How Slut-Shaming Plays a Bigger Role in Higher Learning by Jazmynne Williams

Coming to college means quite a few things for everyone. Academics, being away from parents, finding your independence and yourself, and, though not the most important, but certainly emphasized on, dating and hooking up with new people. I’ve done it, you’ve probably done it, and it’s the main thing you see on all those college movies, along with the excessive partying. But one thing that isn’t discussed in these normal college talks is how women and other gender minorities are treated in this hookup, and why it’s harmful to these people.

When I first got to college, I realized that this is completely different setting than high school, where my dorkiness and nerdiness was always made fun of.  Here, at least, I could find someone who would appreciate it to some degree.

What I’ve learned in my very brief experience in college dating and hooking up is that it’s only okay to do so if you’re a guy, preferable cisgender and heterosexual. Other genders are welcome to, but they will be forced to pay the consequences later. The walk of shame, being deemed as promiscuous or easy. The list goes on and on. And I can’t help notice that at college, where campuses pride themselves in being open and liberal, the ways in which we police each other’s expression, and the way it follows in the realm of academia.

Slut shaming is the act of criticizing a woman (or other gender minorities) for her (or their) real or perceived sexual activity, or for behaving in ways that someone thinks are associated with her (or their) real or perceived sexual activity. Slut shaming doesn’t always have to be blatant, but it can be, and in a college setting, you often get both sides of the coin. Devaluing a gender minority based on how much they had sex or their number of sexual partners, calling them names because they simply had sex, and so much more.  Yet there’s an absence of all this when sex is discussed when we consider these cisgender, heterosexual people who tend to fit on a different part of the gender spectrum.

One might be able to separate personal with academia, but honestly, if you’re going to go to academia, you’ll need the personal to draw from the personal. We cannot expect for academia to be inclusive and thorough when colleges and universities, which have been historically geared toward men have created an institution based on knowing more than their counterparts, which they view as weaker and more manipulative. This has leaked into the realm of academia in some of the most seemingly small ways. Of course, I think many of us can attest to not being taken serious by peers or professors, simply because of your gender. Other microaggressions include being graded based on the tone of your content, rather than the actual content. These things, in theory, seem insignificant, but in actuality play a larger role. These genders must work so much harder just to get to the point where they are perceived as competent in this competitive setting, but continue to be reduced based on their sexual choices. 

Coming to college is about many things. It’s about realizing that you don’t like the food your parents used to cook and changing your style. It’s about changing your style over and over again, just because you can. It’s about tackling new information, and coming to understand that you will never stop learning. And part of learning is realizing that judging people based on what they do in their free time actually has the ability to impede their learning, and what you think of as a joke or plain fun may be actually harmful.

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