Girls Walk Fine Line Between Attractive, Slut

OPINIONS_slut_martin_original_original_original_mediumWomen and men both use sexual allure to raise their status. Men may try to “score” with as many women as possible, with each conquest boosting their place among men.

For women it’s more complicated. Many college women think that being “hot” is the most important thing in the world. That’s because self-worth is so attached to beauty. But Elizabethe C. Payne, Director of Queering Education Research Institute (QuERI), explained in the Huffington Post that girls can face a double bind of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” as society tells them they will only be loved and held in high regard if they show off their bodies – but they’d better not do it the wrong way:

Girls have to “straddle an often unclear line in appearing sexually attractive (desirable) and receptive (thus not “gay”) yet unavailable (not “sluts”).

She says that middle school girls who simply dress attractively and wear makeup—or who develop breasts before their peers – may be labeled “sluts.” And any girl who actively pursues a boy, defying the double standard, can get slut-shamed too. She needn’t have sex, she only needs to be assertive:

Many young girls who have never had sex or anything close to it — at all — have been marked as “sluts.” Once marked, young girls are repeatedly subjected to sexual harassment, threats and taunts.

But the pressure on young women to constrain themselves moves beyond sexuality and sexual allure. Middle school girls can also be labeled as sluts, bitches, whores or gay for acting assertively or challenging male authority – including the authority of boys.

Girls and boys both slut-shame. Girls, because they feel threatened by attractive young women, especially when they feel they cannot be attractive, themselves. And boys might sustain the male privilege to act and be free while girls must hold themselves back.

Which brings us to another double-bind. Women and girls who criticize a system that judges us only by our beauty, and who seek, instead, to work for equality can be labeled “feminazis.” But if they smile and take it they still lose.

If you’re going to lose either way in the short-term, you might as well work toward long-term freedom and empowerment, I’d say.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych, women's 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 University. And I have blogged for Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos.

Posted on January 23, 2013, in body image, feminism, gender, men, objectification, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. “If you’re going to lose either way in the short-term, you might as well work toward long-term freedom and empowerment, I’d say.”

    Best line ever.

  2. The double standard for women and girls just confuses them so much that they don’t know what to do. It’s a one percent chance they won’t be called one of those names by the way they act and appear. What bothers me the most is that not only do boys call them sluts but girls themselves. I constantly hear a girl call another bitch or slut in both positive and negative ways instead of supporting eachother and reassuring them that they are not a slut, bitch or whore but simply a girl in a boy dominated world where she should be herself because either way you’ll be judged so what is the point of trying to fit in. I have not been called any of those things (at least not face to face) but I’ve seen others been called that and they change to be more accepted by boys and girls who tease them. What I feel needs to change is how girls are precieve themselves and others. We’ll worry about the boys later but first we have to stop girl on girl bullying and have them support and encourage eachother to beat the bullying and name calling. Teach them that boys who call them those names don’t deserve attention and perhaps they will finally get the message that either they respect us or lose all of us.

    • I have actually experienced this even though I was not even anywhere close to having sex, and I found it extremely confusing.

      It’s interesting that guys give each other high fives for having sex with women but women slut shame other women – when they often haven’t even done anything. Girls seem to do it out of jealousy and resentment.

  3. This is a hard one, females will always have this double standard. Mothers will always want their daughters to stay virgins till they marry. I believe this is mostly on the parents to raise their children right and talk to their kids at an appropriate about sex. If you teach your daughters what real love, sex, healthy relationships, then ladies will wait till they feel that they are truly in love to have sex. Girls and boys are having sex at the age of 12 these days its crazy. My mother and cousins and aunts were pretty honest with me and I wanted to waited till I found someone that I was in love with and could have an adult relationship with, and if that meant waiting till I was an adult so be it. There was no one that was going to be able to change my mind. I knew what I wanted and I had enough self confidence to not care about anything else. I don’t believe parents are raising their kids right now, with so much technology its hard but if you give them the right parents then it can happen. If a child at the age of 12 has sex with a guy a year by the time she’s 18 she had sex with 6 guys before she’s an adult!! Ive seen girls who have slept with more guys then my male friends and at the end of the day if she didn’t like being places in that group she shouldn’t of done it.

    I know of a lot of females that stayed virgins till they were married, and I know girls who were not virgins it all depends on what they want, but I believe that with good parenting the girls will be able to wait till they are at a right age to make a SMART decision.

