Women Are Opening Up About Being Objectified While Doing Normal Things, And It’s Frustratingly Heartbreaking
"The doctor lectured me, sternly and condescendingly, about how sex was 'not only a physical act but a spiritual one.'"
Note: This post contains mentions of sexual assault, rape, and harassment.
There's never an appropriate reason to objectify, sexualize, and shame a woman for her body — let alone over a school dress code, for having a partner, or when seeking medical care.
1. "In high school, on the last day before Christmas Break, we had a dress-up day. I was wearing a skirt that went past my knees, a black velvet tube top that didn't expose my stomach, and a cardigan. I LOVED it. I walked into math class that morning, and my teacher told me, 'You're dressed like a hooker, get out of my classroom.' Up until that point, I had really liked math and was pretty good at it. After the experience I had with that teacher, I hated it."
2. "When I lost my virginity at a young age, my older brother, whom I really looked up to, called me a whore because of my age — even though he had more than 20 sexual partners by the time he was 15."
3. "My ex used to call me a slut simply because I joined a sorority. Never mind that he was the only person I had been with, I was a slut. Unfortunately, I stayed with him until I literally caught him in bed with someone else."
4. "My aunt would always subtly slut-shame me. She would try to mask it as 'having conversations' about my sexual choices. She always said she 'just wanted to understand' people like me. However, she never wanted to have a real conversation. She would just judge and shame me for everything I told her. Apparently, I should have been ashamed of myself for enjoying sex with men I didn't love."
"She never explicitly called me a slut, but she very much insinuated it. I was and am not ashamed. I (very safely) enjoyed every minute of it!" —egc26
5. "I walked out of a bar with my husband after a holiday party. I was wearing a dress that was a little short and a large coat over it because it was cold. Some jackass smoking outside of the bar looked at me and said, 'Doesn't anyone wear pants in this town?' I guess my coat being longer than my dress was a problem for him. Meanwhile, he was standing in a puddle of someone's (probably his own) vomit, yet still felt he had the standing to loudly critique my outfit for being too short."
6. "In high school, one of the guys in my friend group had a thing for me. I didn't reciprocate his feelings, but the rest of our friends thought we would be perfect together. Fast forward a few months, and I started seeing another guy and ended up losing my virginity to him. My friend group proceeded to unfriend me for losing my virginity to this guy instead of our friend. They began referring to me only as 'the whore' for an entire summer."
"That wasn’t traumatizing at all." —Anonymous, California
7. "I go to a Catholic high school, and we girls like to hike up our skirts. Personally, I do it because they run a little big — but it’s nobody’s business why. Three female teachers stand in the entryway every morning, scouting us out and humiliating us in front of everyone."
8. "I went in for a birth control prescription and an STI check at the military treatment facility where I was in training for an Army officer's course. It was after my second time ever having intercourse and the first time I'd had a drunken one-night stand that was, unfortunately, unprotected. I had been on the pill for the first time, but my RX expired as I was transitioning into the military health care system. The practitioner thought it was appropriate to lecture me, sternly and condescendingly, about how sex was 'not only a physical act but a spiritual one,' and I needed to take more consideration of the spiritual side before I engaged in sex with anyone again."
9. "When I was 15, my mom and I took the subway back from my summer theatre class. Though it was one of the hottest weeks on record that year, I was wearing black leggings and a black tank top for a costume fitting. I didn’t want to wear a sweater over my shoulders for obvious reasons. Plus, I felt pretty good about myself that day — which I rarely, rarely felt as a teenager — and was okay with showing a little skin. As we got on the subway, my mom kept insisting I cover up before finally telling me she 'doesn’t want me walking around looking like a slut' and to put on the sweater. Call me dramatic, but I can’t describe how defeated and degraded I felt. Even now in my twenties, I still hear this in my head while picking out clothes for the day and feel guilty about showing skin."
10. "When I moved to my first apartment in a Southern state, I got a tattoo with my best friend before I left. One night, I went out with relatives to a movie, and they saw my tattoo. One of them asked if I had another one on my lower back that said, 'Enter here.'"
