Girl Talk

Stop Defining Us By Our Sex(uality)

When Rosea Lake’s ‘Judgments’ photo of skirt lengths started making the internet rounds, I thought maybe it was time to pull together the thoughts on slut/prude-shaming (sex-shaming?) that have been floating around my head lately, and put them into writing. Then a friend posted it to Facebook. Which is fine. Except then people commented. And kept commenting. And… uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh.

“I guess I’m just proper.”

“I fall somewhere between prudish and matronly!”

“Between flirty and proper. Usually closer to proper.”




I was just going to write about how arbitrary it is to define women, or anyone, by their sexuality, and how it contributes to marginalization and objectification and all that. Now I have to go on a tangent about how easily women fall into letting themselves be objectified? Come on, guys. It’s 2013. We’ve got a Congress to run and maths to pwn and all sorts of other fun not-medieval things to do.

The idea that so many women looked at this photo and saw, not a commentary on how we’re judged, but a fun game of “oooh which one is meeeeee” is horrifying. It’s like the time my friend shoved a TigerBeat under my nose and told me to pick which Backstreet Boy I liked, because I was a tween girl so clearly I had to be in love with one of them (I wasn’t, though the dude with the goatee made me really uncomfortable). I mean, if we don’t all pick an archetype to fit, people will have to think and other hard things just to get to know us! How do you even define yourself by one of  the notches in Lake’s photo, let alone why? If you’re a serial monogamist who has a drunken one-night stand in between two relationships, are you old fashioned or a slut? Does it actually matter, or are you just a human person doing things with their life? (Answer: human person! Yay!)

It doesn’t matter. These labels are arbitrary and serve to categorize people based on their sexuality. Oftentimes they are also meant to be insulting – it’s gross to be a slut and lame to be a prude. It’s not the same kind of insult as calling someone stupid, though (not saying sluts are stupid, just comparing insult options). “Stupid,” like “intelligent,” “insightful,” or “funny,” to name a few, is an adjective, a trait, something that describes a person. “Slut” and “prude” and everything in between are nouns – they’re not descriptive, just categorical. There’s no such thing as a slut, it’s a social construct that exploits a person’s private life to marginalize them, which is why the difference between labeling someone and noting one of their traits matters.

We’ve been talking about this for decades, and I wish we could stop already. I’m tired of conversations about sexualizing women, of the books and movies that talk about being a slut if you kiss someone too soon and a prude if you don’t, because when you’re trying to connect with someone you’re into, that’s what it should be about and not some archaic patriarchal idea about the worth of your vagina that dates back to the days when women had no rights and could be price-tagged in sheep. I’m tired of people who assume you’re a slut if you have boobs, and a prude when you’re more interested in being a person with them than f*cking.

Which isn’t to say every single person is a shallow jerk, but these ideas are around, and do inform a lot of people’s perceptions, which makes it really hard for me to get through a week without encountering some mind-bogglingly ignorant sh*t. We all somehow still have it ingrained in us that women are inherently here to be sexed with, and the body they had no control over growing into defines that. Fun fact: one person’s sexual disappointment has no bearing on the other’s worth.

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  • Jaclyn Rogerson

    *round of applause* not even going to start with how amazing this is. thank you

    • Julia Gazdag

    • Julia Gazdag

      (I CAN’T STOP POSTING GIFS. What I meant was: thank you! Yay!)

