Questions of sexual morality are always difficult to answer, mostly because a lot of it is down to subjectivity and personal experience with sex. What might seem strange and taboo to one person is just an average Friday night for another. I want to consider how people react socially to sex and how attitudes differ.
We know women can be slut-shamed, but this article has another question in mind – can men be slut-shamed as well? The instinctive response is definitely no, men cannot be slut-shamed in the same way that women may be slut-shamed. We have all seen the consequences of this in public life: men who sleep with, or even attract a lot of female attention, are called “shaggers”, or if you’re an insufferable human being, “players”. Women, on the other hand, can be labelled “slags”, “sluts”, “easy”, “whores” et cetera, et cetera.
In the modern world, our idea of love and romance hasn’t really evolved much. Man meets woman, man pursues woman. This is the behaviour seen everyday in clubs, bars and anywhere else attraction strikes. This behaviour is often referred to as “playing the game” but if a man doesn’t stick to chasing around one woman, then he’s labelled as ‘easy’ – a veiled attack on his sexual promiscuity.
While this may seem like small in comparison to the shaming women receive – and it must be acknowledged that it mostly is – it is still shameful to be called ‘easy’ as a man. There’s nothing wrong with sleeping with as many people as you like, on the key caveat that nobody gets hurt. The culture of toxic masculinity enforces rigid rules and any deviation from it results in shaming from either or both sexes. It feels cheapening and objectifying. Worst of all, you feel like your agency has been taken away from you as you can’t make free choices without a disapproving eye on you.
What happens next time you want to pull in a club? What happens next time you’re spotted on a date? You can feel a sense of shame and grow self conscious. Because a man isn’t meant to be easy. To be masculine, traditionally, is to be staunch, to be hard to get, to be the pursuer rather than the pursued. Laughing at the ‘easy’ guy should be viewed for what it is – an attack on non-traditional masculinity, on someone who is confident in their own sexuality, and upholding the same chaste Victorian ideal that women suffer under.
[Gabriel Rutherford – he/him – @GabeRuth_]
Whilst it is possible for men to be shamed for their promiscuity, to use the term ‘slut-shaming’ is problematic and ignorant of the history behind the term. The term itself is generally always used when referencing and often shaming women. The term goes hand in hand with the culture of victim blaming which feeds into rape culture as a whole.
Moreover, whilst men may be deemed ‘easy’ in some way, these accusations do not affect men the same way they do women. This is seen clearly in Netflix’s ‘Sex Education’, in which the slut-shaming and false rumours surrounding Maeve’s sexual history continue to haunt her, with other characters calling her ‘cock biter’. She is ostracised for actions she did not even commit, yet this level of suffering is not seen to affect men. Similarly, in ‘Easy A’, Olive and Brandon pretend to have sex in order to boost his reputation. This results in him gaining the respect from fellow men, and her being slut-shamed and gaining a negative reputation. This reputation spirals out of control throughout the film and causes her to suffer greatly. In contrast, neither Brandon nor the other men she pretends to have sex with suffer because of it. In both of these instances, merely the suspicion that these women have had sex results in detrimental slut-shaming which is not mirrored with the men.
Furthermore, in recent years, the term ‘slut’ has been reclaimed by women, most notably through ‘slut walks’ in which some women dress as ‘sluts’ and call for an end of rape culture. This reclamation of the term is extremely important and can be viewed as a source of agency and power for women. Thus, in using the term ‘slut-shaming’ in relation to men, you are ignoring the wider context of the term, and the importance of its reclamation.
[Image credit: Gracie Hagen/flickr.com]