Slut Shaming

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"What the hell is slut shaming? Slut shaming is the unfortunate phenomenon in which people degrade or mock a woman because she dresses in tight or revealing clothing, enjoys sex, has sex a lot or may even just be rumored to participate in sexual activity. The message that slut shaming sends to women is that sex is bad, having sex with more than one person is horrible, and everyone will hate you for having sex at all."
JOS

People who don't live by the standard that Sex Is Evil are sometimes called "sluts", for good or ill. My Girl Is a Slut! No, My Girl Is Not a Slut! Or even Ethical Slut, when it's portrayed as a good thing. In the case of Slut Shaming, however, being a slut is stigmatized as something very bad indeed.

One traditional Double Standard is that if a man has sex, he's lauded as a hero. If a woman has sex, she's Defiled Forever. Thus, slut shaming is used against women far more often than against men. And the men are often free to admire or even have sex with the "sluts", while despising them at the same time.

Things are changing, and people who have sex don't get quite the punishment they used to, but Slut Shaming happens every day. In short, Slut Shaming is the act of making someone feel bad for actual or perceived promiscuity. It tends to be far more overt for women than for men (Hester Prynne, for example, had to wear The Scarlet Letter), and men tend to get more leeway than women, but the key is punishment for promiscuity.

The difference between this and the My Girl Is (Not) A Slut tropes is: MGI(N)AS is about how the girl's love interest reacts to her sexual activity or lack thereof; slut-shaming is about how much grief the girl gets from society in general. You could play the two against each other for drama, e.g. suppose Hester Prynne had had a fiancé who decided to stand up for her against the village's disapproval.

See also: Madonna-Whore Complex, My Girl Is Not a Slut.

No Real Life Examples, Please - we all know it happens, but we don't need a debate on which examples qualify and which ones does not. Especially since it's likely to devolve into a debate over the victims behavior in general and sex-live in particular.

Dirty, Shameful Examples


Film[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Thanks to the Hays Code, Slut Shaming was enforced for many years in Hollywood.
    • Although they were made long after the end of the Hays Code, this tradition is nowhere more apparent than in Slasher Movies and horror movies, where the sexually promiscuous are the ones to die first, and only the virtuous virgin is allowed to live. This is often because the killer's Freudian Excuse is a horrible mother instilling Monster Misogyny. End result? Death by Sex.
    • In other films, a woman who had sex simply wasn't allowed a happy ending (though she didn't necessarily have to die). The women of The Maltese Falcon, for example, simply get ditched by the True Neutral protagonist.
  • Bowfinger subverts slut-shaming.

Bowfinger: We're finished! It's over between us!
Daisy: But why?
Bowfinger: You slept with Jiff.
Daisy: So?
Bowfinger: You know, I never thought about it that way.
Daisy: So I'll see you tonight?
Bowfinger: What time?

  • In the Star Trek reboot, Uhura has nothing but contempt for slutty Man Child Kirk.
    • In a moment of typical (in general, not necessarily for Kirk) hypocrisy, when his Orionan one-night stand tells him to hide because her roommate wants her to stop bringing guys to the room, Kirk pauses to ask "How many guys?"
  • Wedding Crashers follows the tail-end of the careers of a few semi-professional (male) sluts. Any time they're exposed for what they are, they're heaped with shame for their behavior.
  • Near the end of Moulin Rouge, Christian, angry about being dumped by Satine, (she was trying to protect him from the Duke) publicly humiliates her by throwing money at her, saying "I have paid for my whore!".
  • Easy A - The film is built around this trope: The protagonist pretend to have had sex once, and when the whole school starts to slut-shame her for not being a virgin she decides to make the most of it.
  • All the girls in The Magdalene Sisters are sent to the laundry because of this. Margaret was raped at a party, Rose and Crispina both had babies while unmarried, and Bernadette (although still a virgin) is pre-emptively judged a slut for her beauty and flirtation with boys.

