Guest post by Jenn Sawyer
Jenn Sawyer is a writer and account executive living in Boston, MA. She is new to the world of online journalism, but finding it is a great outlet for supporting the causes she believes in. You can find her on Twitter via her newly created account @_jennsawyer_.
There's certainly a contrast between how promiscuous men and women are portrayed in the media, and celebrities are no exception.
Unlike the men, however, female celebrities are far more likely to be shamed for their sexual past. Within the last year, several female stars have been the target of media and public criticism for what should have been their most intimate and private moments.
Bachelorette Andi Dorfman, for example, came under fire after ABC aired the show's "After the Final Rose" special. During the episode, runner-up contestant Nick Viall asked her, “If you weren’t in love with me, I’m just not sure why, like, why you made love with me.”
Cue the media frenzy.
After Bob Beckel, a co-host on Fox News' The Five, called Dorfman "a slut" during a broadcast, sex therapist Dr. Kat Van Kirk immediately took to her keyboard, venting her frustrations in this blog post.
"These are adults here people, hello!?" she wrote. "Everything was consensual and I’m sorry but if I were considering marrying a guy, I’d want to know what our relationship was like in the sack first."
Van Kirk continued: "You can have a great relationship with someone but if there is no sexual chemistry, what’s the point? As far as I’m concerned, Dorfman was doing her due diligence."
Although Dorfman's unfair treatment did inspire many to speak out against "slut" shaming, including Taylor Solomon writing for The UnSlut Project, it didn't completely stop the negative backlash. It didn't seem to deter outlets from repeating the same mistakes, either. Even today, female celebrities are constantly making headlines for their sexual activities, most of which are laced with judgmental undertones.
Sometimes, celebrities even use the media to slut-shame one another. Amber Rose is just one of the latest targets of online and media "slut" shaming, thanks to one of her fellow stars. A recent MTV report indicated that the model and hip-hop artist uploaded an Instagram photo with the caption "U Guys Love Slut-Shaming Huh? Good. I feed off that sh–. #HowtobeAbadBitch."
It's believed that her remarks were in response to a comment made by her ex, Kanye West. In February, West told a reporter that after dating Rose, he “had to take 30 showers” before beginning his relationship with Kim Kardashian. Rose didn't take kindly to West's bullying and quickly shot back. She said that a woman's sex life shouldn't be used as ammo and reminded him why his own wife wouldn't want her sexual history on blast either, referring to Kim's sex-tape.
It just goes to show that celebrities aren't immune to the unfair backlash that comes with "slut" shaming, whether it be from the public or their peers. Not everyone is going to feel sorry for the wealthy celeb that's getting bullied, but at the end of the day, they're just like us. The change needed to do away with "slut" shaming doesn't have to start at the top of the celebrity pool. However, if we start adopting a more sex-positive ideology, it could have an impact on all women.
Nicole Hernandez is a freelance stylist, creative director and costume designer currently living in Wilmington, NC. Traveling to and from NYC following her dreams. She is also a writer for Galore magazine.
I can't even begin to express the disgust and anger I felt after I typed the word 'rape' into Google search and saw about 20,400,000 results pop up in a matter of (0.40) seconds. I began clicking on different articles and continuously I saw the words "allegedly", "supposedly", "accused" all associated with these monsters, these rapists. One story in particular that I didn't come across when searching... was my own story.
This is because I never saw justice. Hell I never even got to see a judge, even though my rapist had a 2-page-long criminal record, to include kidnapping and other assault charges. This month marks a year since I was raped. February 25th to be exact. This animal is still out there, still on the prowl and likely still hurting women, simply living his life. Disgusting. But guess what, guess who else is living their life. I am.
I want to tell other women that they TOO can live their life, no matter what. Rape is one of THE worst things that could ever happen to a person. Trust me, I know from experience. The evilness and the sneakiness of how I was raped is nauseating. My bedroom door was barricaded shut, piles of magazines were stacked up against my door. My bedside table was pushed against my door as well. This psychopath even slept next to me after raping me. He drugged me until I was unconscious and unresponsive. This monster was someone I had been around 4 to 5 times in my life, he is twice my age, and he is someone I have since fantasized about killing many, many times. He was a drug dealer, to put it frankly. I had second thoughts about including that little detail, but you must know how I knew this monster. The details are something I could go into at another time. Just know that this rape was done shamelessly in the corner of my bedroom. This monster knew he was in the wrong, he must have felt like a coward, as he should have. That sick fuck.
I no longer want to be silenced. I no longer want to keep this bottled up inside of me as if it didn't happen. I no longer want to pretend that the female police officer who transported me to the hospital the morning after I was raped completely crossed the line. I no longer want to pretend that she didn't use the words, "This kind of thing happens a lot, you know, but some girls are just dumb". Dumb?! Yes, she used these words with me. After making a complaint to my rape crisis counselor, she informed me that there had been about 3 other incidents where complaints were made regarding this officer and things she's said to other rape victims.
Yet this officer is still transporting rape victims to the hospital? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that just isn't right. My experience with the detective was no different either. The first time I met the detective I was in the hospital and still in complete shock with all that had happened. Our meeting was brief and lasted all of 10 minutes. It would seem that I would go days without hearing from the detective. Then when I finally heard back from him, the first words out of his mouth had to do with a murder trial he had been working on. In essence telling me that this murder trial was more important than my rape.
The police weren't helpful at all. They never once even questioned him. After weeks of no answers and no progress, my mother called the chief of police. When my mom asked why they hadn't questioned him yet, the officer used the words, "Ma'am, this is a man's life we are dealing with". What about my life though? It became very clear to me that this monster who did this to me was going to get away with it (and he did).
After 3 months passed by, I had one last phone call. It was the detective who told me that the female DA didn't want to take my trial to court because 'the court would eat me alive' and 'he is an acquaintance so you probably won't win'. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? I was on an airplane at the time, leaving LA after a week-long trip of work and travel. I had literally just sat down, so mind you, I received this information in a matter of seconds. I was in shock once again. The only words I could come up with were, "Wait. Does this mean it's over? That's it?" The detective asked if I wanted to meet with him and a counselor to talk about it. I responded with another panic attack/breakdown (I experienced a few over this 3-month waiting process and have since experienced more when I have least expected it. Unexpected triggers set me off sometimes). I fought through my tears and told him, "This is fucked up," and hung up the phone. I haven't talked to the detective since.
I couldn't believe this monster had gotten away with this. Just because he was 'an acquaintance'? It doesn't matter if he was my fucking boyfriend, it doesn't matter how many times I was around this monster (4 to 5 times in my life), you can't rape someone. Period. It also sickens me that the female DA didn't even give me a chance. After everything I had been through, I was ready to surrender myself on the stand, ready to sacrifice, for other women. And I never got to speak. They never saw him. They never talked to him. They never approached him. This sicko got away with rape.
One thing he didn't get away with, however, was ruining my life.
I wouldn't let my rape define me.
We are all different and cope with things differently, and I coped in an odd way. After I was raped, I kind of just pretended it didn't happen. Minus sleeping on my couch for weeks after my rape, getting a new bed comforter, suffering mental breakdowns and panic attacks, you could say things were pretty normal. I never sought counseling and I never went to the Rape Crisis Center (even though my parents begged me to). It's almost as if I didn't want to admit that this had happened to me. But it did. And that was that. I continued to work my ass off in styling and costume design and figuratively swept it under the rug. Not a very wise thing to do, instead I should have gone to counseling. Absolutely. But I didn't. Instead, I kept myself so incredibly busy that I didn't have the time to even think about what had happened to me. I put all of my focus, my heart and soul into my own personal projects, as well as assisting others with their projects and films.
