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And a somewhat related story ..

Slut-shaming has little to do with sex, study finds

Part of my previous post implied, but didn't explicitly call out, a link between repressive conventionalism and classism. I think I should go into more detail on that and flesh it out a bit more.

To me, this article highlights one of the perverse aspects of classism in US culture: the inversion of judgment between privileged and non-privileged classes with respect to just about everything, but especially with regard to sex. In this context, it's a pretty unavoidable conclusion that while privileged and non-privileged women, at least in a university social setting, both use slut-shaming in reaction to perceived faults of the others, in the privileged classes, it's very often if not always a reaction to women of perceived lower classes, well, existing, and usually not actually a judgment of their morality or supposed lack thereof with regard to sex.

And it struck me that I see this all around me, almost all the time, and this only confirmed it.

Our culture is all about this inversion of judgment at the lower/upper class boundary, and it very much applies to sex in particular, and it's clearly not actually about sex, but about enforcing class boundaries .. and it has been for a long time. And it's often exploited by advertisers and media to push deep emotional buttons in us to trigger gut level emotional reactions.

Think about it. What's perhaps the most common trope of the social downfall of politicians ever created? It's the unexpected October-surprise revelation of some form of supposed sexual indecency, be it an affair, a secret paraphilia, or a same-sex relationship. Time was, decades ago, this was the tried-and-true method of sabotaging a political opponent .. find out what their sexual secrets were and then reveal them to the public at the most strategic moment. It's almost a system, a complete subroutine in the code of our media culture. And it's a time-tested method of silencing or de-legitimizing an inconveniently vocal public critic, the implicit message being that since the person has been revealed to have some sort of unusual sexual practice, their argument is implicitly invalid and doesn't need to be heeded anymore.

Slut-shaming is absolutely a power move, an assertion of privilege and a tactic to pressure less-privileged people into compliance. And the same kind of de-legitimizing influence is clearly intended; it sidesteps the actual merits of the person targeted and reduces them to an object whose habits or desires are "wrong" and whose humanity thus need not be acknowledged.

But the weird thing is, the same behaviors that trigger slut-shaming and other kinds of normative enforcement when they're done by the less-privileged classes are the very things the privileged classes are admired for -- instead of being trashy, promiscuous, wanton, etc., they're daring, edgy, trendy, exciting, even titillating. It's splashed all over the front covers and front pages of magazines at the checkout counter. It's amped up to make us wish we got to play at those parties. It's the same damn thing people in less-privileged classes are mercilessly outed and harassed for, but when the privileged people do it, it's something to be looked up to.

Has anyone else noticed that inversion there? If you're rich and powerful, and you're sexually unconventional, you're put up on a pedestal to be praised for it (however convoluted that praise may be), and if you're not, you're either condemned for it or you learn very quickly to keep it very quiet.

Makes me all the more inclined to be a complete relationship anarchist, and subvert that strategy every possible way I can.

And it's not without risks. I work in a supposedly "tolerant" workplace, but I've seen evidence that there are limits to that tolerance, so I find myself keeping my head down more than I'd really prefer. And I resent having that feeling, because I can see how there is pressure there that isn't overt and can be rather subtle. But on a certain level, I wouldn't really mind all that much being outed as poly at work, because it would force a lot of issues that I am absolutely OK with making a scene about.

I keep coming back to the same thought: these people who would be so quick to pass judgment on my life are not in charge of my life, and maybe it's time they were reminded of it. I'm not seeking conflict, but I anticipate encountering it, and I'm finding myself increasingly inclined to hold my own if and when it comes.

If you're reading this, I hope you see the profound injustice of people in power using your own sexual uniqueness as a club with which to beat you down. Because no one is immune to that. Some are less immune than others, but no one is completely out from under that shadow. And I think we've been living in fear of it far too long.