Humor[edit | hide]

  • There is a joke about a woman who complains to the doctor:

Woman: After every date, I end up in bed. I can simply refuse no man, and afterwards, I feel like a slut and an idiot.
Doctor: Very well, I'll give you some pills, and you'll have no problem refusing...
Woman: No, doctor, not something to be able to refuse. Give me pills so I won't feel like a slut and an idiot.

  • More nastily, the book of insults and putdowns, Ouch by Dave Dutton has insults for men commenting variously upon ugliness, stupidity, arrogance, cruelty and so forth. Allthe lines aimed at women consist of either "she's a slut" or "she's frigid". Damned if you do, damned if you don't, ladies.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer didn't have too many partners in her seven years on television. The show had a strong tendency to punish her for this, but the characters tended not to. One exception was Spike, who thoroughly humiliated her. Of course, he was a soulless, evil vampire.
    • After she slept with Angel, he lost his soul and turned back into the demonic Angelus. (Playing the hellmouth version of "I've slept with my boyfriend and now he's acting different). Punished by the show, nothing but love from her family.

Buffy: [crying] You must be so disappointed me.
Giles: No, no I'm not.
Buffy: This is all my fault.
Giles: No, I don't believe it is. Do you want me to wag my finger at you and tell you that you acted rashly? You did, and I can. I know that you loved him. And he... has proven more than once that he loved you. You couldn't have known what would happen. The coming months are going to be hard... I suspect on all of us. But... if it's guilt you're looking for, Buffy, I'm not your man. All you will get from me is my support... and my respect.

    • After she slept with Parker, the situation was played quite a bit more normally, with him just not calling her afterward, and she got a lot of slut-shaming from Spike, who was happy to taunt her for youthful naivete. And try to kill her.
    • After she slept with Spike, she really hated herself (she had a lot going on, and he was just the cherry on the shitstorm sundae. At one point she cries in Tara's lap, begging not to be forgiven.
    • Playing fast and loose with men is also one of the reasons Faith is treated as evil, bad and just plain wrong. It is actually principle to her Moral Event Horizon.
  • Similar to Buffy, Angel punished Cordelia for one-night stands (with two mystical pregnancies, no less). However, characters tended to be more concerned with whether or not someone was having sex with Angel and unleashing his evil alter-ego.
  • As the most active member of the team, the eponymous Castle is the only one who really could be shamed, and his partner, Kate Beckett, is usually happy to do so.
  • Chuck's Sarah Walker frequently uses her body to get information, get past guards, and so on. This makes Chuck (entirely smitten) jealous and uncomfortable, and he occasionally attacks her for it.
  • Subverted by Community's Annie Edison. During the school's sexuality fair, it's revealed she's never seen a penis and everyone tries their best to make her comfortable about the word and the object, but she's proud to be uncomfortable about, thank you!
    • It is further subverted on Community by Jeff and Britta. Both of them are shown to be quite promiscuous, but no one even comments on Britta's lengthy list of sexual partners, but they often mock, shame, and insult Jeff for his.
  • Doc Martin gives us a surprise pregnancy in the fourth season. The mother doesn't get much guff, but she does get some. The father gets none for the sex, just some for the lack of a wedding.
  • The first season of Dollhouse gives us the anonymous client "Miss Lonelyheart", an octogenarian who frequently contracts the use of the doll Victor, and who is mocked by the staff of the house for it. It turns out the octogenarian is a decoy and the real client is Adele.
  • Downton Abbey's first season shows a young lady of the upper class having a disastrous one night stand (he dies in the act). Her mother is shocked and disgusted, and her reputation suffers immeasurably when the rumor spreads to London.
    • Its second season gives us Ethel, a new maid brought in during the war, as Downton is converted into an adjunct of the hospital to help with injured, convalescing veterans. Ethel loves a man in uniform, literally. She's caught in the act by the head housemaid, and is sacked without notice and without references. When she winds up pregnant, the same head is unsympathetic as to fault, but still helps as much as she can, even trying to shame the officer who got her pregnant (and who rebuffs the attempt).
  • The pilot to Friends gives us Monica sleeping with a man on the first date. The show didn't make too much hay of it, but the executives were worried the public would blame her, so the producers polled the live audience. Male or female, the only one who wasn't made to feel bad for sexual activity was Phoebe. Joey never really felt too bad, but his friends shamed him for his behavior.
  • How I Met Your Mother plays this straight, inverts it, and averts it.
    • Barney is a serial-user man-whore, and his friends tend to treat him as disgusting more often than heroic.

