Women who embrace their sexuality face a stigma: Expression of their bodies results in being labeled as a slut. However, in light of growing conversation of women’s rights like the #MeToo movement, now is the time for women to rise up and take back their sexuality and their image.
The words sexy and slut often ended up in the same sentence, and seem to carry similar meanings in today’s society. Ladies cannot hide the body of a woman they are growing into, and are taught to hate it.
Slut shaming is one of the most excused aspects of rape culture and can be highly hypocritical, according to Kellen Franklin, a social work major with a psychology minor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
“Men will beg you for sex and then afterwards, once they get what they want, you’re a slut,” Franklin said. “If women start to control their sexuality, she controls herself and that’s a concept that can be really scary to some men.”
Ownership of one’s own body is key in leading the new generation of women to accept each other for who they are. Seventy-two percent of college-aged females experienced appearance-related bullying during adolescence for an average period of five years, according to a study found in ScienceDirect. Teasing ranged from weight and body shape, to facial attributes and overall appearance.
For some girls surrounded by this kind of negativity, it can be a hard thing to ignore. It takes time and maturity to ignore the constant hate on social media, according to Instagram influencer Rebecca Sanez.
She said she feels the entitlement toward women’s bodies on social media only makes things harder for those just trying to be themselves.
“I’ve experienced men feeling entitled to my body, saying what I can post and questioning why I do it, and I give them the answer, ‘Because I can,’” Sanez said.
But Sanez said she knows at the end of the day, the only person’s opinion that matters is her own.
“Just feeling good about my body and accepting the way I look makes me feel sexy,” Sanez said. “I don’t post pictures to get guys. I post pictures because I like the way I look.”
For two women, stripping and doing sex work was the key to becoming more self-confident.
“(Stripping) made me realize that being sexy isn’t just wearing Victoria Secret underwear, there’s a million different aspects of it … it’s just how you carry yourself,” said Callie Brogley, a YouTuber, Instagram influencer and stripper.
Although stripping gave Brogley confidence, she did not always approve of girls working in the sex industry.
“Two years ago, before me, there was another girl (in my area) who got into porn and she was the whore of the whole town … I used to have the same opinion,” Brogley said about how she used to view sex working.
She now sees this work simply as a job and not who she is.
“It’s doing my work and then coming home just like anyone else,” Brogley said.“I have the ability to do so many different things with myself. I can be a stripper one day and then do something completely different the other day… I think that’s empowering.”
Profiting from sexuality also plays a role in contributing to the stigma, but according to adult model Brandi Johnson, that’s part of what builds confidence. Adult modeling can be a supportive community for women learning to accept themselves.
“It’s not just the money coming in that makes you feel like ‘Wow I can do this.’ It’s just the amount of confidence you get doing it that builds you up so immensely,” Johnson said.
Johnson said it took her a long time to love her body just as she is, including the curves she has.
“There is a big community for just curves and big women in general,” Johnson said.
There is a strong stigma associated with women in the adult industry, and women are often called loose, cheap and even untrustworthy.
“Doing anything in sex work can take an immense toll on your mental health just because of those type of people, (they’re) not even clients you’re seeing,” Johnson said.
Many times women tear each other apart, from commenting about somebody’s weight to saying they are completely worthless.
“How are those standards ever going to stop if a woman is continuously saying it to another woman?” Sanez said.