7 Ways You're Slut Shaming Your Friends Without Realizing It

ByMehak Anwar

Policing people's bodies and judging them for their sexual actions are, unfortunately, things that are deeply entrenched in our culture — particularly when it comes to women. In fact, even if you consider yourself the most feminist, progressive, or politically correct person out there, it's possible that you're slut shaming your friends without realizing it. It's easy to get caught up in slut shaming because we've been conditioned to do it since we were young.

There are many forms of overt slut shaming, like telling women to put on different clothes because they look "slutty" or victim-blaming in instances of rape or sexual assault. But there are also many subtle ways to slut shame — ways that are particularly dangerous. Though they often go unremarked upon, they can cause a lot of damage and self-esteem issues, as well as perpetuate negative teachings to women about their bodies and desires. Some of these subtle forms of slut shaming include, but are not limited to: Using gendered language to describe what's good and bad, demanding to know the intimate details of someone else's sex life, criticizing someone for a low-cut dress (or any other clothing item, for that matter), or asking a girl "why she has so many guy friends."

Subtle slut shaming happens everywhere. Parents do it to their children; significant others do it to one another; and sometimes friends even do it to friends. Take a look at these seven ways you might be slut shaming your friends without realizing it.

1. Criticizing Them For Going On Too Many Tinder Dates

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Sometimes this criticism might be based in concern for your friend's safety — for example, if your friend is consistently going to stranger's houses without telling anyone where they are, of course you'd be worried for them. But sometimes, this criticism is based on judgment about how robust someone's sex or dating life "should" or "shouldn't" be. Everyone's sexual and dating desires are different, and there's no such thing as "too many" dates — Tinder or otherwise — if that's how many your friend feels is appropriate.

2. Telling Them To Put On Something More "Appropriate"

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A classic example of slut shaming, telling your friends to put on something less revealing is another way of policing their body. No one has the right to decide what anyone wears except the person who's wearing it.

3. Judging Them For Sleeping With Someone On The First Date

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There are a lot of myths floating around in our culture that you shouldn't sleep with someone until you've gone on a certain number of dates with them. That number is usually arbitrary — something like three or five — but the reality is that there's no unacceptable number of dates for consenting adults to have sex. Sleeping with someone on the first date is not only totally OK, but becoming more normalized as dating apps like Tinder reshape the way young people are going about their dating and sexual lives.

4. Believing In An "Ideal Number"

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A lot of people believe that there's an "ideal number" of people women should and can sleep with before "settling down" (hint: that number is usually low and, like the number from the previous point, usually arbitrary). Of course, there's no "ideal number," and whether your friend has slept with no people, 10 people, or 100 people, it's entirely that person's business — no one else's.

5. Perpetuating The Myth That Women Can't Have High Libidos

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Shaming a woman for wanting to have sex because it's a "guy thing" perpetuates the double standard that sex is something only men can do or desire. It also reinforces the (false) idea that the more men have it, the more manly they are, while the more women want or have it, the "sluttier" they are. It's 2016. Women, too, can want and have a lot of sex, and there's nothing wrong or unusual about that.

6. Criticizing Women For Making The First Move

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Though it's slightly different from slut shaming, criticizing a woman for making the first move is another way of policing her body and pushing archaic gender standards on her. I've heard so many women my age — the 18-to-24 demographic — criticizing their female friends for making the first move on men because they might be perceived as "too dominant." If that is the case, it's not up to you to change the way your friend interacts with people; she'll probably realize that a man who thinks that isn't worth her time all on her own.

7. Shaming Them For Experiencing Attraction To More Than One Person

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This one is my biggest pet peeves. Let's say your friend is dating someone, but sees someone attractive on the street, or meets someone attractive at a bar, and talks about their attractiveness (or talks to them because of their attractiveness). Many people's natural reaction is to call them out for having their cake, eating it, and then trying to get a second piece of cake. But by placing the expectation on women to experience only sexual attraction to one partner, it deems any other attraction excessive and therefore shameful. Really, though? There's nothing excessive or shameful about it.

Images: Andrew Zaeh for Bustle; Giphy (7)