From left: Sunny Berrios, '19, Katie Jalboot, '17, and Jordan Hayes, '18 from Break The Silence introduce the documentary Unslut in Whitaker on Tuesday, Mar. 1, 2016. UnSlut: A Documentary Film explores the topic of sexual shaming in North America through interviews with sexuality experts, advocates, and media figures. (Sarah Dawson/B&W Photo)

UnSlut: The fight against slut-shaming and victim-blaming



The word has affected many women around the world and was the one that inspired Emily Lindin, the creator of “UnSlut: A Documentary Film,” to start the UnSlut Project.

On March 1, the documentary was screened for Lehigh students in Whitaker Laboratory.

Brooke DeSipio, the director of the Office of Gender Violence Education and Support, said Lindin visited Lehigh in the fall to speak about the issue of slut-shaming, and the “UnSlut” documentary was shown as a follow-up event to keep the conversation going.

Lindin kept detailed diaries throughout her childhood and adolescence, which included a record of Lindin’s experience with slut-shaming. Rumors about 11-year-old Lindin spread through the hallways and she was labeled as the school slut.

Years later, after Lindin heard about a girl who had committed suicide after continuous slut-shaming in school, she decided to share her diary stories online.

A blog of Lindin’s diary entries evolved into the UnSlut Project, which transformed into an online community where others can share their stories and start conversations to work toward addressing the issue of slut-shaming.

“(Lindin) founded the UnSlut Project as a way to provide hope and comfort for women who are experiencing slut-shaming, but also to educate and bring awareness to the issue,” DeSipio said.

Lindin is now a national speaker on the issue.

“UnSlut” discusses how we live in a sexual society and explores how false information circulates and people are not educated enough about sex to talk about healthy relationships.

DeSipio said her office sees slut-shaming on Lehigh’s campus mostly from the perspective of survivors of gender-based violence.

She said often when someone experiences an incident of gender-based violence, such as a sexual assault or an abusive relationship, it is common to hear people place blame on the victim.

“’Well, she’s a slut,'” DeSipio said as an example of blaming the victim. “‘She was asking for it.’”

DeSipio said slut-shaming is often connected to victim blaming.

The “UnSlut” documentary tells the stories of several women who have been blamed for their sexual assault because they were labeled as a slut. The documentary addresses the issue of labeling girls as sluts in order to justify a sexual assault.

“I think it was really important that the Lehigh community sees that slut-shaming is a big deal,” Sasha Rubman, ’18, said. “It is a problem on any college campus. Both guys and girls participate in slut-shaming without even knowing it.”

DeSipio said slut-shaming also exists in the double standard of men and women. Men are supposed to be sexual and the initiators, but when women take on a sexual role, there are shameful connotations.

“This is bad for both sides, by the way,” DeSipio said. “It forces men to be overly sexual and it doesn’t allow women to be vocal and sexual and sensual at the same time.”

One way to combat these stereotypes is to allow space for conversation about these topics through events like the UnSlut” documentary, DeSipio said.

Katie Jalboot, ’17, a member of Break the Silence, has experience working with these issues. It’s the stigma surrounding them that make them difficult to resolve.

“I think the biggest problem is that as soon as you put all of your self-worth into this one characteristic, if people use that to attack you, that’s all you had for your self-esteem,” Jalboot said. “Reminding people that they have all these different things to be confident about can combat the sexual bullying.”

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