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I was fooling around online earlier this week, looking for leads for today’s story, when I came across this image tweeted by the Vagenda team:

body image

I’ve already talked about how women are objectified in media and how women are often subjected to horrific abuse online. Today I’ll be examining the common thread that runs through these articles, and indeed everyday treatment of women. That thread is sex.

It’s no secret that there exists a double-standard when it comes to sex. For men, sex is always positive, something that should to be celebrated and something that all men should all strive to achieve.

How many stories/shows/movies have we seen where the male protagonist is a charming playboy? His ability to sleep with every woman he lays his eyes upon is held up as something to be proud of..

If one was to believe movies, being a male virgin is the ultimate mark of shame, something that must be rectified as soon as possible (American Pie, Superbad, 40 Year Old Virgin, etc.).

Even worse, words like “pimp”, which refers to a man in charge of a bunch of prostitutes, have become compliments. Read into that what you will.

Meanwhile, the situation is the polar opposite for women. Brittany M. Plothow, writing for UVU review, hits the nail on the head: “women are told that to enjoy sexual acts is dirty and a sin”.

What’s the best way to show that a woman is “good”? Make her a virgin. While a man can sleep with hundreds of strange women and still be considered the good guy, the second a woman has a one-night stand she has become “immoral”.

A woman who has slept with other men is damned as a “slut”, a “whore”. They are condemned for the simple act of enjoying the gift of sexuality that they were born with.

Jessica Valenti at AlterNet writes that the issue of slut-shaming is about “controlling women through shame and humiliation. Women’s bodies are always the ones that are being vied over for control — whether it’s rape, reproductive rights, or violence against women, it’s our bodies that are the battleground, not men’s.”

This double-standard is the purest embodiment of repressive heteronormativity. It draws a clear line between “men” and “women” and declares that each must conform to a strict set of standards. Worst of all, it doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.

Note To Readers

As you may have noticed, today’s post has arrived earlier than usual. Due to changes in my timetable, I’ll now be posting at 4 o’clock SA time instead of 5. See you all next time.

Jaclyn Glenn discusses the stigma surrounding sex and why it’s ultimately harmful (added 14/06/2014).