Eventually, my "keep myself busy" mindset disappeared. Finally, I started doing things for ME and because they truly made me happy. No longer was I running and hiding from my rape; instead I was, in a way, overcoming my rape. Slowly. "Overcome" is not a word I wanted to hear this past year; I don't think you can ever TRULY overcome being raped, so please don't take that word the wrong way. I do believe, though, that you shouldn't let your rape define you and I will hold that statement close to my heart until the day I die.
In this busy time, I ended up working on two films that later were selected and screened at an international film festival. I was the costume designer for both. The day after this film festival ended, I received an email in response to an internship I had applied for in New York City. Being the go-getter that I am, I quit my job and school, packed up two large suitcases and headed to NYC the next week. While in NYC, I began assisting an incredible costume designer, stylist and creative director and ended up working on a film for John Carpenter (the horror film king himself). I also started writing and interning for Galore magazine and couldn't be happier. I will have my first shoot published through Galore sometime this month. I was also assistant wardrobe stylist on 5 editorials for an international magazine, Seven Tribes. All blessings that truly fed my soul.
All of these things wouldn't have happened, though, if I didn't believe in myself.
When you go through something as damaging as being raped, it's very easy to lose sight of what brings you happiness. Very easily, you lose sight of loving yourself. You lose your confidence, you lose your joy, you lose your sparkle. That is why I want to tell my story to girls and women around the United States (and hopefully the world). I want to change the world. I want to make an impact. I have suffered greatly as well as accomplished a lot in this past year. I want to be a voice for other women who too have suffered. I want to inspire women to continue to follow their dreams and live. No matter how they feel, I want them to know that it's going to be okay and to never lose sight of what they love, especially their dreams. Now is the time to speak up and now is the time to talk about it. I would really love to help other victims through my story. If you've been raped or sexually assaulted by someone you know (or don't know) please, please, please say something. Never lose sight of your dreams. Never forget that YOUR VOICE DOES MATTER! You can do whatever you want in this life, no matter what.
I'm so excited to be writing this blog post for August McLaughlin's Beauty of a Woman Blogfest! A few months back, August interviewed me on her Girl Boner Radio show, and we've been friends ever since. Check out the other #BOAW2015 bloggers here and be sure to vote on your favorites before March 1st!
In 2013, I founded The UnSlut Project at few days after my 27th birthday. Up until about a year earlier, I had been actively "slut" shaming women and not thinking twice about it. By "slut" shaming, I mean implying that a woman should feel guilty or inferior for her real - or perceived - sexual behavior. In its worst form, it involves shaming victims of sexual assault by implying that they were "asking for it" or that they somehow deserved to be attacked.
I'll give you a few examples from my own life, which - trust me - are making me cringe as I type them. I don't really like wearing much make-up, mostly because I think it's a pain to remove it at the end of the night. So when I would go out to a bar with friends, I used to mock women who had clearly spent a lot of time on their appearance. I would say nasty things like, "How sad for her, that she has to dress up like that and wear so much make-up! It must be that she has nothing else to offer." Another example is when my best friend found out her ex-boyfriend had started dating another woman, she enlisted me to look the new woman up on Facebook. I reported back in a way I hoped would make my friend feel better: tearing the new woman down for her "slutty" pictures. For months, we referred to the new woman as some variant of "slut," "whore," or "skank." The last example I'll give is the way I treated my now-husband's ex-girlfriend, a single mom who had worked as a stripper at the only strip club in our town. When I first met him, I made fun of him for having dated her and told him I wasn't comfortable hanging out with her in a group. She had actually been a really good friend to him and had been giving him advice on how to treat me well when we first started dating, and I went and forced her out of his life because I judged her as a "slut."
I acted this way despite knowing just how painful the label "slut" could be. Back in middle school, I had been labeled the school "slut" myself, and I was sexually bullied for years. I had turned to self-harm, and even considered taking my own life because it made me feel so worthless.
But for some reason, as an adult, I didn't make the connection between what I had gone through and what I was doing to other women. The revelation for me came when I started reading news stories about girls who had taken their own lives because of "slut" shaming. They reminded me of myself as a pre-teen. Once I went back and read through my old diaries from that time in my life, the pieces started to fall into place for me. I realized that even though I wasn't personally cyber-bullying girls for having been the victim of sexual assault, my ongoing participation in our "slut" shaming culture was allowing that kind of harassment to continue. Just by smiling or nodding when a woman's sexuality was the butt of a joke, I was part of the problem.
So I made a conscious decision to change. I founded The UnSlut Project, where women and girls can share their experiences overcoming "slut" shaming, and I began production on "Slut: A Documentary Film," which is currently in the phase of crowd-funding for post-production.
It became my life's mission to change this aspect of our culture - but the first step was to start with myself. Before I could make any progress with others, my own assumptions and behavior had to change.
It's because I understand this impulse to "slut" shame other women that now, in my activist work, I try to approach the issue in an inclusive way. I believe in calling others in rather than calling them out. That is, calling them into the conversation and helping them see the damage their behavior is doing, instead of calling them out aggressively and divisively.
When it comes to "slut" shaming, I know it's not us versus them. That's because I used to be "us"... then I was "them"... and now I'm "us" again. When I meet other women who are still stuck in that middle "them" category, I know their position doesn't have to be permanent. I think the best way to make large-scale social change is to show them how awesome it is once you come out the other side.
Liz Lazzara graduated from the University of Rochester with Honors in Creative Writing and Distinction in English. She works as a contributing writer for Ravishly and The Liberty Project, among others. She is currently working on her first novel, and can be reached @LizLazzara on Twitter, or LizLazzara.com.
When I was a young A-cup, I did everything I could to enhance my bust. I bought low-cut shirts and incredibly padded push-up bras. All of my clothes were fitted — read: tight. Jeans may as well have been painted on. I bought a button up that could only be buttoned to below my bust, like an added bustier. I was trying so hard to attract attention, that I didn’t think much about what I liked, what I wanted to wear.
This ceased for a time after I ‘landed’ my first boyfriend, my first love syndrome. For two and a half years, I took a break from trying so damn hard. I went so far as to make a uniform of hoodies and jeans, of my strangest ‘man repeller’ outfits, of tank tops and shorts, and IDon’tGiveAFuck.
Until that relationship ended.
It was my decision, and much to do with sex — namely, that he didn’t seem to want to have any. I had my own place, but he shared an on-campus apartment with four roommates. That was where we stayed: in a two-bedroom place with a literal roommate, and a guy who slept on the couch. Every time I showered there, I’d walk out of the bathroom with a towel around my body and a towel on my head almost directly into the living where two or more guys would be lounging around, watching TV or playing Halo 3. I learned to bring my change of clothes into the bathroom with me to avoid running into The Roommate just as I was about to undress. It was less than ideal, but we never chose to spend more time at my place — or rather, he didn’t want to.
The last day we were together, I was changing clothes to go for a run, and he kept his eyes fixed firmly on his monitor instead of the body of his soon-to-be ex girlfriend, who he would never have sex with again.
And so the cycle started again, but with a twist: I still rocked the sweatshirts and jeans to class, but come party time my inner slut was given time to shine.
