I can still remember the first time someone called me a slut. In my freshman year of high school, I dated a senior. I was that girl. Honestly, it was the beginning of a very consistent trend in my love life. Even now, my husband is six years older than me.

Anyways, my boyfriend and I were stopping by a party at his brother’s apartment. (His brother was in college and lived with a roommate, which was the coolest thing ever to high school students.) We socialized and possibly drank a couple beers. As young as I was, they went straight to my head, of course. Feeling uncomfortable, my boyfriend took me up to his brother’s room to sit down for a while and settle my stomach. After a truly uneventful half hour filled with me frantically worrying that my parents would find out, we came back out to the party. As happens in high school, our disappearance led to some gossip. Suddenly, an older girl that I didn’t know called me a slut, loud enough for her group of girlfriends to start giggling and me to feel horrible.

While the experience wasn’t traumatic by any means, it taught me one very important thing: I don’t want to be that older girl. I don’t ever want to make someone feel ashamed or embarrassed by their possible bedroom behavior. For dating an older guy, I got called plenty of offensive names by people assuming that we slept together.

Now, as a mother looking back at my early initiation to the societal ostracizing that is slut-shaming, I feel especially called to teach my daughter that it is never acceptable to judge someone based on their sexual choices.

Unfortunately, conventional parenting techniques use judgment as a form of discipline all the time. How do we teach our girls morals without shaming those who make different choices? How do you discourage your daughter from sleeping around in high school without saying that it’s wrong, thereby labeling other girls who choose to have sex as “wrong”? These are the questions that I run into when I discuss slut-shaming with other mothers.

The problem is that they are all asking the wrong questions. They’re looking at it from a skewed point-of-view. Slut-shaming has nothing to do with morality vs. promiscuity. These aren’t the two sides to the argument.

To combat slut-shaming and the rape-apologist culture it promotes, girls need to be taught self-respect, and respect for each other’s choices. This isn’t a discussion of saints vs. sinners. It’s a battle for women to fight against a society that tries to make choices for them – whether it’s cultural ideas about female sexuality or peer pressure to participate in activities that they aren’t comfortable with.

We need to stop teaching girls to fear other’s condemnation and start supporting them as they listen to their own wants and needs. Mothers shouldn’t be focused on controlling their kids through fear, they need to find ways to encourage their teenager’s self-control.

I never slept with my boyfriend in high school. It had nothing to do with maintaining a good reputation, because I didn’t have one. I didn’t have sex in high school because I knew that I wasn’t emotionally ready for that huge step. I trusted and respected my body, and I was lucky enough to date an amazing man who did the same. He respected my choice to wait until the time was right. It never was.

As my daughter grows up, there are going to be plenty of difficult lessons to teach her. But the dangers of slut-shaming won’t be a hard one. When we make assumptions based on a girl’s outfit or what she might be doing shut up in a bedroom for a half hour, we impose our beliefs on her. We deny her the right to make her own choices without judgment. And my little girl will know that every woman should be able to decide what’s best for her without anyone’s opinion being a factor. My daughter will know that sexuality isn’t bad or unhealthy, it’s personal. And how she chooses to express her’s will always be a personal decision.

Slut-shaming has nothing to do with promiscuity. It’s about teaching women to respect themselves and one another. I think that’s a lesson that all moms should be able to embrace.