  4. I read this in a hurry and had to come back to it today. This is too central an issue for one quick glance. I read Susan’s poem. It reminded me to come back for another read. These were the truths of my growing up up till the age one ages out of being thought of as a sexual object.

    Being seen as asexual and therefore a “non-person” past a “certain age” is yet another loop of this same process of seeing women in sexual terms rather than “person” terms. Women’s “value” is in sexy and young (reproductive) looking.

    I can only think that these are even bigger issues at a younger age now. The pervasive escalation via media images makes these issues bigger and earlier. Poor girls of today.

    I like your conclusion: if you are going to “lose” either way you play it in the short term, you might as well choose the path that work best for you for long-term empowerment. Thanks for another thoughtful post.

    Alice

  5. I believe that all women are pretty in their way, it seems like now a days everyone wants to be the “perfect” one by having big boobs big butts like what is shown on the t.v, but at the end of the day it is not based on what you have or dont have but the way you present yourself. Many women hate when they are called sluts or whores but they do nothing to change that. Sometimes they are called that because of the way they dress maybe to provocative or they just like to show a lot. In my point of view you do not have to dress “skin tight” in order to look beautiful and attractive. By having respect for yourself and not following what everyone else is doing will make you be worth more then being called a whore or slut for the way you dress just for you to feel good of looking “hot”.

  6. Its like a double edge sword, if girls do have sex with a lot of men they are sluts and if they don’t they are prudes. On the other hand if guys do it then we as females are willing to over look that as well, why is it that men don’t over look that if girls do it? My ex slept with a lot of girls and I let it go saying it was his past, but he’s told me himself that he wouldn’t date a girl who has slept with a lot of men.

  7. Cecilia, I think that you hit it right on the nose. Very well said. There is too much pressure on women/ girls these days to look, what society (the media), deems “beautiful”. Even more appalling is how young little girls are being subjected to this. I loved when you said that women hate to be called sluts or whores but they do nothing to change that, and that is so true. they feel like they cant and that they will always be looked as that way now because they have already been “Labeled” and thats sad. Women’s self esteem is shot to the crapper because to be “beautiful” you have to look and act like a supermodel or hot actress on t.v., when in reality, no one looks like that 99% of the time. Women, and men i might add, need to embrace the fact that everyone is different, and thats ok. Being “sexy” or “beautiful” is not all its about. We need to be happy with ourselves and embrace the differences that make us unique, and thats hard to do with the media and society hounding you telling you you need to look and act a certain way.

    Thanks- Brooke

  8. Personally, ALL WOMEN are beautiful to me, regardless of their status. It’s honestly so sad to know that we are being “Labeled” of things that guys also do. I know that sometimes it’s hard to be a women, because were so quick to get judged by someone, by what were wearing, what we do, who we talk to, how we do our hair, our makeup. Women, and men really do need to embrace the face that everyone is different and its alright that way. Being what “soceity” want you to be, its not even about that. All the ladies out there need to be proud of who they are, because truly WE RUN the world.

  9. It sucks that girls are labeled sluts and prudes when it comes to sex but honestly what people say or think shouldn’t affect you. We are all equal and free to be who we are. If your comfortable with yourself and your sexuality then why should others dominate how you feel? As long as you know in your heart that you aren’t a slut then thats all that should matter to you. Guys have it so easy because of the male dominant society that we live in! But I think all women of all ethnicities are all beautiful in their own way. I feel like all through life no matter how you look your going to be judged, especially if you are a women. Women are judged based on appearance, how they portray themselves and if they are sexually active whatever the case may be all women are going to be judged. The only way women are going to feel comfortable in a judge mental society is if they are self-confident and embrace themselves and not caring about what others think or say about them. if your comfortable with who you are and your body then no one else’s opinion should matter. we live in such a male dominant society that make women look like sex objects that we really don’t know what true beauty is. We see all the models and actress’s and even singers sale their souls and body’s for fame and attention that they give out a negative message of how women should be. Usually a women is considered beautiful if she is skinny or has a big “butt” or huge plastic boobs

  10. As we grow up–from an early age–society, through its established institutions influence us what’s right and wrong, how think and act– hence what’s morally accepted. Now, I agree that these institutions today (arguably, more then ever) breeds racism, sexism and classism and that it can be very difficult to form ones own beliefs when constantly being tricked to conform to these false illusions. However, if society fails to provide fair moral values it must be the parents obligation to make sure that they wont let their children be raised by societies norms, to teach them true moral meaning; giving them the strength to deal with societies expectations till the age of self-reflection.
    Going back to the article, I don’t see how viewing women’s stand as a lose-lose situation is helping the stand, rather, weakens it by promoting societies actions. Instead of just accepting a women’s role as dominated we should focus on empowering women, specially young girls to deal with all of societies barriers at all times, and not just for long-term freedom and empowerment.