I gave her free reign under the liberation of alcohol. I had my one and only one-night-stand while wearing a short white velvet dress and angel wings after about five large screwdrivers. I played a good deal of beer pong and followed some guy around a party — to be fair, I didn’t realize this is what I was doing. In retrospect, it must have been completely obvious, but he did make out with me on a few occasions, so it must have been more cute than obnoxious. I wore a lot of sheer white shirts with black bras underneath. I wore a lot of short shorts. I reinstated my push-up bras.
And I was into it, even stayed in this frame of mind and dress after I snagged first a quasi-boyfriend, and then made it official after about six months. Even then, I made sure to keep the eyes on me. If they stayed there, if it was clear that I could fuck almost any guy at almost any time, this new boyfriend would see and stay. It helped that I was out of his league — which I don’t say to be mean; at the time, I cherished our relationship, co-dependent and emotionally abusive thing that it was — but (without vanity), he got kind of lucky.
That was probably an unconscious choice. Pick someone inexperienced, slightly odd looking, and emotionally broken, and he should stick like Velcro. Which he did, until rrrrrrip! — my obsession with being wanted, being cherish, being needed by a man led to me chasing one on a two week trip home.
He was an artist with thick hair, a mustache, and a collarbone tattoo. At that time in my life, that was Kryptonite. The first time I saw him tagged in a Facebook picture with my friend Jameson, I thought he was attractive. Some months later, I friended him, and fell in love with his drawings. The first night we met, we went swimming in a lake at night in our underwear. When I jumped off the wooden dock and into the lake, the clasp on the front of my bra broke irrevocably and I wore his clothes home.
It was a disaster waiting to happen.
But what a sweet disaster it was. Yes, I got drunk and kissed him in a tent in my side yard. Yes, we continued to make out throughout the night, sleeping only a few precious hours on the ground. Yes, he told me he wanted to sleep with me more than anything. But we held hands on a midnight walk to Dunkin Donuts; I was barefoot, and he offered me his shoes. While the other two sleep-over guys snored next to him, I traced the lines of his tattoo (Be strong, I love you) which he had gotten while his father was dying, or just after. It was romantic and ethereal, fantastic in the true sense of the word:
— “imaginative or fanciful; remote from reality”
When I had left my boyfriend in New York, I was having a panic attack in our parking lot. I needed him to come to me, put his arms around me and kiss the side of my head as he used to, until the shaking stopped. Instead, I wheezed and cried and couldn’t catch my breath, but he told me be quiet, the neighbors will hear!
Technically, we broke up.
I was indecisive about telling him while laughing with my girlfriends over tomato soup, our hangover cure, but I couldn’t stop myself from giving him what he was owed — the truth. That, however, wasn’t the problem. He didn’t care that I had kissed another guy or why I had done it. He forgave me instantly, or so he said; I believe he merely didn’t want to lose me, his little trophy girl.
And technically, we broke up, technically he lost me, but we continued to sleep together on and off for a year. I cheated on two boyfriends with him, one who became my husband.
There’s a term for that I believe: slut.
A slut is “a woman who has many casual sexual partners.” A slut is “a woman with low standards of cleanliness.” A slut is “an immoral or dissolute woman; a prostitute.” A slut is “an individual who is considered to have loose sexual morals or who is sexually promiscuous.” A slut is “a woman of a low or loose character; a bold or impudent girl; a hussy, jade.”
I had three casual sexual partners in the course of six months, sometimes overlapping them, always looping back to them. I certainly preferred dry shampoo to a shower, but that was because my bathroom was freezing. I cheated — an immoral, dissolute act that went against everything I had ever believed. I was loose with my sexual morality. I felt low in my character.
But I would never say I was a slut.
I was 23 and confused. I did things that were against my morals, that were wrong by most standards, but I was trying my best to be happy, and didn’t know how. I never aimed to hurt anyone — in fact, I lied and concealed truths so as to minimize pain felt by anyone but myself. If there was any mistake I made, it was following the advice of a twice-broken heart — believe me, they’re unreliable.
It wasn’t until I abandoned all that, though, that I put away the clothes I used to put myself on sexual display. That came when I left my mistakes, my tumult of perplexity, in the past and committed fully to the man who is now my husband. I went through everything I owned and everything that reminded me of that girl I once was went into trash bags — not because the clothes didn’t flatter me, or that I didn’t feel confident in them, but that they made me physically uncomfortable.
Perhaps that was the anxiety diagnosis talking, but I believe not because I haven’t worn those clothes or anything like them since.Instead, I embraced menswear (I’m wearing a sweater of my husband’s now). I embraced basics. I embraced clothes that made me feel confident, cool, and effortlessly woman-like without feeling like a bikini babe posing beside a car.
Now, I put together outfits that feel like myself instead of a highlighter for my body. My pants may still be tight, but that’s my choice. I may wear scoopnecks that hint at cleavage, but I chose them because they make me feel good. I wear heels because I love being six feet tall and thin and strutting around like I’m a contestant on ANTM. And sometimes, I wear sportsbras to work, because I want a long slim line instead of accenting my breasts. That’s me.
I’m also the girl who sexts her husband from the office, who takes masturbation breaks, who watches and enjoys porn, and who has slept with five men — who will only ever sleep with five men.
If what I wear now or what I wore at 23 makes me a slut, fine. If my enjoyment of sex, the partners I’ve had, and when I had them makes me a slut, I’ll take it. Because I’ve had a few casual sex partners. I’ve cheated multiple times. I’m certainly bold and impudent, and think showering is a waste of valuable morning time. So call me a slut, and I’ll take that scarlet S and craft an amazing outfit out of it.
But I won’t put myself on display anymore for the attention of men, plural. If I’m on display, it’s for two people: myself, and my husband.
That’s all I care about.
And if the rest makes me a slut? Fantastic.
Guest post by Danielle Campoamor, pictured below.
I don’t wear the yoga pants for you. I love the way they feel, combining comfort and practicality with attraction and sensuality. I like how my ass looks in them. I’ll stand in the mirror and strain to appreciate the curves every inch of material highlight. I like how they cinch around my thighs. The shape of my legs has always been worrisome.
I don’t wear eyeliner for you. I don’t like the color of my eyes a dark brown reminiscent of an unwanted bowel movement. But with the right accenting shade they can look more mysterious than mundane. I’ll spend an unnecessary amount of time attempting to get the lines somewhat similar, all the time cursing my unsteady hands and nonexistent skill. I feel more confident, though, when I put the eyeliner away. Even if, more often than not, the lines aren’t exactly the same.
I don’t wear that little black dress for you. I bought it for absolutely no reason other than how devastatingly beautiful it looked on a hanger. I feel sexy and desirable and positive; all difficult feelings to achieve when you’re a woman in a society of “less is more”. I feel connected to my body, proud to take ownership instead of silently shunning its existence. I don’t mind taking up space.
I don’t wear my hair down for you. It’s so thick and there’s so much of it, a long-standing ponytail or fashionable bun can give me a wretched headache. I got it highlighted because I was bored. Sometimes I look in the mirror and want to see the changes radiating inside myself. If I got a new job, I want to add color or if I ended a relationship, I want to cut off a few inches. I like change. I like seeing myself in control of change, even if it’s as minuscule as making a hair appointment.
I don’t wear lingerie for you. It looks amazing on a model and amazing in the store and, with the right lighting, I think it looks amazing on me. I love the lace and the black and the intricate details; so much time spent on something so small and usually unseen. I love the excitement it brings me, hidden ever-so-cleverly underneath a pair of jeans or a simple shirt. I love the possibilities it provides, knowing that if I want to share that part of my wardrobe with someone I can.