Ted: You should be proud. You should be tested, but you should be proud.

    • Lily is Marshall's My Girl Is a Slut, with the pair of them having an incredibly active sex life, but Marshall makes a huge fuss about the possibility that he wasn't the one to take her virginity. At the same time, part of his problem was that he gave her his.
    • Ted's generally after true love and not one night stands. The show tends not to heap abuse on him when he does go for one night stands, but it's usually either not shown (as when he and Robin broke up) or shown in a negative light (as when Marshall spends a morning shaming Ted for a litany of bad decisions, including hooking up with a married woman).
    • Robin has fewer conquests than Ted, but she's had a one night stand with Mitch, inventor of The Naked Man!. After the gang spends a few minutes admiring Mitch's ingenuity, Marshall says, "I call slut!" Robin spends the majority of the episode trying to justify what she did so she doesn't feel bad, but Marshall ends up taking back the slut comment after Lily successfully uses the Naked Woman on him, showing that he's Not So Above It All.
  • Law and Order and its spin-offs provide a realistic treatment. One of the problems the prosecutions often faces is that while they're trying the defendant, the defense is trying the victim. Once a victim is shown to have had sex with more than one person, it becomes a concern that the jury will assume she deserved murder or rape.
  • Mad Men, thanks to Values Dissonance, has the Double Standard in full effect. The men are free to romp, so long as they're discreet, and other men don't particularly care, but if a woman steps toe over the line, she's torn apart. Peggy Olson gets it particularly bad from her family and her priest, for having a baby out of wedlock.
  • Scrubs tended to treat characters badly if they had sex outside of a committed relationship. Men were ostensibly excused if it had been long enough, but they were portrayed (and treated) as somewhat pathetic.
    • Inverted in a first season episode where Elliot has a one-night stand with a surgeon who turns out to be a jerk, telling everyone the juicy details and bragging about his conquest. At first she's mortified (and feels betrayed because Turk joins in with a few comments about how nice her butt is), but she ends up deciding that she likes at least being known around the hospital where she was previously invisible to everybody (plus it's so far off from her actual personality that it doesn't bother or shame her much).

Elliot:(proudly) "I'm Elliot Reed… SLUT!"

