Pride and Privilege

This weekend in honou­r of World AIDS Day, I posted a picture on Facebook of a sign that said “I am HIV+.”

This sentence has meant a lot of different things to me over the last few years but in this instance it represented people remaining positive in the face of stigma, whether actually HIV+ or not.

Someone was offended by my picture and chose to express it in a really inappropriate way.

Rather than explaining what about me posting this picture offended him and starting a discourse, he chose to verbally abuse and attack me with comments about how many people I’ve slept with, dicks I’ve sucked and what a “cunt” I am.

When frustrated, this person decided that attacking my sexuality was the logical course of action. This was abusive and public slut shaming.

I was reminded that many men are still completely unaware of their privilege and of the power behind words like “hoe,” “slut” and “cunt,” when they casually drop them.

This was far from my first experience with slut shaming. When I was in high school I was that girl—that girl that everyone called a slut, whore and every other demeaning word you could imagine.

And it didn’t matter which rumours were true and which weren’t, if they were out there people believed them and acted accordingly. I wasn’t just bullied; I was sexualized through comments, attitudes and behaviours.

I learned early that pride and privilege can make people do some really terrible things, and I learned that our society supports those people through victim blaming.

I was made to feel ashamed of my sexuality and ashamed to be a woman before I had even begun to experience and understand what either actually meant to me. What’s worse is I learnt that the worst thing a woman can be in our society is sexually active.

The most terrifying thing I’ve ever realized is that this abuse doesn’t change after high school. It becomes more subtle, but everyday women are slut-shamed, monitored and told what behaviour is and isn’t okay.

In the almost three years that I have been writing Sex & Pancakes I’ve seen people’s behaviours toward me shift.

Now, people often assume I must be comfortable with inappropriate comments about my sexuality. And, since I love sex, I must want to do it with everyone.

This week I thought about all the times I’ve been approached and told that I probably love this or that when it comes to sex, while someone got uncomfortably and intimately close to me.

I think my personal favourite was being told that someone loved how I “own being a slut.” In case it isn’t obvious, writing and talking about sex doesn’t mean I lovingly associate myself with the word “slut” and it’s offensive to assume so.

The most depressing part is I’ve often shrugged these incidences off. I’ve repeated them to close friends and we’ve mutually expressed our disgust but it always ends there. By accepting these words and this abuse we tell people that this treatment is okay.

But it’s not okay.

Male privilege and rape culture are real things and it’s not just men who participate in them. I think we’ve all gotten a little too comfortable shaming people about their sexuality–relevant or not–and using derogatory words to bring each other down.

Be aware of your language and privilege. Consider the effects they might have on others. Maybe consider the effects language has had on you.

I’m not perfect and I know I’m guilty of it too, but awareness and effort are half the battle. So please, make the effort.

Submit your questions anonymously at sex-pancakes.tumblr.com and check out “Sex & Pancakes” on Facebook. Need some extra help? You can always contact Concordia Counselling & Development at 514-848-2424 ext. 3545 for SGW and ext. 3555 for Loyola. Got a quick health question? Call info-santé at 8-1-1 from any Montreal number.

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