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Slut-Shaming: How Do You Instill Values Without Judging?

Not judging. But am I letting my daughters out of the house with eight inches of belly exposed? Hell to the no.

“Slut-shaming.” It’s the new trigger-word if you want to start an Internet firestorm.

I’ve never heard the phrase used anywhere outside of the world of blogs. It’s not something my mom friends and I chat about at the playground. So in case you don’t spend most of your time surfing the Internet like I do, here’s a definition:

Slut-shaming, also known as slut-bashing, is the idea of shaming and/or attacking a woman or a girl for being sexual, having one or more sexual partners, acknowledging sexual feelings, and/or acting on sexual feelings.

I’m totally sort of on board with that concept. Sex? Is awesome. And I am all about empowerment (sexual or otherwise) of women. But, as comedian Chris Rock famously said, it’s my job as a parent “to keep my baby off the pole.”

And that’s where I run into a problem with the whole thing: while I think it’s totally great for women to be as sexified as they wannabe, I don’t think it’s okay for my daughters.

The parenting blog Mommyish just ran a post listing “6 Ways Parents Can Discourage Slut-Shaming.”  It’s full of good ideas on raising your kids not to judge others for their sexual behavior. The whole concept is particularly important in light of the bullying-related suicides we’ve seen in the news.

Koa Beck, the writer behind the the Mommyish post, writes:

“…encouraging your kids to assume sexual judgments on others based on wardrobe choices is only a hop, skip, and a jump away from telling them that the girl in the tube top was ‘asking’ to be harassed or assaulted.”

Maybe, but its a fine line, isn’t it? It’s tough to teach my kids not to judge others for dressing provocatively, while still standing firm that they’re not allowed to wear jeans that show their butt crack. I have no problem with my kids playing dress-up. My older daughters are ten; it’s normal for them to want to try on makeup and heels. However, there’s no need for them to wear makeup and heels to school. Or Girl Scouts. Or birthday parties. Or really anywhere at all outside of our house.

From baby onesies that say “Playground Pimp” to lingerie for four-year-olds, children’s clothing companies are sending the message sexy is the same as cute. And don’t even get me started on the god-awful nightmare that is sandal shopping these days. How about this: I promise not to make sexual judgments about people based on what they’re wearing, but it doesn’t make me less of a feminist to be horrified by some of what I see girls and boys wearing.

Here’s another suggestion from the Mommyish post:

“Safety matters more than anything else: If your kids are older, then feel free to tell them that they need not shame that “slutty” girl in their class who happens to be going through boys left and right. As long as she is safe and consenting to whatever goes on under those bleachers, it’s nobody’s business how many people she wants to date.”

Again, it’s a tough one. I had friends in high school branded with the word slut, and it was incredibly hurtful. Aside from the fact that teenagers are notorious for telling lies about their sex lives, it’s really no one’s business. But it’s a delicate balance between not being judgmental, and still teaching my kids that even safe sex has risks, and that having a whole bunch of sexual partners in high school may not be the smartest way to achieve your dreams.

I’m not naive enough to believe my children will never have sex. But when kids they know start having sex in middle school–and that will happen–how do I say I think that’s a really poor choice without inherently judging those kids?

I want my son and daughters to grow up believing that they are beautiful, inside and out. I want them to have a healthy respect for their bodies and still respect other people’s choices.

How do you instill your family’s values about sex, without judging other people? Seriously. I want to know. Leave your ideas in the comments!

(Photo Credit: Stuart Miles)

Read more from Joslyn at her blog, stark. raving. mad. mommy. You can also follow her on Facebook and on Twitter.

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