31LqfAAM+pLYesterday I wrote about another teen who was being cyber-bullied and committed suicide.   This young girl was active on tumblr and the anonymous ask and tell question website, Ask. fm. On this website she had many comments where she was called a “slut” and accused of being sexually active with various boys. I consider this to be slut shaming, when you degrade someone for their sexual or perceived sexual activities. One of our readers corrected me, and said this was not actually slut-shaming, and stated that calling someone a “slut” is not “slut-shaming” but it’s a nasty thing to do. I’m going to beg to differ here, and say that when you call a woman a slut and follow it up with comments about how she is sexually active, that is indeed “slut-shaming.” And it usually only happens to women.

I’m not in high school, but I don’t think that teenage boys who are sexually active are made to feel bad about it from their peers. I think throughout time, when a girl is sexually active she is labelled in a negative way, where when a boy is, he is generally complimented or looked at as being powerful or virile or a “player.” It was like this when I was a teen, it’s like this now. We don’t have a lot of negative words used to describe men who are sexually active or promiscuous. And even words like “player,” when said as a warning to other women to stay away from a man who is known to be sexually promiscuous , are usually said in a sort of “jokey” way. It is not spat with a mouthful of venom like the word “slut” is.

I’ve talked before about how I am trying to raise the men in my home to be feminists, and not to degrade women. I have three boys of varying ages, including two teenagers. We talk about language, how words like “slut” aren’t just not allowed in our home, but why they aren’t allowed, at home, school, on social media, about how a word like this has no other purpose than to make a woman feel negative about herself, or her dress, or her sexuality. Even though I’m trying to do my part in raising three boys who won’t go out in the great big world and use words like this, this is only three boys in this great big world. And even though we are trying our best, as a parent I also know that there is always a chance that even though my sons nod and agree with me and we have open dialogues about the semantics of language and why certain words shouldn’t be used, they could easily be calling every female they see a “slut” either verbally or internally, in their own minds. I’d like to think my boys aren’t like this, but I’m not naive enough to think that my own children don’t engage in behavior I wouldn’t approve of behind my back.

My daughter is too young to have the slut talk, and yes, the slut talk includes the other words that are used as insults towards women, the “bitches”, the “whores”, the “cunts”. She knows that we don’t use certain words, but she is still at an age where I feel she hasn’t been exposed to these words, at least in a social setting or at school. Even though we try and be protective over the media our kids are exposed to, I’m sure she’s encountered a bitch or two or 12 on occasion, because this is the world we live in. And when she is a bit older, it’s an extremely important conversation that we need to have with our girls, because girls are behind a lot of this slut-shaming. I think the majority of parents talk to their kids about bullying, about teasing, about how they can act towards others and how they can act if they see someone encountering this sort of behavior from others, or if it is directed at them. I’m just not sure a lot of moms sit down with their preteen and teenage daughters and explain to them why we don’t call other women sluts.

A lot of parents don’t approve of their kids being sexually active. I can understand that. I’ve said before how I want my own children to have sex when they are mature enough to not only handle the responsibilities of sex, but mature enough to choose to have sex with someone they love and care deeply about. I’d like to think I can raise kids who that when they become sexually active, they are doing it using the proper protection and only doing it with people that they will know well enough to actually have positive sex with. I’m a mom, so I hate to think of my kids having sex, but if and when they do I want them to have happy, healthy, safe sex, and for it be joyous. Or at the very least, fun. The entire conversation about slut-shaming has little to do with sex, and more to do with degrading women and girls for assumed or perceived sexuality. I know there are some people who feel like if a woman behaves like a “slut” that she should be called a slut. To me, this type of logic is the same as saying that because a woman wears a short skirt, she deserves to be raped. And why are we making this judgement call anyway? Why do we feel the need to insult a woman even if she is promiscuous? Why are women raised this way, to feel like they can judge and insult  other women for having sex or enjoying sex when if a man does it, we congratulate him?

You can talk to your daughters about sex and what you own expectations are for them regarding sex. You can talk to them about what they can do to help a peer who is having sexual issues or problems with health and sex or behaving in a way that could be dangerous. But you also need to sit down with your kids and tell them why they can’t call other “sluts” either in person or online. For the last few cases I’ve written about regarding girls and social media and suicide, it seems like the word “slut” has played a pretty big part. This to me is a huge warning sign that we need to talk to our kids about how damaging it is.

(photo: amazon)