Slut-Shamed? It Gets Better

slut-shamingAt age eleven Emily Lindin was declared a slut and “harassed incessantly at school, after school, and online,” she says.

A diary entry:

Aaron said he had heard that Zach “ate me out.” I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I said it wasn’t true, just to be on the safe side.

Fifteen years later she recalls:

I have a very painful memory of watching an instant message window pop up from an account called DieEmilyLindin and reading the message: “Why haven’t you killed yourself yet, you stupid slut?”

Now, at age 27 she is publishing her diary (with names disguised) on a Tumblr she calls the UnSlut Project, hoping to serve as an ‘It Gets Better’ project for girls who’ve been slut-shamed.

I’ve been thinking about this amidst an onslaught of tragedies like these:

  • Fifteen-year-old Felicia Garcia of Stanton Island had sex with four football players, which was recorded and shared around her school. Two players began tormenting her and others joined in. Felicia jumped in front of a Staten Island train.
  • Four boys assaulted seventeen-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons of Nova Scotia, labeled her a “slut” and shared a photo online. Then, the whole school started harassing her. Rehtaeh hung herself.
  • Fourteen-year-old Samantha Kelly also hung herself, unable to withstand the taunting and harassment that followed a police report of her rape.

I’ve often wished that an “It Gets Better” project could help girls like them make it through and go on to live fulfilling lives.

Others’ opinions can have a big impact on how we see ourselves. Our personal identities can seem merely “subjective,” but when many others agree that we are “X” — for good or for ill — it can seem “objective.”

Still, each of us has more knowledge about ourselves than anyone else. And we can consider the motives behind the labeling. Kids who bully are trying to raise themselves up by putting others down. If they really thought they were so great, they wouldn’t have to make so much effort.

Luckily, it does get better because people grow up, mature and become more secure.

And, the ex-bullied may become stronger, more empathetic and deepened.

In the meantime, maybe Emily’s blog will help others to know that they’ve got support…  and that it gets better.

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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 May 8, 2013, in feminism, psychology, rape and sexual assault, sex, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. The way some children and teenagers treat each other amazes me, not that it’s new. It’s important for children who are bullied to understand that it does get better when they grow up, and it’s important for the bullies to learn that it’s unacceptable to treat others so badly (and it may come back to haunt them–the Internet has a long memory).

  2. I am always appalled by the fact that if a teenage girl sleeps with even one boy, she’s a slut, but the school’s quarterback can bed a dozen girls and he’s considered a hero for doing so. The double standards are so obvious. I am even more appalled by the fact that these boys think it is a-ok to record their “sexual conquests” via photos or video and spread them all over the school. It’s revolting.

    • And it’s sooooo illogical. When I first heard of the double standard I couldnt believe anyone would be dumb enough to fall for it. Yet most of us do on some level, it’s so unconsciously ingrained.

    • I don’t understand the comparisons between girls and boys sexuality and discussions of a double standard.

      We attach value to things that are perceive to be more difficult, and paths of greater resistance. In the same way that we respect self-made wealth over a person who inherited their fortune, we applaud those who we perceive to have “worked harder” at the sexual game than those who are believed to taken a path of less resistance- boys, and girls, respectively.

      Obviously this is a generalization, and doesn’t apply to every sexual encounter. In your example kyotoredbird, it could be that the teenage girl spent months pining for the QB, and persisted over his rejections, while he merely had to say Yes. However, speaking from anecdotal evidence, it’s usually the opposite.

      It’s a fair argument that this power difference is also a result of the way society treats each gender for having sex, and I would love to live in a world where neither gender was judged for their actions but had the same opportunities.

      Having said that, that isn’t how our society currently works, and these pejoratives will exist as long a sexual power differential exists.

      (This is on a tangent to the comments only, I have sympathy for the victims of bullying in the post)

  3. Reblogged this on Loss For Words and commented:
    Slut shaming is a lot more hurtful than people realize. Just like bullying and other forms of harassment, it can ruin someone’s life.

  4. Didn’t know about Samantha Kelly and Felicia Garcia. Of course, Audrie Pott can be added to the list. I love the “It Gets Better” video and movement. Hope Emily can make the same change. It seems a lot tougher to be a teenager these days than it was in the 80s. Thanks for this informative post.

  5. God it makes me sick and sad whenever I hear these kinds of stories. I hope Emily’s campaign helps young girls to get through slut shaming and come out of it wiser and stronger.

    It was bad enough back in my day but with cameras on every phone and social media it must be an absolute minefield for bullying, harassment and shaming these days!

    Thanks for sharing, all the best :)

    Rohan.

  6. It’s always sad to hear these kind of stories. I knew some girls who went through this kind of bullying when I was in high school. I can’t say understood what they were going through but I know that some girls handled it a lot better than others. It makes me wonder what was the difference in how they handled it or was it that the girls who handled it better were more secure about themselves.

  7. It gets better. True. Thanks.

  8. Taylor Thompson

    Unfortunately, I have seen a lot of slut-shaming; especially in school. Many girls that I know or am friends with were labelled “sluts” or “whores” or even worse. A lot of the time, it was even only based upon a rumor or lie that had little to no truth to it. A lot of it was assumed. If the rumor was true or not did not the change the reaction of other people. I’ve heard a lot of “she’s disgusting” or “she’s a slut, she always gets around.” I’m not saying that it hasn’t ever happened to a man, but I’ve seen a lot of men get praised and boast about being with people in the same or similar way that a woman has. The consequences seem to be on complete opposite sides of the spectrum. Slut-shaming is horrible and I’m glad to see “It Gets Better” for this as well.

    • If this is the taylor thompson from arizona, then you should know that many are not based on rumor, but fact. Are you red yet?

      • Taylor Thompson

        What someone chooses to do or not do should not result in ridicule. Live and let live. If someone chooses to experience things that are not considered the norm, why should that matter and why is it anyone’s business?

  9. Personally, I don’t like women who have sex with one guy (or more) if the partner is not her lover because I have a kind of traditional thought about it. Sex has meaning, but just playing doesn’t. I don’t think if a girl has had sex with her boyfriend, he will insult her by telling his friends. I can understand if teenage girls had sex with multiple boys, she will be ashamed or hurt by bullying. In my country, same thing also happens because sleeping with other boys is considered a slut. BUT, bullying in school or on the internet for teenage girls is too unbearable. Both bullies and being bullied are not mentally matured yet, so it’s too much for young women to overcome a bad reputation from others. Moreover, it is actally one of the reasons that teenage girls commit suicide. This is really unacceptable and unforgivable. When I hear “It gets better” for the slut shamed, I’m glad as well as having mixed feelings because I still cannot understand why there are many women have sex with other men (sometimes even strangers). Sometimes I think myself as an old person because I cannot change my thought. I still think that women shouldn’t have sex except their lover.

  10. Once there was a big scandal in Korea. There was very popular female singer. Her boyfriend recorded her bed-life on video tapes and spread those tapes to the public on purpose. She could not appear on television more than five years, while her boyfriend continued broadcasting activities without having any problem.
    This is unfair. I don’t mean to say that sleeping with many guys is good. But if a guy can show off how many girls he has slept with, a girl should not be harassed by the same behavior. What is worse, not only guys but also some girls join tormenting other girls who have slept with guys by calling them ‘slut’.

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