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Smart teen wants an end to ‘slut-shaming’

Astrorice 13-year-old posted her video decrying 'slut-shaming' YouTube.

Astrorice, a 13-year-old, posted her video decrying "slut-shaming" to YouTube.

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Updated: January 17, 2012 4:19PM



T he latest YouTube video to go viral doesn’t feature Justin Bieber or a keyboard-playing cat. In fact, it’s nothing more than an intelligent and sophisticated 13-year-old discussing a topic very near and dear to women everywhere: Slut-shaming.

What exactly is slut-shaming?

Slut-shaming is a term used to describe the hateful and judgmental behavior that is directed toward women as a result of their sexual decisions (or as a result of rumors about those decisions). Cruel words like slut, whore, “ho” (and worse) are used to make a woman feel worthless, disgusting and ostracized for her sexual feelings and desires.

The negative impact of this sort of hate speech cannot be overstated, particularly when it occurs in adolescence. Young girls are easy targets when it comes to this type of bullying, and believe it or not, it even occurs as early as middle school. Girls who develop a little earlier than their peers or girls who seem to catch all the boys’ attention are at particular risk. Sadly, the bullying can even follow girls home via Facebook and other social network sites.

The old chestnut of “sticks and stones” really doesn’t apply here — these words can hurt, and they can have a huge impact on a girl’s life. She might internalize the hate speech and allow her own self-worth to be irrevocably damaged. She might learn to loathe her own body or to be ashamed of her sexuality, or she might decide that she might as well live up to her “reputation” and show everyone just how tough she really is. Whatever the case, the result of such bullying is rarely positive, and sadly, when the girls treat one another with such disrespect, it makes the boys think that is OK to follow suit.

Words like slut and whore also have a huge impact outside the classroom as well. If certain women are deemed loose or worthless because of their differences, people will have a hard time viewing them as victims when they are attacked or raped. Some might even rationalize the abuse, saying, “She was asking for it by dressing like a whore” or, “She shouldn’t have had so much to drink” or, “That’s what happens when you have a reputation.”

Such reasoning is flawed and cruel, and only serves to add insult to injury to the victim and her family. (Additionally, it also allows rapists to go free and attack again). It is crucial that we remember that every woman has the right to say no at any time, even if she has consented to sex in the past, even if she has had four drinks, and even if she is wearing a low-cut shirt and making bawdy sexual comments.

Yet until we remove hate speech and words like slut from our vocabulary, women will continue to be easy targets for abuse and violence. We need to band together and to create a sisterhood of empowerment and celebration, a sisterhood in which respect, self-worth and yes, even sexuality are celebrated and enjoyed. And that’s a YouTube video that will never go out of style!

Dr. Berman is a New York Times best-selling author and her television shows, “In The Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman” and “The Dr. Laura Berman Show,” are featured on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network.



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