I don’t wear high heels for you. I love how elongated they make my legs look, adding inches to my height and my boldness. I’m taller in stature and assurance, both obvious with each, sometimes labored, step I take. I love the different colors and styles and how they can fade in the background or accentuate my personality.
So when you call me a slut for my tight pants or my dark makeup or my black dress or my high heels, I don’t know what you’re talking about. You assume my wardrobe choices are for you. You presume what I put on my body means my body is, now, yours. You think I make choices to entice you or tease you or give you silent permission. You assume my sexuality and the manner in which I choose to express it, as if it’s a topic to be debated with your buddies over beers.
You think an article of clothing gives you freedom from your responsibilities and, what’s worse, you think that’s what I hope my clothes will accomplish.
When you call me a slut, I laugh. I silently wonder how one can go through life, thinking the choices of others revolve around you. I wonder how large an ego must be or a pride must grow in order to accomplish such a profoundly egocentric achievement.
When you accuse me of dressing to be “sexy”, I nod. I agree, because I love feeling sexy. I love my body as a sexual entity and when I feel like highlighting that part of who I am, I do.
When you call me a slut, I smile. I smile because you think it’s all about you.
And it is.
You’re what’s wrong. Not my pants or makeup or dress or heels.
You’re the problem.
This is a guest essay by Mandi Koba.
I am every victim of sexual assault by a celebrity, a professional athlete, a politician, who has been silenced. I’ve been afraid to speak, come forward and tell my story. But no more. It's time.
I’ve been told that it’s my word against his, and who would people believe? I’ve been told that I was believed but the political and economic implications of filing charges didn’t make sense with the low likelihood of conviction without physical evidence.
I’ve been intoxicated by the celebrity, the attention, the specialness that draws people to the energy of the well known and celebrated. I benefited from my relationship with a high profile man, had my social status elevated, had my confidence sky-rocket. I’ve been conned by the squeaky clean reputation of a man held in high esteem by the public.
I’ve lain in silence, accepting the unwanted touch of a grown man I trusted, believed in, thought believed in me. An adult mentoring me, grooming me, promising me the world if I would just trust, trust in him. I learned to leave my body, not feel the sensation of touch, not notice the passage of time, my brain protecting me from the trauma.
I’ve walked through the door of the police headquarters, experienced the cleave of time into before and after. I’ve disclosed my abuse, every intimate detail of how I was touched, where, how. I’ve answered questions about penetration… if he had an erection, all to a male detective I’d just met.
I’ve been secretly tape recorded and had the tapes released to the media. I’ve been called a sick slut in the media, a gold digger, an unreliable victim. I’ve had attorneys infer that the man who abused me had much more attractive women, options, so the idea that he’d sexually abuse me, a minor, was ludicrous. I’ve had my perpetrator - that’s what he is, a perpetrator, not someone who just made a mistake - held up as an example, a leader, a trusted advisor.
I’ve been afraid, confused, drowned in self-doubt, questioned my self-worth because the currency of his celebrity trumped me, who I was, who I am as a person. I’ve sat with the disgust I felt about the abuse and my inability to see what was happening, the grooming, to prevent it - that I was so desperate for affirmation, for someone to notice me and shower me with attention and tell me that I was more than okay.
It’s still hard to not twist my disgust at the situation into disgust for myself. The shame that comes with sexual abuse swallows you and the swim to the surface is long, dark and tumultuous with only occasional glimpses of the light of the sun. These are wounds that do not ever heal completely.
There will be people, stories, situations, anniversaries that open that wound once again. Like the blood that rises to the surface when a scab is picked, so, too, do the memories, fresh once more.
I’ve recovered from anorexia, my attempt at taking up as little space as possible in a world I couldn't trust, an all too common repercussion of sexual trauma. I’ve stared at myself in the mirror, questioning my will to live, to continue to fight, with a pile of pills clutched in my hand. I’ve experienced flashbacks - the way he smelled - a particular song - a brand name - a toothy smile. I hold my breath, anxiety lowers over me like a black curtain and I am there, again, a loop of my abuse playing like a movie over and over in my mind.
I’ve learned to take account of my senses, slow my thoughts and remember that I am now safe, I am surviving. Surviving and not a survivor, because it doesn’t stop, the trauma never leaves the body. There is no end point. But surviving can turn into thriving, in time.
I’ve had to accept that I will never get the apology I want, deserve. The apology every victim, surviving, deserves. I earned his trust, kept promises, protected his privacy. Willingly, for too long. I’ve lived through the negotiations of a private settlement - been so worn down that I was convinced it was the only way I would achieve any form of justice, accountability. Committed legal blackmail - received restitution. My silence has been bought. My story is not my own.
This should not be the only option available to victims of sexual abuse by high profile men and women. To any victim of sexual abuse. The system, our culture, is set up to protect these perpetrators, to protect their images and the teams, shows, political parties they’re associated with and represent. We live in a twisted time where a person’s signature is worth money. A person just like any other person, with the mark of a pen, a scrawl across an object, increases it’s value and perpetuates the false ideology that one individual has greater worth than another.
We live in a world where a person’s worth is based on their gender, race, location, sexuality and station in life and not just because they are alive, living next to each of us, inhaling and exhaling.
Please know it’s not easy to come forward. It’s not comfortable to make intimate details of one’s abuse available for public consumption. There is no amount of money that can soothe the wound of sexual trauma, make it okay, make it go away.
Please know that our system is broken. The civil arena is often the only way victims can attempt to get justice and that should be shocking and shameful. But it’s not. It’s the victims that are further shamed and victimized - victimized because they have the nerve, the strength, to fight for themselves in the only way available to them. They are not trying to put a dollar amount on their abuse, their self-worth.
Please know victims come forward with the hopes that they will be able to prevent further abuse. That their silence feels like giving the perpetrator permission to continue to abuse others.
Please know that no one would subject oneself to the level of public scrutiny that comes with telling the truth, telling one's story of sexual assault by a person protected by celebrity.
Please listen and give us the benefit of the doubt and not default to blaming us, the victims.
Please listen. Just listen.
The UnSlut Project depends upon contributions from people like you. Here are some ways to give thoughtfully to those people in your life who have survived sexual bullying, advocate for women's equality, or who you just think would be on board with our anti "slut" shaming message.
You might have seen people wearing these awesome shirts around and thought, "Where can I get one for myself and my loved ones?" Well, we currently have shirts in stock in all sizes. Use this order form to get yours! They are soft, well-fitting, not to mention fantastic conversation starters. I'm wearing mine right now!
This can be a public show of support, or a private way to let someone know you have their back. When you've been brave enough to share your story of survival with a friend, nothing means more than knowing that effort is going toward helping other girls who need to know they're not alone.
3) Listen and Share.
If there is someone in your life who is currently suffering from sexual bullying or being targeted as a "slut," the best gift you can give is often just to listen to them and believe them. Share The UnSlut Project with girls who need to know they're not alone. If they are in school, a helpful place to start is by watching this anti-bullying TEDx talk video, embedded below.
College can offer independence, freedom, choices and power. However, with these great benefits, responsibility and awareness are critical components to exercise. Entering college, many students are excited because of the college stereotype – college is supposed to be crazy and fun because of the drinking and random hook ups. Many Sundays involve gossip sessions among men and women about other students' nights.
