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Slut Shaming Doesn’t Sparkle

A news report came out today that hits close to home for me. Literally, since it’s about something going on at my hometown high school.

It seems that an annual tradition has evolved in which the senior girls create a “slut list” of the incoming first-year girls. According to ABC news, the list names of the younger girls, along with something meant to be degrading. Some examples from the ABC article:

“I’m so desperate and hairy that I’ll give you [drugs] for free if you get with me,” one entry read.

“Keeping up with the family tradition, [blank] me … and knock me up,” read another.

The list is just part of what happens on the first day of school, students say. Seniors also blow loud whistles at freshmen, shove them into lockers and, in years past, slapped stickers on their backs.

Some of the stickers labeled the girls “sluts” or “whores,” Leslie said.

I am always annoyed when people shame girls and women by calling them sluts. The very premise rests on the idea that sex is something that degrades women, which is a facet of sex-negativity. In a sex-positive world, calling someone out for having sex would make as much sense as calling them out for breathing or eating.

Of course, anything that is meant to humiliate people (outside the context of a consensually negotiated BDSM scene) is appalling. It is, however, one of the ways that people create a pecking order. But it’s something that I’ve seen happen much more among girls and women than among men, who tend to use physical attacks and violence. I’ve often wondered about where that comes from and while I’ve heard some interesting theories, it’s still a bit of a mystery. If anyone has ideas, feel free to comment.

As far as I’m concerned, this is sexual harassment. I expect that most people would agree, if boys were making the exact same lists with the same comments. My hope is that the school administrators will address this, although I don’t have really high expectations.

Making lists and ranking people is so common among girls that the folks at South Park devoted an entire episode to it. Here’s a clip showing the “list making meeting” (it starts about a minute in). It’s a brilliant parody, as many episodes of South Park are. And as far as I’m concerned, shaming women by using the word “slut” definitely doesn’t sparkle.

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Dr. Charlie Glickman

Charlie Glickman is the Education Program Manager at Good Vibrations. He also writes, blogs, teaches workshops and university courses, presents at conferences, and trains sexuality educators. He’s certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and loves geeking out about sex, relationships, sex-positivity, love and shame, communities of erotic affiliation, and sexual practices and techniques of all varieties. Follow him online, on Twitter at @charlieglickman, or on Facebook.

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