I find that when I have to write something that’s difficult for me to write about, I tend to write a long, rambling intro in order to buy myself time to work up some courage. Today is no exception.
First off, I should let you know that this isn’t going to be a post that’s a defense of Taylor Swift, even though the recent onslaught of criticism about her was really the catalyst to my researching this subject.
I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I exist in a hole. I’m sure the phrase “slut-shaming” has been around for some time now, but I only came about the phrase recently, in regards to the lyrics of Taylor Swift’s songs. I was intrigued by the concept, to say the least. I spent hours looking up the definition, examples, and stories of slut-shaming victims.
I also read countless articles slamming Taylor Swift, since I guess she has involuntarily become the poster child for slut-shaming.
(*Quick reminder: I repeat, this is NOT a defense of Taylor Swift, but rather, how I came about this particular topic. So hang tight; I promise there’s a point to all this.)
In said articles, comments on YouTube to her music videos, and even on her Facebook page, I saw a recurring theme along the lines of, “All of this could be solved if you’d just put out. You wouldn’t have to be bitter, and then you could write songs about something more interesting, like sex. Win-win.” Or, “She pretends to be such a saint, but there’s no way she can go out with that many boys and not sleep with them. And if she has gone out with all those boys and haven’t slept with them, no wonder they don’t want her. Who wants to go out with a tease?” Or “This girl just needs to get laid. Period. Maybe then she’d be in a happy, satisfying relationship.”
Um, excuse me. What?!?
So that led me to wondering if there was a such thing as the opposite of slut-shaming. Before I even looked it up, the phrase “prude-shaming” popped into my head. I was curious if, in a culture so wary and up-in-arms about slut-shaming, they ever thought about the other side of the coin. That in being so passionate about a person’s right to have sex without judgment, they judge those who don’t have sex/have absolutely no desire to/decide to wait for personal reasons.
“So why are you bringing this up, Violet? You said there was a point, right?”
Right you are. But first, a little more rambling. 😉
I have to be upfront in saying that I am not condoning slut-shaming. Not by a longshot. I absolutely believe that a woman’s worth or lack of worth isn’t defined by her sexual activity. (I only say “woman” in this case because I rarely ever hear a man being called a slut, but this statement applies to everyone.) It’s not my job to judge their actions. Furthermore, I am vehemently opposed to the ridiculous concept that a woman is “asking for it” if they dress in revealing clothes. Honestly, anyone insinuating anything of the kind just angers me. You’ve basically reduced all onlookers of the scantily-clad person to dummies who can’t control their impulses. And that’s just an insult to onlookers.
Ahem. So anyway, like I said, I’m no way an advocate of slut-shaming. On the same token, though, I don’t think that gives anyone the license to prude-shame.
And here comes my confessional. Why I chose to write about this. Why it took me so long to get to a point: (insert deep breath here)
*I am that prude.*
But now I need to keep you in a little more suspense before revealing more.
First, here’s an extremely-generic definition of slut-shaming from Wikipedia, in case you have been living under a rock like I have:
Slut shaming (also hyphenated, as slut-shaming) is defined as the act of making a woman feel guilty or inferior for engaging in certain sexual behaviors that violate traditional gender expectations.
It is also used as a form of victim blaming for rape and sexual assault, such as claiming the crime was caused (either in part or in full) due the woman wearing revealing clothing or previously acting in a forward, sexual manner prior to not consenting to sex.
There are many nuances and countless articles/blog posts/etc. on slut-shaming, but for the sake of this post, I chose to simplify it.
Okay, so let’s rewind a bit. After the term “prude-shaming” came into my head, I decided to turn to trusty Google to see if anyone else had thought of the concept. To my pleasant amazement, people have! I’d have to say that there are significantly less discussions about prude-shaming than slut-shaming, but I think that’s perhaps because society might not think that prudes get slammed as much as sluts do, and therefore don’t need as much attention or advocacy.
I’m here to say that that’s utter rubbish, and this video that I found perfectly explains why.
