Alexandra Koniaev: The Psychological Impact of Slut Shaming

Slut shaming is an offensive practice that allows people to be degrading to others and has a serious psychological impact on individuals. Because of the way we perceive sexuality, there is a double standard that promotes slut shaming which creates psychological impacts. It causes people to feel self-conscious about themselves: they have to look and act a certain way, otherwise, those who don’t stick to norms set by society are considered deviant.

Dress regulations in schools are restricting women from expressing themselves and are allowing women to be labeled, mainly due to sexist views. Stacie Dunn, 43, from Versailles, Kentucky, was the mother of a teen who got into trouble for exposing her collar bones and was still sent home later on because she covered it with an “inappropriate” scarf. Woodford County High School’s reasoning behind the decision was that the girls might distract the boys from learning; however, this just seems like another form of body image shaming. When school girls were interviewed in the documentary “Shame: A Documentary on School Dress Code”, they expressed their feelings about the dress codes and said how they felt embarrassed and ashamed about being “called out” for “revealing” outfits that show their collarbones. They felt it was “difficult to find acceptable clothes for schools, that the rules are not uniformly enforced, and that it’s absurd to be forced to missed class because of these unfair standards”. These unfair double standards like dress codes come into play when boys are given a free pass while girls are reprimanded for the smallest things.

I had a similar experience in middle school when we had a dress code that didn’t allow us to wear shorts shorter than fingertip length. Once I got called in by the assistant principal because of the length of my shorts. I was furious because it was scorching hot inside our school (it was almost summer and we had no air conditioning) and also because others were wearing shorts shorter than my length but I was singled out. I can relate to Dunn because I find it unfair that I had to change; I should be allowed to wear whatever clothes I want, especially in such hot weather conditions. Slut shaming further divides the gender inequalities by allowing for one gender to be excused but not the other. I felt that the school system is unfair because it teaches girls to blame themselves when boys become distracted because it is a boy’s responsibility to direct his attention somewhere else, such as his schoolwork.

In the article “Why do We Shame Girls for This?” Laura Delarato writes about the consequences of slut shaming and how easily it spreads. She brings up the double-standard women have to face about their sexuality that begins from an early age. She writes about how when girls are young they are taught to “sit like a lady” and compares it to the saying “boys will be boys”. She does this in order to highlight the obvious unfairness of containing women and “removing themselves” from their own sex in order to create shame compared to the men who can get away with similar actions. The article also includes an interview in which people are asked if they were ever slut-shamed. One woman said how someone told her to “be really careful that you’re thinking about each one of these guys and whether or not you sleep with them because it all goes into your number”. She felt that “It was all about what somebody else thought not and not what I thought about whether I was ok with my sexual experiences”. Her thoughts show how slut shaming causes us to worry about the opinions of others and be self-conscious about our actions.

Social media has become a very popular way for people to connect and talk about present day trends and events. Teenagers are so impacted by social media now that they think apps like Instagram and Facebook represent their identity. Even famous singers like Kehlani Parrish have had serious battles against slut shaming on social media. When Parrish’s ex boyfriend posted a picture of him in bed with her the internet went crazy because people still thought Parrish was dating someone else.

Social media was quick to judge not knowing the whole situation and numerous misogynistic and slut-shaming comments were made. One twitter account said: “How do u cheat on a baller with some dude called “Party Next Door”. I guess hoes will forever be hoes..smfh. #Kehlani #Kyrie”. I think it was from the pain of hearing all of these tremendously hurtful comments that she attempted suicide later that day. She even posted on Instagram in the hospital saying “as of today, i had no single wish to see tomorrow”. Through Kehlani’s suicide attempt, we can see the severe impact slut shaming has on girls.

Later on Parrish’s ex admitted that there was no cheating going on but it distracts from the point The Observer author Ilana Kaplan makes: “Words hurt—especially when they’re coming from a place of ignorance”. In other words, ignorance is connected to slut shaming because we have become conditioned to look down and criticize public displays of our sexuality. Simultaneously, we push aside the fact that slut shaming can take the form of cyberbullying, which can have serious negative results such as in the case of Parrish. Teenagers need to realize that it’s harmful to draw your self confidence and identity from social media because a negative comment can affect you so much more than it should.

Slut shaming impacts us because it promotes the double standards in school and social media and that causes us to feel unsure and terrible about ourselves. We have trouble realizing that social media isn’t actually real and that we focus too much on the opinions of others. If we keep allowing slut shaming to continue it will have serious psychological impacts on the younger generation of girls.