Hi, I’m Katie Gallagher. I am a Freshman at River Dell High School in New Jersey. When challenged to write a research paper on something that bothers me, I thought back to a book I once read about a young girl being sexually bullied in school. I realized what a prevalent issue this had become over the years. This book was of course UnSlut by Emily Lindin. I was inspired to write this paper and petition the school board of education to implement a mandatory lesson on sexual harassment and bullying into the 9 th grade health curriculum. If you'd like to sign this petition, go to www.thepetitionsite.com and search "Demand on Mandatory Education of Sexual Harassment and Bullying."
"Slut" shaming: (adj.) Making a woman feel guilty or inferior for her real or perceived sexual behavior.
Emily Lindin is a 30-year-old successful author and documentary director. However, she was not always this ambitious and confident in her aptitudes. As a young teenager, she was maliciously tormented and characterized as a “slut” starting at the young age of 11. One incident redefined her entire middle school and high school careers. She went through middle school and parts of high school with the title of the “school slut.” Emily would go home each day, cry her eyes out in her room, and sometimes, even resort to self-harm. These times were tremendously difficult for her and her life was altered forever. After hearing what people had been saying about her, she started to believe them and agree with their stances against her.
This type of bullying is not as infrequent as you may think. In this day and age, this already impertinent word has developed to such a point where it has an utterly new meaning. Slut-shaming is now distinguished as the “victimization of another based on sexual exterior.”
The seemingly quick evolution of this derogatory word raises the question: How did this term develop an entirely new meaning? This problem needs to be recognized and more closely identified by schools as a real issue because it is one of the leading causes of suicide each year.
Twenty-five percent of women ages 18-24 are the targets of sexual harassment and bullying every year That means that 1 out of every 4 women undergoes some type of sexual harassment, at least once in her life, that can have a damaging effect on her throughout the rest of her life. This is an appalling statistic because most people claim to have never seen someone being slut-shamed or sexually harassed.
Slut-shaming has become an even more prevalent issue in schools over the past 10 years. The requirements and “qualifications” to be labeled a slut have evolved from sexual activity to appearance. and therefore victims have become their own classification within society. This means that more and more girls are being sexually targeted in terms of harassment and bullying every year.
Although slut-shaming is most common in schools, there is no “expiration date” for bullying. Sometimes, the victims may experience severe bullying that carries through into their adult lives. The effects on your self-esteem can have negative repercussions throughout your life.
You may be thinking…this isn’t me, or I don’t participate in banter like this. Well, unfortunately this matter is more important than you may think. Every year, 864,950 people attempt suicide, which means one person attempts suicide every 38 seconds. Several (Can you be specific with a number? Would be more effective) of these attempted suicides are the effect of sexual harassment and bullying. Every second that you live your life, someone is ending their own. Society needs to be more educated on the topic of slut-shaming and must learn how to aid the victims. People across the world are affected by this type of bullying and there has to be a way to abate this matter that presently plagues the world.
This particular type of bullying has grown to be more common than it formerly was. This is all due to the rise and power-gain of modern forms of social media. Teenagers can now share private pictures, videos, and messages with the click of a button.
Targeting peers on social media starts at a very young age when a child sees older kids doing it and they want to be exactly like them. The elder children are merely poking fun at one another and these young children, who look up to these teenagers, want to be exactly like them and do whatever they are doing.
In a previously stated example, Emily Lindin’s “introduction” to slut-shaming began at the early age of 11. She was labeled a “slut” and her life took to a new course as a result of the malicious bullying that she experienced in middle school. Emily was labeled a “slut” when a young boy named Zach spread rumors about her sexual behavior. She suffered and lived through middle school hating herself and her choices. She blamed herself for the bullying she experienced and this is a very common way victims feel about their bullying. Nobody particularly went out of their way to help her because they justified their actions by saying that she deserved it and that she was “asking for it” by being a slut.
Ali Guttilla was a normal child with hopes and dreams until she was sexually assaulted and as a result, labeled a slut. Ali spent her whole life embracing her role as a “slut” because she had heard so many times that she was a slut, that she was worthless that she started to believe it and this torment and harassment followed her for a portion of her adult life. The sexual assault that she underwent affected the way she viewed herself throughout the rest of her life.
