slut shaming

19 Jun

“Ultimately, it is easier to slut-shame young women by telling them that their clothes are too sexy than to tackle cultural violence at its root.”
Laurie Penny

Because both Ameila and BethSmash made very insightful comments in response to the New Cool Thang post on modesty, I’d like to share a few excerpts here from a very insightful Guardian Article regarding Slut Shaming:  

Author Laurie Penny notes:

“”Sexualisation” is a troubling piece of cultural shorthand. It suggests that sexuality is something that is done to young women, rather than something that they can own and control: that they can never be sexual, only sexualised. This is not a helpful message to send to girls as they begin to explore their sexuality.

The moral panic over “sexualisation” assumes instead that sex is only ever damaging to young women, and that having sex or behaving sexually must be resisted for as long as possible. The problem is not, however, that young women are “growing up too fast” – rather it is that they are growing up to understand that they are erotic commodities, there to be used and abused, shamed if they express legitimate desires of their own, and taught to fear their own bodies…..

Ultimately, it is easier to slut-shame young women by telling them that their clothes are too sexy than to tackle cultural violence at its root. The distinction between sexuality itself and the submissive, identikit heterosexual performativity currently demanded of young women and girls is a crucial one. Only when we accept that girls have sexual agency can we ask why it is so often stripped from them by structures of violence, shame and abuse. Only when we understand that young women and girls have legitimate sexual desires can we demand to know why those desires are stolen, exploited and sold back to them by a culture that bombards them with images of perky, passive, pouting women whose defining characteristic is their erotic availability to men.”

(now you really must go read the entire essay, it is well worth the read.)

So, What are *your* thoughts?

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13 Responses to “slut shaming”

  1. amelia June 19, 2011 at 10:53 am #

    ok, I haven’t read the whole essay yet (on my way there), but I just had to say a very loud AMEN!!!! I mean, I’m on board with thinking sexualization is a deeply problematic trend in our society. BUT (and it’s a really huge, enormous “but”) the problem with it is not limited to the ones most cultural critics and lay people identify (that it makes girls grow up too fast; that it turns the female body into a sexual object; that it’s the natural consequence of a permissive and promiscuous society that has evolved out of the mid-20th century sexual revolution; etc.). While I agree that some of those things are problems, the biggest problem I see with it is that it divorces girls and women from their own bodies and sexuality; it turns those bodies into commodities (sometimes actual commodities for which money is exchanged in a variety of ways; sometimes social and cultural commodities). And the passages you quote from this essay get that right. It drives me *bonkers* the way people can’t seem to understand that “sexual” and “sexualized” are two very different things. I recently a post over at the Exponent in which I fault both hypersexualizing and hiding (through hard and fast modesty standards) women’s and girls’ bodies because they both attempt to control those bodies, reducing them to nothing but sex, while simultaneously robbing women and girls of their right to be autonomous sexual beings. It still amazes me how hard it is for some people to understand that women’s bodies are sexual and that that is OK. My more conservative readers didn’t seem to even comprehend the idea that a female body can be sexual without it being automatically something that is evil.

  2. amelia June 19, 2011 at 11:10 am #

    Okay. So having read the article, I have to say that I agree with a lot of its conclusions, but have a problem with it’s condemnation of the term “sexualization.” The problem is not the concept of “sexualization’ or the term; it is rather with the misuse and misunderstanding of the concept and term.

    According to the APA, “sexualization occurs when:

    1. a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;
    2. a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;
    3. a person is sexually objectified—that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making;
    4. and/or sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.

    This is clearly not the same thing as sexual abuse or even sexual objectification. There are obviously commonalities between the three, especially between sexual objectification and sexualization, but sexualization is more involved than sexual objectification. And, I would argue, it is more omnipresent in our society and often systematically generated by institutions (including the Mormon church; in my opinion sexualization is caused by attitudes at both ends of the spectrum about how institutions and cultures think about girls/women and sexuality). To conflate sexual objectification and sexualization also misses the fact that in some circumstances sexual objectification is not inherently harmful (and can be pretty damn pleasurable).

    So while I really love what Penny has to say towards the end of her article, I think she misses the mark about the source of the problem she’s identifying when she situates it in the prevalence of the concept and term “sexualization”; it is not the prevalence or even existence of the term that causes problems but instead the misunderstanding and misuse. And the misunderstanding and misuse both originate in our larger culture’s inability to simply recognize and accept girls and women as human beings with sexual drives and desires and autonomy.

  3. amelia June 19, 2011 at 11:11 am #

    p.s. your comment thing doesn’t work well. It eats about half of my comments and posts the other half. The first comment I made here didn’t show up.

  4. Lucy W June 19, 2011 at 11:31 am #

    I don’t know why, but some of your posts keep getting caught in the mod bin. We try to keep on top of that.

    Sorry!

    I like your posts!

  5. Eliza R June 19, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

    amelia, thank you *so* much for your comments here! I’ll come back a bit later when I have more time and respond at greater length, but just wanted to say I like the way you think 🙂

  6. Eliza R June 19, 2011 at 11:56 pm #

    Okay, and now that I have had a chance to sit down and read your comment, Amelia, I really just want to say “brava!” Thank you! And, btw, do you mind if I link to your exponent article in an upcoming post? (it was very well written.)

  7. mfranti June 20, 2011 at 10:07 am #

    Just a request from a committed reader-

    Can you do away with the nested comments? These threads are so hard to follow for this old-timer. It seems like it’s easier to just quote the text of the author to provide context for the next comment.

    Thanks,

    m

  8. Moriah Jovan June 20, 2011 at 10:32 am #

    Also not a fan of nested comments, especially when you run out of nests…

  9. Amelia June 20, 2011 at 7:46 pm #

    Sure. Feel free to link to X2 stuff whenever you’d like. We’re big fans of cross-blog linking, since it generally drives traffic to both blogs involved. More readers is a good thing. 🙂

  10. Amelia June 20, 2011 at 7:48 pm #

    it might not be possible to do away with nested comments. I’ve wanted to do away with nesting at X2, but our resident tech guru tells us that our WordPress template won’t let us do so without some pretty intensive re-coding of the template.

  11. mfranti June 21, 2011 at 4:39 pm #

    Thanks for fixing the comments.

    Amelia, on my WP blog, it’s pretty easy to change the discussion settings to remove nested comments. I suspect it was the same for this.

  12. Amelia June 21, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    Must be something specific to our X2 template then. I know I’ve asked about doing it at X2 and the answer was always that it was prohibitively difficult. Of course, we have a three-column format and there aren’t a lot of those templates that I’ve seen at WordPress. Maybe we’ve limited ourselves with that.

    I’ve actually gotten used to the nested thing, though it is easier to find the most recent comments in this format.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Modesty: Rape Culture, Rape Apology, Young Women, Young Men | - June 20, 2011

    […] easier to deal with victims than with aggressors. It’s easier to tell women what to wear and how to act and how to avoid rape, than to root out….  Easier is not good enough for me.  I expect more.  Let me say that again: I expect more. […]

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