On the one hand it’s slut shaming. On the other hand – it’s promoting safe sex practices.
Huffington Post had a great article about a recent study on bullying about sexual activity. See: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/26/sexual-activity-bullying-study_n_5877168.html
First, let’s talk about the findings. Sexually active girls are more likely to be bullied than sexually active males. This is the slut shaming part. Boys are not bearing the brunt of this harassment.
Now for the interesting part. It turns out that being sexually active without using proper protection increases your chances of being bullied. And, this is why I have mixed feelings. It’s the unsafe sex that is being social norm/bullied as being what’s not ok. Unsafe sax is not cool, and the bullying is being used to enforce safe sex social norms. And that’s kind of cool.
On the other hand the slut shaming aspect of this is REALLY damaging. According to the article about the study, “Students who said they were both bullied and sexually active reported depression at five times the rate of those who said they were neither bullied nor sexually active. The former students were also three times more likely to report having had suicidal thoughts.” This is not a minor problem.
As a Humanist, my concern is the sort of sex education we provide and how that sets up expectations among our kids. Slut shaming someone who is already making risky decisions about sex isn’t going to help them make better decisions.
When I read the section on the depression and suicidal ideation problem among kids who are sexually active and being bullied, I wondered about causation. Is the depression caused by the unsafe sex? Or is the unsafe sex caused by the depression? I suspect it may be the latter because most of the people I’ve known who habitually made unsafe sexual decisions were people who were actively using sex to self-harm.
We adults set the tone. We set the example of how we talk about sex and about how people make decisions about sex. That tone and our expectations are how young people learn what is socially acceptable and what isn’t. And while education among young people about how to protect themselves during their sexual encounters is a good thing, we still haven’t found a way to help those people intent on using sex to self-harm. That is a mental health issue. And instead of stigmatizing people who make decisions we think are bad, perhaps we should instead consider what caused them to make those decisions in the first place.