Throughout history and in many cultures today, women and girls’ worth relates directly to their virginity. Virginity is equal to purity, meaning that purity is equal to eligibility for both marriage and an education- which is often provided by their husbands or families. If a woman or girl is “violated” by deciding to have consensual sex, she no longer has a future, her family often disowns her, and her potential for a happy marriage or family life is lost.

An example of the worst and most horrific form of slut-shaming is the concept of honor killings- in which the woman or girl’s family kills or injures their own relative for “bringing dishonor upon the family” by having pre-marital sex. Sexual abuse often coincides with slut-shaming as well, with arguments such as “she was asking for it,” or her clothing was “too promiscuous.” While these are some of the most extreme examples in the modern-day, the foundations that justify honor killings and sexual abuse are often the same as those that validate slut-shaming.

Being sexually active or gaining confidence in one’s sexuality is often a normal part of growing up. In women and girls, however, confidence in one’s body and sexuality is considered immoral or wrong by many. Teenage girls are especially expected to be pure- untouched, conservatively dressed, and “clean.” When teens step outside of that expectation by being either sexually active or sexually aware, they are deemed sluts or whores. Words like this dehumanize teen girls already struggling to learn about their bodies and the world around them.

Since women and girls themselves tend to be the ones promoting and enforcing these expectations about sex, it’s important that we understand why “slut-shaming” is devastating to both genders and all facets of society. By placing a woman or girl’s worth upon her sexual purity, her body becomes objectified.

Instead of focusing on the mutual pleasure, emotional and physical intimacy, and confidence associated with sex and learning about one’s body, women and teenage girls become passive participants in their own sex lives and relationships. When women slut shame other women or girls, it becomes self-sabotage, as these practices promote the same misogynistic and unhealthy ideas about women used to undermine and suppress women for hundreds of years.

Always remember that your sexual choices and identity are entirely up to you. Whether you never want to have sex, you’re saving yourself for marriage, have one monogamous partner, or enjoy casual sex, your sexual history or virginity do not define your worth. Your passion, drive, intelligence, compassion, and ability to light up the lives of those around you does instead.

Therefore, try not to let others’ expectations of female purity or virginity infiltrate your perceptions of your own body or relationships. It is ultimately up to you what you feel comfortable with, do with your body, or enjoy. Most of all, make a concerted effort not to bring other women and girls’ down for their sexual activity or choices, as over time we’ll be able to break this cycle of sexual self-sabotage and eliminate horrible justifications for sexual abuse or violence towards women. Keep shining, loving, and spreading joy.

Love always,

S