There are many more, but it starts to get into defending-Taylor-Swift land, and like I said, I wasn’t going to go there.
The reason I bring all this up is because I want people to be more aware of this side of the coin. It’s a real thing.
As I said above, I am that prude. I’ve been told that there must be something inherently wrong with me because I don’t desire sex. That everyone desires sex. Like gay people back in the day, I’ve actually had people suggest not only therapy, but drugs to “fix” me (i.e., hormone treatment). A friend of mine, who thought she was trying to help me go up on the cool-o-meter, offered to pay a boy $20 to kiss me on my 16th birthday. I get sexy clothing thrown at me from my mother, who thinks I need to up my sexiness quotient and sighs with displeasure when I gravitate towards the fuzzy, oversized men’s sweatshirts and comfy-looking ballet flats at the clothing store instead of the tight, short, lacy dresses and stilettos. One particular situation comes to mind, when I went to Victoria’s Secret with my blonde bombshell sex-kitten friend, and the first thing I picked up was a long-sleeved flannel set with clouds printed on it. I squealed with excitement, “Isn’t this adorable?” My friend shook her head and gave me a look of pity. “Honey, you’re in a Victoria’s Secret, and that’s what you pick up? That’s just a disgrace.” She quickly steered me over to the lacy black bustiers with garters. I also remember a coworker offering to go underwear shopping with me to get something sexy. She said something along the lines of, “It’s the secret to a good marriage.” Um, what about trust, love, and laughter?
I get invited to Passion Parties, get told about how empowering the act of oral sex is supposed to feel, and hear about various kinky sexual conquests, and all of a sudden I feel about two inches tall that I can’t get excited about the conversation. I’m a woman, after all. I should celebrate my sexuality, right?
Not if it makes me uncomfortable.
I’ve gone through many traumatic prude-shaming experiences, ones that have brought me to my knees, sobbing because I feel like I’m broken. I’ve gone through periods of trying to make myself sexier so that I can blend in with everyone else, and I remember feeling like such a fake. There are so many others, but ones I don’t really feel comfortable disclosing right now.
“But Violet. You’re married. Does that mean…?”
Why yes, yes I am married. And if you were to ask us, we’d both agree that we’re happily married.
Really, I’ll just leave it at that. Because the rest of it? My sex life and all of that? It shouldn’t matter. I’d like to say it again—if there’s anything that I want you all to take away from this—
I absolutely believe that a woman’s worth or lack of worth isn’t defined by her sexual activity.
This covers sluts, prudes, and everything in between.
One more story:
Recently, I had a conversation with a friend about attraction and homosexuality. (For the sake of confidentiality, I’ve chosen to not reveal their gender, so I’m going to be annoying and use “they” and “them”.) This friend brought up that while they’ve entertained the thought that they may be gay, that they’ve decided they aren’t, because the thought of having gay sex isn’t appealing to them. I was quick to bring up that being gay is based on much more than craving gay sex. This statement completely floored them. “I thought that was the basis of figuring out whether or not you were gay.” So I told my friend that homosexual relationships, like any other relationship, can oftentimes consist of more than just sex. And besides, I’m positive that there are young kids out there who are aware that they’re gay without having to fantasize about sex with someone of the same gender. On the same note, I’m sure that there are such things as a gay asexual. Tim Gunn comes to mind.
A person is so much more than her sex life. So let’s agree to celebrate all parts of what makes a person instead of labeling a person based on just one part, shall we? Okay then.
I’d like to conclude by saying thank you for reading this. This definitely wasn’t easy for me, and I’ve been putting off writing this post for about a month. So please respect the courage that it took me to write this. Thanks again. And I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Do you think any side has it easier? Have you ever heard of prude-shaming? Have you ever been a victim of either slut-shaming or prude-shaming? Let me know. I think the most powerful way of making people aware of a problem, and to begin healing, is to share stories.
In Hopes of a World Where You Don’t Have to be Shamed for Being Yourself,