However, sometimes girls can talk about other girls for hours where phrases such as "she went home with that guy who just broke up with his girlfriend," "she’s a slut… she goes out all the time," "she has to be on the fraternity’s sex list," "I would hate to be that girl" and even "did you see what she was wearing last night?" get tossed around. Granted, we use similar expressions about guys, but it is often in a more observational, non-judgmental and less mocking kind of way. Given the situation and topic, many conversations subtly become slut shaming sessions.
In my opinion, girls are tougher and harsher on other girls compared to guys… why is that? Guys somehow seem to "get away with" their sexual freedom and activity. For example, when a boyfriend cheats on the girlfriend, the girlfriend often targets and blames the other woman - not her boyfriend - for the behavior. If a boy is in a relationship and has a good friend who is a girl, that girl is often targeted and looked down upon. This girl-on-girl conduct is not healthy in terms of mental well-being, but also socially.
Another example of double standards is that when a girl sleeps with many guys, she often is labeled a slut, a negative association. However, when a guy sleeps with many girls, he is considered a player, a positive association. These double standards are not only seen and perpetuated in our culture, but also in the media, such as movies, television shows and even music. While everyone in society is arguably guided and consumed by this way of thinking (double standards), using this language of slut shaming and woman blaming is not productive in acquiring overall equality. Language like this only preserves the cattiness and stereotypes between women. Negative associations, mistrust, skepticism and betrayal are also established on a larger societal scale among women. If we stop judging women and discriminating based on an aspect of one’s private life, our own relations and society’s image of women will be healthier and more positive.
Geraldine Estevez’s article “Women Need to Stop Blaming Other Women” discusses similar examples of woman blaming and assuming, confused by the skewed perception women can have of each other. She discusses the double standards, demanding that women hold men more accountable for their actions and behaviors. For example, when a man cheats on his girlfriend, the boyfriend is as much to blame. Clearly in this example, the girlfriend is threatened and insecure, blaming the "other girl" because it is easier to do and it preserves the boyfriend and the relationship. Why are the men always on that pedestal, driving us to maintain the relationship at whatever costs? As women, we often assume the worst and arguably expect the worst. But most of the time, females blame each other to belittle, which is a form of
bullying, in order to feel better about themselves.
Estevez states, “There is no greater critic of women than women, and this needs to change.” I completely agree with this. Instead of feeling threatened and insecure, attacking one another for their qualities, characteristics, assets and everything in between, we need to be praising, applauding and rooting for each other to succeed. Slut shaming and other forms of female blaming are not beneficial or progressive for the fairness, respect and civility of women. If women are allowed to treat other women with judgment, cattiness and offensiveness, then we are also allowing men to do the same to women. Women judging and blaming other women is a powerful and disturbing message to the world than men blaming and judging women. Women as an entity need to be respectful and bonded together in order to achieve true equality and respect from this world.
Sierra Vandervolt’s article “Sexuality is Not Morality” similarly focuses on how as women, we should not be reprimanding other women for their sexual activity (especially behind closed doors) and choices. However, it also discusses how sexuality should not be confused with woman’s morality and character. Like Vandercolt writes, having the right to sexually express oneself is a person’s own personal prerogative – judgment and ridicule is not necessary. However, because of our language, behaviors, attitudes and perceptions, we use a woman’s sexuality to determine their character and values. This is arguably because sexuality and sexual behavior are prominent values and interests in our society, making them notable characteristics about an individual. In addition to character, sexuality is also confused with morality. If a woman doesn’t have sex, she is considered prude. However, if she does have sex, she is labeled as a slut. Unfortunately, both women and men use this type of language to describe women. Perhaps, we all do this because of habit, conformity and tradition. With social media engrained in our daily lives, information and gossip is only transmitted at a faster pace and to more people, perpetuating this type of negative language and the meaning behind it.
Being a woman, I am fully aware that some of us love gossip and knowing “juicy” facts about others, especially in a college setting. We can find simple entertainment and excitement talking about other people. However as a result, we are only perpetuating the double standard of gender sexuality, slut shaming and targeting language and these unhealthy female relationships and associations. What one does in her private and personal life has no influence on who she is and definitely does not solely determine her character and morals. Instead of making assumptions about other women, judging other women and attacking other women, we as women, need to come together to fight the larger social constructs of gender stereotypes and standards, shameful language and negative attention toward female sexuality and sexual activity.
Today - Monday, November 24th - students are holding a walk-out protest at Norman High School in Norman, Oklahoma regarding this story of how a group of high school sexual assault victims has been treated. The girls were raped by the same boy, a senior at Norman High School, came forward about what had happened to them, and were then sexually bullied in person and online by their classmates and school administrators. A local knitting circle brought the story to Anna Merlan, who wrote about it for Jezebel.
In response, I started the hashtag #OKgirls so that people could share messages of support and love with the victims (their names aren't public). The organizers of the protest have also been using #YesAllDaughters to share information about the event and the news story as it unfolds.
Unlike most hashtags, #OKgirls is a way to communicate directly with these girls who need to know they're not a lone. I'm collecting the tweets using Storify (see below this post), and I'm in touch with the protest organizers, who are sharing the messages personally with the survivors. They are planning to read the messages aloud at the protest as well.
Use #OKgirls to share your own message. Let's turn at least one corner of the Internet into a supportive space for these girls, so they know they're not alone and that they can survive this.
We're also wearing our Define "Slut" shirts all day in solidarity with the protesters. If you don't have one yet (get one here!), the organizers ask that you wear teal or blue.
Over Halloween weekend, Emily was part of an event called Crowds, Comments, and Community: Understanding Writing in the Digital Age at the International Festival of Authors in Toronto. Presented by Wattpad, the round-table style talk was hosted by Mark Medley of The Globe and Mail and also featured authors Anna Todd and Sina Queyras. Nicholas Jones took these photographs of the event:
If you have heard the term "rape culture" but have never quite understood what it looks like in real life, here you go. Almost a year ago, we first heard about the so-called Roast Busters on the UnSlut Forum. Basically, at least five young men (including Joseph Parker and Beraiah Hales, pictured) in New Zealand drove around in their van raping drunk, underage girls - for years. Then they posted a video to YouTube, bragging about it. They even made a Facebook page with the sole purpose of slut-shaming their victims. In November 2013, the New Zealand police said their hands were tied because the victims had not made formal complaints.
A year later, after canvassing 110 girls, the police have announced that they will not be filing any charges against any of the men. The scope of the investigation was released today, and apparently five of the girls approached by police made formal statements, in addition to the two girls whose complaints - filed years ago - had gone ignored until the media caught wind of the story last year.
Thirty-five men were investigated, five of whom were identified as suspects of rape and sexual conduct with a person under the age of sixteen. Detective Inspector Karyn Malthus attributed the lack of charges to a lack of evidence.
But here's why this story is not just about a particular group of deranged, horrible men who will not be punished for their heinous crimes - here's why this story is about something much larger, even, than whatever incompetence or malfeasance went on in one particular police investigation over the past year:
Most of the girls who refused to make complaints cited the fear of retaliation and bullying on social media. And, according to the police summary, "There was sufficient information available that confirmed their fears as reality."
If that is not an clear, real-life manifestation of rape culture, I don't know what is. These men made a video bragging about raping underage girls and publicly shamed their victims because they were convinced there would be no consequences for their actions. And they were right. Most of their victims refused to come forward because they were afraid they would be further bullied on social media. And they were right. The victims who did come forward were confident, perhaps, that their testimony would prevent future crimes, that the men who raped them and shamed them would be brought to justice, that we live in a world where rape is taken seriously.
