Slut Shaming Accusers Please Shut up

Slut Shaming Accusers Please Shut Up

Let’s clear this up at the beginning. It’s not a misleading headline. People who hurl the phrase “slut shaming” at the mere mention or suggestion of inappropriate behavior need to shut up. Please stop screaming “slut shamer!!!” at anyone who questions behaviors such as Miley Cyrus’ unfortunate display at the VMS awards or a billboard on a major highway that is supposed to be for prom gowns but looks more like an ad for a strip club. Because, you see, when you immediately get defensive and yell “They’re slut shaming!” you’re ignoring (or purposely denying) a wide body of scientific evidence that proves early sexualization of girls is harmful to their physical and mental health.

Before we launch into a discussion of the abundant peer reviewed research that proves this, let’s look at where this annoying term originated. It should come as no surprise to anyone that it was coined by a man, and an old man at that. Yep, 88 year old sociologist Ira Reiss, coined the term. After all, we wouldn’t want any girls or women to stop their overly-sexualized -at-too young-an-age behavior, because that would rob men of the eye candy they’ve come to enjoy and expect.

Ira Reiss is a sexologist, but he is not a psychologist or a medical doctor and as such, he doesn’t have the expertise to know the effects of early sexualization on children. However, The American Psychological Association does have this authority, and they have proven, through many years of research, that exposure to sexual images in the media, pressure to engage in sexual situations and girls sexualizing themselves through the use of provocative clothing are all harmful to girls’ development.

The APA formed a task force on the sexualization of young girls. First, they identified what is sexualization, and determined it to be:

-A person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;

-a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;

-a person is sexually objectified — that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making;

-and/or sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.

According to the AMA, all of these roads to sexualization can occur via media images, including:

advertisements (e.g., the Skechers “naughty and nice” ad that featured Christina Aguilera dressed as a schoolgirl in pigtails, with her shirt unbuttoned, licking a lollipop), dolls (e.g., Bratz dolls dressed in sexualized clothing such as miniskirts, fishnet stockings and feather boas), clothing (thongs sized for 7– to 10-year-olds, some printed with slogans such as “wink wink”), and television programs (e.g., a televised fashion show in which adult models in lingerie were presented as young girls).

In addition to the examples given above, another perfect example is the aforementioned VMA awards, and Miley Cyrus’ performance there. Critiques of her performance were met with the inevitable charge of “slut shaming,” however, contrary to participating in “slut shaming,” most commenters noted that the performance was inappropriate for children. Have we reached a point in society where children’s welfare is less important than the egos of grown women?

The American Psychological Association reports that such sexualization has multiple deleterious effects on children, including negative impacts on their emotional development, the possible creation of eating disorders, and a degradation of their overall cognition. The APA states: “A report of the American Psychological Association (APA) released today found evidence that the proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harmful to girls’ self-image and healthy development.”

So, if sexualization, which can occur through media exposure, is bad for girls, which is an undisputed fact, then how can we have a conversation about that fact without getting labeled a “slut shamer?” Because when that label pops up and is applied to the person trying to raise serious concerns about the deleterious effects of sexualization on girls, it pulls the focus away from the real culprits (like Miley Cyrus, Bratz Dolls, etc.) and places the blame on the person who is trying to raise an important issue.

Furthermore, why have we decided that healthy development for children should take a back seat to women who want to be able to engage in totally inappropriate, attention-seeking behavior, such as what Miley Cyrus did at the VMAs?

There is nothing inherently wrong in dressing in provocative clothing, acting sexual, talking about sex or engaging in sexual behavior in appropriate settings, but it is wrong to expose children to such behavior. When all we do is shout “you’re slut shaming!” we’re really acting quite self-absorbed instead of trying to understand the bigger picture.

So please, those who do all the accusing of “slut shaming,” please do shut up. When you stop talking and begin listening, a more constructive conversation may be able to take place.

By: Rebecca Savastio

(op-ed)

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