11. "I was given a different dress code in middle school because I 'had a woman's body.' I was constantly pulled out of class, and the headmaster had his measuring tape ready. My dress code was completely up to their discretion, and it was bullshit."
12. "During my senior year of college, my boyfriend and I broke up, so I started exploring my sexuality. I (safely and honestly) began sleeping with multiple people and was very open about it with my friends and the people in my department. My sex life came up between my best friend and another girl — who was convinced I'd stolen my best friend from her. During this conversation, she tried to convince my friend to dump me because it was disrespectful and gross that I was 'whoring around.' When my friend pointed out that this girl had done the same thing when she and her partner broke up, she responded, 'Yeah, well, at least I know all the names of everyone I’ve slept with.'"
13. "In my early twenties, I worked for a large company for two years. During that time, I had a relationship with one colleague. Six months after we broke up, I went on a couple of dates with another colleague. When I turned someone down (on a night out toward the end of my two years), he said, 'Really? (Karen) told me you were working your way 'round the office.' Turns out, 'Karen' told every new employee I was open for business — based on one relationship and a couple of dates."
14. "When I was in the eighth grade, I was having a sleepover at my friend's house. The next morning, we walked to the bakery that was five minutes from her house. On our way, these guys in a truck honked and whistled at us. When I got home and told my parents, my dad asked me what we were wearing. I was 13."
15. "I hung out with a boy my sophomore year of high school. He and his ex-girlfriend had been broken up for two months. We went to different schools but added each other on Facebook, so I didn’t know anything about their relationship. We took selfies, and I went to his school to watch him in a basketball game. I noticed some weird stares but didn’t think anything of them. The next week, my friends from that school told me his ex started calling me a whore. We never even kissed. Their school was very small — K-12 in one building, less than 20 kids a class — and that rumor spread quickly. The entire school started calling me a whore. Kids posted about me, and even their teachers gave me dirty looks any time I was there."
16. "I dated a guy during my senior year of high school, then on and off through college. We were in love and, I thought, each others' firsts. He talked about marriage, and we traveled through Europe together while he studied in the UK. Before graduation, he became distant. Months later, he said he could never marry me because I was not a virgin. He denied taking my virginity and indicated I had seen men behind his back. I was devastated. It was all a lie. I was so depressed, I saw a therapist. I'd given almost six years of my love and life to him. He reappeared in my life later, apologized, and, of course, wanted to have sex. I put him off at first but, later, felt like I could trust him. Because I loved and desired him, I began to have sex with him again. He then reverted to slut-shaming me for having sex with him as if it was a test of my virtue — if I could withhold sex from him to prove my worth to him, like an Oscar Wilde story."
17. "My mom slut-shamed me as a teenager and young adult. She called me a slut for the first time when I was 13 and went to the movies with a boy. When low-rise jeans were in style, she would shame my appearance and call me a slut for 'almost showing my vagina to everyone.' When I became sexually active at 17 and she found out, she told me I didn’t know how to do anything except open my legs. As a young adult in the dating game, she would tell me the guys I dated only did so because they knew I would spread my legs easily."
"SMH. Thanks, mom." —Anonymous, California
18. "I was attending a soccer camp in a very conservative area. It was the middle of the summer, and we were playing soccer, so we wore athletic shorts and t-shirts. When we went to get lunch, some woman began berating us for dressing like sluts in public. Apparently, shorts that you see on any professional women’s soccer player are too short to be worn in public and are asking for attention."
19. "I was raped about three years ago. The story got out, and I was slut-shamed because I was 'drunk' and 'led the guy on.' He got away with it and, to this day, I still get comments about how slutty I was to sleep with a guy I met five hours earlier."
20. "I was out at a bar with two girlfriends for my birthday. I was wearing a form-fitting skirt. A random guy passed me and grabbed my ass. I grabbed him, followed him to his friends, and screamed at him for what he did. When I went back to my friends, I was visibly upset. I explained what happened, and my best friend said, 'Well, with that skirt, what did you expect? You shouldn't wear it anymore.'"