And they were wrong.
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Right now, an online community exists where men post about how useful and good rape is. It's a subreddit group called The Philosophy of Rape. The user who created it has a manifesto in which he declares:
Rape served a very important function in mitigating female behavior and keeping it in check...Back in the time of prehistory, a woman couldn’t behave as shamelessly slutty as she can today, because of the risk of catching the eye of the wrong male...It’s not only morally justifiable to rape such a woman, it’s brave...We’re talking about filthy, unmitigated, sluts. Oblivious and loud. Shameless. Belligerent. Entitled. Selfie taking, Tindr-whoring, Teenage-walking-herpes-sores. We are talking about bad, bad, individuals. Unruly, neglicted [sic], children, run-amok. That badly need to be punished. Badly.
The user who wrote this manifesto, terrifyingly, has admitted to "correcting" seven women already. To be clear: This man is admitting that he raped seven women. And he is encouraging his "whole team of holy soldiers" to go out into the world and do the same.
The fact that this group was created in the first place is disturbing enough. But as David Edwards points out, just months after Elliott Rodger massacred his classmates at UC Santa Barbara - after writing a similarly violent, misogynist manifesto - for reddit to do nothing is beyond unacceptable.
It's not enough to take down the group. Each member needs to be reported to the police and taken into custody. Being a part of this online community is tantamount to admitting guilt.
Maya Dusenbery of Feministing gives the bill a very enthusiastic hell yes:
This paradigm shift has been a long time coming and is desperately needed. The idea that mutual desire, not the mere absence of "no," should perhaps be the standard for an activity that’s generally agreed to be pretty fun hardly seems radical.
Activist Sofie Karasek told Katy Murphy of the San Jose Mercury News that she believes the bill will have a sweeping cultural effect:
It does change the cultural perception of what rape is...There's this pervasive idea that if it's not super violent then it doesn't really count.
One dissenter, Gordon Finley of the National Coalition for Men, argued that the bill presumes the guilt of the accused:
The current campus rape crusade explicitly denies men fundamental due process rights such as the right to a lawyer, the right to cross-examine, and the right to evidentiary standards (clear and convincing evidence) appropriate to the consequences for the accused.
What do you think?
On September 3rd, three teenagers drugged, attacked, and raped a 16-year-old girl behind an elementary school in Saugus, Massachusetts. Then they posted footage of the assault on Snapchat. Police have apprehended an 18-year-old woman and 17-year-old man, but the third suspect, 19-year-old Rashad Deihim (pictured below), remains at large.
Amazingly, this wasn't the first time Deihim had attacked a woman violently... this year. Just months ago in August, he was ordered held without bail after a woman alleged he dragged her down the street with his car. Somehow, he was still wandering around free, able to commit another heinous crime against another woman less than a month later.
As details emerge, we'll be able to draw more conclusions about what exactly happened that allowed this violent criminal to remain free, despite a judge's orders. And guess what? He is still free. This is terrifying - not just for anyone in Massachusetts who might come into contact with him, but for all of us who depend on law enforcement to take violence against women seriously enough to keep track of repeat offenders like this guy.
It's hard to believe it's been a week since CatalystCon West! Last weekend was a wonderful opportunity to connect with leaders in the sex-positive community. I had so many fruitful, engaging conversations and learned so much at a variety of panels. We sold Define "Slut" shirts throughout the weekend - if you didn't get a chance to purchase yours, be sure to sign up here. You'll be first in line when they become available again!
On Thursday night, I screened an 8-minute preview of "Slut: A Documentary Film", followed by a Q&A session with the legendary Dr. Carol Queen. The reception was better than I ever could have expected, and the discussions that emerged from the screening were productive and encouraging. Once again, I was lucky enough to have UnSlut volunteer Echo Zen on location Thursday to snap these pictures of the film preview.
On Labor Day weekend, I gave a presentation about The UnSlut Project and the upcoming "Slut: A Documentary Film" at the Long Beach Indie Digital Edutainment Conference (LBIDEC). The event was organized by Dr. Ebony Utley, a friend of the project and one of the experts we interviewed for the film. After speaking about my own experience, the larger project, and showing a short preview of the upcoming film, I engaged in a wonderful conversation with attendees. Photographer and fabulous volunteer for The UnSlut Project Echo Zen was there to take these photographs!
34-year-old Chad A. Monroe of Bay City, MI allegedly threatened to drive his ex-girlfriend to suicide by posting nude photos of her on Facebook. Facebook took down the photos he posted, but his victim told police that people had already downloaded them.
As Cole Waterman reports for MLive.com, the woman filed a personal protection order (PPO) against Monroe on July 22. Monroe reportedly told police, "I talked with my lawyer and he said I can put naked pictures of (her) on the Internet and...there's nothing you can do about it."
Well, thankfully, there was something the police could do about it: they issued a warrant for his arrest on August 12th, and the next day, Monroe was arraigned on single counts of stalking (a one-year misdemeanor), and unlawful posting of a message on the Internet (a two-year felony). He'll appear before before a District Judge on Tuesday, August 26th.
It's obviously terrible to hear about any story involving threats like this, but I find it heartening that the police in Bay County are taking this case seriously. What happens to Monroe will serve as an example for others who think it's within their rights to slut shame and harass a woman online.
And here's another bit of encouraging news: the comments on Cole's piece are mostly supportive of the woman! There is, of course, a bit of obligatory victim blaming (along the lines of, "If you don't want something like this to happen, keep your clothes on!"), but the majority of commenters condemn Monroe and his actions. I'm hopeful that this demonstrates some progress!
Yesterday, a woman named Keli Byers published an open letter on Cosmopolitan.com called "I'm Fighting BYU's Ban on Sex." In the piece, Byers explains how upon enrolling in Brigham Young University last year, she signed its honor code, which required her to lead a "chaste" life and "forces women to dress modestly — no skirts above the knee — supposedly to help men control their thoughts."
Because, as everyone knows, it's women's responsibility to control men's thoughts.
To be fair, BYU is a Mormon university and, like most religions, Mormonism calls for virginity until marriage. That's fine for some people, but as Amanda Hess points out in Slate's XX blog, when sex is forbidden, sexual assault is likely to go unreported. That's because victims of sexual assault who do come forward are likely to be blamed for what happened to them. Byers herself reports being the victim of a rape at the hands of a missionary who had just returned and then blamed for her attack by church leadership.
Byers is now a member of Young Mormon Feminists and doesn't see her faith as conflicting with her personal views and sexuality. She explains: "I'm a sexual woman and a proud feminist, and I don't feel bad about it. But it's hard to admit that, because women at BYU who aren't virgins are treated as inferiors and that's not fair."
Like religion, the Internet can be a very powerful, positive force. But since this story was published yesterday, I've been really disheartened reading the comments section.
Daniel Harris commented: "This fight against the sex ban at BYU is ridiculous. A girl (or guy) who feels victimized will always try to put the blame somewhere else. Sorry for your experience with the returned missionary, but it takes two to tango. If it really was an actual "assault" then there are procedures legally to follow, it has no business in the church."
Chase Anderson turned to one of the oldest tactics used to get women to stop speaking up: "Since you obviously know BYU will never lift its pre-marital sex ban, this entire article is just an attempt at getting some attention."