  • The Midsomer Murders episode "A Sacred Trust" involves some romantic liaisons, including one girl shamed for her involvement with a jock.
  • In the first season of Battlestar Galactica Reimagined, after having a one night stand with Gaius Baltar, Starbuck gets thoroughly shamed by Apollo. The subtext makes it clear that it's because he's totally in love with her, but it takes the form of attacking her for promiscuity.
  • Lost in Austen: Darcy shames Amanda when he discovers she's previously lived with another man (although he is not aware that she's from the 21st century), emphatically stating that he cannot marry a woman who is "not a maid". Lydia elopes with Bingley rather than Wickham (see Literature below for Pride and Prejudice), but they avoid scandal when they admit nothing sexual happened between them. Jane ultimately annuls her marriage to Collins so she can be with Bingley, but her reputation is so damaged that they move to America. Wickham and the Darcys agree to pretend that Wickham raped Georgiana so she will be saved the shame from having made advances towards him.
  • Cougar Town loves to take the piss out of Lorie for being kinda slutty. The show really, really loves to give Grayson shit. In the third season, Lorie and Ellie get in argument over who's sexier and have to settle it by finding someone they've both slept with. Travis goes through their lists,[1] finds one person they've both slept with, then calls them both ho's.
  • A rare male example on Glee where Sue shames Will for his interest in Emma while still technically married to his wife.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • As punishment for having a child out of wedlock, Hester Prynne had to wear the eponymous Scarlet Letter, 'A' for 'adultery'.
  • Robin Hobb deals with the subject realistically and without condemnation (from the author, plenty from the societies she creates).
    • The Realm of the Elderlings features restrictive roles for women and plenty of slut-shaming.
      • Molly has to go to great lengths to hide her relationship with Fitz and flee the castle once she gets pregnant, Fitz is killed in disgrace, and the coastal duchies nearly collapse during the war.
      • Fitz himself meets with a great deal of disapproval for his dalliance, but the consequences for him would never be as severe. Sure, he got killed a few times, but never for sex.
      • Conversely, his relationship with Starling never met with the same disapproval, because she's a minstrel, and the rules are different for minstrels.
      • Althea in the second series, in a more conservative climate, is routinely shamed for her activities, which include pursuing a man's career (sailing) and a man's sexual appetites (having any). Her niece, Malta, is portrayed as a man-eater in bud, but YMMV as to whether that's budding sexuality in a young woman or simple starvation for mental stimulation.
      • In the third trilogy, Fitz shames Starling a bit when, on learning of her marriage, turns her out of his bed. He then shames his son for taking up with a young woman when he didn't have the ability to make an honest woman out of her, and gets in a fight with the girl's father over the same. Fitz receives some shame himself when the world at large believes he's gaying it up with his foreign-born employer. The Fool himself also seems to disapprove of Fitz sleeping around with women he doesn't love, but not on moral grounds; his reasons are more complex and more specific to their relationship.
    • The Soldier Son: The eponymous son becomes, thanks to a disease, grotesquely obese, which warrants disgust from everyone he meets, and colors their opinion of any desire he might express. His father's disgust is deepened when he believes the boy caught the disease from a prostitute (false), and he flees town ahead of a mob for supposed necrophilia (also false).
  • The Aubrey-Maturin series plays the Double Standard for all its worth.
    • Aubrey has never learned to keep it in his pants and frequently gets into trouble at home and abroad, not least when a miscegenated son by a favorite whore of his shows up later in the series and earlier when an unscrupulous woman blackmails him with threat of showing up, pregnant, to his wife. When, in the first book, his dalliance with a superior officer's wife costs him a small fortune and an important promotion, others defend him because, "It was her what set her cap for him! Everyone knows that!"
      • When Aubrey catches an STI in the first book, he's told by Maturin (acting as his physician) that "a lady of your acquaintance has been too liberal with her affections". Slut Shaming and the Double Standard in one sentence.
    • Meanwhile Maturin ardently pursues a widow whose reputation is thoroughly blackened by "doing what a woman must to get by alone in this world". Otherwise he was so chaste that his superiors in the intelligence community were for a time concerned that he might be susceptible to blackmail. For being gay.
