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Slut Shaming
You had sex? Feel bad!


(permanent link) added: 2012-02-22 21:52:12 sponsor: surgoshan (last reply: 2012-03-04 21:52:17)

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

My Girl Is a Slut! No, My Girl Is Not a Slut! Well, she's an Ethical Slut... Even TV Tropes calls them sluts, for good or for ill.

If a man has sex, he's lauded as a hero. If a woman has sex, she's Ruined Forever.

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

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

See: Double Standard, which is the other side of the shaming coin. Sex Is Evil, which informs this trope.

No Real Life Examples, Please!

Indices:


Dirty, Shameful Examples

Film
  • Thanks to the Hays Code, Slut Shaming was enforced for many years in Hollywood.
    • This is nowhere more apparent than in Slasher Movies and horror movies, where the sexually promiscuous are the ones to die first, and only the virtuous virgin is allowed to live. This is often because the killer's Freudian Excuse is a horrible mother instilling Monster Misogyny. End result? Death by Sex.
    • In other films, a woman who had sex simply wasn't allowed a happy ending (though she didn't necessarily have to die). The women of The Maltese Falcon, for example, simply get ditched by the True Neutral protagonist.
  • Bowfinger subverts slut-shaming.
    Bowfinger: We're finished! It's over between us!
    Daisy: But why?
    Bowfinger: You slept with Jiff.
    Daisy: So?
    Bowfinger: You know, I never thought about it that way.
    Daisy: So I'll see you tonight?
    Bowfinger: What time?
  • Within minutes of meeting a hostile reporter, Iron Man's Tony Stark is having energetic sex with her. In the morning, Pepper Potts refers to one of her unfortunate responsibilities as "taking out the trash".
  • In the Star Trek reboot, Uhura has nothing but contempt for slutty Man Child Kirk.
  • Wedding Crashers follows the tail-end of the careers of a few semi-professional sluts. Any time they're exposed for what they are, they're heaped with shame for their behavior.
  • Near the end of Moulin Rouge!, Christian, angry about being dumped by Satine, (she was trying to protect him the Duke) publically humiliates her by throwing money at her, saying "I have paid for my whore!". It's the only scene in the film Nostalgia Chick didn't like. She even called it "Slut Shaming". Nostalgia Critic hated the whole thing.
  • Easy A - The film is built around this trope.

