Think­ing Cap

Study­ing the act and im­pli­ca­tions of slut-sham­ing


Ex­am­in­ing our love/hate views on gra­tu­itous self-pro­mo­tion

Afew months ago, I no­ticed my Face­book feed abuzz with many fe­male stu­dents tak­ing is­sue over some com­ments made anony­mously on a Face­book group called “Ate­neo de Manila Se­cret Files.” A se­ries of posters im­plied that women who dressed “slut­tily” on cam­pus shouldn’t feel bad if they are treated rudely be­cause their out­fits prac­ti­cally in­vite cat­calls and leers. For ex­am­ple, some­one said:

“Note to girls: Kung ayaw niy­ong mabas­tos, wag kay­ong mag­suot ng pekpek shorts o spaghetti strap o kahit anong re­veal­ing sa cam­pus. Ta­pos mai­i­nis kayo ka­pag may nang­manyak sa inyo. Mala­mang? Hu­mi­hingi yung out­fit niyo, eh.”


Ap­par­ently, if girls don’t dress like nice, proper ladies, they should ex­pect to be treated ac­cord­ingly. What a lot of people don’t re­al­ize is that this type of at­ti­tude en­cour­ages slut- sham­ing. When­ever a girl is judged for wear­ing re­veal­ing clothes, flirt­ing openly with men or sleep­ing with mul­ti­ple part­ners, it’s an in­stance of slut- sham­ing.

Sadly, this kind of think­ing also re­in­forces the idea that if a “slut” is raped or dis­re­spected in any way, it’s be­cause she de­served it. To put it an­other way, it’s like blam­ing some­one for car­ry­ing a bag rather than the snatcher who ac­tu­ally stole it— we con­demn and lay blame on the vic­tim rather than the per­pe­tra­tor of the wrong­do­ing. And it isn’t only men who are guilty of do­ing it; some­times women do it to other women too.

But while slut- sham­ing is faced by many women, each ex­pe­ri­ence varies based on her back­ground. A woman’s race, class, sex­ual pref­er­ence and re­li­gion are all fac­tors that in­flu­ence her level of slut­ti­ness and how we re­act to it. For ex­am­ple, the way a high- earn­ing per­son­al­ity like Mi­ley Cyrus is la­beled a “slut” for dress­ing provoca­tively and swing­ing naked on a wreck­ing ball is com­pletely dif­fer­ent from how a for­eign man might shout “slut” at a lower- in­come Filip­ina walk­ing alone at night, the lat­ter in­sult tak­ing on a more threat­en­ing and as­saultive un­der­tone.

In or­der to broaden the way we look at slut- sham­ing, we need to un­der­stand how our other prej­u­dices come into play when­ever we con­demn women.


When the scan­dal sur­round­ing Deniece Cornejo first broke out, I wasn’t sur­prised when the story be­came ev­ery­one’s fa­vorite ob­ses­sion. Didn’t we want the real baby daddy of Andi Ei­gen­mann to please stand up? Be­cause Al­bie Casiño wouldn’t. Didn’t we stay at home look­ing up the NSFW sex tapes of Ka­t­rina Halili and Hay­den Kho a. k. a. The One Perv to Rule Them All? Who didn’t hear about that thing that hap­pened be­tween John Lloyd and Shaina ( Come on, ad­mit it. That bit of gos­sip stuck.)

Like an en­abler who has no qualms about slip­ping Lind­say Lo­han a bump of coke, the me­dia has been more than will­ing to give us ac­cess into the in­ti­mate spa­ces of fa­mous women. And ev­ery time they do any­thing re­motely scan­dalous, their en­tire lives be­come a fix­ture in our daily con­ver­sa­tions, as if by virtue of be­ing pub­lic fig­ures, we au­to­mat­i­cally have the right to be privy to and be judg­men­tal of their pri­vate lives as well.

Un­for­tu­nately, these sto­ries don’t just tit­il­late— they also in­form and feed into our so­cial stan­dards on how women should act and be­have, es­pe­cially with re­gard to their sex­u­al­ity, and of­ten for the worse. So when Cornejo shot to in­famy overnight, I was dis­turbed at how her story quickly turned into a moral­ity tale meant to po­lice overt ex­pres­sions of fe­male sex­u­al­ity: That is why women shouldn’t sleep around and let men into their apart­ments. That is why women shouldn’t come off as “easy.” She prob­a­bly had it com­ing. This is in the same vein of how we treat women who come out as rape vic­tims. When Kat Alano came out as an­other of Vhong Navarro’s al­leged rape vic­tims, some com­menters on­line called her an at­ten­tion- seeker or some­one who was paid to taint Navarro’s oh- so- pris­tine im­age.

