AA: talking about how to talk about sex-shaming

Hi! I’ve recently come across this WordPress and it has been quite informative on the subject of the problems Ace people face!

Though admittedly I’ve not yet read everything and I’m still a bit ignorant, so perhaps you’ve already addressed this matter (My apologies if so) but I wouldn’t know:

I’ve come to understand your objections to the “puritanical”, “prudish” and “repressive” rhetoric, but now I’ve come to the question to what would be the correct way to address harmful phemomena such as for example Slut-Shaming, Sex-Worker discrimination and demonization, and the shaming of kinks and other types of (arbitrarily) controlling behavior enacted upon people’s sexual additudes without accidentally resorting to the aforementioned rhetoric.

Essentially I wish to know what would be an adequate way of conducting conversations of that nature. Hopefully I didn’t sound too silly/ignorant with this concern.
And thank you in advance! -EvM

Hello, EvM.  I confess, I’m not quite sure how to answer this question (and the comment section is open, y’all — feel free to help us out here).  To me, there isn’t anything contradictory about opposing arbitrary sex-shaming*, as you said, and supporting the right to say no, but I’ll try to give you a more useful answer than that.

*I recommend this term over slut-shaming because the latter relies on referring to the targets of hostility as sluts.  That’s a nasty thing to call someone, and while some women have reclaimed the slur, reclamation happens on an individual basis — it’s not a word to be used as a blanket term.

In general, I suggest listening to sex workers when it comes to anything about sex workers, except when you identify something they’re saying as inaccurate or harmful to someone else.  Aside from that?

This is partly speculation, but I think part of the issue people run into when criticizing sex-shaming is a tendency to (consciously or unconsciously) conceptualize sex-shaming as its own axis of oppression — as if there is a privileged social class of nonsexhavers oppressing the sexhavers.  That just doesn’t match up with material reality.  What I’ve noticed about sex-shaming comes down to this: it’s not really a social current unto itself so much as a tool largely put to sexist, racist, and classist ends.  When people sex-shame, generally, they’re not really convinced that all sex is evil* so much as they’re punishing and lashing out against the personal agency of people they don’t view as “respectable” enough, whether because they’re women and/or because they’re people of color and/or because they come from a lower-class background.

*I’ve seen a few extremists here and there who genuinely seem to believe that sex, as a whole, is wrong and destroying society or whatever.  I don’t want to deny that this fringe group exists, but I do want to emphasize that I see it as a fringe group that — while very irritating — does not wield any particular institutional power in and of itself.

So, to the extent that it helps clarify anything, I suggest keeping in mind the material distribution of power and resources as relates to any given instance of sex-shaming, the demonization of sex workers (hugely connected to patriarchy and colonialism), and so on.  In my experience, these things aren’t examples of being “puritanical” or oppressively “prudish” so much as double standards linked to exploitation and dehumanizing bigotry of another kind.

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3 responses to “AA: talking about how to talk about sex-shaming

  • demiandproud

    Prostitution is a legal occupation in Holland. A big part of that was not sexual freedom, but because it’s so related to human trafficking and sexual slavery. The Dutch police was able to make inroads because they could offer victims shelter and aid and get their help in catching the organised crime running the industry. I know prosecution of sexual slavery was made possible as recently as 2004, and still it’s hard to get people to talk if it gets them time in jail.

  • epochryphal

    *shuffles by to drop the keyword ‘whorephobia’, the preferred term by sex workers to talk about their marginalization — and to sidenote that ‘prostitute’ is often considered a slur and ‘sex work’ (with modifiers like ‘full service sex work’) is preferable*

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