  11. After reading some of the comments I came to a conclusion that men really control women. I think men are the ones that give women the “slut” status. I think men and women have the same right and that is the way it should be and no one should be called any by any name. I think the way people dress kind of says about people’s personality but again if you are judging that person based on the way they are dressed you better keep your thoughts to yourself and not spray them because maybe that person is way ahead of you or better than you in many other ways. So make sure you check yourself and things you personally do wrong in your life before judging others.

  12. Paola Melissa Merino

    The double bind is what is stopping us from any real progression as women. On one hand if you have a lot of sex with men or women your a slut. On the other you don’t have sex often then something must be wrong with you or you’re a prude.And if we really want to work towards a life where women don’t feel trapped in whatever choice they make, then we really as a whole society need to take an effort. By this I mean letting our daughters play with whatever toy they want, not just the dolls. Let them wear super hero clothes or even cut their hair like a boy, this way both boys and girls can grow as they please.Then there’s the media putting young girls in ridiculous fashion wear that no child would ever wear, so we need to put an end to the ads.We all know that objectifying girls at such a young age is where it starts.These young woman grow up programmed on being sexual about their bodies, but must also not be too slutty, that makes no sense to me. So if we can come together and stop the telling girls how to act and wear from a young age,then maybe just maybe we can move forward.

  13. Growing up with three older brothers I was taught at an early age to cover up and be modest. I was a teen in the 80’s and wasn’t allowed to wear the Flashdance sweatshirt off the shoulder because you could see my bra strap. I better not even dare! My brothers on the other hand were constantly bringing home girls dressed like that and worse, sneaking them in their rooms, while my mom turned a blind eye, because boys will be boys. Girls like that were considered easy and my mom was going to do everything in her power not to let me fall into that. The irony of the whole situation is that she didn’t realize how hypocritical she was being and how much influence these girls as well as her way of thinking were having on my young impressionable mind.

    I was being influenced by their manner of dress because they seemed fun, and pretty and fashionable to my pre-teen self. I didn’t see them as being slutty, but I figured they must be by the way my mother and brothers talked about them. It was only when I myself started being interested in how boys perceived me did I realize how ridiculous this notion was. Yes, it is true sex sells, that is evident from the clothes that you can find in any girls clothing section. I am astounded by the things that are being sold for 10 year old girls to wear and even younger.

    Unfortunately, we can’t control what stores sale, but we can control what our children wear and most importantly, we can control how our children think. Maybe we need to teach that we shouldn’t judge a person by what they wear, but by their character. Maybe we should teach our children to respect each other no matter what gender they are. Teach our girls that it’s okay to be different and not give in to peer pressure when it comes to how they dress.

  14. Stephanie Orellana

    This article is completely true!! Us woman, as well as teen girls, are all damned if we do and damned if we don’t. We can’t like a boy too young or we are a slut, take too long then your a lesbian. We are bound to be labeled either way. While men get the leisure of being able to go with their lives without much punishment we as woman can not do the same. Even we as woman ourselves judge other woman in these predicaments very harshly. We tend to see another woman in clothing that look a little questionable and we think oh she’s a slut. Without really knowing nothing about this woman’s personal life or seeing her in a sexual act but she must be a slut. A girl in middle school has big boobs and she now is a slut. A girl falls in love with a boy and wants to hold his hand and hug her bf in the hall she too is now a slut. I’m not really sure how these stereotypes came to be but they put a burden on a lot of girls. We are damned either way.

