AS LONG AS WE CONTINUE TO SLUT SHAME, WE CAN NEVER BE EQUAL.

For as long as I can remember, I have lived in a slut shaming culture. I'm not proud to admit it, but at times I've noticed myself being part of the problem. It happens quietly, subtly, but regularly in my own mind: I'm a product of the society that I have grown up in and looking around, I realise that enough is enough.

The other day I found myself watching the Jeremy Kyle show (no judgement please, I was interviewed for Lorraine and JK popped up just after) and as so often happens with shows like this, I was hooked from the off. The conundrum that Jezza had to deal with was a DNA test. A woman had come on, a mother, who was asking the man that she was 99% sure was the father to be more present in her child's life. He had found out when she was pregnant that she had slept with someone else within a two week period of having slept with him. Well, you should have heard the audience react: they couldn't believe it. How very DARE she?!

She knew that the baby was his. He probably did too, deep down. And of course when the results came in, it was confirmed: he was the dad. It should have been a happy ending, had it not been for the fact that because of this 'revelation', her name was tarnished, worse than it was anyway for appearing on the Jeremy Kyle show in the first place of course. She slept with two men in two weeks: she's a slut. 

This is not a new notion, for as long as I can remember, the double standards surrounding this issue have been rife. When I was at my junior school I remember a photo of a boy's 'bits' shared around the school and, apart from a few titters from my friends and I as we goggled at it on the tiny screens of our Motorola flip-phones at the back of the classroom, nothing was really said about it. If anything, he was praised. Around the same time a video of a girl in the year above me masturbating (clearly meant for her boyfriend) did the rounds and the reaction was enormous; she was judged, heavily and ostracised, totally. 

The boys would have competitions at the parties: 'who could snog the most girls?' and lad points were awarded left right and centre. Some of them would manage to kiss as many as twenty girls in one night and yet that one time I kissed two boys in the same evening? I didn't hear the end of it for months.

For as long as I can remember 'slut shaming' has been a massive part of our culture, of my life, and since as I'm as guilty of it as the next girl, I think I am within my rights to say: enough is enough now. 

It's only got worse as we have got older. Since kissing turned to shagging and grainy phone photos turned into revenge porn and sex tapes, we've found ourselves in a whole world of trouble. 

My male friends are shagging like it is their sole responsibility to continue the human race and that has never been a problem. We roll our eyes, but we don't say anything, we don't even really think anything. But recently I have noticed that a few of my girl friends have been following their example and enjoying regular, casual sex. For a while it was great to see: my girls shaking off their shackles and unashamedly enjoying sex, until of course, their behaviour was identified as anything other than fun, it was becoming a 'pattern', and that's when it becomes a 'problem'. 

The thing that comes up time and time again are their reputations. As if they were ever our problems anyway. They're talked about in hushed tones and plans are made, conversations are had, interventions are staged. We do anything we can to stop our girl friends from damaging their reputations, all the while laughing, mocking, blissfully ignoring the same behaviour when exhibited in our male friends. 

I cannot take the double standards. I'm bored of it. I'm tired of it. I've had enough of it.

Because sex is one of the most natural things in the world and sexuality is one of the most beautiful. And the fact that women are still made to feel embarrassed about it is ridiculous. This stigma attached to sex is affecting us all. It affects the way we perceive sex. it affects the way we have it. It affects our confidence, our thoughts and our attitudes, whether we realise it or not. 

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'No I can't wear that, people will think I'm easy...' 'I can't get with him, I snogged his brother six years ago and it wouldn't really be fair...' 'I will wait until the third date because you know what they say about girls who put out on the first night...' Of course we bloody know. We're the ones saying it. 

Slut shaming is happening on our watches and that is what annoys me the most about the whole thing. We don't just enable it, we enforce it. 

A few weeks ago I heard a story from a friend of mine: she really liked this guy and he knew, he clearly chose to ignore this information. At a party he had sex with two of her friends, in the same night. I couldn't catch myself before I heard the words falling out of my mouth: 'do these girls have no self respect?!' I was livid with them. I judged them. I went so far as to question everything about them. Meanwhile the man, who had spent the evening bed hopping and breaking hearts in the process, walked away totally judgement free. He's just the lad that shagged two girls in one night. What a hero eh?! 

Despite my carefree nature and my overwhelming feminist beliefs, I was all too quick to question the behaviour of two women I didn't know, all the while ignoring the man who was just as guilty. Maybe it's because I spend so long encouraging girls to support one another, the idea that women could do this to their friends was the thing that shocked me. Or maybe I'm just not used to women enjoying sex as freely as men. Maybe it's both. 

This might be bad example, since feelings have been brought into it. But I won't need to think for long before another one pops up. These things pop up all the time. And it's not okay. It's not okay that women are punished for sex and judged for sex. It's one of the biggest problems women are facing, it's one of the remaining great injustices. 

We can do something about this. And we must. 

It is our responsibility. This needs to change. It needs to end. And we need to end it. 

We are so used to waiting, to protecting our reputations, to being cheated on, to saying sorry, to making excuses, to hiding ourselves, denying our wishes and being embarrassed that I worry that it's just too engrained in us: this moronic and ancient notion that we must 'do the right thing' and maintain a clean image whilst our male counterparts explore the many beds of the UK spearing their seed. But that is all it is: a notion.

Because in reality, we can do anything that we damn well please. But that perception will only change when our own perceptions change. When we, as women, as mothers and as friends, stop raising our eyebrows. When we stop talking in whispers and planning interventions. It's more than simply shagging who we want, it's being who we want. It's the promise that we can live judgement free, that we can do what the men do: it's the right to be equal.