Why I refuse to participate in slut-shaming | Survivor Saturday

For starters, what is it? “Slut-shaming” was coined to describe the attacking, criticizing, demeaning, or “shaming” of a girl or woman for transgressing the sexual conduct rules of a particular group. I’m sure anyone who has grown up in America can think of plenty of examples.

But wait, Rebecca, what are you saying? Are we just supposed to be accepting of any and all sexual behavior? Are we supposed to throw all standards of morality and decency out the window? Are you saying that self-esteem and tolerance is more important than obeying God? Don”t you believe in the Bible any more?

Excellent questions, and I will attempt to address them while explaining the reasons for my commitment, before God, not to engage in slut-shaming:

  • The Bible does not command us to engage in slut-shaming. We are never told to respond to sin with gossip, name-calling, derision, mocking, or any other attempts to humiliate and degrade someone. Instead, the Bible says, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1 NASB) Keep that verse in mind, because it is the very antithesis of slut-shaming.
  • Jesus did not engage in anything even remotely similar to slut-shaming. He treated all women with dignity and compassion, offering redemption and reconciliation rather than condemnation. That is why one of the most extravagant acts of worship and loving devotion recorded in Scripture came from a woman described as a “sinner”. (See Luke 7:37-50.)
  • Slut-shaming imposes an anti-Biblical standard. Before you jump to conclusions and exclaim, “Aha! I knew it! Another so-called Christian who thinks it’s OK to run around having sex with anyone and everyone!” — hear me out. First, read a pertinent passage from the Bible:

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” (John 8:3-11 NASB)

Notice who is missing from this story? How could a woman be caught in adultery all by herself? We can speculate what it was that Jesus wrote on the ground, or what particular sins made the Pharisees slink away in their own shame, but what is beyond question is that Jesus refused to participate in such gross injustice. When we act as if women engage in immoral sexual behavior all by themselves, we are perpetuating injustice.

  • If I claim to follow Jesus, I should follow His example. Yes, I fail miserably. All the time. But that is no excuse to respond to anyone — even someone caught in the very act of adultery — in a way that runs contrary to my Savior’s response of, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on, sin no more.”
  • Slut-shaming says nothing about the gospel, but everything about my bad attitude towards the target of my accusations. The good news of Jesus Christ is never, “You’re a slut!” I can’t pretend to be enamored and grateful to a glorious God of redemption and reconciliation while withholding that amazing grace from someone else — just so that I can lob verbal hand grenades in her direction.
  • Slut-shaming is demeaning to men. Whether we are venting about the “home-wrecking skank” who ran off with our friend’s husband or fussing about teenage girls “dressing like sluts”, we are saying a lot about our low opinions of men. Apparently the poor, weak dears are slaves to their hormones, which is why we don’t judge them equally harshly for their sexual misdeeds. Everyone knows they are visual creatures, helpless to resist the evil wiles of those slutty seductresses…sorry, I’m not buying it. I refuse to treat men as less than fully human, moral agents.
  • Slut-shaming isn’t about upholding morality; it’s about attacking the character, heart and humanity of someone created in the very image of God. Let’s get off our high horses and stop smugly claiming to “hate the sin while loving the sinner”. It’s easy to hate other people’s sins — why not try hating our own for a change? If we are really honest, though, we have to admit that slut-shaming is personal. We aren’t crusading for decency as much as we are on a vendetta against this particular person — otherwise, why would we be attacking, demeaning, and shaming her, instead of assuring her that she is not her sin?
  • Slut-shaming ignores and perpetuates the deep wounds of broken people. I know some women who take issue with me on this one. “Just because we enjoy a full expression of our sexuality outside of marriage doesn’t mean we are broken or reacting to past sexual trauma. It just means we like sex and we don’t agree with outdated ideas about it,” they will tell me. That doesn’t mean I can toss compassion out the window, ignore everything I’ve just written, and say, “Well, then I guess you really are a slut after all.”

But the thing is, we don’t always know everyone’s story, even if we think we do. And we might be running around with all sorts of misinformation, wrong ideas, judgmental notions, rape myths, and prejudices in our heads. If she really had been raped, she wouldn’t be sleeping around now…She should hate sex, after what she claims…I’ve seen how she acts; she must have been asking for it…She probably seduced that older guy, instead of the other way around…Child sexual abuse victims don’t act that way…Rape victims don’t act that way…Even if she was raped, that’s no excuse for sin…Since we don’t know people’s stories, we may need to keep our mouths shut. We never know the destructive power our words might have.

  • When we slut-shame the survivors of sexual trauma and abuse, we are repeating the messages of their abusers. We are perpetuating the lies told them by the tormentor of their souls. We become abusers as well. If you think I am overstating my case, read Nikki’s story, especially this: “The dead corpse of my soul was surrounded by a body that was good enough to take, but never good enough to keep.” As survivors, until we begin healing, that’s the sort of things we believe about ourselves. That’s the devastating reality of our lives. Sometimes our abuse began when we were so young, that it may have rendered chaste sexual behavior not only seemingly impossible, but an utterly foreign concept. When we comment on someone’s sexual behavior, will we further batter the already battered? Heap shame upon shame? Crush the bruised and broken? Pour salt on their wounds? Or will we offer hope by showing Jesus to them, to each other, to ourselves?

Those are reasons why I purpose, as a follower of Jesus, not to engage in any slut-shaming of anyone. But there is a far greater reason why I hope never to add to anyone’s shame. Jesus, my precious Savior, bore my shame on the Cross. He took all that shame on Himself — the shame I’ve suffered because of my own sins and failures, and the shame I’ve suffered at the hands of others — He took it all. Knowing that, how can I attempt to place shame on anyone else?

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