Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Slut-Shaming or Guilt-Tripping

Reputation counts. It counts for men and it counts for women.

Yet, a woman’s reputation is more closely connected to her sexual behavior. As the terms ae commonly used, a woman’s honor is not the same as a man’s honor. A woman’s honor involves her sexual behavior far more than a man’s does.

The derogatory term promiscuity almost always refers to women. When a man has a large number of sexual partners, his “number” will be considered a sign of achievement, not a sign of weak character.

When a woman garners a reputation for being promiscuous she will be more likely to lose friends and suffer social isolation. Other women will shun her and men will not want to get involved in a relationship with her. Even women whose reputations are less than sterling avoid women who are thought to be promiscuous.

Today’s young people say that they are comfortable with promiscuous behaviors, but they still tend to choose their personal friends by more traditional, even judgmental criteria.

The data supporting these observations were gathered by Cornell University graduate student Zhana Vrangalova and colleagues. Susan Walsh offers a comprehensive analysis of Vrangalova’s findings on Hooking Up Smart.

Walsh quotes Vrangalova’s conclusions:

Sexual permissiveness can be defined as attitudes or behaviors that are more liberal or extensive than what is normative in a social group. It can include actual or desired frequent, premarital, casual, group, or extradyadic sex, sex with many partners, early sexual debut, or even nonverbal cues signalizing availability (e.g., provocative clothing).

There are evolutionary and sociocultural reasons for the undesirability of permissiveness across interpersonal contexts, including same-sex friendships. Permissive people are more likely to be sexually unfaithful to a mate (Bailey, Kirk, Zhu, Dunne, & Martin, 2000) and to poach someone else’s mate (Schmitt, 2004). This is costly for both sexes: It threatens paternity certainty for men, and continued provision of partner resources for women (Buss & Schmitt, 1993)

This renders permissive individuals undesirable as partners as well as close same-sex friends, and distancing oneself from permissive friends could be an effective mate guarding strategy (Bleske & Shackelford, 2001). 

Evolutionary psychology explains these choices. Young women reject women who might “poach” their men.

But since we are also known by the company we keep, a woman will surely choose friends whose good character reflects well on her own.

Vrangalova suggests that since promiscuity is stigmatized, a woman might want to avoid associating with anyone who bears it. Most people do not advertise promiscuity, so a woman who wants to assert her good character will choose friends who have good reputations.  

The data is clear and intelligible. Yet, Vrangalova takes it a step further when she concludes that the women who ostracize their promiscuous cohorts are being judgmental and are engaging in slut-shaming.

Science Daily summarizes the argument:

The findings suggest that though cultural and societal attitudes about casual sex have loosened in recent decades, women still face a double standard that shames "slutty" women and celebrates "studly" men, said lead author Zhana Vrangalova, a Cornell graduate student in the field of human development. The study, titled "Birds of a Feather? Not When it Comes to Sexual Permissiveness" and published in the early online edition of theJournal of Social and Personal Relationships, reports that such social isolation may place promiscuous women at greater risk for poor psychological and physical health outcomes.

"For sexually permissive women, they are ostracized for being 'easy,' whereas men with a high number of sexual partners are viewed with a sense of accomplishment," Vrangalova said. "What surprised us in this study is how unaccepting promiscuous women were of other promiscuous women when it came to friendships -- these are the very people one would think they could turn to for support."

Vrangalova might have concluded, as Susan Walsh does, that women who know that they will be ostracized for being promiscuous will rethink their behavior and regain their good reputations.  

She doesn’t. She prefers to provoke sympathy and empathy for the promiscuous women who are being shunned by their friends. If promiscuous women suffer emotionally for their behavior, the fault  must lie in those who are “slut-shaming” them.

It’s important to understand the strategy here. It’s a psy-ops in the culture wars. Vrangalova did not invent it; she is simply passing it along.

If a woman chooses her friends by the “content of their character,” she will be responsible for the negative psychological effects that their promiscuous sisters suffer.

Any woman who exercises her judgment of character in choosing her friends is engaging in slut-shaming. Vrangalova is thus trying to guilt-trip her out of her freely exercised judgment.

Women who judge the character of their friends are being condemned for being judgmental and are being told that they are responsible for the emotional anguish suffered by promiscuous women.

Obviously, this suggests that the only real problem with promiscuity is that the culture thinks ill of such women. In the world that culture warriors are trying to create, behaving promiscuously is perfectly acceptable. Slut-shaming is abhorrent. Guilt-tripping the slut-shamers then becomes virtuous.

If you were wondering how the hookup culture gained a foothold on American college campuses, credit the psy-ops of cultural warriors.

It’s a blow against freedom. The guilt-trippers are telling you that you do not have the right to choose your friends  according to the criteria that make sense to you. The culture warriors are telling you that you are not allowed to judge anyone’s character because you will hurt that person’s feelings.

Yet, if judging a person’s character makes perfectly good sense according to evolutionary psychology, perhaps promiscuity is damaging to body and soul.

Shunning such women is the only way that women have left to try to encourage their promiscuous friends to mend their ways.

15 comments:

katzxy said...

I'm confused.
(1) Not judging who to sleep with: okay.
(2) Not judging who to be friends with: okay.
So the common theme here is that judging is not okay. I know it's a simplification, and that not "not judging" may be a little different from judging, but it's close.
But (3) judging those who are judicious is okay?