21. "When I was 18, my mom's guy friend — in his late 40s — asked me to show him my bra. (He could see the strap under my jacket and tank top). When I told my boyfriend what the guy said, my mom screamed at me and told me I was trying to cause a scene, and that if I didn't want people to ask me that, I shouldn't have worn a tank top."
22. "Last year, I separated from my (now ex) husband. I started casually dating through apps and met a guy that I got along with really well. We went on three or four dates — we didn't kiss or have sex, just hugged and cuddled. After these few dates, I invited him to my house and made him dinner. We snuggled but still didn't kiss. We did this a couple more times, even cuddling in my bed. We still didn't kiss, and hands stayed above the clothes. Finally, on our eighth date, he gave me one peck. We then started talking about sex, and he asked me when the last time I'd had sex was. It happened to be the weekend before with a random hookup. I told him this, and he said, 'Wow, I wouldn't have kissed you if I knew that.' I asked him why, and he told me that it was weird because not only did I have sex with someone else, but I was also still married, and that was wrong."
23. "I went to a private Christian school where we had to wear uniforms that THEY picked out. I'd buy the skirts — which could be no shorter than three inches above the knee — from the store they told us to use. I'm fairly tall for a girl, with most of my body being my legs. I am telling you, nearly every day at school, I would get sent home for my skirt being too short. They'd tell me that it's un-Christian-like and that I was distracting the boys trying to learn."
24. "I posted a picture of my cosplay in a video game group online. I got many good comments but also a lot calling me a 'slut.' Some people even commented with the sexual stuff they wanted to do with me. In the picture, I'm sitting down and wearing long sleeves with no cleavage showing. At most, you could see a side view of my thigh. Still, I got bombarded with comments about how slutty I was. I had just turned 18 and had never had sex, been kissed, or been on a date. I was shocked and confused. I’d never been called anything like that before. I always dressed quite modestly and was considered the overly 'good girl.' Some of the people were praising me for looking 'hot' while others chose to be angry at me for looking 'hot.' As a woman, it sometimes feels like I’ll never win."
"You can’t tell anything about someone from one picture of them. Even if I had been doing the things they assumed I was doing, what makes them think that’s okay to comment when all I’m trying to do is share this cool costume?
I specifically remember one comment berating me for seeking male attention. I responded, 'What makes you think I’m attracted to men?' I literally just wanted to show the cool costume I made for something we all enjoyed, and somehow, the kissless virgin was turned into a 'slut.'
The irony of the situation always seemed funny to me. People like to judge people (often women) so hard based on how they dress. In that instance, they couldn’t be more wrong. Likewise, dressing modestly doesn’t mean someone has never had sex or isn’t empowered in their sexuality." —Anonymous, California
25. "My Dean was berating some of the girls for wearing 'short' skirts and dresses. She started praising one girl whose dress reached her knees. I pointed out that I own the exact same dress as that girl. She was about 5'1, while I was 5'7. On me, the dress looks really short. I explained how much harder it is for tall girls to find long enough skirts and dresses, and that it only looks 'modest' on her because her legs are shorter."
26. "I was in seventh grade, and I sent this guy I had a crush on an email. It wasn't telling him how I felt, it was just a friendly email. He talked to his mom, and she reported me for 'sexually harassing' him when I was just being friendly. I completely understood that it had been taken the wrong way, and I thought that was the end of the story until I went to school the next day. People started teasing me, and some people went as far as to call me a 'bitch' and 'slut.' I came home crying, confused as to why that had happened."
27. "Back in my junior year of high school, I had slept with a friend of mine. Afterward, we realized it was a mistake and resumed our friendship. A few weeks later, I began casually seeing someone else. I brought him into my friend group, and at one point, I told him I simply wanted to hang out and eat lunch. He decided he didn't care and assaulted me. I reported it, but he managed to convince my friends I exaggerated, so I was isolated. The school transferred him to one of my classes despite the report, so I transferred schools. Later in the year, during my friend's graduation party — I refused to go due to the betrayal and knowledge that my assaulter would be there — they were playing 'never have I ever.' Apparently, my assaulter said, 'Never have I ever slept with [my name],' and he and the friend I'd slept with put their fingers down. It really became the joke of the party."
