5 Comments That Don't Seem Like Slut Shaming, But Are

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When you think of slut shaming, you might think of overt comments that criticize what someone is wearing or how they conduct their sex life. But there are also a number of comments that don't seem like slut shaming but are. Sometimes, we talk about people's sexual behavior in a way that's disguised as concern about self-respect, unhealthy relationships, or sexual health, but what we're really doing is putting a moral judgement on someone's individual, morally irrelevant choices.

I'm aware of this problem because I've been guilty of it myself. I've judged women for their sexual decisions by drawing the conclusion that they must have low standards if they're willing to sleep with a lot of people or must not respect themselves if they don't demand a relationship. I've since realized that this stems from the assumption that women don't genuinely want casual hookups and should only be willing to sleep with certain people. When guys have casual sex, we don't usually ascribe all these psychological issues to them. We view the act as purely physical.

Here are some comments that may not intentionally shame women but still stem from this assumption that a woman being sexually open and active is a problem:

1. "She's being taken advantage of."

Of course, there are times when women — and people of all genders — get taken advantage of. But people often tend to assume that women are being taken advantage of when they in fact have entered into consensual encounters. If those encounters involve a woman and a man, people often assume the man is the one "using" the woman. But if both people are into it, nobody's being used, and they can both be equally into it because a woman can be just as interested in casual sex as a man.

2. "She's just seeking attention."

"She's being taken advantage of" is a way of slut shaming that presumes the woman is innocent. When we presume she's guilty, we might say she's seeking attention for wearing "slutty" clothes, talking openly about sex, or hooking up. But maybe she just likes to do that — and regardless, what's wrong with wanting attention? Everyone likes to be appreciated and admired.

3. "People like the thrill of the chase."

This has been said about people in general, but it's often said to women who date men due to the stereotype that men like to be the ones to initiate everything while women should be "coy." When we say men like the thrill of the chase, we imply that women shouldn't be "easy" to catch. But women should be allowed to pursue what they want, and the idea of a "chase" is problematic in the first place because it makes sex out to be predatory.

4. "Play it cool."

Relatedly, when we teach people to wait three days before texting or count to five before we tell someone we like them or whatever on earth the rules are these days, we're punishing them for taking the initiative in their love lives and their sex lives. This is another manifestation of the idea that a woman should respond to someone else's moves rather than making any herself.

5. "How many people have you slept with?"

Even if you're not judging someone based on their "number," just making it a thing is problematic. We don't count, say, the number of people we've gone to the movies with or exchanged phone numbers with. Why do we count the number of people we've had sex with? You guessed it: slut shaming. The only reason we keep track of this stuff is that we believe it says something about us. But it doesn't, and we shouldn't have to feel like it does. Maybe, if people didn't encourage us to count how many people we've slept with, we wouldn't feel so much pressure to keep that number low.

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