The Slutshaming Trend: An Open Letter


EVER SINCE Miley Cyrus dressed up like a little goat at the VMAs and trotted around bleating on all fours, a new phenomenon has hit the Internet—one spawned almost entirely by fortysomething mommy bloggers. I refer to it as the “Open Letter” fad, wherein an epistolary blog post is written to Miley (or teen girls in general), warning young women all over the world about the dangers of tush-shaking and back-arching and acting like the sexpots that minivan moms generally are not.

What started as a seemingly earnest attempt to caution the younger generation about how to conduct and dress oneself has turned into a holier-than-thou slutshaming trend—a craze that’s starting to stink an awful lot like an attempt to generate blog traffic (at best) and women ganging up on women (at worst).

Well, gather round, ho-bags and hussies and floozies and strumpets and garden-variety sluts, because this minivan-driving 40-year-old mother of two boys who sometimes wears Crocs with capri pants has an open letter for you, too. It goes:

Dear Teen Girls,

Do you babysit?



Because honestly? That’s really all I want to know (and am privy to know) about girls between the ages of 12 and 21 these days. Do you have childcare experience? Do you know basic First Aid? Can you drive yourself to my house? And what do you charge? Not for handjobs or underage beer runs or stolen class notes. What do you charge per child, per hour, and can you keep my sons alive while I go to Target alone? Can you, Mikaylah, keep my kids from mortal wounds while I go buy detergent all by my goddamn self?

Who am I, someone who is not your mother, to tell you what length your skirt should be? While I’m sure it’s very effective to receive fashion advice and sexual tips from a stranger who shops at Ann Taylor Loft and whose ass resembles a Trapper Keeper (I know you don’t know what that is), I’m going to refrain from too much unsolicited advice here.

Except for:

People are going to tell you that reputations can never be recovered and that regrets of the sexual kind are permanent and that the only people that people remember from high school and college are the loose girls.

Well, rest assured young ladies of the night: people also remember assholes and freaks and the guy who fell off the back of the bleachers drunk and the teacher who always had toilet paper coming out the back of his pants and the girl with the funny laugh and the fellow who played a mean bass and the wallflower who had an amazing singing voice and the math whiz and the boy who always brought an onion sandwich to lunch and the sweet young thang who may or may not have been a little easy.

Also: memories fade. And memory fades. And wounds (save for those mortal ones I previously mentioned) typically heal.

How do I know this? Well, not too much from personal slutty experience, really. On the whore-o-meter, I usually measured around 66 degrees. I was one of those houses where you always had to wear a sweatshirt, but that occasionally ramped up to 79 in the summer and got a little hot and bothered.

And I know this not because I’ve pulled a Miley (though now a video may appear from 1992 proving otherwise), but because I’m old. I know this because I’m almost 41, and at this age, you start to realize that making mistakes isn’t the worst thing in the world. It’s trying to always avoid making them.

Look. I’m not suggesting you girls go slut it up, but I’m also saying don’t be afraid to live a little. Soon enough, your tits will look like something on the IHOP menu and, if you’re like me, you’ll wish you had more pictures of you arching your back and fewer of you in a Kurt Cobain flannel looking like Gunnar Nelson. You might regret that hook-up or that one-night stand, but you might also regret not taking a semester abroad or joining the comedy troupe or being so paralyzed by advice that you did nothing—except what someone else told you to do.

I realize that by taking this stance, fate may have a good chuckle on my behalf and someday send my boys home with girlfriends dressed only in bras and hot pants. Girls who eat ice cream cones with their hands tied behind their backs and pay for everything in singles. And if that’s the case, I don’t know what I’ll do. I guess give them spoons and trade them Jacksons for 20 one-dollar bills. And maybe treat them to a GAP gift card.

But in the meantime, I’m going to occasionally give a little cheer here and there for the little sluts everywhere. Shake your moneymakers now and then, girls. Soon enough, the only thing you’ll be shaking is your head, at the 2028 VMAs, when someone who’s more or less what you once were starts acting like a barn animal and you have to pretend to be more horrified than entertained.


About Whitney Collins

Whitney Collins (@theunpoet) is the author of The Hamster Won't Die and Hank Is Dead. She is the creator of the humor sites errant parent and The Yellow Ham. Her writing appears on Salon, The Huffington Post, Glamour, McSweeney's, The Big Jewel, Loop, and The Barnes and Noble Book Blog among others. After last winter's wrath, and endless technology, she is spending 70 days this summer screen free: no computers, tablets, smartphones, or TVs.
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33 Responses to The Slutshaming Trend: An Open Letter

  1. Jen says:

    This is so amazing! This is why you are one of my absolute favorite writers online. You have made me laugh and given me so many quotables, I’m not sure what to do with them all/

  2. hokgardner says:

    Best response yet. “Do you babysit?” Absolutely perfect.

