I Was Slut-Shamed

Women used to be slut shamed for wearing
red lipstick. Some still associate a woman with red lips as
being "loose."
Photo by JeneƩ Darden/Cocoa Fly


She heard the names,

swirling ribbons in the wind of history:
...mammy, property, creature, ape, baboon,
whore, hot tail, thing, it.
She said, But my description cannot
fit your tongue, for
I have a certain way of being in this world,
and I shall not, I shall not be moved.

An excerpt from "Our Grandmothers"
By Maya Angelou


There are a few unforgettable moments in my life where someone said disgusting things to me because of my gender.  

At 13, I walked into the mall by myself. A teen boy was posted up against the side of the wall. He saw me and immediately asked if he could talk to me and get my number. I politely told him I don’t give out my number. He responded, “Fuck you then bitch!” No one had ever talked to me like that. His vulgar response scared me and I scurried away.

When I was 25 I went on a date with a guy to a popular Black comedy club in LA. I hadn’t lived in the city long. He insisted we sit in the front because he knew the owner. The place was packed. You are prey for comics when you sit in the front of a Black comedy club. The host told my date that taking a woman to a comedy club is a good way to get laid because women love to laugh. Then he picked up one of the fuchsia-colored candleholders on the table and put it up to his crotch. He said because I was a dark-skinned Black woman, the candleholder was probably the color of my inner vagina. Of course he didn’t use the word "vagina," but something else.  There is no word to describe my embarrassment that night.  

I recently got hit with a nasty comment in my 30’s. An older relative that I was close to and admired said and did some hurtful things to me. When I confronted her about how she was mistreating me, she resorted to calling me a whore and made up lies about me.  What she perceived to be my “whorish” action was flirting. The man flirted with me first, but because I have a vagina, I get labeled a whore--not him. I found it ironic that someone who always encouraged me to embrace my femininity, sensuality, and Black erotica research would call me a whore. I didn’t internalize her words because I know they weren’t true. I know who I am. It’s not raining men in my life right now. The stressful job I left made my dating life more like the California drought. And even if I did have a lover, that doesn’t make me a whore.

What most bothered me was that the person said those things to make me feel bad about myself as a woman. Don’t get me wrong, I would’ve rather been called something much nicer than a whore. She did it to kill my self-esteem. But that’s the goal of slut-shaming. It’s to keep women in control, confined and oppressed.  Many of the things women get slut-shamed for, men are praised.  Women with more than one lover are sluts and THOTs. Men with multiple lovers are players and pimps. Or my favorite, "they’re just being men."  The graphic below from Amber Rose’s Instagram page sums up what I’m saying.




Amber Rose is hosting a SlutWalk in LA in October.
It's a march to raise awareness about sexual assault of
women. 

Slut shaming also takes the accountability off of men when it comes to sexual assault, and puts blame on women. He wouldn’t have raped her if her skirt wasn’t short, her shorts weren’t so tight. She probably led him on and he couldn’t stop himself.  

Of course I was livid when this all went down.  Anger turned to hurt and back to anger. I had to step out of the emotional cloud, reflect on what happened and take a deep look at myself. I have never been more in love with myself as a woman.  I love myself as a person, but in the past five years I have grown to love the WOMAN I’ve become. I gave up the hot comb. Now I love my God-given, soft, cotton cloud of natural hair. I value that I am both sensitive and strong. I delight in my prissiness. I honor my femininity. These are qualities that in my younger days I thought were hindrances. With this new level of pride and confidence in myself as a woman, I’ve never felt sexier. Even with weight gain from health issues, I’ve never felt sexier. Sometimes people throw shade if you’re shining too brightly. But like Maya Angelou said, "Baby, those people can't hold a candle to the light that God already has shining on your face."  

I’ve been blessed to take this new appreciation of womanhood into my work. I had the wonderful opportunity to give presentations to women about regaining and experiencing sexual pleasure, especially after trauma. I even presented at UC Berkeley. 

I did these presentations while working a job in mental health advocacy. Most people were really supportive. A few found it offensive and thought we were teaching women how to have sex.  We were teaching women their anatomy, ways to regain pleasure after abuse, and I spoke on my erotica research.  Some people feel threatened by women experiencing pleasure and defining pleasure outside of what male-dominated society has imposed on us. When I say pleasure in this instance,  I mean both sexual and non-sexual.  Women who own and live their pleasures are usually very empowered. Which is another reason why slut-shaming is a way of oppressing women.  

In the Uses of theErotic, Audre Lorde said, “For as we begin to recognize our deepest feelings, we begin to give up, of necessity, being satisfied with suffering and self-negation and the numbness which so often seems like their only alternative in our society. Our acts against oppression become integral with self, motivated and empowered from within.” 


Being slut-shamed won’t stop me from researching erotica or doing presentations on pleasure for women. It’s not going to stop me from embracing all of the qualities of my womanhood, including my intellect, humor, sensuality, strength and compassion. It’s not going to stop me from advocating for Black women and speaking out against injustices to all women. It damn sure won't stop me from flirting.

Being slut-shamed won’t stop me from reaching the sky.

No matter what they say, keep living your life with passion and pleasure. 

Comments

  1. Perhaps it's reverse sexism for me to say it, but I think it's especially awful when women slut shame other women. I shouldn't be surprised by it, because I guess that is what results from a sexist society where there is an unequal balance of power - women are left to deal like crabs in a barrel, all scrambling and scratching at and on top of each other in a fight to stay [spiritually] alive. Whatever the reason, it's still a sad state of affairs.

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    1. I also find it very disturbing when women slut shame other women. But many of us do it. Depending on the situation, I think women often slut shame other women because maybe they wish they were less inhibited. Or it could be internalized sexism and misogyny.

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  2. Some people just love that word, "whore." I've heard it myself -- and am proof that it won't kill you. If "whore" means I own my sexuality and refuse to be the Barbie doll or the "good little wife" so envisioned for me, then ok. I'll own it. Onward. Can't hurt me.

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    1. Some people love the word "whore' or "slut." The new word is THOT (That Hoe Over There). I HATE that acronym! LOL And you're right it won't kill you if you don't let it. That's good you own who you are. That's why people say those things sometimes. They feel threatened by people comfortable in their skin.

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  3. Thanks Soror. Ase. Your stories are powerful. Keep sharing them.

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  4. Thanks Soror. Ase. Your stories are powerful. Keep sharing them.

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  5. What a great read! Thank you for writing about what so many call a myth, but happens all the time without shame or regard for the women who are targeted. It is very real! Thank you for sharing your stories. <3!

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    1. Thank you for your response. And some people don't believe anything is wrong for shaming a woman for her sensuality. Also some women are slut shamed for doing nothing at all. People just assume a woman is a certain way. But yes it is real! Thanks for the love and support!

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  6. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

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    1. Thank you for reading it! Sorry about the late response. I wasn't alerted you made a comment. :(

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