cover image I Am Not a Slut: Slut-Shaming in the Age of the Internet

I Am Not a Slut: Slut-Shaming in the Age of the Internet

Leora Tanenbaum. Harper Perennial, $15.99 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-0-06-228260-6

In 1999’s Slut! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation, Tanenbaum coined the term “slut-bashing,” which she defines as a “specific form of student-to-student verbal sexual harassment in which a... girl is bullied because of her perceived or actual sexual behavior.” In her new book, the author, who holds a senior position at Planned Parenthood, argues vehemently for the complete abolition of the word “slut” (even when used endearingly among friends or in a politicized attempt to take ownership of the term). Two historical events—the rise of the Internet and the highly publicized SlutWalks of 2011—have occasioned this follow up, in which Tanenbaum laments, “Female bodies have no privacy. They are visible, tagged, posted, circulated, tracked, rated, judged, ‘liked.’ ” Tanenbaum reflects on highly publicized stories of suicide: 17-year-old Alexis Pilkington of Long Island in 2010, who was called a slut on the anonymous confessional website Formspring; 12-year-old Gabrielle Molina of Queens in 2013, after similar experiences online. Meanwhile, in 2011 and 2012, thousands of women across the country marched in solidarity to take ownership of the word. Tanenbaum argues, “To most people, ‘slut’ means ‘disgusting woman who deserves to be shamed.’ ” In other words, “Most people aren’t in on the joke, which creates more problems than it solves.” Tanenbaum’s thesis is timely, provocative, and clearly stated, but the big question that remains is whether her hard line on the subject is realistic or productive. (Feb.)