The Feminist Takedown of the Economics of Slut-Shaming

People, hear me out. We have a serious issue with slut-shaming. Sex is great. Sex makes the world go 'round and it certainly is something that nearly all of us participate in at some point or another. Given this basic level of knowledge, why are women admonished for being sexual creatures? And why don't people respect the choices we make about our own bodies? 

Earlier this month, Andrea Castillo wrote an article in The Umlaut called "The Economics of Slut-Shaming." While the term has only recently become part of our vernacular, it is perpetuated by supply-and-demand. Both men and women desire sex but as Castillo argues, "sex is a female resource." Due to the natural order of things, our ability to get pregnant gives us more value. We are the key to procreation, whether we like it or not.

While we are so culturally and socially revered for being able to bear children, the opposite is true when it relates to the act itself or when a woman makes decisions about her health care. A woman who has premarital sex? Slut! A woman who wants to get an abortion? You morally bankrupt whore! A man who has numerous partners? An awesome guy, of course. 

The distrust of women who fulfill their sexual desires is deeply rooted in our culture. Women who make their own decisions and are driven to fulfill their goals- uh oh! Watch out! What's more, women who seek safe, affordable and easy access to contraception are often stigmatized for those decisions, a criticism that is both patriarchal and serves to keep women 'in their place' which we know, of course, is at home (this is sarcasm, people). The influx of this scrutiny is largely due to the fact that more women are refusing to operate within our socially constructed gender roles. We are speaking out, gaining traction and disrupting the status quo. 

Remember Sandra Fluke? Remember what Rush Limbaugh said about her after she advocated in favor of mandating insurance coverage for contraception?


So, yeah...there's that. 

As is evident in Limbaugh's rant, we value women who fulfill their social responsibilities based on historical imagery of what a woman should be but treat women who operate outside those expectations like lepers. These criticisms are founded on nothing more than antiquated notions about women's roles in society and the entitlement that people feel to impose those beliefs on others. Our biggest critics are often men and as seen in recent months, their legislative attempts to maintain the gender unequal status quo have come to life in countless anti-choice measures that keep women ideologically subordinated as our role in society is consistently linked to fertility. The fact that women are more often than men characterized for our physical features as opposed to cerebral qualities makes delegitimizing women easy. If we're just a pair of tits and a nice ass, what does it matter if we have something to say?

Castillo’s article about the monetary relationship behind slut-shaming is important for understanding the historical context behind gender inequality— but it's about more than just sex. It's about respect and value— respecting a woman's right to make her own decisions and to not be berated for it and valuing her presence as one that benefits society when it is recognized as a whole, rather than in parts. Castillo's assertion that we should expect slut-shaming and patriarchal attitudes to continue offers no solution to a problem whose dialogue is ongoing. Sure, understanding the history of gender inequality is certainly important if we are to recognize what those attitudes have cost our society but we cannot be liberated from oppression unless we encourage dissent. While we're all entitled to our own opinions, the ones that preserve inequality ought to be deconstructed and challenged rather than reinforced and justified based on a historical frame of reference that, not for nothing, was created to disenfranchise women. 

For too long, women have asked for respect. It's time we start demanding it. Right now, this is a man's world- but it doesn't have to be. 

What do you think about the "economics of slut-shaming"? Let me know on Twitter.

 

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Jaclyn Munson

Jaclyn is a feminist writer and the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Onward and F-Word, a blog dedicated to pursuing gender equality.

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