Did Slut-Shaming Kill Phoebe Prince?

Guys aren’t threatened by other guys’ successes with women. When a guy “scores,” men celebrate all around. But women are different. Slut-shaming was not the sole factor in 15-year old Phoebe Prince’s suicide, but it seems to have played a part.

According to Jezebel, Phoebe had been depressed before the bullying began. She missed her absent father, had been self-mutilating, and had attempted suicide after a broken relationship.

But slut-shaming played a role, too. Many girls at South Hadley High began calling Phoebe a slut, a whore, and a cunt because she sought attention from older guys at the school and had been close to, or involved with, some young men who the girls at South Hadley were also interested in.

Why are women threatened by women who are attractive to men, yet men celebrate men who are attractive to women?

While men can actively pursue women, women must take a more indirect course of action. Might the more passive power of feminine beauty cause women to feel less powerful, less secure, and more threatened?

More likely, women and men simply know how they’re supposed to think in this culture. And what they’re supposed to think is that men who get women are studs, but women who do the same are sluts.

The word slut then becomes a handy weapon. It’s pretty sad to use a weapon that has been used to control women, and that could be easily turned on themselves.

While women punish each other for success with the opposite sex, what’s with the high-fives among men?

Women never worry about proving that they are truly women. But men must constantly prove their manhood. Perhaps by flattering the success of high-status men a guy creates a sense of brotherhood with them. They become one of the guys. And in this brotherhood their manhood is assured.

Whatever the reason for the difference between men and women, it is pretty sad that slut-shaming can kindle suicide.

Georgia Platts

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on July 22, 2010, in feminism, gender, men, sex, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Nobody wants to be called a whore or a slut. Society has clear norms that tell us how men and women are supposed to act and what it is allowed for each sex. Men can pretty much do whatever they want without risking getting a bad reputation. Being called a player is not necessarily a bad thing. They may be labelled a bad boy but that can i many cases even increase thier status. For women the oposite occurs. I think women have been being brainwashed by this. It explains why so many girls and women have low self esteem because they may have had several sex partners. But what does it really matter? Guys do the same thing but it has just always been that way. It may be getting better now but women are still being stigmatized for not following societies norms. I think that these ideas are affecting women in the same way that women find women more sexually attractive than men.

  2. I think that this culture of women and girls being shamed for doing something natural is incredibly depressing, and its outrageous that men and boys are applauded for the very same thing. It makes me sad that other women have such low self esteem as a result of having multiple partners, or even none, depending on the situation, Maybe for myself it was different, because I made it a point to ignore a lot of the things that girls will say, and I let myself feel good and happy. Not everyone can do that, and I get it, but I wish that was the way it could be for all girls and women. I wish that they could feel free and content with themselves, and not feel the pressure of other peoples expectations in a sexual way. Unfortunately, with the extreme right, and the religious fruitcakes (not all of them, just the extreme ones that say all the dumb things about women) make it incredibly hard for women to not feel terrible for being who they want to be.

  3. On the subject of Phoebe Prince…time really flies, because it seems like it was only yesterday that her suicide was on the news.

    I believe there were many issues at play in Phoebe’s situation. She had some emotional problems before she ever came to the United States. But I also think that she was a very needy, confused girl who wanted attention…which is hardly unique because there are many girls and young women just like her.

    When Phoebe started attending South Hadley High School, I think she most likely wanted to fit in and be accepted by a more popular crowd.
    Although she and most of the kids who bullied her were Caucasian (white), she was culturally different because she was from Ireland. A couple of the bullies were Irish-American but she was directly from Ireland.
    I think some of the boys probably saw the new girl as attractive due to this cultural difference and her accent, which is very different from what they were used to. I don’t really believe her looks had anything to do with it. She was cute but I’m more inclined to think that they were drawn to her for other reasons.

    One of the girls, Flannery Mullins, later admitted that she was angry when she heard that Phoebe had “hooked up” (had sex with) her boyfriend and also the boyfriend of a friend of hers. I think it was easier for them to be mad at Phoebe because that is how slut-shaming usually works, and also because she was this new girl in town…a freshman who they perceived as disrespecting them by having sex with their boyfriends.
    So they wanted to punish her because that probably seemed like the best way to handle the situation at the time, instead of confronting their boyfriends.

    There have been many cases like Phoebe’s in recent years. The most recent one that I know of is Felicia Garcia, a Brooklyn teenager who killed herself by jumping in front of a speeding train in 2012 after being relentlessly bullied.
    She had sex with 4 boys at a party one night and supposedly it was recorded without her knowledge. When her classmates found out, rumors flew and she was shamed/bullied constantly, even outside of school. What makes her case particularly sad is that she was an orphan in the foster care system…her parents were both dead. She was just a sad, troubled young girl who needed compassion.

  4. Oh, yes…I forgot about an even more recent case that also ended in tragedy. Alyssa Funke was 19 years old from Minnesota and she did porn to help pay her college tuition. The film was shot in Las Vegas, but some people in her hometown of Stillwater, Minnesota discovered the video online.
    She was taunted and harassed on social media constantly. In addition to the bullying she endured, she had a very troubled upbringing…her father was in prison, her mother and stepfather apparently neglected Alyssa and her siblings. Alyssa, like myself, was of mixed race. She was a beautiful girl with long dark hair and from what I’ve heard, she was beautiful on the inside too.

    You’re right…sometimes young women (myself included) make very poor decisions but the cruelty of other people shows a lack of empathy. It is fine to disagree with a person’s choices, but the bullying makes me sick.

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