Michaela Deane examines the devastating consequences that slut-shaming can have.
“Did you see what Emily was wearing last night? So slutty.” “Did you hear that Ciara had sex with Aoife’s ex-boyfriend? What a slut.” “Conor was showing me the nudes that Megan sent him, she’s such a slut.”
 
And this my friends, is slut-shaming. 
 
For those of you who don’t know, slut-shaming is when a girl is bullied or attacked for certain sexual behaviours, circumstances or desires. It’s something that I suppose has always been around, but with the growing popularity of social media it has become a lot more harmful and malicious recently.
 
“Slut” is a word that I do not use. To insult a girl based on the fact that she is sexually active doesn’t make sense to me, and it was when I started to think about why I don’t use this word that I got the idea for this article. 
 
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no angel. I’ve used the word to describe many girls before. When I was fifteen and going through my boy-mad stage, it was probably my favourite adjective of all time for all the girls who got in the way of my relationships. But when I started to think about the meaning behind what I was saying, I stopped.
 
“Slut” is thrown around too easily, in my opinion. You kissed an older guy? Slut. You wear a short dress? Slut. You’ve had sex with more than one person? Slut. The list of things that “slut” is deemed an acceptable response to is way too long, and most of us don’t even realise how harmful the word is. And that’s what’s brought me here today, to inform you all of the scary realities of slut-shaming.
 
Lets take an Irish example, the infamous “Slane Girl”. For those of you who don’t know, this story is about a 17-year-old girl who went to an Eminem concert in Slane Castle in August 2013, and left with a tarnished reputation. The girl was photographed performing oral sex on two different men, and the photos exploded onto Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr, a video even went up on Youtube. The hashtag “#SlaneGirl” was created and the girl was tormented on social media for her behaviour, being labelled a whore.
 
What these people didn’t realise is the emotional trauma that they were inflicting on this girl, and after the photographs were leaked she had to be admitted into hospital and sedated as she was so distraught. After looking into it, Gardaí discovered that she had also sought medical treatment during the concert, although it was unclear at the time why she did. 
 
This is exactly my point; she could have been under the influence of alcohol, could have had her drink spiked and anything could have happened. Yet society chose to ignore this and go straight to abusing the girl for her mistake. 
 
“The conclusion that people jump to is she is a slut and it’s my duty to show as many people as possible,” said Emily Lindin, the writer behind the Unslut Project. “This girl’s emotional and mental health probably suffered a lot, just because she was unfortunate enough to get caught on camera making a mistake.”
 
Luckily for this girl, she pulled through the bullying and harassment that followed her after this event. But two other girls weren’t so lucky, and I’m going to briefly discuss the stories of Rehtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd, who turned to suicide as a result of society’s slut-shaming.
 
Rehtaeh Parsons was a Canadian girl who died on the 7th of April 2013, aged just 17. Her death has been attributed to photographs being leaked online of an alleged gang rape that occurred before her suicide, in November 2011. The photographs circulated around her school and town, and she was bombarded with taunts of “slut” and people messaging her asking for sex.
 
The police got involved, but after a year of investigating deemed it a “he said she said” case, but after Rehtaeh’s suicide the case was reopened and two of the boys involved pleaded guilty to making/distributing child pornography.
 
In April 2013, Christie Blatchford wrote in the National Post about a problem in the case. She said that one of Parsons's friends claimed Parsons was "flirtatious" on the night the photo was taken and was seen laughing in bed with two boys, and also that there were "accounts from Rehtaeh herself and independent evidence, including retrieved online messages, that supported the suggestion the sex that took place was consensual." 
 
In response, Rehtaeh's father, Glen Canning, accused Blatchford of victim blaming and argued that, "The two boys involved in taking and posing for the photograph stated Rehtaeh was throwing up when they had sex with her. That is not called consensual sex. That is called rape."
 
A lot of us are more familiar with the story of Amanda Todd, whose story went viral after her death on October 12th, 2012. The young girl had posted a video on Youtube previously, discussing how she was blackmailed after exposing her breasts online through webcam, and subsequently bullied and harassed because of it. After being informed by the police that the image was circulating the internet, her family moved home and she began to experiment with alcohol and drugs.
 
After a year, this photo resurfaced and Amanda was forced to move schools once again. In her nine minute YouTube video, she talks about how, after this, an old friend invited her over to his house. They had sex while his girlfriend was away. After this, the boy's girlfriend and a group of over 10 others confronted Amanda at school, where they shouted insults at her and she was physically attacked by the girlfriend. She fell into a ditch, and then stayed there until her father found her. After this event, she tried to kill herself by drinking bleach but failed. Unfortunately, her next suicide attempt was successful.
 
We all hear about these things happening, but what about when it happens to us? Like 99% of other girls, I’ve been on the receiving end of slut-shaming. But I’m not going to lie, I’ve been pretty nasty in the past too. I remember distinctly a time when I was 15, and my boyfriend of a year had cheated on me. Naturally, I was pretty upset, and I had no problem with telling the world what she’d done. I was a stupid and naïve young girl, and blamed her instead of my boyfriend because it was easier. 
 
Obviously, everyone felt sorry for me, and targeted this girl calling her a “slut” and a “whore”. It was only when I saw her response to this on social media that I stopped discussing what had happened. I realised that these words were hurting her, and I didn’t want to be responsible for inflicting pain on anyone. She’d probably lost some friends because of it, so I messaged her to apologise, and told her that if she felt alone or victimised she could talk to me, no matter how angry I was.
 
It was when I started researching this topic for my blog that I came across this amazing website, called The UnSlut Project. It’s a site that was started by Emily Lindin, and is working to “undo the dangerous sexual bullying and “slut” shaming in our schools, communities, media and culture”.
 
Emily created the website after hearing about the suicides of these young girls, having once been labelled the school “slut” herself. She has posted her diary entries aged 11-14, to provide some hope for young girls who currently feel trapped and alone. In the about section, she describes the site as, “a collaborative space for sharing stories and creating awareness about sexual bullying, slut shaming and related issues”. She is currently in the process of making a documentary about the issues of slut shaming in today’s society.
 
If you guys take only one thing from this blog post, and one thing only, let it be that you stop throwing the word slut around so loosely. You never know how slut-shaming can affect someone, and with platforms like social media now available it’s very easy to destroy somebody’s reputation. 
 
Before you deem somebody a slut for their actions, think to yourself, “What if it was me?”