  • Robert Heinlein loved My Girl Is a Slut and only made villains prudes. However, he frequently set his characters in a society similar to that he grew up in (early 20th century midwestern America), which meant there was plenty of shaming going on, and his characters had to be devious to get away with doing what they wanted, and never felt bad for it.
  • Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn has this in full effect. When a girl falls for a beautiful man's blandishments, she feels ashamed. When a young man she's been friends with forever finds out about it, he (still a virgin) is hurt and shames her, but eventually comes around.
  • Matrim Cauthon of the Wheel of Time series is another inveterate manwhore (though the text rarely implies that he does more than kiss women, and when he does he tends to be monogamous), upon whom shame is copiously heaped, mostly by the women in his life.
    • Robert Jordan has also written historical fiction with the Double Standard firmly in place, usually in his native Charleston, South Carolina.
  • Common in the works of Jane Austen:
    • In Pride and Prejudice, Lydia's fling with Wickham almost ruins her entire family's reputation. They are saved only when Darcy pays off Wickham to marry her. Georgiana Darcy narrowly escaped the same fate when Wickham wanted to elope with her in order to get his hands on her fortune.
    • Mansfield Park's Maria Rushworth is forever ostracised from polite society after leaving her husband to run away with Henry Crawford, who then refuses to marry her. She ends up having to leave the country.
    • Invoked in Sense and Sensibility when Elinor cautions Marianne about getting too close to Willoughby for the sake of her reputation. Willoughby is also revealed to have caused disgrace to Colonel Brandon's ward, with whom Willoughby had an affair and abandoned her when she became pregnant.
    • Generally, any female character considered to be too flirtatious, or who breaks off an engagement to chase another man, is subjected to this (Isabella Thorpe, Lucy Steele, Elizabeth Elliot, and others.)
  • The Beautiful Slave Girls on Gor will use this to taunt and/or insult each other, at least when they're not taunting and/or insulting each other over how frigid the other is.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire plays with this trope; whores are a totally unremarkable fact of life for the lower levels of society, (and the only higher-ups concerned about this are considered religious fanatics by their peers) but the nobles can be a different matter; the shame attached to sex outside wedlock is totally dependent on who the people involved are, and whether it benefits their allies or enemies to go one way or the other.
    • Lord Tywin Lannister famously had his father's mistress stripped naked and paraded through the streets after his father died, but this is strongly implied to have been a case of putting the lowborn whore in her place, (since she had gained considerable political power and wealth,) rather than strictly because of moral objections to her being a whore. He frequently rebukes Tyrion for his use of whores, citing the shame he brings on his house, even though he is shown to (discreetly) use them himself, and may just object to Tyrion's flaunting his activities, rather than the activities themselves.
    • Cersei Lannister is forced to walk naked through King's Landing by the Church Militant as penance for her adultery, but this is only permitted by the nobles because the political situation makes this beneficial to various players.
    • In contrast, Oberyn Martell openly brings his "paramour" to court, and treats her very well, though it is stated that Dorne is generally more sexually liberal than the rest of the Seven Kingdoms. Daenerys likewise has no moral qualms about having a paramour, and (while wary of the political consequences of someone openly talking about the affair,) doesn't seem to mind that everyone knows about it.
  • In Going Too Far by Catherine Alliott, the protagonist believes that she cheated on her husband while spending the weekend away with friends. It didn't happen. The guy drugged her and signed them both in at a hotel so he could use her as an alibi while he committed a burglary. Afterwards, she discovers she's pregnant. She is driven to despair, not only because her husband throws her out, but because of this trope she fears being rejected by her friends and family (who are largely sympathetic while acknowledging that her problems are her own fault) and struggles to tell her gynaecologist that she doesn't know who the father is. It's her husband's baby - the other man is infertile and didn't have sex with her anyway.
  • Tess of the D'Urbervilles shames herself far more cruelly than most other people shame her.

