s society. In high school, the most common insult for a girl either not liked or liked all too well is “slut.”

So what does slut-shaming mean and how does it affect those of us that are not Kristen Stewart? Slut-shaming is shaming or attacking a woman or a girl for having one or more sexual partners, acknowledging sexual feelings, and/or acting on sexual feelings. Any woman who has had sex can be a victim of slut-shaming. A virgin can be a victim of slut-shaming. I’ve been a victim of slut-shaming. As long as gendered slurs like “slut” continue to be weapons casually used, any female is at risk for being slut-shamed.

What do we call a man who is promiscuous? Casanova, Romeo, Don Juan, ladies’ man, stud, pimp—all names that embody machismo notions of power and conquest. What do both men and women call a woman who acts on her feelings? A slut. This sexual double standard means that women are denounced for their sexuality, whereas men are hailed.

Frequently, it’s women who shame other women. We’ve internalized misogyny to the extent that slut-shaming is a major way that women attempt to compete with each other for male approval. We live in a society that defines women’s worth by their physical attractiveness and male approval as a form of limited power. If you feel insecure, all you have to do is call another girl a “slut” and suddenly you’re the one who is “good” and on top of the social pecking order.

Face it: At one time or another, many of us have called a woman a “slut.” We see a woman who’s getting away with something we wishwe could get away with. What do we call her? A “slut.” We see a woman who dresses provocatively, and maybe we wish we had the guts to dress that way ourselves. What do we call her? A “slut.” We see Kristen Stewart in a cheating scandal with an older married man? Never mind the married man, she’s a “slut.” Most of us recognize that this stigma is unjust and unwarranted. Women have the same right to express sexuality or to make mistakes that men do. Yet we have used the “slut” insult anyway: Our social conditioning runs too deep.

Conversely, it’s that same drive to find male approval that leads some girls who wouldn’t otherwise sexualize and objectify themselves to do so. Think about it. If a girl is insecure and still insecure after bashing another girl who she sees getting the coveted male approval, she feels the need to sexualize herself just like those advertisements she sees that say that a girl that a boy wants is the best kind to be. Maybe she sleeps around. Maybe she engages in supposedly “slutty” behavior. How does society react then? By slut-shaming her and lowering her self-esteem further. What a vicious, destructive cycle.

So what can we do to stop it? Our society must recognize that slut-bashing is a serious problem. Too often, they dismiss it as a normal part of adolescent life. But slut-bashing is a form of sexual harassment, and it is illegal under Title IX, which entitles students to a harassment-free education. If a teacher witnesses slut-bashing, she must make sure that it stops. Schools have an obligation to go beyond reminders of “Don’t bully” and “Practice safety,” talk to kids about the harm in sexual labeling.

But the most important thing that all of us need to work on is this: to stop calling or thinking of women as “sluts.” Ask yourself, if it were a man who exhibited similar or parallel behavior, how would you react? Make an effort to support other women in their decisions, to not leap to conclusions about others, and to understand the underlying and internalized misogyny in all of us. From Kristen Stewart’s unfairly overblown portion of the cheating scandal to that little thought that goes through your head when you see a woman who dresses differently, will yourself to not slut-shame. Only by we becoming aware of our behavior, will we have the power to stop.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

15 Responses to “The slut-shaming of you, me, and Kristen Stewart”

  1. Sarah says:

    I could not agree more here! I hear ‘slut’ being passed around by girls to other girls are my school and to be honest, I’m sick of it! Some of my friends use that word to other girls! I don’t know what to say about that so I keep quiet. I don’t want to keep quiet about it anymore and it’s ridiculous to bash girls because of the way they act. Everyone makes mistakes! There. Let’s not keep dwelling on it. Let’s move on!

  2. Lauren B. (from stoga girlup) says:

    You are amazing and inspiring.

  3. Alice says:

    dsfljk I love you YingYing!! Yes!!! I mean. Anyways if a girl enjoys sex, what’s wrong with that? Guys can enjoy sex but girls can’t? So after every time a guy has sex most people are like “no big deal”, but after a girl does people side-eye her? And especially since heterosexual sex is getting more coverage in society than that of between gay people (because society ignores it for the most part :| Ugh :| I’d rather them not but), who do people think that the guys are having sex with?

  4. Blackmanga. says:

    Here’s the thing.

    Provided the woman doesn’t look or smell really bad, it’s far easier for a female to get laid, for free, than a man. Why? Because men objectify women based on looks, whereas women objectify men based on fianancial and social success. So for a woman to get laid, almost guaranteed, – any man she wants – married or otherwise, she just has to dress sexy. Whereas a man cannot pull married women nine times out of ten, and to even get single girls, he needs to project himself as an alpha male. Appear commanding, funny, well off and smart. And even THEN, he has to do alot of the ice-breaking in the courtship, as women are traditionally socially reactive, not proactive regarding romance. People conform to expectations. As such, women will never, NEVER be respected to the same level as a male “player”, by other men, or women. Women are attracted to the alpha status of the male Cassanova, and Men admire him as a role model.

    This however, all changes when it’s a female “Romeo”. All men think of a woman who’s had many partners, is that she is unsuitable for a stable relationship “I’d shag her, but I wouldn’t bring her home to my mother” type thinking. As the rationale is that if she’s jumped from man to man before, why would she stay with you in particular? She is literally seen as nothing more than a piece of meat. Not commanding, not sucessful in life, as men know, better than anyone, how easily a woman like that can get another man if she wanted. Hell, other women know it. Hence women don’t admire other women who sleep around, they hold it to the same level as a women who sinks to the level of poledancing for cash. It’s seen as having a lack of self respect and giving away their sexual power away to men for too low a price. (a couple of bucks a pop instead of lifelong commitment in the form of a serious relationship leading into marriage.)