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

Live Action TV
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer didn't have too many partners in her seven years on television. The show had a strong tendency to punish her for this, but the characters tended not to. One exception was Spike, who thoroughly humiliated her. Of course, he was a soulless, evil vampire.
    • After she slept with Angel, he lost his soul and turned back into the demonic Angelus. (Playing the hellmouth version of "I've slept with my boyfriend and now he's acting different). Punished by the show, nothing but love from her family.
      Buffy: [crying] You must be so disappointed me.
      Giles: No, no I'm not.
      Buffy: This is all my fault.
      Giles: No, I don't believe it is. Do you want me to wag my finger at you and tell you that you acted rashly? You did, and I can. I know that you loved him. And he... has proven more than once that he loved you. You couldn't have known what would happen. The coming months are going to be hard... I suspect on all of us. But... if it's guilt you're looking for, Buffy, I'm not your man. All you will get from me is my support... and my respect.
    • After she slept with Parker, the situation was played quite a bit more normally, with him just not calling her afterward, and she got a lot of slut-shaming from Spike, who was happy to taunt her for youthful naivete. And try to kill her.
    • After she slept with Spike, she really hated herself (she had a lot going on, and he was just the cherry on the shitstorm sundae. At one point she cries in Tara's lap, begging not to be forgiven.
  • Similar to Buffy, Angel the Series punished Cordelia for one-night stands (with two mystical pregnancies, no less). However, characters tended to be more concerned with whether or not someone was having sex with Angel and unleashing his evil alter-ego.
  • As the most active member of the team, the eponymous Castle is the only one who really could be shamed, and his partner, Kate Beckett, is usually happy to do so.
  • Chuck's Sarah Walker frequently uses her body to get information, get past guards, and so on. This makes Chuck (entirely smitten) jealous and uncomfortable, and he occasionally attacks her for it.
  • Subverted by Community's Annie Edison. During the school's sexuality fair, it's revealed she's never seen a penis and everyone tries their best to make her comfortable about the word and the object, but she's proud to be uncomfortable about, thank you!
  • Doc Martin gives us a surprise pregnancy in the fourth season. The mother doesn't get much guff, but she does get some. The father gets none for the sex, just some for the lack of a wedding.
  • The first season of Dollhouse gives us the anonymous client "Miss Lonelyheart", an octogenarian who frequently contracts the use of the doll Victor, and who is mocked by the staff of the house for it.
  • Downton Abbey's first season shows a young lady of the upper class having a disastrous one night stand (he dies in the act). Her mother is shocked and disgusted, and her reputation suffers immeasurably when the rumor spreads to London.
    • Its second season gives us Ethel, a new maid brought in during the war, as Downton is converted into an adjunct of the hospital to help with injured, convalescing veterans. Ethel loves a man in uniform, literally. She's caught in the act by the head housemaid, and is sacked without notice and without references. When she winds up pregnant, the same head is unsympathetic as to fault, but still helps as much as she can, even trying to shame the officer who got her pregnant (and who rebuffs the attempt).
  • The pilot to Friends gives us Monica sleeping with a man on the first date. The show didn't make too much hay of it, but the executives were worried the public would blame her, so the producers polled the live audience. Male or female, the only one who wasn't made to feel bad for sexual activity was Phoebe. Joey never really felt too bad, but his friends shamed him for his behavior.
  • Firefly didn't have a long run, but it had a good amount of sex. Mal shamed himself for a one night stand, and loved to shame Inara for her career. Kaylee was shown to be rather enthusiastic about spaceships, and willing to sleep with mechanics to see the engines, but no one ever shamed her for it on screen.
  • How I Met Your Mother plays this straight, inverts it, and averts it.
    • Barney is a serial-user man-whore, and his friends tend to treat him as disgusting more often than heroic.
      Ted: You should be proud. You should be tested, but you should be proud.
    • Lily is Marshall's My Girl Is a Slut, with the pair of them having an incredibly active sex life, but Marshall makes a huge fuss about the possibility that he wasn't the one to take her virginity. At the same time, part of his problem was that he gave her his.
    • Ted's generally after true love and not one night stands. The show tends not to heap abuse on him when he does go for one night stands, but it's usually either not shown (as when he and Robin broke up) or shown in a negative light (as when Marshall spends a morning shaming Ted for a litany of bad decisions, including hooking up with a married woman).
    • Robin has fewer conquests than Ted, but she's had a one night stand with Mitch, inventor of The Naked Man!. After the gang spends a few minutes admiring Mitch's ingenuity, Marshall says, "I call slut!" And Robin spends the majority of the episode trying to justify what she did so she doesn't feel bad.
  • Law & Order and its spin-offs provide a realistic treatment. One of the problems the prosecutions often faces is that while they're trying the defendant, the defense is trying the victim. Once a victim is shown to have had sex with more than one person, it becomes a concern that the jury will assume she deserved murder or rape.
  • Mad Men, thanks to Values Dissonance, has the Double Standard in full effect. The men are free to romp, so long as they're discreet, and other men don't particularly care, but if a woman steps toe over the line, she's torn apart. Peggy Olson gets it particularly bad from her family and her priest, for having a baby out of wedlock.
  • Scrubs tended to treat characters badly if they had sex outside of a committed relationship. Men were ostensibly excused if it had been long enough, but they were portrayed (and treated) as somewhat pathetic.
  • The Midsomer Murders episode "A Sacred Trust" involves some romantic liaisons, including one girl shamed for her involvement with a jock.

