Slut shaming is the act of criticising a woman for her real or presumed sexual activity, or for behaving in ways that someone thinks are associated with her real or presumed sexual activity.
- Women who cosplay are often slut-shamed.
- Booth babes may be criticised for dressing in revealing clothing.
- During the Geek feminist harassment at OSCON incident, Nice Girl reported that she and a friend had been told they were dressing too sexily, contributing to a Sexualized environment.
- The tendency to denounce attractive women as fake geek girls.
Why it's a problem
Women's sex lives and sexuality are matters of their own choice, and nobody else's business.
People (usually men, but sometimes women) often criticize women's appearance for being too sexual (according to their standards of acceptable sexuality), in order to control women. They also often blame women for being victims/survivors of rape, by using similar appearance-based criticisms. Both of these uses of shame in order to dominate and control women are examples of rape culture.
In geek circles, there is often a tension between women's own sexual expression or choices in dress/grooming, and between Sexualized environments, which can be unwelcoming for some women. One important point to consider is who is served by (eg.) the women in skimpy clothes? If the women are doing it for themselves (as in the case of cosplay, for example) it is very different from if a company has hired women to dress sexily to attract male customers. In the latter case, it's important to not slut-shame the women who were working, but to criticise the attitudes and actions of the company that hired them.
It is sometimes argued that although women can freely choose to dress/act sexily, those choices aren't made in a vacuum, and may be the result of broader sexist norms. This is true; and yet the criticism in these cases should be aimed at the sexist norms, which are the actual problem. See also: Choice.
Asexual women are not immune to slut-shaming either. An extremely high number of people don't believe that asexuals exist. An asexual woman can also be accused of lying about her asexuality due to her dress, behavior, or existing racial stereotypes (See: Intersectionality and Race). Asexual women can also be raped and blamed for it (See: Corrective rape of non-heterosexual women). The invisibility of asexual women also leads to probing questions that disrespect their privacy. For example, asexuals are often asked in public if they masturbate, as a demand for proof.