    Which is what it all comes down to. Males are seen as sexually weak willed, lacking all control, so that when one is able to exercise command over women the way women can over men, he’s seen as a god among men. When it’s the reverse, the woman is seen by other women as not a goddess, but a tramp, as she’s giving away cheap to males regardless of status something they hold a premium over. And by premium I mean a powerful tool over which to attract the alpha male. The female body. Will the alpha male, seek the “slut’s” more conservative friends if he’s getting a physical relationship from the “slut” at a fraction of the social and fianancial price? The answer is no. And that’s what worries other women deep down, which causes them to lash out with labels like “Slut”.

    It has nothing to do with internalized misogyny given from males, as indeed males and females use the slut prejorative for completely different reasons.

    • Ty says:

      In addition to being the most poorly-thought-out and quite frankly the dumbest comment that I have ever seen in my entire life, I don’t trust the worldview anyone who talks about dating as “courtship” and sex as “shagging”.

      … I haven’t decided yet if this comment was written in 1650 or 1970 yet.

    • Jess says:

      I completely agree with him. While reading this article I laughed. SO hard. I use the term slut proudly, on men AND women. If you sleep around on the grounds this guy^ has clarified, you are a slut. Learn some self respect! And in the case of the woman I shouted at outside of a frozen yogurt shop, that dress is a shirt, the wind is blowing and you dont have ANY panties on!!! SLUT. I love mini dresses, but when walking you dont see my bare ass and vag.
      If a girl is a slut, or a guy is a slut, the facts are still the same. Its not widely praised for a guy to sleep around (we arent in that era anymore.) Has no one heard the term Man-whore? Well the sluts are the only ones that date them. Come to the younger generations and observe. Only “douche bags” praise their buddies for sleeping around, cheating etc.
      Women expect better of women. Being a slut is something we’re going to call.
      ALSO, a virgin being called a slut, is just poor planning on the comeback.
      /For the record I am confident in my body, persona, am an active-proud feminist woman, and will not give listen to anyone’s analysis of my statements. Maybe I missed some additional points-but its only because I have a life to get back to.

    • Bailey says:

      What an utterly depressing (and fortunately wrong) view of humanity you and Jess have! That is some truly pathetic MRA/poorly thought out evo-psych/sex-negative hokum. I feel genuinely bad that you go through life looking at human relationships as nothing more than status-based calculations, and that having a penis or a vagina affects how you’re regarded based on successfully copulating with someone when you feel like it. That’s not only pathetic (and, yes, sexist), but it also makes me wonder if you are ever happy in any relationship you have. My guess is that you’re not.

      Maybe someday you’ll grow up and realize that women are people, not meat or sluts (oh hey, more sexism!), and that neither men nor women are monolithic groups with entirely the same goals and motivations in seeking out sex. Good luck.

      • Jess says:

        Wow. HAHA first Im going to say I AM a woman. Next I’ll point out that every bit of your reply is based on presumptuous bullshit.
        Never said anything to demonstrate how I apparently, “go through life looking at human relationships as nothing more than status-based calculations.” Nor do I believe its fair, “that having a penis or a vagina affects how you’re regarded based on successfully copulating with someone when you feel like it.” The truth of the matter is being a woman IS different from being a man. And while I hate that, until it changes, one cannot pretend otherwise. Social-based circumstances make it so! In some cases it plays part in sexual reputation–in SOME cases. As I also mentioned, guys are looked down upon for “man-whore” behavior as often a women are for “slutty” behavior.
        In respect to your blow to my relationships..well that is quite the assumption based on absolutely NO evidence. I hope you are not nearly as imaginative in your feminist research as you are in your interactions with others online. For the record, I am HAPPILY married. *grin* I am still unsure how you could calculate otherwise. Simply because I see things for what they are and not of tabloid depictions?
        Lastly, I never said any sexist statement regarding the term “slut.” I said very clearly that it applies to both MEN and women, I also suggested it has more to do with sexual integrity than sexual promiscuity. In closing last, I made it clear that my comment does not exist for your analysis, that applies to this comment as well. I would also like to add that I never placed anyone in a “monolithic group” I simply gave clarification to the use of an insult in MODERN culture. Afraid I am all grown up mam’ and I see the world in our times.

        -Everyone I know who heard of the scandal stated something like, “oh my god the man is MARRIED what a dick!” and the like. As someone pointed out Kristen is more famous, so of course HER actions are the target for press. Tell me the last time a male actor cheated and the tabloids said GO BRAD! WAY TO BE! Doesnt happen. They shame brad pit or any other top celeb just as much.-

  5. Kaye says:

    Bless your heart, darling. Now go away and let the adults talk.

    • Grace says:

      you may not relize this Kaye, but that was exermly disrespectful. just because shes younger dosn’t mean she can’t express her opion. no ofenese

  6. annie says:

    it’s because kristen stewart is more famous…

  7. Lydia says:

    JESS darling, you so proudly announced you would not “give listen to anyones analysis of my statements.” You proved yourself to be a LIAR repeatedly. You also ‘claimed’ you had a life to go back to, yeahhh riiight. Anyone online who HAS to specifically make that comment, really doesn’t have a life of any significance.

  8. [...] reaction is only a symptom of the culture of slut-shaming in which we live: the minute a woman crosses a line, or takes sexual liberties that men take all [...]

  9. [...] reaction is only a symptom of the culture of slut-shaming in which we live: the minute a woman crosses a line, or takes sexual liberties that men take all [...]

  10. [...] feel better, put down someone that they feel is a threat by calling her a slut. The concept of slut shaming is just plain wrong. If another girl gets the guy you’ve liked for years, it can be very tempting [...]

Leave a Reply