Zoom Meeting Sermon January 29 2023

 Topic: The Destructive Nature of Slut-Shaming

Core Tenet #5 teaches us that sex should be considered a sacred act for followers of the Path, but that others’ sex lives are none of our business. The last time we discussed this Tenet, we spoke of judging people based on their sexual expression in general terms. Today, we will be talking about two specific behaviors that you may have observed out in the wild, or that you may have engaged in yourself, that can be detrimental to the pursuit of Enlightenment: Slut-shaming and virgin-shaming.

These two behaviors are basically the same thing: Making assumptions about a person’s sexual history based on dress or mannerism, and then determining the worth of that individual based on that assumption. In most cases, we do not even know the true sexual history of the subject of our derision.

There are a number of things wrong with these behaviors. For one thing, they reinforce the idea of sex as social currency, and bases the value of each individual on how much of this currency they have. Slut-shaming perpetuates the patriarchal idea that sex is something to be ashamed of if you are a woman; many women are even afraid to admit to how many sexual partners they have had. The male equivalent of slut-shaming is virgin-shaming: Declaring a man to be of no value if he has never had sex, or if he is perceived as sexually un-desirable. Virgin-shaming and the toxic masculinity it stems from will often lead a man to the bitterness of the “incel,” which is a group of men who have allowed their involuntary celibacy to twist itself into an indictment of all women. I do not recommend looking them up; most of their rants are almost physically painful to read.

Our Puritanical society has given us warped ideas about sex and sexual expression. We are taught that men are hard-wired to desire sex with everyone they meet, and that women allow sex but are not supposed to enjoy it or pursue it, so we act in accordance with those roles whether or not they really fit. Those who refuse to obey the rules are branded as “sluts” and “virgins” and ostracized without anyone really thinking about why.

One of the worst consequences of the assumptions around an individual’s sexual history is the way both society and the legal system handle accusations of rape. For the longest time, male rape and marital rape did not exist legally. Men were considered unable to be raped, because men always want sex, and being married constituted irrevocable and ongoing consent. Women who are raped almost never report it in part because we know that we will be grilled about our sexual history as though it was relevant. The victim of rape is often made out to be a monster trying to ruin their rapist’s life. Women are taught that all men are potential rapists and to protect ourselves accordingly, while men are taught that sex is their prerogative, regardless of consent, as they will almost always get away with rape.

There is some positive news, though. Since moving to Oregon, I have found that some women wear the title of “slut” like a badge of honor because they own their sexuality. I consider this a positive development. It gives women power over their choice of sexual expression and it allows us to look beyond the petty detail of sexual history to the beautiful soul within.

The single most important thing we must remember, as followers of the Path, is that a person’s sexual history has no bearing on their character. Some people want to have sex with lots of people, and some people prefer to reserve the act of sex for a select few or even just one individual. Some people choose not to have sex with anyone. All of these choices are perfectly valid forms of sexual expression, as long as everyone involved is a consenting adult. We do not have the right to devalue another person for their sexual history or preferences.

Your homework for the next week is to keep an eye out for slut- or virgin-shaming in the media you consume. Can you think of examples of each of these behaviors?

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