Theatre[edit | hide]

  • Goethe's Faust gives details of the slut shaming costumes of rural Germany at that period. The bride's bridal garland being ripped from her head and stamped underfoot by the village boys, the "slut" having to sit in a particular pew in church and so on. Nothing was done to the man, of course.

Religion and Mythology[edit | hide]

  • Subverted somewhat in The Bible. While it doesn't think highly of sex outside of marriage ("No adultery" is one of the Ten Commandments, for starters), it treats adulterers as people instead of dirty whores; with A) Jesus big on redemption and atonement, not punishment, and B) shamers being reminded that their sins aren't any better than those of the shame-ee.
    • The Pharisees bring an adulteress before Jesus and ask what he thinks should be done with her. According to traditional law, she should be stoned to death. Jesus said to the crowd "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." When everyone in the crowd realized they were sinners, they all left. Jesus then told the woman Go and Sin No More.
    • A similar story appears in Genesis—Judah condemns his widowed daughter-in-law, Tamar, to death for getting pregnant out of wedlock. It turns out the conception was when Tamar dressed as a prostitute and slept with Judah, who was trying to weasel his way out of a levirate marriage. When Judah realizes this he realizes his sin and marries Tamar.
    • As with the above Jesus example, there was another incident with a woman at a well who gave Jesus water. Jesus asked her to draw a cup for him and she tried to refuse the request for being both a Samaritan and an adultress (an adultress at the time could mean a number of things). Jesus knew this and didn't mind either one.
  • After the dice game in the Mahabharata, Karna calls Draupadi a slut for having five husbands (even though, as stated earlier in the narrative, she is not the first woman to do so...and men were permitted to take multiple wives, mistresses, and concubines), and uses her "sluttiness" as justification for why she should submit to his and Duryodhana's sexual advances in front of his court. Later, she tells Krishna what went down, and he says he'll make it right, that no woman (especially one as pious as Draupadi) should be treated that way.

Music[edit | hide]

Professional Wrestling[edit | hide]

  • As any female fan can tell you, the slut-shaming that goes on in Professional Wrestling is not only rampant, it's been going on nigh-constantly for years. While commentators like Jerry "the King" Lawler and Tazz get to drool over the Divas/Knockouts and beg them to get their "puppies" or "pigeons" out (being euphemisms for breasts), it's a guarantee that if the ladies in question actually did so, they would be considered sluts.
    • Furthermore, wrestling is a form of media in which women whose only crime is being a Heel (a designated "bad guy") are loudly and incessantly chanted at with calls of "SLUT" or "SHE'S A CRACK WHORE". Pick a female heel, whether it be Sherri Martel, Stephanie McMahon, Francine, Lita, Vickie Guererro, or Eve Torres, and you are 100% guaranteed to find them being chanted-at, for the shocking and horrendous crime of . . . being unlikeable. Nice, Face ladies dress provocatively, but not slutty; they smile and provide Fan Service with no complaints. If they do anything else, even simply speaking their mind (as in Eve's new gimmick), they're sluts/crack-whores/bitches/"hoe-skis".

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Assassin's Creed II provides us with an example of shaming by legislation. The extra, in-game index describes how courtesans (by that time, a word meaning, essentially, "whores") were by law more and more circumscribed and sharply defined in dress and hairstyle in an effort to eliminate their profession from polite society.
  • The criminal inmates of Batman: Arkham City are slightly misogynistic to the same degree they're also trying to slightly hurt Batman's feelings. There are a lot of taunts thrown at Harley and Catwoman.
  • During Miranda Lawson's loyalty mission in Mass Effect 2:

Captain Enyala: I was just waiting for you to finish getting dressed. Or does Cerberus really let you whore around in that outfit?

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • The Nostalgia Critic and The Nostalgia Chick use "slut" and "whore" freely to describe anyone they don't like, but they've both admitted to enjoying being slutty themselves. More to the point, they both have a very dim view on shaming women for having for having sex or enjoying it.
    • In the Critic's case, his doing this less as time goes on is very likely a result of his actor getting rape and death threats for invoking Female Gaze on himself so much.
    • In-universe, Critic gets some from Douchey. First he's just called a whore, but then he's called a “war whore”, an insult for a woman who cheats while her husband is away fighting.
    • The Nostalgia Chick criticizes Moulin Rouge for this.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Inverted in Questionable Content, after Faye sleeps with her boss's brother, Sven. She immediately begins to freak out, but is reassured by her therapist that she's not a slut, and that a casual sexual relationship can be healthy, and is perhaps exactly what she needs at that point.
  • Magick Chicks: Invoked by name when Faith, calls Tiffany out on it. Also counts as a mild What the Hell, Hero? moment, since Tiffany is the school's resident superhero. Which is a plot point, in that this may look like Faith avoided the real question by confusing Tiff with a counter-attack... but we see more and more evidence that she perceives everything in the context of sex/hedonism, pecking order/fighting or mind control (which may overlap in any combination) - her ability to understand what she's told in any other way is, at best, unreliable.
  1. multiple pages each