So I'm confused. When is judging okay?

The Deuce said...

The data is clear and intelligible. Yet, Vrangalova takes it a step further when she concludes that the women who ostracize their promiscuous cohorts are being judgmental and are engaging in slut-shaming.

It's especially ironic considering her hypothesis that the reason for women's choice of friends is a desire not to have their boyfriends poached. Vrangalova is basically telling them that they need to *like* having their boyfriends poached, and expose themselves to the risk more, lest sluts feel bad about themselves.

It's also ironic that she thinks it wrong to even indirectly and unintentionally cause anyone to feel shame for being ridden like a rent-a-bike, but directly shaming people simply for making friends they are comfortable with is apparently obligatory.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks to both for exposing the illogic behind her reasoning.

Bobbye said...

women are and have been evaluated based upon sexual reputation since civilization began and always will be. It cannot be changed. Men are evaluated by level of bravery or lack of. That also cannot be changed. That is why 'slutty' women will always be shamed as well as cowardly men. There is no way around it even if the wealth and resources of the world be devoted to it. Wise parents teach their children wisely. See Katzxy, I did not use the word judge at all. That's how it's done.

Anonymous said...

A woman I knew related a story of her first serious relationship, and she foolishly admitted to him that she wasn't a virgin, and he apparently used this against her many times to shame her, claiming he was a virgin and this was important to him and later on in some fight he admitted he wasn't.

The story surprised me, showing asymmetrical vulnerability, and that people who feel shame apparently feel relief when they can project their shame onto others, make themselves judge over someone else's behavior, while your own is safely hidden.

It would be easy to say my woman friend should have simply "stayed pure" and then she'd have been safe from this manipulative person, but I'm not convinced the pure route solves anything, i.e. if she had been PURE, perhaps she would have married this bastard liar, and felt HONORED that he ALSO waited for HER, and so it was her impurity that protected her!

So there's lots of perspectives. I agree reputations are king, and I guess that's also why many people hate small towns where your every misdeed is gossip knowledge, and prefer the anonymous city life, and if your "experimenting" causes trouble, you can "recreate" yourself in a new city. At least I think that seems to be an American trait, and we're all walking blindly into someone else's "new self" that may or may not be real.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

True enough... there are cultures where men expect their wives to be virgins. By all accounts these are increasingly rare. If a woman is dealing with a man who has such expectations, she should first know whether she is willing to conform to his cultural standards.

Also, as you suggest, a woman's past sexual history is none of her new beau's business... she is under no obligation to disclose it.

I agree with you that people do dislike small towns because it is impossible to keep secrets. Then again, when they arrive in the big city they feel out of place and anonymous.

Anonymous said...

"Also, as you suggest, a woman's past sexual history is none of her new beau's business... she is under no obligation to disclose it."

Stuart,

So...by your reasoning...it's no business of a man to know the previous sexual history if she happens to have an STD? That's total garbage. If that's the prevailing attitude and given the fact that a large amount of women do, in fact, have some sort of STD, then I'm steering clear of the minefield that is today's relationship. .

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Disclosing an infection is not the same as disclosing past sexual history. Huh?

Sam L. said...

Judgmental is about as bad a thing to be called as raaaaacist, and maybe even worse.

The war on women, by Vrangalova.

Anonymous said...

I've found that many people may be curious about their partner's sexual history, but rarely does that conversation turn out well. In many cases, it introduces uncomfortable feelings or resentment. If you can't deal with this aspect of your partner's past, then it's probably best not to ask.

As far as the STI's go, I'd have to agree with you Stuart. I can't imagine the best way to broach this subject would be to ask someone to recount past sexual encounters. It's a matter of health and best approached that way. In some cases it may even involve legal obligations to disclose to your partner.

Be careful, it can very well be a minefield out there too.

Anonymous said...

Stuart,

Um...where do you think the woman got the STD? It wasn't by licking an envelope. It was sex (hence the term sexually transmitted disease). STDs and sex are very much linked and you're completely kidding yourself if you think otherwise.

Memphis Steve said...

The logic of the Left is simply this: we are always right and what we argue always leads to us getting something we want at your expense. If our arguments appear illogical, it is only because you don't realize what we're really after.

Anonymous said...

People on the "right" do not want something at the expense of the liberty of others when they wish to impose standards that curb or control the behavior of others?

I think they do just as much as those on the "left" who judge others and want to control their behavior. It is the same process with a different rationalization.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Wouldn't it be fair to say that all cultures impose rules on human behavior. Do you believe that table manners are an unjust imposition designed to repress your voracious appetite, or is there another reason why cultures impose them.

Anonymous said...

I am not saying that one can be free of "social rules."

I am saying that the desire to control the behavior of others is based on personal desires whether one identifies with "left" or "right" or whatever school of thought. Accusing the other side of self-righteousness is a form of hypocrisy when you want to control their behavior as much as they want to control your behavior. How to become more accepting of more patterns of behavior is the very heart of the problem of optimizing individual liberty, is it not?

Then tolerance of other cultures and behaviors is the essence of those who seek liberty, this is more an attitude on the "left" than on the "right," although we all want to curb and control the behavior of others that frightens us.