Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Guest Post: Why Slut-Shame

This was posted on mises.ca by James E. Miller but taken down to the controversy it created. I'm cross-posting here from Miller's Genuine Draft. Regardless of whether you agree with its content or not, this is still a damn well-written article.

Slut-shaming now, slut-shaming tomorrow, slut-shaming forever.







George Wallace, the former Governor of Alabama, infamously proclaimed something similar to the above in his inaugural address during the upheaval of the Civil Rights Era. At the time, there was a concentrated effort to desegregate much of the South. Wallace ran on, and was elected on, a platform of opposing voter registration for blacks and serving as a roadblock to the federal government’s efforts to crush Jim Crow segregation. It was a fight between two black knights vying for authority and no just end. Wallace enjoyed an ephemeral victory, but Uncle Sam came out the true victor - a lesson in the overwhelming force of centralization.

While I am no fan of government discrimination based on skin color, I am an enthusiastic proponent of the modern practice of shaming sluts. Frowning upon lewd behavior is not exactly a new phenomenon. It has existed since Christianity, in Rod Dreher’s words, brought about a reasoned liberation from the “sexually exploitive Greco-Roman culture.” Enshrining marriage as the prime abettor for physical relations - like it or not - has been a freeing force from paganism. Where man would only use his body for frivolous, short-lived pleasure, he now found purpose in himself as a being worthy of respect and reserve.

Only recently has the term “slut-shaming” entered into common lexicon, becoming a prominent feature in contemporary political debates. And by debate, I of course refer to internet message board gripe-fests between frail egalitarians - many who refer to themselves as libertarians. Under their narrow view of the world, to criticize another’s actions is one in the same as physical oppression. By the manner in which they bemoan personal judgement, you would think the resulting mental pangs were the equivalent of the blunt side of a lawman’s nightstick.

This small sect of perturbed liberty advocates recently had their “No H8” tank tops all in a twist over former Disney Channel star Miley Cyrus and her raunchy antics at the MTV Video Music Awards. Now, my knowledge of popular culture comes second-hand from those more attuned around me. I only viewed Ms. Cyrus’ on-stage sex romp (I will not dignify the behavior as a “performance”) ex-post, and was subsequently embarrassed for her and anyone who happened to have witnessed the affair. In my appalled state, I could only withstand little more than a minute of the assault on good sense.

The reaction to the obscene frolicking was near unanimous. The public at large found it distasteful and unbecoming for someone who once controlled legions of impressionable fans. Perpetually uptight MSNBC host Mika Brzezinki spoke for almost everyone - a first for the menacing liberal television personality - when she claimed Cyrus’ behavior should be “denounced.” The award show audience composed of trite pop figures was not entertained either. And for once, I found myself in agreement with the general consensus of society.

Of course, mass opinion is never something to act credulously toward. But there is a fine difference between scoffing at popular perception for contrarian sake and holding the opposition based on moral grounds. A handful of libertarians and feminists, namely Sex & the State editor Cathy Reisenwitz, have jumped on board the pro-Miley train for what, to their credit, is a lonely ride. Reisenwitz, who makes no secret of her affinity for the polyamorous lifestyle, argues that Cyrus was unjustly attacked for her salacious actions on stage and on camera. The “slut-shaming” she endured was another form of objectification - one which withholds respect to a “full person with agency.”

I do not deny that Miley Cyrus’ critics are guilty of heaping loads of disrespect onto the teddy-loving star. In truth, I am happy to join the shunning. Social ostracization is one of the most peaceful means for defending mores. The world would be a much better place if there was not a stigma on personal judgement.

What Reisenwitz fails to recognize is that some of Cyrus’ detractors were not objectifying her in their denunciation. To the contrary, they were championing a standard of decency that holds mankind (and womankind, to please the more gentle reader) up as more than a fornicating wildebeest. The relatively young Miley was not expressing her individuality or nature-given intellect before millions of viewers - she was gyrating around like some brainless, drooling mutt. In short, she was objectifying herself, more so than any ogling chauvinist.

Engaging in “slut-shaming” is a welcome course of action - even more so in an era where young women wear their craving for erotic climax as a badge of honor. The term itself is borderline tautological. In a more sane time, promiscuousness was not a redeeming feature. It was looked down upon, and rightfully so. To call someone a slut was simultaneously an act of shaming. As far as I am concerned - and I would also wager the wider public - the perception has not changed.

The Sexual Revolution was a success, but it did not bring empowerment for women or any other band of deviants. You do not exude empowerment by sleeping with the first dull-faced, mentally-crippled guy you meet in a bar. There is not liberation in having multiple bed partners. And one does not throw off the shackles of bourgeois tyranny through any form of sexual activity.

True human power comes from resisting hedonistic temptation. It comes from placing reason above animalistic urges. And it unveils itself by the realization that respect does not come from delightfully engaging in sexual prowess.

Miley Cyrus degraded herself on stage that night - as did crooner Robin Thicke who played along with the whole filthy escapade. Both deserve every bit of condemnation in the hope that they will learn from the mistake. When you treat your body, and your very humanity, as a kind of fun time plaything for others to enjoy, you make a mockery of that which separates man from other less-intelligent creatures. The intimacy humans feel toward a lover is unique to our species. There is animalistic affection and there is the mutual bond that transcends basic sexual pleasure, presenting itself as loving guardian against all manners of hardship. To not treat this human aptitude with dignity cheapens the experience of sex. A person of moral character, attuned the peculiarities of human nature, can easily understand the benefits of chastity and prudence. For the spiritual, the body is a gift from God and the act of intercourse is a representation of his all-encompassing love. To the polyamorous, intimacy may as well be any run-of-the-mill emotion, devoid of deeper meaning.

When it comes to Cyrus-esque behavior, I will continue to “slut-shame” with the approval of my conscience. The target of my disrespect is always free to ignore. Liberty does not extend the bounds of physical altercations. Cyrus can romp around in rags-for-clothes, and others can watch. To anyone who defends her choice, remember that criticism is a two-way street in a free society. One of us cannot offer approval without the threat of coercion if others of differing opinion are not afforded the same right.

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