The concept of slut shaming is often associated with an inequality between male and female sexual expression. Men are praised for high levels of sexual activity while women are maligned. The majority of this social warfare was thought to be a product of male bias, but a new study suggests slut shaming is a powerful social tool for women to use against other women.
Researchers observed and interviewed college-aged women in a campus setting. They found slut shaming to be a form of abuse women from affluent families used to disparage women from less fortunate social circumstances. Shame was about income, not sex although sexual expression was the target of the attack.
This isn’t a new phenomenon. The upper classes in societies throughout history have engaged in broad types of sexual expression and denied the same activity to lower social groups. Erotica and manuals of sexual techniques have been hidden away in private libraries. Only the rich could afford the services of concubines, courtesans or prostitutes. In modern eras, both the church and the state impose a sexually restrictive morality on the general population as they indulge in any and every sexual option imaginable.
This systemic sexual repression is a form of class warfare designed to restrict upward mobility. Erotic capital, like financial, social and intellectual capital are transferable, giving a person with one type of capital the ability to trade it in for other types of social currency. (See Erotic Capital by Catherine Hakim) The difference between erotic capital and other forms is its distribution. Beauty, sex appeal and physical ability can’t be hoarded by certain classes and passed down through generations. In theory, anyone from any class can achieve a high degree of erotic capital. If
Sexual intelligence and independence in sexual expression could be effective counter measures for this type of social warfare, but few women of any class have the training to develop those traits. (See Love in the Time of Smartphones) Until we treat sexual expression as a fundamental dynamic of society, tactics like slut shaming will continue to have a detrimental effect on everyone.