When someone is told so many times that they are a slut, they start to believe what they are told. As a result, they are now inclined to behave as a so-called “slut” would behave. “We end ‘slut’ shaming, body shaming, or shaming and guilt in general, often resulting in depression, suicide, and even murder,” Ali once said. She has spoken out about her experiences in order to help girls going through similar experiences. This is another example of how these experiences can affect a person’s entire life. There is no expiration date on bullying. One can go his/her whole life just remembering what people once said to him/her and once he/she loses his/her self-esteem, it is a long journey to get it back.
Still Living, Still Learning
Currently, there isn’t much being done to help the victims and survivors of slut-shaming and there isn’t enough attention towards the subject. It is a cruel form of bullying that is disregarded as frivolous hearsay. If people aren’t educated soon about the effects of slut-shaming on a person, then this affair can go spiraling out of control. If schools could get involved at the early stages of youth development, where the bullying usually starts taking place, this problem could be partially diminished. Schools could hold programs based around bullying and inform the children about the negative consequences of slut-shaming. The most important tool to solving the problem is awareness. The more that people know about the topic, the more they can help. One of my peers and I have petition the school board to implement a program to teach about sexual bullying in the 9th grade health curriculum.
If you see anyone being slut-shamed, there are so many ways to help them. You can tell an adult or simply support him/her and help them get through it. If you really look hard enough, you could see this happening around you and you can aid the victim. When children are taught something at a young age that is reinforced throughout their maturing stages, it will stick with them forever. At the end of the day, even helping one person, who is fighting through this, is a step in the right direction.
The idea of slut-shaming has evolved over time to a point where one single label can ruin someone’s entire life. Slut-shaming can lead to long-term effects that can stay with a person forever. When this bullying starts young, the child’s idea of them self can be damaged and the person can go their whole life thinking that they are who they were labeled as. This doesn’t just happen in one specific age group or race. It can happen to anybody. It could happen to your friends. It could happen to your family. It could happen to you. That is why it is important to be educated on the topic, you never know when you might encounter it in your life.
In rare cases, like Emily Lindin’s, one can overcome this label and become who he/she want to be. Emily was able to conquer her classification as a “slut” and become the amazing human being she is today. She fought hard to relinquish this label and live her life how she wanted to and she is still fighting to help the current victims of slut-shaming by sharing her experiences and stories.
It is most important to support and help those who are victimized by slut-shaming. There are many different ways to help those who are victimized and bullied based on the pre-notion that they are a slut such as giving them support and helping them keep fighting. And who knows, you could become the next person to inspire people to share their stories and overcome their labels once and for all.
Guttilla, Ali. "Sometimes, All Someone Needs Is to Be Truly Seen and Understood." The UnSlut Project, www.unslutproject.com/blog/sometimes-all-someone-needs-is-to-be-truly-seen-and-understood.
"Harmful Effects of Shaming Women Can Last for Years." Arizona Republic [Phoenix], Final Chaser ed., 4 Nov. 2016. eLibrary, elibrary.bigchalk.com/elibweb/elib/do/document?set=search&searchType=&dictionaryClick=&secondaryNav=&groupid=1&requestid=lib_standard&resultid=1&edition=&ts=89D51A48D9192EB6EA317E390CEA077B_1480445140353&start=1&publicationId=&urn=urn%3Abigchalk%3AUS%3BBCLib%3Bdocument%3B247120568#. Accessed 29 Nov. 2016.
Khadaroo, Stacy Teicher. "'Slut-Shaming': When Women Sling the Word, It's Often About Status, Not Sex." Christian Science Monitor, 29 May 2014. SIRS Issues Researcher, sks.sirs.com/webapp/article?artno=0000363655&type=ART.
Lindin, Emily. Interview.
Lindin, Emily, and Amanda Hess. UnSlut: A Diary and a Memoir. San Francisco, Zest Books, 2015.
Papp, Leanna, et al. "Exploring Perceptions of Slut-Shaming on Facebook: Evidence for a Reverse Sexual Double Standard." Gender Issues, vol. 32, no. 1, Mar. 2015, pp. 57-76. MAS Ultra - School Edition, doi:10.1007/s12147-014-9133-y.
"Slut- Shaming." The UnSlut Project, www.unslutproject.com/blog. Accessed 2 Dec. 2016.
"What Is Slut-Shaming?" NoBullying.com, nobullying.com/slut-shaming/.