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slut shaming

Wednesday News: Serena Williams Slut Shames; Dog grooming gone wild; Making folding cool

Wednesday News: Serena Williams Slut Shames; Dog grooming gone wild; Making...

We watch the news for a while, and the infamous Steubenville rape case flashes on the TV—two high school football players raped a 16-year-old, while other students watched and texted details of the crime. Serena just shakes her head. “Do you think it was fair, what they got? They did something stupid, but I don’t know. I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you: don’t take drinks from other people. She’s 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn’t remember? It could have been much worse. She’s lucky. Obviously I don’t know, maybe she wasn’t a virgin, but she shouldn’t have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that’s different.”

Extreme Dog grooming

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Dear Author

Why is there so much slut shaming in novels written by...

Warning: The following is a commentary about rape and rape culture. Please avoid if you have triggers.

Recently in Swaziland, short tops and short skirts are being outlawed because they are deemed “rape inducing.”

Police in Swaziland are cracking down on rape—by putting women in jail. Authorities in Africa’s last absolute monarchy have issued a ban on “rape-provoking” clothing, including miniskirts, midriff-revealing tops, and low-rise jeans, the AFP reports. Women caught wearing such clothing will be arrested, and face six months in jail. “The act of the rapist is made easy, because it would be easy to remove the half-cloth worn by the women,” a police spokeswoman explained.

Sound backward?  It really isn’t.  It’s a product of a rape culture that dominates most societies.  Witness one commenter on an Ohio football website regarding the Stubenville Ohio rape case:

I was discussing this with my 20 yr old and unfortunatly, he has been in similar situations where things got out of hand at a high school party. It happened to me. Although neither this bad, kids will be kids and no matter how grown up they want to be, their social skills are just not there yet. Who amongst us was not curious about a girls anatomy at that age? Who amongst us would not have at least thought about exploring that night? We throw stones and forget the bigger picture here and that is that they were kids. No excuses for rape but society needs to be blamed, curiosity needs to be blamed because alcohol and sex are everywhere.

Two weeks ago, the New York Times shined its bright light on a horrific gang rape of a teenage girl in Stubenville, Ohio.  Drunk, possibly drugged, a girl was dragged from party to party by Stubenville student athletes.  She was penetrated with fingers, sodomized, peed on, and possibly defecated on, all while being unconscious.  The entire event was tweeted, video taped, and instagrammed.  A blogger who runs http://prinniefied.com/ screencapped these social media acts of horror and began to rattle the cages.  Stubenville’s football team is so revered that local media did not cover this incident and as the news of the event began to trickle out, the town became divided.

The division was given voice by a local radio personality, David Bloomberg, who claimed that this was an attention seeking girl who was crying rape because she was embarassed she got drunk and had sex with more than one guy.

These girls at these parties, sometimes they drink a little bit too much, sometimes they get a little promiscuous, all of the sudden they’re being called, you know, a whore, what have you, and it’s really easy to say that you were taken advantage of rather than own up to the fact that ‘Hey look, I did what I did.’”

Bloomquist then went on to say that he thinks the report by the 14-year-old was “she said – he said” and was likely consensual.

“I guess the best way to sum up what I’m saying is this: It’s easier to tell your parents you were raped then, ‘Hey mom or dad, I got drunk and decided to let three guys have their way with me.’ “

Others, like the Deadspin commenter, decries the political correctness that is ruining parties for guys. If a girl doesn’t want to get raped, don’t get drunk. Don’t go to parties.

In a letter to an editor, Dan from Illinois writes:

To the Sports Editor:

Under-age drinking parties predictably lead to outcomes like this. Who are the adults who are buying alcohol for these high school students? And where is the local police department in enforcing the law? Shouldn’t the adults who facilitated these parties be held accountable as well?

Are you outraged?  This attitude pervades romances and young adult books.  I really got into it on Twitter with an author who was engaged in a ride along with police officers and commented how girls who dress provocatively are asking men to treat them poorly. Women in romance novels are often demonized for having more than one sexual partner (those sluts, always sleeping around, THAT HO) in contrast to the males who are being glorified for being rakes (those sluts, always sleeping around, GO BRO).  Women who wear short skirts are of questionable moral fiber.  They are the ones who cheat; who are avaricious gold diggers; who aren’t “nice.”  A woman’s worth in romance novels is often measured by their sexual behavior.

While slut shaming is a common theme in category novels, it is really a staple trope in the entire genre.  How many times have we read about the hero believing the heroine to be a shameless whore only to be shocked and delighted when she is a virgin?  Her virginity is the proof against his baseless accusations.  Without her virginity, the hero could go on believing she is every awful thing that he ever imagined her to be.

The party girl past is used to allow the characters impute all kinds of wrong behavior on the heroine.  In one book , the heroine is dismayed that her sister who is a flirt and has several affairs has never “suffered for it.” In another NYTimes bestselling romance book, the uncaring slutty party girl goes to hell and is redeemed by the assassin hero.  In the recent self published book, the hero who has one night stand after one night stand thinks that all the girls at the bar wearing short skirts want to have sex, likely with him. In a book I’ve recommended, the heroine calls herself a slut for sleeping with a guy only to find out that it didn’t mean as much to him as it meant to her.  Why does that make her a slut?

Why are women authors so anxious to devalue women based on what they wear and how sexually active they are?  Why do we readers allow this thinking to perpetuate?  If women in books written by women, celebrating womanhood, are constantly judging a woman’s worth based on their rape inducing clothing, their drunkness at a party, their willingness to have more than one partner and actually enjoy it, how can we ever be upset about the attitudes held by men quoted above.  Too much alcohol and of course you are going to get some guy raping some girl.  Too short of a skirt and of course you are going to get some guy raping some girl.  Too promiscuous and of course you don’t deserve to say you were raped.

The double standard is frustrating when the rake is elevated to near god like status and the sexually active heroine is all too commonly slotted into the evil villain role, but the persistence in holding to these tropes and re inforcing those beliefs in books is more than frustrating, it is dangerous.  Moreover, from a writing standpoint, it is lazy.  I would like to see more girl positive books.

Girl positive books would include not judging a woman by her attire or how many partners she has. Girl positive stories would include treating men and women by the same standards so we aren’t elevating the rake at the same time we are casting side glances toward the merry widow.  One author who really does girl positive stories well is Elle Kennedy.  In her books, the women are viewed with no shame for wanting sex no matter the positions, the number of times or the number of partners.  (Although even Kennedy has used the slut term as self descriptive of the heroine for lusting after a male character)

In Tammara Webber’s Easy, sorority sisters are contemplating whether to bring a rape charge against a popular fraternity member.  The president of a sorority looks around to the members and says

That dickwad hurt two people sitting at this table. And you’re worried about who’ll look bad if they tell? Screw that. Dean and D.J. and Kennedy and every frat boy on this campus can all go fuck themselves. Are we sisters or not?

Well, are we sisters or not?