Prepared by: Nita Cakolli, Beat Sexism USA
Many people, both men and women, believe that it is morally wrong for a woman to have been involved with a large number of life partners or sexual partners. Labels such as “whore” and “slut” are placed on women immediately. When it comes to being sexually active, women are shamed and degraded for the same things that men are praised for. In addition, when a woman is sexually harassed, many people believe that the way she was dressed led to her harassment. The blame is instantly placed on the victim, and it has led to many women denying and hesitating to share their stories with the world. Women are instantly shamed for many things that men are praised for; sexual desires and the ways women choose to dress has led to them being labeled as the “strange” and “difficult” women of our society.
When we as a society discuss rape and sex, we overlap in insult and shame, questions and comments like “Why rape someone when there’s plenty of hoes throwing it out and giving it up,” and “She doesn’t seem like the type to be raped, she seems like the type to give it up” rise up. According to “On Slut-Shaming & Rape Culture” by Scarlett Peterson, to understand rape culture we have to understand first how women who have been involved with many guys are portrayed by society. “The idea that a person who owns their sexuality and engages in sex for fun is something to be ashamed of is nothing new.” (Peterson 7) “If she’s such a “dirty” person because she’s had sex with so many people, she’s not seen to have the same value that a chaste, “pure” girl would. She’s not something to be cherished, treasured or protected by society.” (Peterson 7)
Women’s values as human-beings are non-existent when we relate a woman’s sexual desires to her personality. Peterson mentions that “By relating a woman’s value to her sexual purity, we are indirectly showing a specific group of women that not only do we not support them, but we don’t protect them, and we don’t believe that they have the same inherent value that their purity-oriented counterparts do.” (Peterson 7)
Society has developed this idea that women who partake in risky behaviors will become targets of society. When women are seen partying, hanging around male friends, being involved with more than one man, drinking etc they are more likely to be judged and insulted. When women who have been sexually assaulted come forth and share their stories, many people propose they change their way of living, change the way they dress, choose wisely between the people they hang around with, and we focus less on the person who committed the crime in the first place. According to Peterson, “we’re not only shaming the women who have sex when they want it, we’re not just creating a grey area that leads to a whole new way of looking at these women, we’re also telling these women that the assaults and violence that they experience are somehow their fault.” (Peterson 8) Victim blaming leads many women to believe that what has happened to them was truly their fault. “When someone is murdered, beaten, or robbed people don’t criticise them like they criticize rape victims. There isn’t the same generalized flurry of questions ranging from “Did you tease them?” or “What were you wearing?” and “How much did you have to drink?” when someone is stabbed or beaten. We do not question the judgment of murder victims the same way that we judge victims of sexual assault.”(Peterson 8) Justifying a rape case by judging the way a woman was dressed, the amount of drinks she had that day, and the number of boyfriends she has had in the past is never okay.
The sexual objectification of women changes the way people view women who are sexually harassed and raped. A study was done to show that people judge rape victims based on the way they were dressed. The authors manipulated the objectification by showing the participants a sexualized and a non-sexualized woman. The study done by Steve Loughnan , Afroditi Pina , Eduardo A. Vasquez , and Elisa Puvia supports the idea that “objectification can have important consequences in situations where women have been mistreated. Examining this effect in the domain of sexual assault, our study supports that an objectified woman is blamed more for being raped than the non-objectified victim.” In addition, the study also concludes that “the objectified victim perceivers withdraw attributions of mind and restrict their moral concern. This restriction of moral concern plays an important role in how victimhood is subsequently judged; the objectified are blamed more and tacitly seen to suffer less.” (Loughnan 460)
High-profile cases of sexual assault have increased in number in younger grades. Education of younger kids when it comes to sexual assault is not really talked about. According to the article “To Prevent Sexual Assault, Schools And Parents Start Lessons Early” by Tovia Smith, “attitudes need to be adjusted when kids are young” ( Smith 3). In high-school programs that discuss sexual assault and even health classes seem to be less effective with older students. What may work for a 9th grader, will not work for a 12th grader. “It just makes sense when kids go through puberty, that’s when their ideas about sex and beliefs and behaviors are forming, so that’s really a critical period” (Smith 4) During this critical period of teenagers’ lives, they should be thoroughly informed about the normal behaviors of interacting with the people around them versus the interactions that often times blindly violate and invade one’s sexual privacy.
As a society we tend to judge women’s actions more than those of men. We value women who are vocal about their sexual relations way less than the ones that keep quiet. By relating morality with a woman’s sex life has led to many women not voicing the unfortunate events in their lives such as sexual abuse. There is no instance in which it’s acceptable to blame a rape victim of the crime that has happened to them. We have to become aware of the fact that even if the victims had went along with society’s norms, that wouldn’t make them “unrapeable.” Instead of continuously blaming rape victims, we have to start teaching and educating our boys that it is never okay to sexually interact with a woman without consent.