Many other commenters suggested that Keli should simply leave BYU if she didn't want to live by its rules. I have to agree with Lindy West, who wrote in Jezebel: "If I were Byers, I'd cut and run." But, as West acknowledges, it's just not that easy to leave any religious institution, and the Mormon church is notoriously hard to break away from. That's because the church permeates every aspect of its members' lives: friends, family, clubs, and in this case, school.
Kudos to Keli and the other women who are speaking up about double standards and harmful practices within their religion. It might be wishful thinking, but maybe one day religious leaders will listen.
By Taylor Solomon
Recently, I turned on an episode of Dr. Phil to find a story that was all too familiar. A young girl had gone to a party where she became intoxicated and took part in some sexual act with a boy at the party. Unbeknownst to the girl, the couple was photographed and later documented online through various social media websites. With the rise of the Internet and social media, cyber bullying is a new struggle for users of such sites. Cyber bullying is harassment of a person, male or female, through messages or posts on social media websites.
But this particular case is something more specific. Cyber misogyny is when women are harassed online based on their gender. Often, women are too intimidated or scared to respond, thus losing their voice when it comes to what can be such incredible tools of communication.
One of the most publicized cases of cyber misogyny took place in August, 2010 in Steubenville, Ohio. An intoxicated girl was undressed, photographed, and raped by boys at a party. Though two boys were convicted of the rape of a minor, the young girl still had to live with people having seen these pictures and videos, not to mention many comments regarding the boys as heroes and saying that she was to blame for the incident. This instance started a national conversation about rape and rape culture, but the problem was in no way solved.
Two years later, Canadian high school student Amanda Todd found herself the victim of similar cyber misogyny. Amanda’s family moved frequently and Amanda would talk to people in chat rooms as a way to meet people. One night, she exposed her breasts on a webcam after a man she was talking to requested she do so. When she wouldn’t show him more, the man started to blackmail Amanda with pictures he had secretly taken of her topless on the webcam. The man went as far as to make a Facebook profile with the picture of Amanda, sending friend requests and messages to Amanda’s peers and classmates from the account. In September of 2012, Amanda posted a video using flashcards to tell her story of bullying, depression, and self-harm. That October, Amanda committed suicide. Her video went viral, with 1,600,000 views three days after her death.
It is so important that in this day and age that we work to keep the Internet a helpful tool where we can learn and start conversations. Use Facebook and Twitter to share links to informative articles and engage others in a discussion. Start a blog about what interests you.
As a very visual learner, I enjoy the aesthetic appeal of Instagram. I recently began following @floral.feminist, whose bio reads: "Don’t spread hate; educate." I love seeing this account's body positive and feminist posts mixed in with what I call the "three Fs of Instagram" - Fashion, Food, and Felines.
A recent trend that I would love to see grow is the Facebook compliment page. Some schools have started anonymous compliment pages where you can message a compliment to the administrator of the group and then they post it, tagging the person it is about so they will see.
You can always make a change by starting your own campaign. If you think people need to be informed about an issue you find important, follow in the footsteps of our own Emily Lindin and use your Internet powers for good! The web can be a magnificent tool, we just need more people willing to use it in a positive way. You may not realize it, but you will find people concerned about the same issues who are more than happy to help. Let's use these tools to speak our minds, without letting others scare us into losing our voices.
By Taylor Solomon
Its no secret that women are quick to put each other down. We find it easy to make a snide remark about the way someone acts or dresses. This is especially true in regards to sex. Women will put themselves on a pedestal in order to look down on another who they may not believe to be as pure as them, a trait which is stressed to women as highly important. Just as we are taught to brush our teeth twice a day, we are taught to be the most pure chaste version of ourselves who would never use crude language or laugh at a crass joke. When others step out of these guidelines we are quick to point them out and it is only easier to do so if this person is already in the spotlight. With people’s reactions to women like Miley Cyrus and Monica Lewinsky, we see how quick we are to judge without any consideration of their motives, others involved, or the fact that these are people most of us do not know personally.
This Monday, women across the country nestled into couches to watch the season finale of "The Bachelorette." In this particular finale, bachelorette Andi Dorfman had narrowed it down to ex-pro athlete Josh Murray and software sales exec Nick Viall. The day of the final rose ceremony, Andi realized her mind was made up and she unexpectedly visited Nick to break things off with him, sparing him the humiliating rejection rose ceremony.
Chris Harrison told the audience that Nick had tried to contact Andi and that she had refused to see him, but they will have to speak tonight on the live "After the Final Rose" special. Their meeting was, as you would expect, awkward and emotional. Andi said that though she felt strongly about Nick and their relationship, she was never in love with him. Nick responded to this by saying he doesn’t understand, if they weren’t in love, why she would choose to make love to him.
Nick’s choosing to bring this up on live television, though not the best way to handle it, is not what I want to address here. No matter how unconventional, Andi and Nick were dating and sex means different things for different people. Their sleeping together may have weighed more emotionally for Nick than it did for Andi.
What I want to talk about here is the audience’s reaction to this moment. In my Twitter feed came a wave of ugly comments and name calling directed at Andi. Articles and episode recaps published the next day focused less on Andi and Josh’s engagement and more on Andi’s "shocking sex secret." People who had been rooting for Andi since we first met her on "The Bachelor" had suddenly turned against her for having a natural and intimate moment with someone whom she had been dating.
This is an example of how quick we are to judge women who may not follow the unwritten guidelines of femininity. Had it been a girl in Nick’s place, would people have sided with the man, saying she was asking for it and knew what she was getting into?
Sex has always been implied on "The Bachelor," but on the show’s terms. It is "acceptable" when it occurs later in the season, when there are only two or three contestants left, and it must take place in the magical, rose-strewn "Fantasy Suite."
This so-called "Fantasy Suite" plays two very different roles depending on whether the season's star is a man or a woman. When the show focuses on a bachelor, it is almost always a given that he will choose to spend the night with all three women in the "Fantasy Suite." When it is a bachelorette’s turn to take the wheel, there is an unwritten rule that she must wait for an "I love you" or some big, romantic gesture before inviting the men to spend the night with her. This is just one of many ways "The Bachelor" asks contestants to be themselves and then scolds them for doing so.
During the show’s eighteenth season, we saw what can happen when contestants don’t play by the "rules" that have been laid out before them. Clare Crawley and Juan Pablo Galavis clicked early on in the season. After spending all day with him on a romantic date, Clare decided that night to sneak up to Juan Pablo’s room. In the interview portion of the show, the two allude to the fact that they had sex, both seeming confident in their relationship. This confidence did not last for long. Juan Pablo told Clare that he regretted what had had happened and that he hoped no one knew about their night together. In this moment, Juan Pablo shamed and humiliated Clare, and she was labeled "the slutty one" by viewers. Willa Paskin wrote a piece for Slate on this particular instance, point out that:
"At her own expense, Clare exposed The Bachelor’s sexual ethos, which is that the women are supposed to be relatively innocent and chaste, up until the moment the man calls on them to stop being so. (While Clare and Juan Pablo were doing the deed, another contestant — a 32-year-old single mother — was chortling that Juan Pablo had finally kissed her, like a teenager celebrating her first smooch. She was playing the game correctly.)"
We can not continue to think it is okay to slap labels and judgement on women who are just being themselves. By doing it to celebrities, women whom we do not personally know, we only make it easier to act this way toward women in our own lives. Continuing this public shaming teaches girls in younger generations that it's okay. We must change this way of thinking and be more ready to celebrate a woman for her strengths and successes than to shame her for being herself.
