I’ll start with my take away message, so to hopefully mitigate any potential confusion. In my mind, there is no difference between slut shaming and prude shaming. I’m sure arguments can (and have) been made that this one is more damaging than that one, or that one deserves more of a spotlight than this one, but my mind refuses to play favorites. Both attitudes can and have led to rape, which is utterly unacceptable. It is completely inappropriate to shame anyone for their sexual habits and preferences, or pressure any person to do anything sexual that they are uncomfortable with*. A person’s body is their own sacred temple and how, or when, or if they chose to share that temple, or preserve, or maintain, is no one’s business but their own. I think that no matter how you approach sex, there are some universal values–namely, that you enjoy it! If you are asexual, then you should fully enjoy your lifestyle**, and feel fulfilled with it. If you choose to have a fuck-ton*** of sex, then you enjoy every single romp and if you, like millions of others, are somewhere in that middle range, that you enjoy your experiences and are fulfilled by them.
Slut shaming has become a fairly common term to describe any type of bullying or “shaming” behaviors towards predominantly, but not exclusively, women who embrace their sexuality and publicly express their sexuality. This can be through clothing choices, courting behaviors, advocacy, etc. The roots for slut shaming stem from an incredibly sexist and mostly religious reasoning that sex, and more specifically, female sexuality, is something to be ashamed of. Women were commonly considered unforgivable, hell-bound sinners with severe mental problems just for masturbating as recently as thirty years ago–and in some places and religions, even today. Ignoring female sexuality was a useful tool for ignoring women in general, and over the past several decades feminists have made great strides reclaiming not only our rightful place as equals to men, but as sexual creatures with the right to discover and use our bodies however we want.
Those last three words–‘however we want’ was phrased intentionally. Prude shaming has evolved as the sexist backlash of slut shaming and inappropriate expectations and can be just as damaging. The inspiration for this entire piece has its roots with Taylor Swift, and in fact perfectly encapsulates the point I’m (trying) to make.
Me: Here’s Article A on how Taylor Swift slut shames through her lyrics. Not cool, Taylor Swift.
Friend: Definitely not cool, T. Swift. Also, here’s Article B on how T Swift is prude shamed by some of her critics–as in, if she just puts out, she could avoid most of her man-problems. Not cool, some of her critics.
Me: So not cool.
Is it totally lame that Taylor Swift slut shames in her lyrics? My answer is a resounding yes. Is it also totally unacceptable that she is judged for her less-flamboyant sexual choices? Totally. This is where things get interesting, though. Does there need to be a movement and strong advocacy focusing solely on the dangers of prude shaming? My answer is, well, not really. And here’s why.
I feel like there is already a strong basis of suport that advocates a girl’s right to not have sex. In fact, it’s rooted in the same idea that girls shouldn’t have sex. That “good girls don’t like sex,” which has turned into the very dangerous movement of slut shaming. As already mentioned, the movement of support for embracing female sexuality is still very new to our culture, and much less widely accepted. I think the best approach is advocating female empowerment over her own body, and over her ability to share what she wants, when she wants to. To focus specifically on prude shaming runs the risk of losing the original point–that women have the right to be in control of their bodies.
I think my discomfort with supporting prude-shaming advocacy is due largely to the examples I’ve seen used–friends talking about sex with each other, or offering to go lingerie shopping together in no way constitutes prude shaming. I think it is essential, especially in this day and age, for women to be able to have a safe place to turn to for sexual guidance and support. In my experience, as someone who is pretty open about her sexuality****, since that is the only place from which I am qualified to speak, my friends who are more “prudish” are the ones that want the most for me to be open about my experiences, because they aren’t comfortable enough to initiate that dialogue on their own. They’ve been appreciative of my willingness to be open about my own experiences. it creates a safe environment for them to air their own concerns and questions.
That being said, no one should be forced into situations where they’re uncomfortable and would prefer to not be in. I do think that’s the responsibility of the individual to say “Hey, I’m not actually comfortable with this topic,” though, instead of advocating that it’s should just be assumed that those topics can’t be brought up. Which, for the record, I don’t actually think actually think anyone is pushing for. When ‘friends’ choose not to respect that right and continue to push on someone’s comfort zone, then they aren’t being a true friend, and I in no way condone that behavior.
*For the intents of the piece, I’m focusing largely on the friendship aspect, from one friend interacting with another, and leaving out entirely the concept of a person pressuring their partner. There’s enough on that focus to create an entire other essay, but know that my opinion is strictly of “So not okay to pressure a partner or prospective partner. Not okay ever” variety.
**lifestyle, in this sense, is not used to imply that being asexual is a choice, but rather the resulting way a person who is asexual chooses to live their life.
***Definitely an actual measurement that I use frequently, and yes–pun fully intended.
****My mom and sister just snorted when they read that. For the record, I’ve been (lightheartedly) teased as the family prude for over a decade.