  • Sly Hg Tly TyghTy

    it is So wrong to judge people and yourselves by the length of ones clothes! I Would however like to relatively point out that if there were a stereotypical scale to judge the Males ?horn-dog’ levels all you really have to do is flip the scale upside down on the manipulated woman. I know it doesn’t mater what woman wear that makes me attracted, but how they act. being said after years of being around testosterone craze Guys some people have no shame or reservations to act like dogs & it does take me about a day to unwind and gather my own respective self in my head-space to get out of the predatory man mentality. though even if i have spent all my time that month with my female friends and successfully driven every provocative imagination out of my mind, when a girl walks by fully sporting butt cleavage, i should not be blamed if that makes me want to say “Woof” under my breath; to myself or whoever is next to me… though i am sorry and would like to apologize for my actions after or ahead of time. so clothes can be a great judge of character even if it is Difficult or hard to judge who’s the one being characterized!
    also keep in mind everyone wants to blame the fashion industry for style unless you really know that poverty and prison has had probably a even bigger hand in American style over the years (that’s why i always try to “respect” clothing options and accessories) if you don’t have something Nice to say don’t say it (becasue they might not have anything nice to wear (p.s. those boys are not acting Nice they are acting like little boys you should not entertain some of these people only looking for entertainment and eye candy) it makes the real people in and around your life very turned off that you would find any part of it attractive… whether it is his attraction of you that you like or the way you find yourself attractive; they are both huge turn offs that tell people not to waist time to try and be nice to you because something is wrong about that and the whole scenario is sick (steer away as not to be categorized accordingly!) but we do wish we could fix it somehow and we know care is all anybody needs. not that kind of affection or attraction (i would love to give you some but not if putdowns are involved. being damaged and insulting hurts everyone (and abuse is a nasty cycle) where as forgiveness last forever as one great resolve (wear forgiving clothes and be the kind of nice to yourself and others that doesn’t create opportunity to be sorry. that way anyone can find you pretty beautiful especially the people you want to attract soulfully… essentially your soul-mate (have an open mind, not an open heart- your heart is a special place that deserves a invitation and RSVP)

  • Carly Vinkavich

    Beautiful Article. You really pin-pointed the “She was asking for it” mentality that so many people have. Thank you for writing this.

  • Agnes Ong

    Thank you for speaking my mind. Every human person needs to read this!

  • Ana Campomizzi

    I loved this so much! Now if only we could get everyone to read this the world may just be a better place. : )

  • Beata Weidinger

    Thanks for thit article, it was really great :)

  • Bethany Freshour

    Thank you so much for this article! I loved what you said about there being no such thing as a “slut” or a “prude.” Preach it lady!

  • Veronica Basye

    I like this article. It was very well thought out. In contrast, I think that we as individuals tend to grade and compare ourselves on different levels in many ways. Though it may not seem healthy, it’s just an attempt at being more self-aware, and perhaps having a sense of humor about it. I don’t think that those comments were as well thought out as your post (part of being human – we’re not always deep).
    I agree that we should live our lives beyond our labels (the ones imposed upon us, as well as those we impose upon ourselves), yet it’s something that we must do for ourselves, not just to spite others. Take the definition for “slut”, for instance; someone may be called a slut because of rumors pertaining to her private life, something unwarranted, whereas one may may make aspects of her own private life public and do things that are outrageous to get a response, then cries about the the negative attention she is getting. Though many may use the word “slut” to describe her, it still is an inappropriate word to use (especially if the one using that word sees him/her self as the better person). The question for me is would I want my daughter to wear a very short skirt and the answer is no. Would I want her to post daring photos on facebook (or whatever social tool is used by her generation)? No. Though I believe that labels demean the labeler and their target, I also believe that there is behavior that can avert that kind of attention. Self respect is important.

  • Megan Scott

    the last paragraph just summed it up beautifully, lovely article, seemed to have written down my thoughts but in a much better manner, also love the gifs (yay clueless!)

  • Toeknee V. Catonya

    Well said.

    I am normally that guy trolling with a quick feminist bash trying to get a rile out of everyone, but I have to say you hit some key points. I have been witness (and also arrested for intervening) to some pretty sick F*cks out there treating girls like objects… I am no saint. I had my fair share of playing with their emotions in High School, but I was younger and naive.

    I have a younger sister and although we don’t always get along she knows I am the first one to call if some guy messes with her (as mentioned above I have been arrested for this before). My father taught me at a young age “you don’t lay a hand on a girl, for any reason”, and my father is a great man so I have never veered from at least that one request.

    Anyways here I am still posting… (like I said, I dug the article) so I think it is time to let some other readers have their say.

    Thanks for the good read… Tough to find on the internet these days.

  • Chelsie Jordan

    “which makes it really hard for me to get through a week without encountering some mind-bogglingly ignorant sh*t.” Lol!! That part cracked me up and I totally feel you.