Literature
  • As punishment for having a child out of wedlock, Hester Prynne had to wear the eponymous Scarlet Letter, 'A' for 'adultery'.
  • Robin Hobb deals with the subject realistically and without condemnation (from the author, plenty from the societies she creates).
    • The Realm of the Elderlings features restrictive roles for women and plenty of slut-shaming.
      • Molly has to go to great lengths to hide her relationship with Fitz and flee the castle once she gets pregnant, Fitz is killed in disgrace, and the coastal duchies nearly collapse during the war.
      • Fitz himself meets with a great deal of disapproval for his dalliance, but the consequences for him would never be as severe. Sure, he got killed a few times, but never for sex.
      • Conversely, his relationship with Starling never met with the same disapproval, because she's a minstrel, and the rules are different for minstrels.
      • Althea in the second series, in a more conservative climate, is routinely shamed for her activities, which include pursuing a man's career (sailing) and a man's sexual appetites (having any). Her niece, Malta, is portrayed as a man-eater in bud, but YMMV as to whether that's budding sexuality in a young woman or simple starvation for mental stimulation.
      • In the third trilogy, Fitz shames Starling a bit when, on learning of her marriage, turns her out of his bed. He then shames his son for taking up with a young woman when he didn't have the ability to make an honest woman out of her, and gets in a fight with the girl's father over the same. Fitz receives some shame himself when the world at large believes he's gaying it up with his foreign-born employer.
    • The Soldier Son: The eponymous son becomes, thanks to a disease, grotesquely obese, which warrants disgust from everyone he meets, and colors their opinion of any desire he might express. His father's disgust is deepened when he believes the boy caught the disease from a prostitute (false), and he flees town ahead of a mob for supposed necrophilia (also false).
  • The Aubrey-Maturin series plays the Double Standard for all its worth.
    • Aubrey has never learned to keep it in his pants and frequently gets into trouble at home and abroad, not least when a miscegenated son by a favorite whore of his shows up later in the series and earlier when an unscrupulous woman blackmails him with threat of showing up, pregnant, to his wife. When, in the first book, his dalliance with a superior officer's wife costs him a small fortune and an important promotion, others defend him because, "It was her what set her cap for him! Everyone knows that!"
      • When Aubrey catches an STI in the first book, he's told by Maturin (acting as his physician) that "a lady of your acquaintance has been too liberal with her affections". Slut Shaming and the Double Standard in one sentence.
    • Meanwhile Maturin ardently pursues a widow whose reputation is thoroughly blackened by "doing what a woman must to get by alone in this world". Otherwise he was so chaste that his superiors in the intelligence community were for a time concerned that he might be susceptible to blackmail. For being gay.
  • Robert A. Heinlein loved My Girl Is a Slut and only made villains prudes. However, he frequently set his characters in a society similar to that he grew up in (early 20th century midwestern America), which meant there was plenty of shaming going on, and his characters had to be devious to get away with doing what they wanted, and never felt bad for it.
  • Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn has this in full effect. When a girl falls for a beautiful man's blandishments, she feels ashamed. When a young man she's been friends with forever finds out about it, he (still a virgin) is hurt and shames her, but eventually comes around.
  • Matrim Cauthon of the Wheel of Time series is another inveterate manwhore (though the text rarely implies that he does more than kiss women, and when he does he tends to be monogamous), upon whom shame is copiously heaped, mostly by the women in his life.
    • Robert Jordan has also written historical fiction with the Double Standard firmly in place, usually in his native Charleston, South Carolina.
  • In Pride and Prejudice, Lydia's fling with Wickham almost ruins her entire family's reputation.
  • The Beautiful Slave Girls on Gor will use this to taunt and/or insult each other, at least when they're not taunting and/or insulting each other over how frigid the other is.

Music
  • Some people have accused the Taylor Swift video for You Belong With Me of constructing a story around this trope. She portrays both the shy nerd (good girl) and the "horrible and scary and intimidating" popular (ie. bad, slutty) girl. The good girl wins the boy after he catches the bad girl flirting with someone else.

Video Games
  • Assassin's Creed II provides us with an example of shaming by legislation. The extra, in-game index describes how courtesans (by that time, a word meaning, essentially, "whores") were by law more and more circumscribed and sharply defined in dress and hairstyle in an effort to eliminate their profession from polite society.
  • The criminal inmates of Batman: Arkham City are slightly misogynistic to the same degree they're also trying to slightly hurt Batman's feelings. Among other things, they think Harley and Catwoman deserve whatever they might get for the outfits they wear.

Web Original

Webcomics
  • Inverted in Questionable Content, after Faye sleeps with her boss's brother, Sven. She immediately begins to freak out, but is reassured by her therapist that she's not a slut, and that a casual sexual relationship can be healthy, and is perhaps exactly what she needs at that point.
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