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Slut shaming: We all need to stop punishing women's sexuality


Do your parents know you have sex?

Do your friends know you have sex?

For most of us, the first answer would be no. Coming to the second question, the answer will likely vary, depending on your gender.

For a man, having sex is a source of pride and esteem. In fact, to our friends, the more people we have sex with, irrespective of how good or bad it is, it is something to toot your horn about.

When it comes to ladies - the situation is a little different. For some, your friends are okay with you having sex with a regular boyfriend, but will probably judge you for having sex with partners that aren’t your boyfriend.

To some ladies, sex outside marriage remains unthinkable to their parents, who consider such a thing taboo. The same parents, however, tend to be okay with their sons having sex, or even having a string of girlfriends. Such behaviour in male children is likely to be viewed as virile, but their female siblings are expected to remain "chaste".

The irony of being proud of a “roaming” son while expecting the the opposite of a daughter is lost on such parents - who are their sons having sex with?


Women bear the brunt of the negative attitudes and perceptions towards sex. They are expected to be pillars of morality while it’s permissible for men to be promiscuous - who with, again, we don’t really know, seeing as even gay sex is something we don’t want to consider.
The problem with such jokes is that they ingrain
already existing negative attitudes towards women's
sexuality in the society, hence sex shaming.
It doesn't help that they also expose our ignorance on
sex education - having sex lots of times does not
result in wider sex organs. 

Although expectations of brides are becoming more liberal since our parents' time, some still want women to be virgins on their wedding day, as a present to the man. Why the man deserves this gift, and how it benefits him remains unclear.

It may boost his ego to think that he is the only man that she's ever known or at the very least, the only one of few that got to the finish line. But if controlling a woman’s sexuality is what gives you an ego boost, then you may have a problem, whether you want to admit it or not.

Such attitudes - from the family level to the societal one - have a tremendous impact on how women approach sex, and how freely (or not) they express their sexuality.

The emergence of family planning methods and better education for women means that many are now self reliant and are able to control of their destinies. It also means that many women in our generation tend to marry later compared to our parents'. Men also do marry later - seeing as many marriages happen from the mid to late twenties now, rather than the late teens to early twenties.

And If people are marrying later, then one thing they aren’t doing is waiting till marriage to have sex.

As I mentioned earlier, self-reliance, self-awareness and better education for women means they need not put up with any one’s bullshit expectations; they are masters over their own lives. And this includes their sex lives.

Surprised that women have sexual desires? Yes, they do. They have sex with us men because they too want to have sex, and not because you did anything particularly extraordinary.

Society, however, is yet to catch up with this reality. Enter sex shaming, or what some call slut shaming.

In a primitive bid to cling to the control that we men had over women's sexuality, we still apply dated prejudices to how we view their sexuality.

You see, at some point it became pretty apparent that it is hard to control who a woman has sex with.

Sex shaming is a sort of psychological war waged to try stop women from having "too much sex" with other people. They're expected to wait till marriage by putting a premium on her virginity, and by scorning those who have children or lose their virginity before marriage.

Words like "whore" or "body count" are often used to discourage such behaviour.

This shaming is a very effective deterrent. As humans, we all crave a sense of belonging - we want to belong to our family, and society by extension. We want to be loved and respected. Sex shaming takes this away.

This means that even if many women are at more liberty to have sex with people who may not be their boyfriends or husbands, they do so almost covertly for fear of judgment.
There’s still much in a Kenyan woman’s life that society won’t let her own. They will take it away from her, to watch it for her, and torment her with it.

A woman does not even need to have sex to have her sexuality thrown in her face. It can happen when another party feels aggrieved by her - how many people get called “malaya” when an argument escalates? It is considered the ultimate insult.

Sometimes, it can even manifest in the most unexpected ways. A friend recently found her Tinder profile put up on a blog (among other profiles) for other people to see and be amused about.

For those not aware, Tinder is a hookup / dating site where you swipe right if you like a person, or left if you don’t fancy them. If two people show interest in each other by swiping right on each other’s profile,  they can take it further by engaging in a private chat. All you need to join Tinder is your Facebook profile.

Now, as much as Tinder is a hookup app, Kenyans are there for many different reasons: some are there to make friends (unbelievable, yes, but it happens). Some are there to satisfy their curiosity - they may really not end up meeting anyone, even after talking, as they may still have strong reservations. And yes, a good number are there to get laid. We therefore shouldn’t be judgemental of people we know who are on Tinder.

As I have mentioned before, women tend to be judged a lot harsher in such matters. As such, most women on Tinder may not be comfortable with their friends or family knowing they are on Tinder. Moreover, the information on individuals' profiles found on the app (images, etc) are intended for viewing by members of the app only, according to the terms of use one agrees to when signing up.

Publishing such info on another forum therefore tends to be a breach of their privacy and ends up unnecessarily causing them anxiety. Remember, you do not have their permission to republish this information.

We may argue that Tinder is a public platform - but this still does not make it right to do the same. A person may have assessed the risk of having their profile on Tinder, and deemed it a manageable risk. By republishing this information outside the app, we are wrenching control out of their hand - and exposing them to what I’ve mentioned above.

As someone mentioned - we can’t blame a person who was walking in the street for getting robbed. They are a victim. The same applies here: we can’t punish people for having profiles on such a site, male or female.

Related, it is for the same reason that gossip outlets that focus on people’s sex lives are problematic. Even if someone got drunk in public and was involved in a sexual situation, or happened to be dressed in a certain way, this is not an open invitation to come into their lives.

Those raunchy photos of Masaku Sevens or Blankets and Wine we post on our blogs or shared in WhatsApp groups are not simply harmless fun. That's someone's dignity being shamed. The women in these photos will be haunted for a long time, simply because they were  captured during a private moment. Whether it was a right or wrong decision does not concern us. Therefore, this it is not within our rights to shame them.

I’m not calling for outright censorship. The appetite for gossip will always be there and is an aspect of societal life.


However, publishing details of people’s sexual desires on a public platform - usually (and almost always) women - amounts to shaming.

As men, such issues may not be obvious to us. We enjoy privilege when it comes to such matters. Our public lives, careers or people’s perceptions of us barely take a hit from our sexual escapades being made public.

For many women, any detail of their sex life, that hints at her desires,  like being on Tinder, or being pictured in a compromising situation, or even just photos of her being in an outfit deemed too sexual - can ruin her life.

We therefore need to be careful not to engage in sex shaming. It is time we left control of women’s sexuality with it’s rightful owner. We have enslaved women for too long in this regard and it is time we put an end to it.

Their expression in one forum should not be taken as permission to extend the same expression elsewhere - even among our friends - without the woman’s permission.  

Information touching on a woman's sexuality that we post in a public forum without her permission should be deemed as directly contributing to her being judged. We may not be the executioner, but without us, there would be no execution.

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