  3. Abby says:

    This is my first time to your blog and right now–after this post–I consider that one of my biggest mistakes, as this is brilliant. In fact, I consider that an even bigger mistake than all the stupid-ass things I did when I was Miley’s age that didn’t end up being seen by a gazillion people who would judge me and try to tell me how to live my life–especially strangers who don’t know me yet are looking for millions of page hits.

  4. Your article addresses so many things that makes me uncomfortable about the recent blow up of Cyrus-related “letters.” Thanks! You reminded me of this excellent article post-the Kristen Stewart affair thing.

  5. Whitney says:

    I’m nearing 50. I was put off and sad for Miley as what she did at the VMA’s was not sexy at all, but in poor taste. However, I totally get what you have said in your blog. I really do.

    I was so scared to step out of the box in high school. Sure I drank a bit, ’cause that was all there was to do in my small rural town. What I regret.. is not knowing the power of my sexuality and using it. If I knew in high school what I figured out in my mid-20’s, I would have so ruled my high school and dated every fox that attended be damned the “she’s a slut” rumors.

    I have since made darned sure my 19 year old daughter fully understands that in another 20 years she will look at old pictures of herself and smack herself for not seeing how “unfat” and darned hot she was in her teens.

    Good blog.

  6. Thanks all for the kind responses. This was fun to write and apparently people have enjoyed reading it, sluts and non-sluts alike.

  7. Robert says:

    Oh my, this is golden. So, so great. Thanks, Whitney. You have a new fan (quite a few, looks like). You helped crystallize for a lot of folks the combination of discomfort at the performance, plus the subsequent irritation at all the tongue clucking, and it all goes down like cool water when you didn’t realize you were parched. I love how you balance the cautionary wisdom with the “seize the day” message. Artfully done. I hope some young, confused misfits (or even some old ones) of both genders read this, shake off the shame, and walk bold.

  8. “While I’m sure it’s very effective to receive fashion advice and sexual tips from a stranger who shops at Ann Taylor Loft and whose ass resembles a Trapper Keeper ” Super funny! Liked, shared, bookmarked.

  9. TSDK says:

    I actually thought this was really funny. AND I originally liked the original “slut-shaming” letter blog from “Mrs Hall”. In short, I liked her letter because I could, seeing the source was a mommy minister, strip it down and take it for the one message I do believe to be true. I am around your age. Our…slutty antics…don’t live in infamy on the internet as they do today. THAT is my main issue with the slutty selfies, not their possible corruption of my baby boy. BUT, I wasn’t bothered by Miley either. I was so entertained, my husband and I watched it numerous times because we weren’t even sure what we were seeing. It was kind of funny. To me, she’s not a regular small-town girl who will have a reputation from putting her T&A on display. She’s sort of groomed for that kind of…performance. Plus, Britney & Madonna DID do it better. Or I’m just old.

    But, your take definitely works for me too. I guess I’m conflicted. A conservative rebel? I just think we don’t quite know exactly how these vast internet and all we’ve put out there is going to affect us. For those of us approaching middle age, we don’t have too much to worry about regarding naked selfies hurting our future, but these clueless tweens/teens/college girls could. If there is someone or some open letter that could just make them realize that potential, I’m not bothered by that either.

  10. Autumn says:

    Wait.She was being a goat?

  11. Michelle says:

    I wrote one of the first open letters, except mine was a musical that includes Peggy Lee. So I’m not accused of trying to get clicks and stuff, I won’t share it. I’ll paraphrase it. Never go full whore unless you are in drag. Miley went full whore. It’s not that she was shaking her lean beef, it’s that she did it ALL WRONG.

  12. Bookywook says:

    Terrific article Whitney. I’m 60, and came of age in the late 1960s. The sense of liberation, sexual and otherwise, was exhilarating. (And I’m very glad there was no twitterverse, youtube or other means of “sharing” at the time). I’m looking forward to reading more of your very sane opinions.

  13. Ha. Indeed. As someone who at fifty is looking back across the decades at a decidedly misspent youth (and twenties…) I think…eh, it wasn’t that bad. Was before Al Gore invented the internet though, and the photos are beginning to disintegrate, so my secrets are safe. Big hair, big shoes, small pants, and etc. I feel bad for Miley because wow that’s crappy fashion advice, I feel bad for girls growing up with images of Miley dancing in their heads like demented plastic wrapped sugar plums. And I wouldn’t want her to babysit my kids but mostly that’s because I hate her music, which is the real reason I know that I’m old.

