I Am Not a Slut: Slut-Shaming in the Age of the Internet

I Am Not a Slut: Slut-Shaming in the Age of the Internet

by Leora Tanenbaum
     
 

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The author of the groundbreaking work Slut! explores the phenomenon of slut-shaming in the age of sexting, tweeting, and “liking.” She shows that the sexual double standard is more dangerous than ever before and offers wisdom and strategies for alleviating its destructive effects on young women’s lives.

Young women are encouraged to

Overview

The author of the groundbreaking work Slut! explores the phenomenon of slut-shaming in the age of sexting, tweeting, and “liking.” She shows that the sexual double standard is more dangerous than ever before and offers wisdom and strategies for alleviating its destructive effects on young women’s lives.

Young women are encouraged to express themselves sexually. Yet when they do, they are derided as “sluts.” Caught in a double bind of mixed sexual messages, young women are confused. To fulfill the contradictory roles of being sexy but not slutty, they create an “experienced” identity on social media-even if they are not sexually active—while ironically referring to themselves and their friends as “sluts.”

But this strategy can become a weapon used against young women in the hands of peers who circulate rumors and innuendo—elevating age-old slut-shaming to deadly levels, with suicide among bullied teenage girls becoming increasingly common. Now, Leora Tanenbaum revisits her influential work on sexual stereotyping to offer fresh insight into the digital and face-to-face worlds contemporary young women inhabit. She shares her new research, involving interviews with a wide range of teenage girls and young women from a variety of backgrounds as well as parents, educators, and academics. Tanenbaum analyzes the coping mechanisms young women currently use and points them in a new direction to eradicate slut-shaming for good.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
11/17/2014
In 1999’s Slut! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation, Tanenbaum coined the term “slut-bashing,” which she defines as a “specific form of student-to-student verbal sexual harassment in which a... girl is bullied because of her perceived or actual sexual behavior.” In her new book, the author, who holds a senior position at Planned Parenthood, argues vehemently for the complete abolition of the word “slut” (even when used endearingly among friends or in a politicized attempt to take ownership of the term). Two historical events—the rise of the Internet and the highly publicized SlutWalks of 2011—have occasioned this follow up, in which Tanenbaum laments, “Female bodies have no privacy. They are visible, tagged, posted, circulated, tracked, rated, judged, ‘liked.’ ” Tanenbaum reflects on highly publicized stories of suicide: 17-year-old Alexis Pilkington of Long Island in 2010, who was called a slut on the anonymous confessional website Formspring; 12-year-old Gabrielle Molina of Queens in 2013, after similar experiences online. Meanwhile, in 2011 and 2012, thousands of women across the country marched in solidarity to take ownership of the word. Tanenbaum argues, “To most people, ‘slut’ means ‘disgusting woman who deserves to be shamed.’ ” In other words, “Most people aren’t in on the joke, which creates more problems than it solves.” Tanenbaum’s thesis is timely, provocative, and clearly stated, but the big question that remains is whether her hard line on the subject is realistic or productive. (Feb.)
Booklist (starred review)
“This brilliant, thoughtful, and compelling investigation of young womanhood commands the reader’s attention from beginning to end.”
Bookish
“Gives a generation of tweeting young women some thoughtful and well-researched advice about how to conduct their digital lives . . . Feminists young and old: this book is for you.”
Book Riot
“What are girls to do when the same culture that encourages them to express their sexuality calls them sluts for doing just that? It’s a big, important question, and Tanenbaum is up to the task of exploring it.”
Rebecca Traister
“This thoroughly researched, galvanizing book will serve as a crucial tool for young women and their families. Tanenbaum navigates the perilous waters young women are swimming . . . and offers them a guide to make it safely to shore.”
Aisha Tyler
“I recommend this book to anyone who cares about girls and young women and wants to understand the heartbreaking challenges they face as they grow into their sexuality.”
Elissa Schappell
“Profoundly eye-opening book about the dangerous world young women are forced to negotiate and the blind-eye all too often turned toward it by their peers, adults, and even the media. It should be required reading.”
Andi Zeisler
“Absolutely crucial read . . .Tanenbaum’s empathetic look at how today’s expectations of performative identity can undermine real, healthy sexuality is heartbreaking. With any luck, it will also galvanize a much-needed shift, challenging each of us to consider how we participate in creating the world these girls navigate.”
-Andi Zeisler
“For parents, for educators, and—most important—for girls themselves, I Am Not a Slut is an absolutely crucial read . . . With any luck, it will also galvanize a much-needed shift, challenging each of us to consider how we participate in creating the world these girls navigate.”
Library Journal
12/01/2014
Fifteen years ago, Tanenbaum examined the social dynamics and personal costs of slut bashing in Slut! Here the author returns to the cultural narrative of "the slut" and explores how it has and hasn't changed in response to our increasingly networked lives. Drawing on interviews with girls and young women from a range of backgrounds, she documents how our society continues to patrol female sexuality by targeting promiscuous females and identifying supposedly "slutty" behavior. While some activists have tried to reclaim the word slut, Tanenbaum argues that as long as girls and women are punished for being (or not being) sexual on the world's terms rather than their own, the term will remain a pejorative slur. At times, the author's focus on the slut narrative seems forced; can this single paradigm really do justice to the complexity that is social responses to women's bodies and sexual expression today? VERDICT Best read in the context of other contemporary works on the policing of women's sexuality, as well as the growing literature on Internet-based harassment and violence. Sure to be widely embraced by those interested in gender and sexual inequalities.—Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, Massachusetts Historical Soc. Lib., Boston
Kirkus Reviews
2014-11-06
An enthusiastic update on the state of female sexual liberation in contemporary society. Fifteen years after her well-received book on sexual stereotyping, Slut! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation (1999), grass-roots feminist Tanenbaum (Taking Back God: American Women Rising Up for Religious Equality, 2008, etc.) still bristles at the "contradictory landscape in which females are applauded for sexual audacity when they're not being humiliated and disgraced." As the Internet's omnipresence continues to realign attitudes regarding what constitutes appropriate behavioral standards, the author revisits former arguments on issues of female empowerment and verbal sexual harassment, refreshing her research with new interviews with girls on the frontlines of name-calling and bullying. She updates readers on what has changed on the name-calling landscape, noting that the term "slut" has "metastasized" outward throughout our culture, with girls often reclaiming the term to defuse it in mutual conversation. Tanenbaum makes potent use of the anecdotal material she's collected from a wide variety of young women, mostly students, which makes the text useful for concerned educators. Their experiences illustrate the viciousness of social mudslinging, which takes the form of online and direct-contact verbal bullying ("slut-bashing") and diffused, casual judgmentalism ("slut-shaming"). The "razor-thin" contradictory line between "sexy" and "slutty" shows up in the most provocative chapter, which depicts girls who ineffectively attempt to be sartorially sultry while avoiding male sexualization or worse, rape. In the final chapters, Tanenbaum arms parents and budding professional women with helpful, if somewhat canned, advice addressing modern society's "sexual double standard" and how to avoid becoming a victim of harassment. In a reliably approachable tone, the author seeks to empower and not chastise, optimistically promoting the incremental elimination of societal slut-shaming with education and the self-actualization of young women. A significant, spirited analysis sure to be embraced by feminists and deserving of wide attention.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062282606
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
02/03/2015
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
569,202
File size:
743 KB

Meet the Author

Leora Tanenbaum is the author of Slut! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation and a rising young talent of journalism today. She has written for Newsday, Seventeen, Ms., and The Nation, among others, and appears regularly on a variety of national television programs. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

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