28. "I was repeatedly called a slut in high school for wearing low-cut shirts while following dress code. I am now a 30-year-old virgin, so I guess that tells you something."
"Slut-shaming says more about the harasser than the harassed. Keep your opinions to yourself, and let people wear, say, and do what's right for them." —Anonymous, North Carolina
29. "I joined a sorority my freshman year, and it was my first recruitment season for potential new members. Not knowing there was a rule to not talk about dating to the potential recruits (which is so ridiculous in the first place), I made a joke about 'how bone-dry the Boston dating scene is' and how crazy that was given how many colleges are in the city. People laughed, and I didn't think about it. Months later, my sorority's former vice president and the former recruitment chair released a podcast. During the episode, they talked terribly about their so-called 'sisters' and slut-shamed me by essentially saying, 'How pathetic was that freshman who couldn't shut up about her boring sex life?' The podcast spread rather quickly since our college is so small, and I thought that everyone knew they were talking about me, even if they didn't say my name."
30. "When I'd go to my mom in my late teens and early twenties for dating advice, she would shut down the conversations — even my crying when experiences were that shitty — by reiterating that I had messed up because the guy and I had sex in less than 90 days. His disrespect was warranted because we had sex; I had 'given him the best of me too soon;' and only a 'hoe' or 'dick dumb bitch' would do 'some shit like that.' Every time I told her about any guys, she'd say my actions were only 'what hoes do' or 'what dumb bitches who think with their pussies do.' When I brought up how this really fucked me up as a woman, her eyes got big, her head shot back, and she gasped, 'I never meant you were a hoe!'"
"It was too late; the damage was done. My mom and I had no boundaries as I entered my adult years. But within the last few years, we have been working very mindfully to set and keep boundaries. It’s been working very well for our relationship." —Anonymous, Pennsylvania
31. "I was 15 and the organizer/leader of the youth ushers during weekly mass at my church. My mother was very particular about looking appropriate while in my position. We had an agreement that she had preapproval rights over my business-y outfits. I was allowed to wear those platform heels from Charlotte Russe everyone wore 10 to 15 years ago. One day, as mass was ending, this older lady in the pew in front of us turned around and handed me a pamphlet. It was titled, 'Modesty in Dress: Saving Your Body While Saving Your Soul.' I looked at her in shock and horror. She went on to explain that I was so young and innocent, and, that due to my position within the church, I needed to maintain modesty at all times — especially when I had some influence over so many young girls."
32. "When I was in third grade, a friend of mine wore skin color tights underneath her (modest) shorts around November, so she could wear shorts and stay warm. I thought that was so damn brilliant. The next day, I put on black tights and denim shorts (again, modest-length shorts) for school and went downstairs. My mom told me immediately to go change because I was dressed like a 'hooker.'"
"I didn't know what that was for several more years." —mikaelajswanson
33. "I get slut-shamed because I’m bisexual. It’s considered greedy. Little do people know, I’m demisexual and haven’t been with another in over eight years. I’m 28 and have had one serious relationship."
34. "I accidentally left a box of condoms on a shelf when my parents visited me one weekend. They didn't say anything until the day after my boyfriend of 2.5 years — my first real relationship — broke up with me to mention it. My mom's exact words were, 'I know you and [boyfriend's name] had sex, but you don't have to keep being a slut and sleep with the next one.'"
"I was already crying and that kept me going for another few hours." —torinicolet
35. "When I was a sophomore in high school, they did The Little Mermaid musical, and Ariel was played by a high school senior. Since Ariel was, you know, a mermaid for a decent portion of the show, she wears a seashell bra for a while. The next Monday, my history teacher — who had just had a grandchild earlier that same year — said something along the lines of, 'Wow, I never knew she was hiding that!'"
If you or someone you love has been affected by sexual violence, check out the resources available from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to talk to a trained professional.
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.