  14. Kara says:

    Someone pointed me to this post and I’m so glad because I loved it, especially the part about just wanting to go to Target by myself :)

  15. Amy K. Eoff says:

    Brava, Madame, brava! If you haven’t already attained it, Blog Diva status is now yours. Sane, sad, and sweet together. And darned funny! As a feminist, I am horrified by ‘slut-shaming’ as it does just what we women should not be doing–passing judgment on our sisters. Poor Miley will have enough moments of regret without the rest of the world piling on, and while her performance was silly, you gotta admit, she’s got great legs! And unless she turns into Ann Margaret or Marlene Dietrich, no one will be standing in line to see her shaking her moneymaker when she’s 50!

  16. Dale Saran says:

    Damn, that’s good writing, ma’am. As a conflicted (divorced) father who helped raise four daughters, I see the big snit over Miley being “popularized” for doing that. Parents are freaking out because popularity is what it’s all about these days and what kids watch (I have yet to see a Kardashians episode, but I’ll be damned if my daughters don’t giggle about the ‘guilty pleasure’ of watching reality TV. They know it for what it is, but they can’t help but watch). You can’t help but wonder if there won’t be some “modeling” behavior.

    The problem, however, is that a lot of the moralizing feels both (a) hypocritical (you think there aren’t ‘easy girls’ from the prior generation screaming about this behavior? I’ll bet you that’s from whom it’s loudest); and (b) like resentment over a girl who’s acting trampy AND making millions doing it, while getting inordinate amounts of attention. And as much as it pains me to admit, I think Tina Fey’s similar editorializing about Britney Spears’ parts lo these 10 or 12 years ago (I can’t remember when that bit was) – and your article – has some advice that a certain poet threw down a while back: “Gather ye rosebuds while you may…” ( Billy Hoel had a more modern, catchy, up-tempo version (“Come out, Virginia, don’t let me wait, you Cath-o-lic girls start much too late…”) I guess I just wish the package it was being delivered in wasn’t so darn…trashy, that’s all.

  17. Chris says:

    you had me at “little goat.”

  18. Chris says:

    ermehgerd, you had me at little goat.

    so funny.

  19. Jenny Fuller says:

    This was awesome! Once again, a recommendation from MLP at “I Miss You When I Blink” came through like gold! I’m looking forward to reading more :)

  20. Ell says:

    Well, I’m willing to be the wet blanket here. First of all, I get the whole bit about not freaking out too much about young people being stupid, I really do. But I thought your funny bits about used-up women were really more biting than funny. By all means: let’s keep discounting any women who isn’t young or pretty enough to matter anymore. Isn’t that it?

    And somehow it’s fine for women performers to get the idea that they need to strip to get attention. Is this lack of talent or just something we have come to expect from women? But we’re going to deflect these expectations with admonitions about slut-shaming. Funny, though, the guys don’t have to take their clothes off….Eh, I will quit. It’s definitely time to let Miley and all of us get back to whatever. You write well.

  21. Monique says:

    What a terrific and funny take on the whole deal. If I may add…When I was 25, one of my mom’s friends lost both breasts to cancer. She told me she regretted the fact that when she was younger and still had ’em, she didn’t appreciate their jiggle…

  22. Kate says:

    Thank you- all women deserve respect. Also love your trapper keeper!

  23. MariNaomi says:

    As a gal who is completely unashamed of her many sexual exploits (teenaged and otherwise), allow me to say: Great article!

  24. (applauseclapclapwhistleXenayellclapclap)

    Brilliant! (cues Guinness Guys) BRILLIANT!!

    As a forty-four year old who remembers people flinging themselves on the ground (or any convenient piece of furniture) and declaring “It’s the Apocalypse!” over Madonna, or Cher, and remembers her grandmother talking about “That Jayne Mansfield hussy”, I hereby present you with this week’s Snoozepossum Beer & Cookies Award recipient. (bows)

  25. Shannon says:

    While I cringe remembering some of my younger exploits, I would not trade most of those experiences for anything. Love your take on this.

  26. jillsmo says:

    Wow. I totally remember Trapper Keepers.

    this minivan-driving 43-year-old mother of two boys who often wears birkenstocks with jeans and socks

  27. AssJack says:

    Agreed, agreed, and agreed; all except the tongue thing, which came across as desperate, not to mention crazy as a shithouse rat. Those aren’t things you automatically get over and outgrow.
    Stay away from my (Grand) daughter, crazy person!

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