  15. Being the only girl in the family can be kind of tough especially if your family is empowered by a bunch of males. As I was going up it wasn’t easy, I was always told what to do and what not do, when I was becoming a young lady especially by my father and brothers and even my cousins. The men’s in my family were very over controlling when it came to the way we look, dress, if we were showing too much we would have to go back and change. Something that we as women weren’t too happy with because sometimes us women like to show a little something here there but with over controlling guys around right away they think the worst. But yet if it was another girl dress the same way or worst it would be okay or they would label girls with names just by the way they look with out knowing them. Which I found kind of sad because no human being should be judge without knowing them first.
    I do believe that guys have a lot to do with why girls are being called the worst names you could think of when it comes to being attractive or trying to be sexy or even looking normal. Girls now a day’s are being label as whore, slut and many other names you can think of. Just by the way they look, dress, act or who they hangout with. Women have always been down graded by the society and that part will never change. Regardless what you wear or how you act someone will always have something negative to say about you especially if you’re a girl and your pretty that’s just how it works. Being a women is not an easy, it comes with a lot of up’s and down’s but we just got to learn to love ourselves and be happy with what we have and stop trying to please others because will never make anyone happy and were just going to end up hurting ourselves. People can judge women all they want but women will always find a way to over come something negative because that what we do. Behind every women there will always be some type of negativity but we just got be strong and over come it and not let it affects us.

  16. I found this article to be very interesting and very on point with young ladies in society today. At San Diego State University the words slut, whore, cunt and bitch are thrown around very loosely. Damned if you do damned if you don’t is a perfect description of this double standard the society has put on females. Does anyone else find it frustrating or upsetting that women who have sex with multiple guys are labeled as sluts or whores by peers and other girls are seen as “dirty” by guys. Guys who have sex with mulitple girls are looked at as “cool” or a “boss”. Where is the line drawn where girls won’t get labels for their actions or looks? Its coming to the point of if you have big boobs, flat stomach and a butt your automatically a slut. Some girls can not help that so labling them a slut is completely unfair because its uncontrollable. If those girls cover up and do not show anything they are labbled as prude. In today’s society it is hard not to be labeled. It seems like no matter what a female does she will be labeled.

  17. I completely agree women and girls have been struggling to walk this arbitrary line correctly for as long as anyone could remember. This double standard is so bad that even if a girl did manage to go about it in the right way she would still be pinned as a slut or another name that has been used for the women and girls of the world. It is easy to say that there is no gray, black, or white when it comes to this standard. I feel that this judgment is solely based on others jealously and self-doubt. For example if there was an attractive female whom had the attention of multiple males she would be pinned as a slut because another girl is jealous for her own lack of male attention. Whether she is or isn’t a slut people would believe it because they need to believe that the only way she has that much attention is because she is “easy” in order to keep their own self-esteem up. Same goes for a girl that may really be as innocent as she looks but people need to believe it is just for show so they can feel better about their lack of innocence when it comes to this standard. This is the reason why girls do dress and act slutty to uphold this image that they believe they need to portray, especially those who are innocent because they don’t want to be left out of the crowd. Those girls who are really slutty may dress or act innocent to uphold that they are walking the line correctly. The challenge to follow this standard is one that cannot be accomplished and will continue to remain this way no matter how much of an effort women and girls to attempt to get it right.

    “If you’re going to lose either way in the short-term, you might as well work toward long-term freedom and empowerment, I’d say.”

    You couldn’t have said it any better than that.

    Cassandra

  18. I think is this era of kids in high school even Jr high set out to look good in front of boys. It may be in other grades as well but where I see it is most high school. I have been out of high school for about 3 years now and I can say that I have seen young girls get pregnant more now than before I was in high school. I know a few girls that had kids while we were in school together and most of them have 2 kids and on their third. My point is that girls are called sluts when they have kids at a young age or seek out to get attention. I think most girls that do seek out at the boys is because they are at that age where boys don’t have cooties anymore if that makes scenes. I think when girls are really bashed for being sluts or whores or whatever you want to call it is when someone else starts a rumor because they are jealous or whatever reason .

  19. Jenna Francisco

    Feminazis is first of all a really clever term about girls that seem like they’re balancing equality in genders when actually demeaning their own. Is it such a crime to have beauty? I remember in high school, if a pretty girl came to class and just talk to a guy, she was automatically flirting and trying to have sex. I blame our own insecurities. I can admit I feel automatically jealous when my boyfriend is associating himself with an attractive female. In my head I would think “oh she’s used to having guys attention and is probably full of herself”, that may be true but not all girls flirt. It’s all misunderstandings and beauty is the competition girls fight over while for guys it’s the amount of sex that shows their masculinity sometimes

  1. Pingback: becoming (schizophrenia or woman) | Susan Daniels Poetry

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