By Taylor Solomon
In 1987, Mary Koss, a psychology professor at Kent State, conducted a landmark study which found that one in four college women (of 3,000 surveyed) had been the victim of attempted or completed rape. A look at more recent studies shows that these numbers have changed very little over the years. It is now commonly said that one in five women will be a victim of sexual assault during her college career. This is a huge problem on college campuses, and while schools mishandle these cases, we often ask ourselves why they're not reported to the police in the first place.
Title IX requires schools to dispute sexual discrimination within the education community, ostensibly by aiding sexual assault victims. A criminal trial, it's assumed, will look out for the state’s best interests, whereas the school may focus on the victim. This could be through dorm and class transfers, counseling services, and other actions that could be made to make the victim’s life easier in the aftermath of such events. Many victims choose not to turn to the criminal justice system, fearing abuse from police, prosecutors, or juries, but still seek these academic accommodations. Despite the good schools have the power to do, it has become all too common to see victims mistreated by the university system. By making a few changes on campus and in our society, colleges and universities can fully play this role designed to help victims.
1) We must educate the faculty.
The New York Times recently reported the story of Anna, a student at Hobart and William Smith. Anna was drunk at a party and became separated from her friends. When her friend finally found her, Anna was bent over a pool table being raped by two football players as other party-goers watched. Her friend, also a football player, was able to stop them. The men involved blamed Anna, saying it was her fault and that she was asking for it. The New York Times was able to get a transcript of the meeting during which Anna’s case came before the school’s disciplinary board, and it is appalling how ill-prepared the panelists were. The hearing occurred before Anna’s rape kit results had been released - and during the hearing, it had to be explained to one of the panelists what a rape kit even was. Two of the three panel members had not seen Anna’s medical records, which showed she had suffered genital trauma. The list goes on.
In another tragic example covered by the New York Times, Emma Sulkowicz, a junior at Columbia, chose to report her own assault after realizing two other women had been attacked by the same man. Her hearing did not take place until seven months later, and her alleged assailant was quickly acquitted. When she appealed the case, her appeal was sent to the dean, who had the authority to make the final decision. He chose not to punish her assailant at all.
Dana Bolger described a third similar story in her recent opinion piece for the Daily News: “It’s an experience I know all too well. In 2011, my sophomore year of college, I was raped and then stalked by a fellow student. When I went to report my assault to my college dean, he encouraged me to take time off, go home, be ‘safe,’ focus on my own healing and put my education on hold - so that the man who raped me could comfortably conclude his.”
While the faculty members in these situations may be great at other aspects of their jobs, they are not trained to handle these specific cases. It is important that either a new position be created for someone who is, or that existing faculty who have regular contact with potential sexual assault victims are trained regarding the best ways to talk about what is happening and how to act in specific situations.
2) We must educate the students.
A 2007 study for the National Institute of Justice found that of the victims surveyed who said they did not report their assault to law enforcement, a third chose not to because they were unsure whether or not a crime had been committed. It is important that students are taught what is and isn’t sexual assault, and that they know how to make decisions when put in these difficult situations.
The FBI currently defines rape as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person without consent of the victim.” Sexual assault is a broader term, including rape and other forms of unwanted sexual aggression, for example forced kissing or fondling. Through required educational programs and peer education, these are things that can be taught to a student body.
At my own college, we had a Bystander Intervention program, which worked really well. Instead of lectures along the lines of, “do not drink,” “do not take advantage of others,” etc. students were asked to put themselves in real-life situations and describe how they would handle themselves. For example, if you were at a party and saw a friend of yours who had been drinking going upstairs with a girl who was also intoxicated, how might you stop them from potentially putting themselves in a dangerous situation? A student might respond that he would call up to his friend saying he wanted to show him something, and then distract him from continuing upstairs with the girl. This sort of program helps the students relate to these cases and see how easy it is to find yourself in them, as well as how easy it is to help.
3) When sexual assault occurs, there must be punishment.
A report by the Center for Public Integrity found that school disciplinary hearings rarely result in suspension or expulsion, despite the fact that most college rapists are repeat offenders. James Madison University has historically suspended students for drinking and expelled others for plagiarism, but when faced with the case of three men responsible for sexual assault, the university punished them with “expulsion after graduation.” It has been reported that nine out of ten campus rapes are perpetrated by repeat offenders. If these people think they can commit crimes and get off without punishment, they will continue to do so.
4) We must make a larger change in society.
Stereotypes perpetuated by movies and TV shows like “Law and Order: SVU” give us the idea that rape is something that occurs late at night when a knife-wielding man jumps out from an alley. This is not at all the case. It is more probable that the offender is someone the victim knows.
Eliza Gray described some of these stereotypes in her recent Time cover story covering campus rape: “The very phrase date rape has a way of conjuring the image of two drunk teenagers fumbling around in the dark until a testosterone-fueled adolescent male goes too far, a moment spun out of control.”
Again, this is way off the mark. Rape is not an accident. It is usually planned by the perpetrator, who will create the opportunity for it to happen. Even progressive pop culture reinforces the message that it is okay for men to trick women into having sex, as though it is an occurrence in every mundane sitcom family’s life.
We must also change our cultural conception of masculinity and femininity. All their lives, we teach girls to be “feminine” - to be forgiving, patient, and willing to sacrifice themselves to protect the men in their lives. As Dana Bolger explains, it’s these same traits that campus administrators often demand of rape survivors: “We are asked to forgive our assailants (‘Would you really want to ruin his life?’), patiently wait a semester or year for them to leave campus, and stay quiet and calm and collected even as we try to seek justice for the violence we’ve endured.”
Sexual assault happens on all college campuses. It is not exclusive to public or private schools, women’s colleges, or men’s colleges. It happens everywhere. By making these changes to strengthen the faculty, student body, and overarching perceptions in our society, we can better our university systems when they are faced with such tragic events.
Why is it that society becomes so up in arms when women have sex? To varying degrees, most places see the idea of women having casual sex as immoral and something to be avoided. A new paper published in Archives of Sexual Behavior suggests that based on the idea that women must rely on men, particularly financially, the consequences of sleeping around are too much for a woman to handle on her own.
In two studies, researchers at Brunnel University had U.S. residents rate statements regarding the promiscuity of women and their reliance on men based on a 7-point scale ranging from "disagrees strongly" to "agrees strongly." Some of the statements include: "Most women I know depend heavily on the money of a male partner or probably will," "Promiscuous women are not worthy of that much respect," and "A woman should never have sex with a man she is not in love with." The researchers controlled for variables like religiosity and political conservation to assure their findings were based primarily on financial reliance.
The researchers explain:
"Results of both studies were consistent with the theory that opposition to promiscuity arises in circumstances where paternity certainty is particularly important and suggest that such opposition will more likely emerge in environments in which women are more dependent economically on a male mate."
The world we live in today features very different roles for women. More companies are headed by women and fewer look down at the idea of hiring them. Many single mothers successfully provide for themselves and their children. We must rethink the societal norms of "immorality" when it comes to casual sex for women.
Meet Taylor Solomon! Taylor studied psychology and creative arts therapy at Georgia College and State University. She is a fan of reading Wonder Woman comics (as well as some more stimulating reads), watching Wes Anderson movies, and exploring her home of Athens, Georgia. You can follow Taylor on Twitter and Instagram.