70 Percent of Middle, High School Students Experience “Slut Bashing” or Other Sexual Harrassment

November 28, 2011

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On Nov. 11, a 10-year-old girl called a “slut” by her classmates in Illinois, committed suicide.

By eighth grade, girls have already started to monitor the sexual conduct of other girls, according to researchers, and 70 percent of students have experienced some kind of non-physical sexual harassment, including sexual rumor spreading, also known as “slut bashing.”

However, girls and women who are labeled sluts may not even be sexually active, according to Dr. Maureen McHugh, professor of psychology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
McHugh has been researching “slut bashing” in relation to the double standard of sexuality.

“Many claim there is no sexual double standard anymore but levels of slut bashing suggest double standards still operate. Slut bashing is a common social practice.
“However, it becomes apparent immediately that the label slut is not really about objecting to the sexual behavior of a girl, but is used as a weapon to hurt girls and women. It is frequently not about the sexual behavior of the target. It is a weapon used by girls in adolescence to hurt other girls. It is a form of relational aggression.

“Why the label slut among adolescent girls who are probably not sexually active? Because negative attitudes towards female sexuality give the label slut power. According to students, the label is applied to someone of whom they are jealous, someone they don’t like or are angry with,” McHugh says.

Slut bashing may have long-term consequences, including decreased self-esteem, increased promiscuity, increase in sexual risk-taking behaviors, depression or even self-harm or suicide, McHugh says.
Source: Indiana University of Pennsylvania

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