Initiatives in New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., allow the police to search and arrest women carrying three or more condoms late at night under prostitution charges.
So a woman carrying a few condoms can be arrested under the suspicion of being a prostitute? Does this profiling sound familiar? It’s just like the stigmatization that teen girls who carry even one condom receive from their peers whether or not she planned to use it: if a girl carries condoms, she’s automatically a “slut.” This is called “slut shamming,” or as a 13-year-old girl describes it in her video, Slut Shamming and Why it’s Wrong, “the act of degrading or mocking a woman because she dresses in tight or revealing clothing, enjoys sex, has a lot of sex, or is rumored to be sexually active.” Furthermore, slut shaming makes a woman or girl feel guilty or inferior for being sexually active, having multiple sex partners, or acting or dressing in a way that is deemed excessively sexual.
You might recall a popular example of slut shamming in recent media when Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut and a prostitute on air for advocating for contraception coverage and women’s health. This type of unwarranted labeling steers teen girls away from carrying condoms to avoid being labeled a “slut.” Likewise, these initiatives will steer women, sex worker or not, away from carrying condoms to avoid being labeled a prostitute and arrested. In the case of actual sex workers, trying to protect themselves from arrest forces them to participate in unprotected sex, increasing the spread of STD/STIs among sex workers, their clients, and the general public at large.
How can we fight gender discrimination and the stigmatization of teen girls carrying condoms when the government is legally allowed to do the same to women carrying condoms? How can we encourage our female youth to protect their sexual health while condemning the sexuality of women sex workers and dooming their sexual health? How can we convince boys that slut shaming is wrong when it is legal? These laws are asinine and need to be stopped. If a 13-year-old knows better, then there is no excuse for the government and the police department to support this type of sexist profiling.
Slutwalks are taking place all over the world for the second year to address these specious attacks on sexual freedom at the grassroots, including tomorrow in D.C.
Creative Commons Image by: David Shankbone