    Wonderful article! Everyone is different and will do what they feel is right for them. Some people will kiss on the first date, some wont. Some people will have sex after a month or more of dating, some will sooner. Some people will even wait ’till they’re married. There is no “right” way that everyone in the entire world should follow, or fit in to. It all depends on you and how you and that person are feeling.

    Life is crazy and will throw twists and turns at you. You may stay with the same person for years, thinking you’re going to marry them someday, but then you break up and a month later you have sex with someone else. That doesn’t make you a slut, you were just doing what you felt was right for you at the time. This is why people can’t be categorized into groups like “Slut” or “prude”. Because some who has a one night stand isn’t always going to have one night stands, eventually they might meet someone and want to be in a relationship. And someone who’s in a relationship might not be in that relationship forever, and then find themselves wanting a one night stand.

    But i’m just referring to what people do in their private life, how you dress is another story, if you walk around in a tube bra and super short shorts, you may get called a slut haha. I agree with Veronica Basye when she says self respect is important.

  • Catrin Morgan

    Wonderful article and can I just say how much I love that John Spencer/Leo gif!!!

    • Julia Gazdag

  • Mary Elizabeth Cancilla

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU. Someone putting into words my own thoughts on this very same photo! I was shocked and disappointed when some of my own friends took this photo as a legitimate rule for how women should dress. Best read of today’s internet browsings.

  • Joe L Hughes

    Good article a lot of good points made, you even consider the effect these ideas have on the whole human population not just how it effects women. But why blame these judgements on an invisible all powerful unverifiable notion of patriarchy? Its like a lazy fundamentalist that doesn’t want to do the homework on evolution and just declares “god did it” Why do people call scantily clad women sluts? Why are men that spend money on bling and cars to get girls called douches? “patriarchy did it”? If men are subjected to the same judgments and not benefiting how does patriarchy fit the bill? An overly simple explanation that just perpetuates the narrow rigid feminist gender narrative, and does not expose the real problems or offer any solution

    • Cassandra Goodwin

      I think perhaps you missed some of the finer points made here. The only mention of the patriarchy is saying that the ideas of slut and prude are figments of a “patriarchially low-brow imagination”. The author didn’t say patriarchy did it – they actually specifically stated that people too lazy to get to know other people who were looking for quick categories to assign people “did it.”

      • Joe L Hughes

        “because when you’re trying to connect with someone you’re into, that’s what it should be about and not some archaic patriarchal idea about the worth of your vagina that dates back to the days when women had no rights and could be price-tagged in sheep.”

        It should be about connecting with people not “old patriarchal ideas”

        Yes the author is stating “patriarchy” is the reason people judge and categorize. Still doesn’t add up, still doesn’t address real reasons, still offers no real solution, still perpetuates feminism’s narrow rigid definitions of gender.

  • Ana Luiza Gussen

    First of all, greetings from Brasil. Well, gotta say, it’s really good to see these ideals being discussed like this! Here in Brasil. we have, what is called “Marcha das Vadias”, something like, Bitches’ March, where women fight for their (our) rights, getting as much attention as possible, and say NO to violence against them (us). Our society is based, even though people try (hard) to deny it, on a really sexist structure, that somehow blames women for the violence they suffer! And this been going for so long that sometimes (not rarely) even women blame themselves for it, as if they deserved that . I mean, how absurd is to hear that, as you said “Come on, guys. It’s 2013″… IT’S FREAKING 2013! I guess it’s easier to blame women behavior, when she’s been raped, or abused (sexually and psychologically) than to actually solve the problem. Let’s get as much attention as we can for this, then, maybe, society will wake up for the actual problem.
    Thanks for bringing up this topic, and motivate this kind of discussions.
    Ana Luiza Gussen.

    • Krystal Powell

      I agree with you. I actually had a female friend quit a religion of hers because she was being beat by her husband and when she finally had the guts to tell someone her church official told her that she should have been a better wife. Society loves to blame women.

