Slutshaming on the internet: Read an extract from ‘Sluts’ by Beth Ashley

An extract from Sluts: The Truth About Slutshaming & What We Can Do To Fight It by Mashable contributing writer Beth Ashley.

If the history of slutshaming has taught us anything, it’s that we have been condemning female sexuality and shaming anyone who doesn’t appear to fit sexual norms since long before the smartphone showed up. But the arrival of social media has significantly changed how slutshaming happens, how it’s received, and even how we speak about it.

Someone calls a woman a ‘slut’ or ‘whore’ on X (formerly Twitter) almost 10,000 times per day. According to a 2016 study, 200,000 aggressive tweets were sent using those specific insults in a given month. If you’re counting, that’s about seven abusive tweets per minute, or about 9,500 a day. What’s worse is that half of the offenders were women. Seventy-two per cent of women across the UK, the European Union, the USA, Australia and New Zealand report receiving unsolicited nudes online, a phenomenon commonly dubbed ‘cyberflashing’. 


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The internet has become a breeding ground for slutshaming due to its anonymity and rapid dissemination of content, and to amplify the real-life experiences that happen offline. Photos, videos or posts can be easily shared, commented on or mocked, making it difficult for victims to escape public scrutiny and humiliation. Research has shown that many people who slutshame on the internet aren’t necessarily thinking about their actions at all. The internet has granted anyone with Wi-Fi access the ability to share their personal beliefs publicly, often on impulse, with little thought about the content or the impact this might have on others. This is, in part, due to something called the anonymity and online disinhibition effect. Coined by psychologist John Suler in his 2004 paper “The Online Disinhibition Effect”, this is the idea that the internet allows users to remain relatively anonymous. It makes them feel less constrained by social norms, and so they may engage in behaviour they wouldn’t in face-to-face interactions. He wrote that many people on the internet live by a “you can’t see me and you don’t know me” ethos, making them feel free to say whatever the hell they like. 

Slutshaming during adolescence 

Slutshaming has become part and parcel of adolescent cyber bullying. In fact, many girls will likely be sexualized on the internet, including being called a slut – or a slag, hoe, whore or other synonyms – by the time they’re just 12 years old. 

One study found that the internet has offered teenagers new ways to slutshame each other. Boys who want to bully girls who have shared intimate photos with them can do it all too easily with the click of a button. And the trauma can last a lifetime. The research shows that teenage girls can become victims of unhad wanted dissemination, coercion and blackmail as a result of sexting and nude-swapping, while teenage boys are unlikely to suffer the same backlash. “While it normalises it for boys, girls become victims of slutshaming,” it concludes.

The study “Why did she send it in the first place? Victim blame in the context of ‘revenge porn’”, found that people generally lacked sympathy for victims of non-consensual nude-sharing, specifically because they were naked. They also found that participants tended to assume the victim was promiscuous and were to blame for the image being shared. 

It’s common for girls who’ve sent nudes, or had nudes nonconsensually spread around, to hear slutshaming phrases like: 

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• “What did you expect?”

• “You shouldn’t have sent nudes in the first place.”

• “She was asking for it.”


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The Andrew Tate effect 

To understand how slutshaming has evolved online over the last few years, we have to discuss Andrew Tate, a former professional kickboxer who’s now one of the biggest social media personalities in the world, renowned for his videos on how to be an alpha male, how men can find “high value women” and for speaking proudly about being a misogynist. Tate has recently been charged with rape, human trafficking and forming an organized crime group to sexually exploit women. Despite this, he has over 8.5 million followers on X alone, plus more on other social media platforms. He’s also in the top 5 most googled people in the US and is the number one most influential person in the US. According to statistics provided by YouGov in 2023, a quarter of men in the UK aged between 18 and 29 who had heard of Tate agreed with his views on how women should be treated. And 28 percent of men between 30 and 39 supported his views too. 


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What views are they, you ask? Here are just a few things he’s said about sluts: 

• “I would not see male infidelity as even one per cent as disgusting as female infidelity because female infidelity involves emotion.”

• “Any woman who can say, ‘I fuck dudes and I don’t care about it’ is fundamentally broken. Her soul is broken. I don’t want no broken bitch near me.”

• “In the modern world if I meet a girl who’s thirty-three and single, I know the amount of dick that’s been through her before me is just simply unattractive.”

Tate is a dangerous person with a massive reach, and he seems to have a lot of men – and some women too – in the palm of his hand. When we look at how conversations about sex on apps like TikTok are changing, we can see his influence, and the influence of others like him, taking shape in very harmful ways

No one ever deserves to be slutshamed for their sexual expression, on or offline. No one ever deserves to be shamed for finding and enjoying their sexual selves. And no one should ever be subjected to non-consensual sharing of nudes. It’s time we make slutshaming itself a shameful act, rather than sexual expression – online as well as in real life. We must call out people who perpetuate rape culture on the internet, correct our friends who lack sympathy for victims of online abuse and slutshaming, and call our friends into sex positive spaces online.

Sluts: The Truth About Slutshaming & What We Can Do To Fight It by Beth Ashley (Penguin Random House) is published 9 May.