But what both­ered me more about the Cornejo and Navarro scan­dal was

the way the me­dia framed her story. One recurring fix­a­tion was on her eco­nomic and fam­ily back­ground. Many re­ports men­tioned how she is the poor daugh­ter of a sea­man work­ing abroad. Oth­ers fo­cused on how she ac­quired her apart­ment and ques­tioned whether or not it was given to her, and by whom. Fur­ther, the me­dia end­lessly spec­u­lated on her ex­act re­la­tion­ship with the var­i­ous men that played a part in the whole scan­dal, from the enig­matic Greg Bi­n­unus, the Malaysian busi­ness­man who owned the condo unit, to the equally in­fa­mous Cedric Lee. And be­cause Navarro was an ac­tor at­tached to ABS- CBN, it was no sur­prise that it was his home net­work that did a lot of this reporting. “Deniece’s de­meanor doesn’t sug­gest she was raped,” read one par­tic­u­larly bi­ased head­line.

All the re­ports seem to dance around a sen­si­tive ques­tion with­out ex­plic­itly ask­ing it: Was she un­der­priv­i­leged, and thus a lit­eral whore? For a woman from a hum­ble back­ground now con­nected to sev­eral pow­er­ful and rich men, and cur­rently in­volved in a sex­ual as­sault case— it is all too easy for us to jump to the con­clu­sion that she is a so­cial climber at best and a pros­ti­tute or an es­cort at worst. Never mind that she ve­he­mently de­nies those ru­mors or that there is no in­crim­i­nat­ing ev­i­dence to sug­gest that; the “facts” just seem so com­pelling, right?


Look­ing at the Cornejo case, we see that sex­ism can be linked to class prej­u­dices. In ef­fect, the me­dia finds pieces about her past to fit into the pub­lic’s pre­con­ceived stereo­types. They pro­vide a nar­ra­tive that we can an­chor our judg­ments upon: Maybe she was a pros­ti­tute, that’s why this whole thing hap­pened.

Let’s com­pare that to how an­other woman is of­ten vic­tim­ized for her sex­ual de­ci­sions: Kris Aquino. As some­one who comes from a po­lit­i­cally pres­ti­gious and wealthy fam­ily, the na­ture of slut- sham­ing to­wards her is markedly dif­fer­ent.

For most of the men who were ro­man­ti­cally at­tached to her, it’s per­ceived that in terms of so­cial sta­tus, she is “above” them on all ac­counts. Yes, even while she goes on na­tional tele­vi­sion an­nounc­ing that Joey Mar­quez gifted her with an STD. Be­cause of that, we con­demn Kris not for sell­ing her body in lit­eral terms, but for al­low­ing her­self to be used for more than her body in ex­change for fill­ing her sex­ual ap­petites.

The class dif­fer­ence be­tween James Yap and Kris Aquino must mean that he used her for her money. Kris Aquino’s prox­im­ity to power must mean that Her­bert Bautista wanted to use her po­lit­i­cal con­nec­tions in prepa­ra­tion for 2016.

And each time she finds her­self in a messy fall­out from a failed re­la­tion­ship, the blame is as­signed to her: She should not have slept around and let her­self be used. She

should not be taint­ing her fam­ily’s rep­u­ta­tion

by sleep­ing with dif­fer­ent men. In this in­stance, even when the woman is al­ready more pow­er­ful to be­gin with, her stature is used against her. She is por­trayed as naïve and feck­less. WHO ARE YOU CALL­ING A SLUT-FACED HOBAG? Know­ing how we slut- shame is im­por­tant for us to know how to stop it. What’s in­ter­est­ing about these two cases is that there are dif­fer­ent man­ners in the slut- sham­ing of Deniece Cornejo and Kris Aquino based on their class standings. Be­ing con­sciously aware of what’s go­ing on and how to check our­selves is im­por­tant to stop this sex­ist act from con­tin­u­ing.

Af­ter all, slut- sham­ing and vic­tim- blam­ing com­prise the cul­ture that stops women from com­ing out as vic­tims of abuse. It is the ide­ol­ogy that en­trenches women into po­si­tions of sub­or­di­na­tion. And ul­ti­mately, it is one of the forces that in­hibit women from tak­ing full con­trol of their sex­ual iden­ti­ties and their bod­ies. So the next time we think of call­ing out women who step be­yond the lines that we ar­ti­fi­cially drew around them, we must take a step back and ex­am­ine what it is about their be­hav­ior upsets us so, and whether there re­ally is some­thing to take is­sue with. It’s the least that we all could do.

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