  • Bob Smith

    I have never seen a greater bunch of over sensitive pantywaist crybabies freakout about somebody judging them on their personal choices in life before. So what babycakes?!?!? If someone drinks and drives, do we judge them for this bad decision? Hell, yes we do! Do we judge all drinkers? Hell, no we don’t! We are judging the CHOICE, not the man or woman than indulges the occasional intoxicating beverage. When you make a stupid decision, utter a stupid phrase out of your ignorant mouth, make a dumb over-generalization about something everyone already knows just isn’t the case, someone has a right to express their amazement at your “slut logic” as Jenna Mourney humorously puts it. When you go to the doctor, and you tell him it hurts to pee, he/she asks you clinically, ” Exactly how many people have you had unprotected sex with recently.?” Is the doctor now judging your precious liberty as a modern woman in this world? Actually, like most people with common sense, they are trying to ascertain exactly how big of a slut you are to figure out the possible self-destruction you have inflicted upon your BODY and to prevent its spread. We are judged by our choices in life, right and wrong choices. Women are wonderful as separating the BODY from the MIND, why not in regards to unprotected sexuality? What is so hard to wrap your mind around in regards to making BAD CHOICES and make BAD DECISIONS? It is a bad choice to have unprotected sex with lots of random people and that habitually makes bad choices like that, BE PREPARED to be judged upon those bad decisions you make. Deal with it! No amount of squirming around the subject by using feminism is going to convince anyone else that being a dumb unprotected slut is a good thing. Nobody, except enabling those who make a career for themselves out of bad decisions in life. I’m really tired of people who make excuses for other people who make bad decisions for themselves. I’m all for educating them, and not everyone can afford a college woman studies course either. If telling young people that being a slut and having unprotected sex is bad with random people you don’t really know isn’t important or correct – when it is correct to tell them about making important life decisions? After they are infected with HIV or some other STD? You can do better. Grow up.

    • Katie M Leaming

      Bob – Where in this article does she say it’s ok to have unprotected sex!? I’m pretty sure you’ve missed the point.

      • Krystal Powell

        Lmfao, some of these comments crack me up.

    • Richard Cadman

      What a dumb response. The doctor specifically says UNPROTECTED sex…he doesn’t care if you are a hooker as long as its protected, if you had unprotected sex with one person you risked your health and he needs to know that.

      Having lots of safe sex is not something to be judged. Having lots of unprotected sex is because your risking your health (scratch that, risking your life) and all the people your sleeping with.

      So all in all, why the hell are you even bringing up STDs? It has nothing to do with the article!

    • Hannah Genevieve Jefferson

      Can we just talk about the fact that this person has compared drinking and driving (something that is an extremely high potential of harm) and consensual sex?

    • Chelsea Zoom Kaboom Howard

      What on earth does unprotected sex have to do with skirt lengths? Isn’t this article about how we are judged by our femininity, and how judged women are to the point of even losing sight of ourselves and criticizing other women for these silly standards?

  • Nadav Shatz

    The human race is stupid, it’s stupid and it’s ignorant. But not all of it tho, and i am tired of talking about it as well. But that is something we need to learn to accept. not saying that i condone it.

    The way i see it, you either learn to live with it and move on, or suffer being upset about it. but i never believed in ones power to change others anyway.

    • Laura Colomer Barrachina

      But isn’t accepting it almost the same as condoning it? Accepting it is having a passive attitude towards the issue and doesn’t help at all.
      I do agree that it’s almost impossible to change other people, but by not going along with it, you make society progress (since we all are part of society).

  • Reagan Stevens

    just saying, that also as a tall woman (6’1″ to be exact) i really have no choice but to wear a cheeky to flirty length skirt. they just aren’t made for big and tall whores like myself. ; )

  • Ste Gough

    I think someone needs to get laid… :p

    • Sara Fortson

      There is always this guy.

  • Niko Lina

    People seriously need to stop judging each other. As long as all the people involved are grown up and legally sane it’s nobody else’s business and no one else is in a position to judge. Period. Who is anyone to tell another person how he or, mostly, she is supposed to live her life? Mind your own business and leave other people alone (well, except maybe it’s a good friend and you think she might be harming herself with her behavior then talk about it but for heaven’s sake STOP JUDGING OTHER PEOPLE!).

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