On whore stigma and slut shaming

On “the whore stigma,” from Margo St. James, early US sex workers’ rights activist and founder of COYOTE and St. James Infirmary, and Gail Pheterson, author and sex work researcher who coined the term. (Video by Scarlot Harlot, excerpt from “Outlaw Poverty, Not Prostitutes,” 1989.)

Lately I’ve been considering how “slut shaming” grew – unacknowledged – from the experiences and intellectual contributions of sex workers who first identified “whore stigma.” Slut shaming exists now as a critique external to sex worker feminisms and politics, applied mostly by women without sex work experience to describe the loss of social capital they suffer when assumed to be whores. What’s been lost is the centering of people who are marked as whores, in the assumption so common within attempts to resist “slut shaming” that being a whore is the worst thing to happen to you. So long as we cling to that notion of the slut or whore as the ultimate outsider, we reinforce whore stigma. This should be obvious.